Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a crucial initiative for many companies. Done right, RPA dramatically increases productivity and operational reliability while minimizing costs.

But RPA is a challenge to implement and scale. Most IT and development teams are stretched thin and can’t shift scarce resources to RPA development.

What’s more, successful RPA depends on an intimate understanding of business processes plus insight on how best to automate them. Front-line employees are more likely to possess this knowledge than IT, so applying it to RPA can be challenging.

Citizen developers can help resolve these issues and jumpstart RPA. They can fill the development resource gap and apply their knowledge directly to bot design.

What Are Citizen Developers in RPA?

Robotic Process Automation optimizes business workflows to increase efficiency, leverage resources, minimize errors, and even add new capabilities. It replaces manual, repetitive tasks and workflows with bots running predefined instructions to automate processes.

The underlying technology is well-established, so creating the right bot instructions is key to effective RPA. That’s where citizen developers provide support. Their hands-on knowledge of relevant processes is what makes RPA work best.

Citizen developers are in an ideal spot to identify the processes ripe for automation. They know the necessary steps for each process and desired outcomes. As a result, they can ensure the solution fits the workflow exactly.

What’s more, armed with low- or no-code development tools, citizen developers can create effective bots without IT resources. And they typically do it faster and more affordably.

Most IT departments are understaffed, overworked, and can’t catch up. Citizen development complements scarce IT resources, enabling rapid RPA deployment and allowing organizations to scale better.

How to Set Up Citizen Development in RPA

Governance is critical to successful citizen development RPA. It empowers citizen developers to do their best work while minimizing potential risks.

A well-designed and implemented governance framework ensure leadership buy-in and support. It also promotes close collaboration between IT and citizen development.

As part of the framework, leadership and IT should support citizen developers with training and low- and no-code tools.

Additionally, they should provide formal planning, communication, and review processes. Monitoring and technical assistance are also critical to guard your organization against security risks and other issues.

Integration with more traditional, IT-based RPA programs already in place is also essential. Otherwise, duplicate or competing efforts can occur.

And this wastes time, money, and resources.

When set up correctly, citizen developer RPA accelerates bot development and implementation while maintaining quality and managing cost. Citizen developer RPA programs have many moving parts and stakeholders, so proper planning and a systematic approach are essential.

To ensure the success of your citizen developer RPA program, follow this 8-step process.

1. Get Support from Leadership

Citizen developer RPA ideally starts as a top-down leadership initiative. Leadership should own the automation roadmap and assemble the team that builds and maintains the governance framework.

Leadership support for citizen developers in your RPA program should be continuous, including strategic direction, oversight, and guidance.

Additionally, leadership should be ready to supply budgetary and technical resources as needed. Their role can distinguish a business from a struggling, disorganized citizen developer RPA program that creates more problems and one that meets objectives.

Symbolically, visible leadership involvement in citizen development RPA provides credibility to the effort and signals its importance to the company. This helps ensure the success of your program.

2. Create a Citizen Developer Program

Leaders now recognize that non-IT employees can often better identify process automation and improvement opportunities.

But traditionally, these employees could not act on these opportunities.

Now, armed with low- or no-code development tools and appropriate support and guidance, these employees can assume the role of the citizen developer.

Instead of adding more tickets to an ever-increasing IT backlog, they can quickly identify critical needs and address them directly.

3. Establish Guidelines for Citizen Developer Governance

Once IT and leadership buy into the citizen development model, setting up citizen developer governance is the next step.

You will need formal guidelines, establishing clear rules of engagement between citizen developers, IT, and leadership.

These guidelines should act as a cross-departmental agreement for citizen development. They contribute to stakeholder alignment, reduce misunderstandings, and promote rational discussion.

Most importantly, well-designed guidelines optimize results while avoiding risks and pitfalls.

4. Provide User-Friendly RPA Tools

Citizen developer RPA works best when an organization standardizes one or two approved RPA tools and integrates them into its existing framework. Sticking to authorized tools streamlines tech support, helps build a shared knowledge base and reduces licensing costs.

In addition to tool selection, IT should provide initial and ongoing training to developers. You’ll also need a dedicated RPA tool help desk to boost productivity and ensure quality control. Finally, IT should implement guidelines governing RPA tool installations, app handoffs, and integrations.

Implementing only one or two RPA tools boosts productivity and reduces risk to your business.

It’s easier to support your citizen developers and provide the necessary oversight to ensure compliance. At the same time, it prevents redundancies that waste resources.

Limiting RPA tools to authorized team members reduces security risks as well. There are fewer software platforms to monitor, and citizen developers can self-monitor to a degree.

Still, not all RPA tools are equal.

Here are some well-regarded platforms to consider:

5. Create the Right Culture

Successful citizen development starts with a culture of empowerment and innovation. Openness to new ideas and a willingness to collaborate and innovate are essential.

Embracing change and a “take charge” attitude can speed up progress. Additionally, a sense of mission and accountability helps keep your team on track and moving forward.

Leadership and IT play an important role as their buy-in and support strengthen citizen development culture. In-depth and ongoing training in low-code/no-code RPA tools ensures that citizen developers have the resources they need to build the best apps.

Nurturing the appropriate culture and providing the right tools enables organizations to get the most out of citizen developers. With these elements in place, a more effective and scalable RPA program will likely develop.

6. Choose the Right Citizen Developers for RPA

Recruiting the right employees for developer roles goes a long way toward building an effective citizen developer RPA program.

The best citizen developer candidates often possess the following traits:

  • Comfortable with the technology: Employees with prior experience with low- or no-code tools like Microsoft PowerApps or a CRM like Salesforce are ideal candidates. Experience with integration, automation, or programming is even better.
  • Deep understanding of business processes: Employees with intimate knowledge of specific business activities and processes are a great fit. Effective implementation of this knowledge leads to better apps supporting critical workflows.
  • Have sustainable motivation: Being motivated is critical to achieving the best RPA results. A willingness to embrace new challenges and sustain focus on tasks or objectives are also essential.
  • Creative thinker: Designing new solutions requires an out-of-the-box mindset. Citizen developers should be eager to explore new ways of working and designing unique solutions.

7. Monitor Bot Activities

Constant bot activity monitoring helps track bot license utilization. Analyzing results is equally important because it validates problem resolution and desired outcomes.

8. Validate the Benefits and Value Delivered

Measurement and validation of results should be part of your RPA citizen development program.

Validating the benefits delivered and the value added by RPA provides a reality check of the program's effectiveness. It also feeds valuable insights into the development process.

5 Key Benefits of Citizen Developers in RPA

RPA citizen development programs leverage untapped talent and insight to automate processes and extend limited IT resources.

Entrusting bot development to employees with in-depth, hands-on knowledge of the processes most suitable for automation brings significant benefits to an organization.

Here are the top 5 benefits of RPA Citizen development:

1. Reduces the IT Backlog

IT is overwhelmed with tickets and solution requests. 64% of IT groups report a backlog, and up to 77% admit that solution requests often go unmet.

Citizen developers can fill this IT resource gap and lead RPA development. More and better bots get developed, and IT can focus on other issues.

2. Get Custom Solutions that Work

RPA citizen developers are directly motivated to solve their operational problems and understand their business processes better than anyone else. Ultimately, they can create solutions custom-fit to their team’s exact needs.

3. Improve the Customer Experience

By directly managing their automation process and associated bot development, citizen developers are much more attuned to customer needs. This positions them to better handle customer requests and improves customer experiences.

4. Increase Scalability

Because citizen developers complement scarce IT resources, RPA instantly becomes more scalable. Your team will be able to build solutions for more use cases without relying on (and waiting for) IT or data scientists to build custom applications from scratch.

5. Reduce Costs Through Process Optimization

Citizen developers see process inefficiencies daily in the course of doing their jobs.

This perspective enables them to spot issues and identify ways to optimize workflows and reduce costs better than anyone else. You’ll get the exact solutions you need with minimal change management or adoption issues to worry about.

How to Implement Citizen Development in RPA Faster

RPA can give your business a huge advantage. But implementing it isn’t easy. IT resources are costly and limited. Fortunately, citizen developers are a simple solution that can help you achieve new levels of automation and scalability in your organization.

But training citizen developers on RPA isn’t easy.

You need to provide the right support and governance. That can be time-consuming, difficult, and risky if you take the wrong approach.

At Quandary Consulting Group, we’ve trained countless citizen developers in RPA at numerous organizations. Working with our clients, we’ve helped them get more out of low-code platforms like Quickbase, Workato, and Pipefy.

Ready to scale your citizen developers in RPA?

Our team leverages our industry knowledge and low-code/no-code expertise to help stand up streamlined citizen developer programs for businesses of all sizes.

Reach out to us today!