IT teams can’t keep up with increasing demand. Rising costs, developer shortages, and lengthy development cycles bury developers beneath an avalanche of Work-In-Progress (WIP).

Citizen developers armed with low-code tools can alleviate those challenges by taking over menial development tasks.

Still, the citizen development movement is new to many. And CIOs are hesitant to move app development outside of IT. In fact, data shows that while 70% of companies plan on using citizen developers, only 50% believe it’s going well.

But there are several companies that have seen success.

And it goes deeper than building a bartender for trade shows using low-code tools…

These citizen development use cases illustrate how many major companies found success with citizen developers.

Shell Employees Use Citizen Development to Scale Transformation

Energy company, Shell, is tackling the challenges of scaling digital transformations head-on with citizen developers.

Known as the Shell DIY Program, the organization has been tackling inefficient processes using low-code tools as an organization.

Their 4-part process for implementing citizen development at Shell:

  • Sensemaking: Analyzing existing practices to find areas for digital transformation and continuous improvement.
  • Stakeholder Participation: Working with team members involved in processes to adopt new approaches to workflows.
  • Collective Action: Implementing new practices using digital tools to meet demands by streamline workflow.
  • Evaluating Progress: Providing formal/informal feedback of Citizen Development programs while analyzing the impact of digital transformations in the organization.

Over two years, Shell has made significant improvements in processes leveraging citizen developers.

Here are 3 examples:

Manual Process Automation with Data Visualization

Shell Deer Park Refinery in Texas relied heavily on paper-based methods for pump repairs. Evaluating pump performance, maintenance records, and operation conditions were difficult and time-consuming.

Refinery engineers used low-code tools to automate the workflows. The process they created provided accurate data in a centralized database, simplifying maintenance management.

With a single source of data, engineers increased pump efficiency. They also reduced the risk and costs associated with unplanned downtime.

Their goal for the app is to reduce annual repair time by 50%

Save Time and Money with Improved Workflow

The Shell team developed a “Lifting and Hoisting” application to speed up the manual review process carried out during each lift and hoist maneuver.

At Shell Polymers Monaca petrochemical complex in Western Pennsylvania contractors conducted 40 - 120 each day. Before each operation, the team had to manually approve the process. To carry out this process, the team would often have to travel across the site. Ultimately, this added additional 2.5 hours for every maneuver.

The application their citizen developers create automated the paper-based process. It streamlined approvals using automation. The end result was a faster, safer operation that reduced overall time from 2.5 hours to 1 hour per maneuver.

Enhanced Customer Experience

To meet the increasing demand of customers who want transparency around greenhouse gas emissions, Shell’s DIY team developed a Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) Calculations app.

To improve the B2B marketing and sales process, DIY created the app to help improve transparency around carbon emissions data. This empowered customers to choose products that helped them reduce their carbon footprint.

The application collects all the carbon emissions data on each product before it leaves Shell. Customers can request the data via email. After submitting the request, the app pulls the data from the system and shares it directly with the customer.

For more detailed information and examples, please read the full report from Shell, “How Shell Fueled a Digital Transformation by Establishing DIY Software Development.” (Jan. 2023)

Citizen Developers at SBI Streamline Lead Data Validation

B. Ramkumar, a blind manager in the digital transaction banking unit for India’s largest bank, The State Bank of India (SBI), created a low-code app with no formal developer training.

As a citizen developer, Ramkumar worked with SBI’s IT team to build out the full functionality of the app within the low-code platform.

The application they designed streamlined the collation of lead data from 1,500 offices across India, drastically reducing the time and cost of managing the data collection processes.

Before the app (Digi Toolkit), the SBI had to manually pull the data every day. There were multiple people working on the various versions of documents, creating numerous errors.

A lot of the data was inaccurate.

Ramkumar worked with SBIs developers to create an app that provided a singular view of lead data. Branch managers can access the app using their smartphones. And users only have access to their data, so they cannot corrupt data from other offices.

The platform also has reminders built in, eliminating the need for manual follow-ups.

Digi Toolkit allowed his team to automate the collecting, validating, and processing of the data without tripping over each other in spreadsheets. Data accuracy and visibility have improved.

Best of all, branch managers have better customer insights. They now know which customers are interested in which products. And they can follow up much easier.

Moving forward, the team behind Digi Toolkit has added features that allow customers to input their data into the system automatically. As a result, they’ve further streamlined their processes.

And they will continue to look for new ways to add value to the system.

Baker College Works with Staff and Students to Expand SIS Functionality

Baker College wanted to update its student information center, making it accessible and useful to everyone.

The challenge with building out a student information system (SIS) is that you need a custom solution. Each university is its own culture, its own world. And the system needs to reflect the direct needs of the student.

The more students you have, the more variables. This exponentially complicates an already complex system.

The downside of custom application development is that it tends to be painstakingly slow and expensive. Baker College sped up the process with citizen developers empowered by low-code tools.

While the school’s IT team tackled the infrastructure of the main SIS, the staff and students used low-code tools to build custom solutions on the back of that system.

For example, they worked with students to create an inventory tracking system for school equipment. Students update the database with information on the inventory (condition, location, damage, and report stolen items). And the system tracks that data.

The IT team at Baker College works regularly with students and staff to continuously deploy new features on the existing infrastructure with relative ease.

Cineplex Saves Thousands of Manual Hours with Citizen Developer-Led Solutions

Using Microsoft Power Apps, Cineplex built 7 automations over 4 months to eliminate 2,600 hours of manual work.

Cineplex used the downtime brought on by the pandemic to evaluate and improve processes using Robotic Process Automation (RPA). They started off small, focusing on improving individual processes and celebrating success.

Eventually, these successes led to the wide-scale adoption of Power Automate across the organization with a focus on using RPA to further streamline workflows.

Gift Card Automation

One major area their team focused on was the process of activating gift cards. Before, a member of the customer service team had to log in, compile a list of new gift card purchases, and then log into a third-party system to activate the gift card.

Activating the gift card required the team member to manually enter the serial number along with the amount before shipping the card. With up to 700 new orders each day, this was a time-consuming process and prone to errors.

Within two weeks, the citizen development team at Cineplex built a solution that redefined the workflow and automated the process using RPA.

Ticket Adjustments

Cineplex’s legacy systems handled most ticket refunds. However, there were certain exceptions that required manual processes due to limitations built into the existing system.

When the legacy system couldn’t process the refund, service agents had to manually submit ticket details to the treasury department. That data would be captured and validated in Excel. After, the team would process the refund through a third-party website. And the team would also need to manually track inventory and adjustments.

This took around 8 minutes, on average, for each refund.

Even worse, human error would add complications to the process. Refunds were provided daily, meaning some employees had to carry out tasks on weekends and holidays. And managing the systems was a nightmare due to a dated, complex management system.

Using low-code tools, Cineplex’s citizen developers automated these processes. They broke the process into two workflows. One workflow validated information. The other adjusted inventory.

And the team reduces thousands of hours of manual labor while removing the need for employees to update the system daily.

Today, Cineplex has established a Center of Excellence for process improvement in their organization. Their citizen developers have the resources they need to build solutions to tedious, manual processes that are accessible, secure, and effective.

Currently, they have several automation opportunities in development that can eliminate thousands of hours of manual tasks.

Overall, they improved process efficiency by 92%.

Microsoft Employees Use PowerApps to Become Citizen Developers

Microsoft’s launch team identified challenges in the process of launching products and services and leveraged citizen developers to build a solution.

The launch process involved numerous tools in disparate systems that forced team members to waste time verifying data in these siloed systems.

Instead of wasting time manually reviewing data (and increasing the risk of data errors), Microsoft’s citizen developers brainstormed a solution. Once they figured out the features and functionalities of the solution, they built a launch app during a hackathon.

After developing the prototype, they had the momentum they needed to create more solutions as citizen developers.

Still, there was hesitation with moving development outside of IT and putting it in the hands of developers. Especially with an app that was going to support critical business functions.

What’s important to note here is that Microsoft already had tools and processes in place. This meant that the citizen developers could work without disrupting existing services.

At the same time, they were moving quickly.

Either they would build a solution that worked, or they would create a framework for IT to develop a more complex solution. The investment in time and resources would pay off.


After 40 days and 250 iterations, their citizen development team created an app that could be used by other launch managers.

Because the citizen developers were building the app, they could do so faster and more accurately than relying on IT teams. No change requests. No bug logging. No waiting for IT teams to fix issues.

As the app evolved into a more complex system, iterations slowed down. Once they started connecting the app to other systems, they put guardrails in place and had regular meetings to keep the app secure.

Collaboration between citizen developers and their IT teams was frequent. They met to discuss new features, demo the app, and ask for support.

The end result was a more cohesive launch app that pulled half the data from the “Microsoft Dynamics 365-based platform that serves as the “single version of truth” for all work activities across the operations teams at Microsoft.”

The app connected with various systems and provided relevant tracking and management features that were previously non-existent. Team members have a more fluid experience with launching new products and services.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s developer team continues to analyze the business impact of the tool to determine if it’s worth investing more resources to build out the app further.

Citizen Developers Extend John Deere’s Tech Stack

John Deere has been leveraging citizen development to scale since 2020.

Desperate data systems would drastically impact its ability to collect, analyze, and use those insights.

Their tech stack is a complex mesh of IT systems that facilitates data transfer between vendors, customers, and business partners globally. Integration and automation are vital for success.

And with increasing demand for smart farm equipment, Deere needed a way to scale value across their organization rapidly.

To help them meet those needs, they employed citizen developers. This allowed team members to support IT by building out solutions extending the capabilities of their tech stack.

As a result, their IT team can better support their mission to “drive better business outcomes for our customers” while providing the “necessary guardrails for product teams to innovate,” According to former CIO of John Deere, Ganesh Jayaram.

Ultimately, being able to scale IT innovation creates a positive feedback loop that continuously improves future developments.

As demand for John Deer equipment increases, the organization is better positioned to meet that demand.