Getting Buy-In For Your Citizen Developer Program

Most digital transformations fail. Meanwhile, businesses struggle to find and retain what little IT resources they have. Even worse, customer expectations are higher than ever while budgets and bandwidth are at an all-time low. Citizen development offers a viable solution.

But moving it from a PowerPoint deck to a powerful business impact is challenging. Before you can create a citizen development program, you need organizational buy-in. We’ll show you how to get your leadership, IT teams, and employees on board with citizen development so you can drive successful digital transformations.

Leadership Buy-In for Citizen Development

Your journey for citizen development buy-in starts with leadership. Your approach needs to justify the time, resources, and disruption implementing the new program will cost.

Present the Business Case

You need to present the real-world business case for citizen development.

Start by painting a picture of the grim reality: your organization struggles to innovate because of inefficiencies. These inefficiencies exist because IT teams are drowning in requests.

IT backlogs won’t go away on their own.

And without change, your business will continue to burn through resources struggling to maintain the status quo while missing out on opportunities.

Your goal is to simply illustrate the way things are. By highlighting the frustrations that leadership knows exist, you can guide them to a viable solution.

Focus on ROI

Business leaders see initiatives as investments. The higher the return the investment brings, the more on board they will be.

You should highlight real-world examples of ROI-positive citizen development programs. Increasingly, organizations are sharing their stories.

For example, Rolls-Royce has seen returns between £8m - £10m in terms of efficiency and savings in 2022. Shell’s citizen development team built a single application that provided $400,000 in initial savings and potential savings of up to $1.8M.

Cost-saving is at the forefront of every business leader’s mind. Focusing on how citizen development can help an organization achieve those cost-saving goals through efficiency, customer satisfaction, lower app development costs, and employee retention is key to getting leadership buy-in.

Prepare a Plan for Implementation and Change Management

Without a plan, you’ll leave leadership wondering, “What next?” You need a clear plan for launching the program to get your executive team to back your citizen development initiative.

Your citizen development plan should include how you will get buy-in from IT teams and employees. You should also map out how your team will recruit, train, and launch citizen developers. And you should provide a rough framework for governance and IT support.

Most digital transformations fail because they lack a clear plan. You need a vision and mission for your citizen development program. Highlight what the program will accomplish.

And remember, technology is only a part of the plan. Your goal is to solve real business problems while improving your team's workflows (and lives). You should also explain how you plan to collect and analyze data to track program success.

Technology is still important, however. As such, you should suggest low-code/no-code tools for your business and suggestions for evaluating those tools.

Keep in mind your plan will change.

Markets are more unpredictable than ever. Business needs and customer demands shift continuously. You need to remain flexible as you build your citizen development program.

IT Buy-In for Citizen Development

Once you have leadership buy-in for your citizen development program, you must convince your IT teams. Success here involves understanding and upholding IT standards.

Promote Job Security

No matter how beneficial a program is, your team won’t help you if it means losing their jobs. When getting IT buy-in for citizen development, the first order of business is to communicate that citizen developers will not replace professional developers.

Citizen development and low-code tools are levers for IT teams to pull, allowing them to increase their outputs exponentially. These tools keep the business competitive while making it easier for IT teams to deliver on digital demands.

Most importantly, citizen developers are not professional developers. They’re tech-savvy business users. To succeed, they will need coaching and oversight.

To maximize buy-in, position citizen development as a way to make the lives of your IT teams easier. Citizen developers help reduce IT backlog by taking on menial development tasks. This gives professional developers more time to focus on mission-critical initiatives.

In short, you should position citizen development as a force multiplier.

Establish Guardrails for Compliance and Governance

While IT will appreciate the additional support, they will still have concerns with governance. After all, professional developers have a deep understanding of compliance, security, and quality assurance guardrails.

They’ll be understandably worried about development tasks moving outside of IT.

You should underscore the value of governance, training, and frameworks to keep app development secure. You should also set up clear boundaries for what systems, applications, and data streams citizen developers can and can’t improve.

Shell uses a three-tier zoning model to set up proper governance.

Citizen developers can work on green-labeled applications independently. They’ll need to work with IT teams on yellow-labeled applications. And citizen developers aren’t allowed to engage with red-labeled applications.

You’ll also want to highlight the need for regular training and support to ensure your citizen developers create high-quality, secure applications.

Finally, you should make it clear to your IT team that they will provide the necessary oversight for the program. They should see citizen developers as an extension of their IT program, there to provide support.

Focus on Productivity and Efficiency Improvements

IT teams are underwater. The backlog is high. Ticket times are higher. Relief is nowhere in sight.

And it’s not your IT team’s fault.

As the only resource for building digital infrastructure in your organization, they’re effectively a bottleneck.

Your developers must balance mission-critical development tasks with less minor tasks, creating a complex web of Work-in-Progress (WIP). Task switching decreases productivity. At the same time, the growing number of tasks leads to developer burnout.

By positioning citizen development as a way for your IT teams (and all teams) to work more efficiently, you’ll get the backing you need to launch the program.

Low-code/no-code (LCNC) tools streamline application development by replacing code with a graphic interface. This makes it easy for users to build applications much, much faster than traditional development.

Citizen developers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from using LCNC tools. Professional developers can also use them to speed up development on certain projects.

Employee Buy-In for Citizen Development

You don’t have a citizen development program without employee buy-in.

This can be challenging as you’ll need to find tech-savvy volunteers eager to take on additional responsibilities and change how work gets done in the organization.

Focus on Work Improvement

Citizen development will have a direct, positive impact on employees by streamlining workflows. Primarily, they will work to eliminate menial tasks.

Focus on how citizen developers can use LCNC tools to automate tedious tasks. Employees typically do not enjoy these tasks (data entry, manual processes, etc.).

Explain how they will reduce the stress and frustration caused by these tasks. At the same time, emphasize the benefits of eliminating menial work. For example, explain how citizen

development will give them better data insights and more time to innovate. As a result, they can better serve the customer, exceed expectations, and improve performance.

You should also underscore how citizen development empowers employees to improve how work gets done in your business. We’re talking about positive, transformative change that impacts every area of your business.

In short, you should communicate how work gets better with citizen development.

Use Gamification

Gamification makes citizen development more exciting, building up enthusiasm around the program. This approach encourages competition while motivating users by taking something that may be boring to some and making it fun.

Hackathons, “App of the Month,” boot camps, and competitions are great examples of gamification models you can use to drive interest in citizen development.

These examples create a fun, competitive environment that rewards citizen developers for their efforts. And it provides public recognition for their accomplishments.

Citizen development requires team members to go above and beyond their standard workflows. They will need to invest time in upskilling on LCNC tools and working with IT teams.

By making citizen development enjoyable, competitive, and prestigious, you will get more team members on board with the program. Plus, you inspire them to do their best work.

Build a Strong Citizen Development Community

Your citizen developers need to know they aren’t alone. By setting up communities, you’ll provide the support network they need to be successful.

Give your citizen developers a place to connect, share ideas, and display their work among peers. By sharing their wins, challenges, and frustrations, they can collaborate with like-minded developers to find solutions.

A sense of community will help your citizen developers feel connected to a culture of change in your organization. As a result, they’ll feel like they have a more active, empowering role in transforming your organization.

Your community will also help you identify gaps in your citizen development program. That way, you can build the resources, coaching, experiences, and additional support needed to improve the program.

It’s important to market your citizen development program internally effectively. Your efforts can encourage interest in the program, helping inspire top talent to become citizen developers.