Citizen Development Best Practices
According to Statista, 70% of companies still struggle to find professional developers for technical roles.
The IT shortage is a real challenge for businesses.
Increased demand, constant innovation, and rising costs have created an impossible situation for many businesses trying to stay competitive in a rapidly changing environment.
Citizen developers can help businesses overcome these challenges, provided leadership takes the right approach to implement and govern these programs.
To keep your citizen development program from spiraling into unchecked shadow IT, you need the right approach.
This article highlights the best practices for implementing a citizen development program, so you get the most out of your citizen developers.
1. Get Buy-in From Leadership
Strong leadership buy-in is essential for any new technology or citizen development program to be successful. Without buy-in, your citizen development initiative will unravel.
To ensure success, you should:
- Educate yourself on the value of no-code applications and citizen development, so you understand how these tools and techniques will change your organization.
- Seek input from IT to understand the challenges of launching, governing, and supporting citizen developers.
- Define clear roles for citizen developers and IT teams to reduce confusion and conflict.
- Involve business leaders in the decision-making process while leading with the benefits of citizen development.
Studies show that corporate leadership support is essential for establishing a link between the openness of technology adoption and service innovation.
If you want your citizen development program to succeed, your business needs to understand that this initiative has leadership support.
2. Choose a Low-Code Platform
There are a lot of low-code tools out there (over 227). Choosing the best one is no small task.
Each business is different. You face different challenges, have different customers, and manage different teams. Your low code tools need to reflect those needs.
Consider the following criteria when choosing a low-code platform:
- Integration Capabilities
- Level of Support
- IT and Team Preference
- Vendor-Lock In
To make the right decision, you need to dig deep. Don’t hesitate to ask for a live demo to see the low-code platform in action.
3. Define Roles
Well-defined roles and expectations are essential for citizen development success.
Role clarity helps team members to focus and align goals with the project's purpose. In fact, clearly defined roles can improve performance by 25%.
Each project needs proper ownership of tasks, planning, and control. This is especially true for IT and citizen developers.
IT should guide in terms of security, scalability, and integration as needed but not assume control over citizen developer projects. They’re there to provide resources and oversight.
At the same time, citizen developers need to respect IT boundaries.
They should never try to circumvent the IT team's security protocols or use unauthorized applications. This leads to shadow IT, increasing risk to the business.
4. Create Goals
Organizational goals, objectives, and expectations must be clearly defined before citizen developers start app development.
You need a clearly defined end state, aligned with the business vision.
Every improvement citizen developers carry out needs to align with those goals. If it doesn’t add value (to the business, customer, or user), it’s not worth pursuing.
This is vital.
Businesses that set and communicate goals effectively see 3.6x greater employee engagement.
As such, management must ask questions, address any obstacles or routines, and rearrange the team to meet these objectives.
- How is this project in line with the organization's overall vision?
- What are the goals and expectations for the project?
- What types of resources do we need to complete this project?
- What type of timeline do we need to keep to succeed?
- Should we address any risks associated with this project?
Answering these questions can help define concrete and realistic goals for the project.
Once you define the goals for your citizen developers, ensure every stakeholder understands the purpose and expectations of the project.
Otherwise, the project could lack focus or fail to reach its potential.
5. Plan Out Use Cases
It’s important to plan out potential app usage before your citizen developers dive into any low-code project.
Start by gathering user requirements and pain points. This helps you understand the app's purpose and design an interface that meets expectations.
Also, consider different use cases for your application—how will you use it in various scenarios? This includes aspects like data visualization, collaboration, and user authentication.
The use cases should cover all potential scenarios that the application could encounter. This includes potential obstacles, user roles and responsibilities, data flow, and more.
These questions will help you understand the project scope:
- What are the business goals and objectives citizen developers help achieve?
- Is there a similar external business example we can reference?
- What are the specific use cases or business processes where citizen development can be most effective?
- Who are our potential citizen developers, and what are their skill sets?
- What training will be necessary for citizen developers to create and maintain applications?
- How will we integrate citizen-developed applications with existing systems and processes?
- What are the security and governance considerations for citizen development?
- How will we address these considerations?
- How will we measure and evaluate the success of citizen development?
- What is the expected return on investment for the project?
- How can we mitigate the potential risks and challenges of implementing citizen development?
These questions will help you understand how your business will use citizen development to expedite digital transformation.
6. Create a Citizen Developer Framework
An effective citizen developer framework provides the necessary structure and guidance your citizen developers need to create solutions successfully.
An effective citizen developer framework:
- Enforces data security
- Reduces cost
- Eliminates duplicate tasks and application redundancies
- Reduces unauthorized use of technology (known as shadow IT)
- Keeps your citizen developers aligned with IT guidelines
For more information, we’ve mapped out the steps necessary to create an effective citizen development framework here.
7. Establish Citizen Developer Governance
Multiple app versions, inefficient processes, and unsupported apps–these are all common (but avoidable) issues with citizen developer governance.
Your IT and leadership teams will be primarily responsible for oversight of your citizen development program.
Setting up successful governance requires proper training, support, and resources for citizen developers. It’s important to remember that they’re not professional programmers. So, it’s not fair or reasonable to assume they understand IT policies and procedures.
Instead, you’ll need to work with them.
At the same time, you need to provide an environment to support creativity and innovation while keeping your business safe. Sandbox environments are great for this.
Finally, you’ll need to track performance, sharing wins and losses with the organization. This will help teams learn and grow.
8. Understand and Mitigate Risk
Leaders need to understand the risks that accompany citizen development so they can reduce, eliminate, and manage them.
These risks are:
- Security: Is the application secure from unauthorized access? Can it protect confidential data?
- Operational IT: Does the app meet IT standards for performance, reliability, scalability, and availability?
- IT Architecture: Does the application integrate with existing IT components to ensure a smooth user experience?
- Regulatory: Will the application meet the relevant industry regulations and standards?
- Reputational: Will the application reinforce the company's brand and reputation?
- Financial: How much will the application cost, and what are the expected returns on investment?
Managing citizen developer risks ensures apps comply with rules, regulations, and IT principles. As a result, the business is less exposed to security breaches, damaged brand reputation, and other negative consequences.
To mitigate risks, organizations must ensure the following:
- Adequate security measures are in place to protect against data breaches, poor user access control, and other threats.
- Platforms are easily managed, maintained, and used within the organization's IT standards.
- Citizen developers comply with relevant industry standards and legal/regulatory requirements.
- Users don’t build apps that damage the organization's reputation or financial health.
- Apps integration is well thought out and tested before implementation.
- The apps are monitored and tested continuously.
- The application's architecture promotes quick adaptability for rapidly shifting markets.
9. Plan Change Management
Without change management, business users will be reluctant to try new technologies. Fortunately, change management is much easier with citizen developers.
Citizen developers are business users, creating tools and solutions to existing problems they face with their teams. As a result, they design solutions that are aligned with their exact needs.
Still, you can’t expect everyone to embrace change (even if there’s a clear positive outcome). Plus, other teams may be antagonistic to implementing a citizen development project in general. After all, it does change how businesses build applications.
In those cases, you must be prepared to manage objections and get your team on board.
The best way to manage objections is a top-down approach focusing on the value these new systems bring. At the same time, you must hear objections and put them to rest.
Data is key to success.
Highlighting time to market and costs for current processes and comparing them to the potential improvements with citizen development goes a long way.
At the same time, you should underscore the value each team will experience with these changes.
It also helps to encourage your team to share concerns and objections. This prevents resentment and frustration from building up, painting a clearer picture of your team’s attitude toward new changes.
10. Promote Citizen Developer Culture
You must create a culture that embraces citizen development and innovation. This will inspire teams to reflect on processes, offer suggestions, experiment, and grow.
Give your team time to reflect on workflows and think of new solutions. Champion citizen development across your organization. Help citizen developers identify high-value, low-effort project wins to prove success. And incentivize developers to find ways to solve problems.
With a positive attitude toward citizen development and excitement around change, your business will be better positioned to drive lasting organizational change.
11. Collaborate Often
86% of executives believe poor collaboration and communication are the leading causes of business failure.
To prevent this, your IT team should actively participate at every stage of the process. They should provide guidance, review changes, and ensure each app meets standards.
You achieve this through regular collaboration between teams.
After all, a successful low-code, no-code development environment is about more than designing effective apps. It's also about working together to build solutions that transform how businesses carry out tasks and support customers.
Your team can do this through regular meetings, workshops, feedback sessions, and reviews.
It doesn’t have to be an intrusive process either.
As your citizen development program grows, your citizen developers will take on more of the simpler application development tasks, freeing up your IT team to focus on higher-level tasks like governance.
12. Reflect and Improve Citizen Development Program
You should view your citizen development program through the lens of continuous process improvement.
Regularly collect feedback from business users, assess the impact of your apps, and look for areas where you can improve.
At the same time, go beyond qualitative insights. Be sure to constantly measure key metrics:
- Speed and efficiency of citizen-developed apps: How quickly can you build and deploy apps?
- Increased IT bandwidth: How much time does citizen development free up for IT?
- Innovation: Are your team members coming up with new ideas thanks to the program?
- Enhanced organizational IP from citizen developer-created apps: Are you building apps that add to your organization's intellectual property?
- Reduction in shadow IT: Are team members bypassing the IT team to build their own apps?
By leveraging KPIs, you can easily track the success of your program and share the results with your team. They can use this data to make improvements.
13. Work with Citizen Developer Consultants
Implementing citizen development best practices can be challenging. You need well-thought-out plans, implementation strategies, and user acceptance.
And that requires time to build.
Sadly, IT teams and business leaders often don’t have the time to set up a citizen development program and ensure best practices.
This forces leaders to continue with a “business as usual” approach while burning through revenue, throttling efficiency, and limiting innovation.
Or, worse, they give citizen developers a “free pass” to create apps without oversight leading to a host of problems.
Operational costs increase drastically. Margins get much smaller. And businesses struggle to keep up despite investing in better technology.
That’s why Quandary Consulting Group works with businesses to support their citizen development programs.
We’re a team of expert low-code developers who use industry insights and experience to help businesses build, launch, and manage citizen development programs.
Without burdening existing teams with more demands.
Check out our case studies below to see the results we’ve helped our clients achieve.