There is a need for faster application development like never before. Customers and employees crave new features that can help resolve their everyday challenges.

Unfortunately, companies (and IT departments) struggle to keep up with demand.

Still, 76% of customers expect more businesses to offer the same features as e-commerce companies. And employees want faster, better ways to work to deliver results without overworking themselves.

As a result, 96% of IT departments are overworked.

Citizen developers are a solution to this crisis, but it also comes with risks. Without proper citizen developer governance, application quality drops, and risk increases.

This guide will walk you through creating a citizen development governance strategy to ensure your business safely scales low-code application development.

What Is Citizen Development Governance? (And Why It Matters)

Citizen development governance provides structure and guidance for citizen developers building low-code applications.

Without governance, you can find yourself in a “Wild West” situation. Application development runs unchecked. Shadow IT increases. IT security decreases. Costs spiral. The solution that should solve your problems now creates more headaches.

For example, they may create multiple versions of the same app, leading to waste. Or, they can build siloed applications that turn into expensive spreadsheets. They can even unintentionally create apps that violate IT security standards, leaving you open to cyber attacks.

The key to solving these risks is implementing a strong citizen development governance. With governance in place, you can empower your citizen developers to reach their full potential by inspiring creativity, exploration, and risk-taking in a safe environment.

How to Govern Citizen Developers

Enterprises face many challenges when developing apps today. To address these issues, organizations must adopt a hybrid model for application development: blending IT and citizen development to scale results.

The key to success is to adopt a systematic approach to citizen development governance.

This approach inspires and supports low-code app development. But, at the same time, it minimizes risks, maintains control, and monitors citizen developers.

Let's look at the 10-step framework for citizen developer governance strategy.

1) Ensure IT and Citizen Developer Collaboration

Collaboration is key to any successful business process transformation. To succeed, you need to establish uniform governance policies on collaboration.

These policies should outline the following:

  • How to set measurable goals
  • The appropriate size of groups
  • Team member roles
  • How to share ideas
  • When/how to ask for support
  • When/how to collaborate

Unfortunately, IT departments have an unfair reputation for saying "no" to help or collaboration. Often, they answer “No” due to their high workload (not ambivalence).

This creates a negative feedback loop.

Saying “no” causes team members to pursue other channels (shadow IT) to find solutions. Or, they can try creating solutions on their own, opening up the business to waste and risk.

Still, 71% of businesses have unfulfilled IT solution requests. And 62% of companies have growing IT backlogs.

Patience, persistence, and a plan will help stakeholders find the time to collaborate and work toward reducing the IT backlog. Ultimately, this will give IT more time to collaborate.

2) Create Citizen Development Governance Policies

Governance policies are key to establishing clear guidelines that team members can follow. Teams should create these policies collaboratively, and organizations should reinforce them from the top down.

Ask these questions when creating policies:

1. Which low-code/no-code platform should we use?

There are numerous low-code platforms out there. Choose the best one for your organization. Consider costs, features, learning curve, and alignment to business goals. (More on this later.)

2. How will the citizen developers build apps?

The policy should act as a guideline for citizen development activity. It should cover how citizen developers identify problems and share ideas. It should also cover how they build, test, and deploy solutions.

3. Which apps can citizen developers build?

Citizen developers are not programmers. There are limitations to their skill sets. Clearly defining what types of applications they design will ensure that they create quality solutions.

4. When will the citizen developers build apps?

Remember, citizen developers are often full-time employees with other tasks to manage. You will need to give them time to work on identifying and building solutions.

3) Centralize Citizen Developer Management

You need to avoid chaos and mismanagement among your citizen developers. Centralizing citizen developer management helps define roles and responsibilities clearly. This prevents miscommunication and process breakdown.

Business leaders need to define clear goals and expectations. They also need to appoint a leader for the citizen developer program. And that leader must guide developers and enforce policies to ensure the team adheres to governance frameworks.

This governance architecture empowers key decision-makers and holds them accountable. As a result, your team will stay aligned and work toward established goals.

4) Work with IT to Choose a Low-code/No-code Platform

As mentioned before, there are numerous low-code and no-code solutions out there.

Choosing the right platform can be hard. But the application you select can make a huge difference.

What to consider when choosing a low-code platform:

  • Use cases for your business: What type of applications do you need?
  • The person designing apps: Are they tech-savvy? Or, new to coding?
  • Integration requirements: What systems and applications do you need to connect?
  • Level of customization: How customizable do your apps need to be?
  • Ease of governance: How hands-on will your governance need to be?
  • Cost: What’s your budget for low-code tools?

Take the time to evaluate each of these parameters.

Choosing the wrong platform can result in more waste, decreased governance, and applications that don’t meet expectations.

5) Provide Training

Training citizen developers gives them a better understanding of data security, IT policy, and the capabilities of low-code platforms. It also improves their skillset for developing low-code applications.

When considering how to train citizen developers, there are two important stages:

  • The first stage: Focus on educating the citizen developer. They must pass an assessment to prove they qualify for application development.
  • The second stage: Focus on training the citizen developer. Provide the support, guidance, and tools they need to grow their skills.

By training your citizen developers, you’ll ensure that the applications your team designs streamline workflows and processes.

Even better, the more they learn, the more citizen developers can support IT (reducing tickets and backlog). This opens the door to new levels of scalability.

6) Set up Sandbox Environments

Citizen developers need sandbox environments to reduce the risks involved with application development.

A sandbox is a place where developers can create apps without interfering with other systems or violating IT governance policies. These systems are built in the platform but essentially in stasis until they receive approval.

Sandbox environments prevent governance and the fear of accountability from stifling creativity. In these areas, citizen developers can run free, building new apps, automations, and integrations to streamline workflows.

7) Oversee Integrations

Integrations save time on development and make the user experience better. However, integration can become problematic if done incorrectly.

For example, improperly constructed integrations can silo or send the wrong data. These instances can create more problems than they solve.

By reviewing any integrations, you can ensure all your systems connect and that the data you see is accurate.

8) Add Accountability

Citizen developer governance promotes accountability through monitoring. This means keeping track of activities and application development.

The IT department should monitor all citizen development activities. This reduces the risk of non-compliance occurring in IT-related developments and integrations.

Ultimately, citizen developers should be held accountable for the outcomes of their activities. Quality assurance ensures new apps work according to expectations.

Follow these steps to achieve accountability with your citizen developers:

  • Review governance policies to maintain relevance.
  • Add and provide resources across all business units.
  • Organize activities, training, and facilitation of activities for citizen developers.
  • Manage platforms and systems that citizen developers use to build applications.
  • Manage data keeping and publishing of data services and APIs.
  • Report to all stakeholders.

9) Provide Support

Support can take the form of coordination with IT, community-building, additional resources, training, and tech support. And it helps you remain compliant by ensuring all the key stakeholders are on the same page.

Coordinating with IT

Citizen developers must regularly collaborate with IT to ensure their builds align with business goals. This also ensures they don’t create duplicate or inefficient versions of other applications.

Community Building

Citizen developers need support from their peers. It can help them share skills, prevent isolation, and encourage creativity. They can pool their skill sets to find new solutions and tackle problems faster.

Resources + Training

There are numerous resources and training out there for citizen developers. You should give your team time to access these resources so that they can improve their skill set.

Tech Support

Citizen developers are often only part-time developers. Most have minimal to no coding background. As a result, IT will also need to monitor builds and take over projects that require more direct coding experience.

10) Track Performance and Improve Processes

Technology, the market, business, and people change constantly and evolve. As a result, you’ll need to revisit your citizen developer governance model from time to time.

Existing governance strategies may lose relevance due to significant changes within the organization. Such changes include:

  • The introduction of new leadership
  • Business process reengineering
  • Replacement of platform used for application development
  • Implementation of newer technology to further develop apps

Unchecked access to new tools reverts the company back to where it was before implementing governance.

Periodically evaluate your governance program when these events happen. You should also use metrics and monitoring tools to evaluate and assess your governance program regularly.

Ask these questions:

  • Does your program provide value?
  • Are we meeting business goals?
  • Are your new tools effective?
  • Are they saving you money?

An internal audit is the first step in ensuring governance compliance and monitoring. The resulting evaluation should provide you with remediation plans. Work with key stakeholders to roll out these updates.

Governance Keeps Citizen Development Secure

Following the 10-step framework for citizen developer governance strategy can help you mitigate risks as your business starts to leverage low-code to tackle growing digital demands.

But, implementing a citizen development governance framework isn’t always easy. The creation, deployment, and adoption of this framework comes with many challenges and obstacles.

If you’re looking for support in starting up your citizen development program, you need to work with low-code consultants who understand your unique challenges.

At Quandary, we help our clients establish clear citizen development governance frameworks that empower their teams.

We work with our partners to bridge the gaps between IT, citizen developers, and leadership. And provide the support and guidance they need to streamline application development in their organizations.

Want to get the most out of your citizen development program?

Reach out to us today!