What Is a Citizen Integrator? (And Why They're Crucial)
Typically, building system integrations fall to IT specialists who code solutions from scratch. This is a time-consuming, costly process that no longer works.
Increasing demands on IT resources have created extensive backlogs where integration requests end up pushed aside as teams focus on more critical business initiatives.
Even when IT teams manage to create integration, there’s the risk that it won’t completely satisfy the need.
Citizen integrators simplify the complexity of system integration by empowering business experts to build the custom integration solutions they need with minimal technical knowledge.
Businesses looking to scale digital solutions and better connect their systems should consider using citizen integrators.
What Is a Citizen Integrator?
Citizen integrators are non-technical team members who use low-code/no-code platforms and their industry expertise to integrate applications with limited or no IT support.
As a result, they can quickly connect applications, providing more transparent data streams without bogging down IT with costly integration requests.
While citizen integrators aren’t technical, they know their industry, processes, workflows, and data models. They also know the weak points and opportunities, putting them in the best position to build effective integrations.
And because low-code/no-code platforms are intuitive, users can simply drag and drop integrations into existence without an extensive background in coding. This relieves the burden on IT departments, freeing them up to focus on more critical tasks.
Citizen Integrators vs. Citizen Developers
While there is some overlap with citizen developers, they are not the same.
Citizen integrators focus on building custom integrations that connect systems. Citizen developers build custom applications.
Both work outside of direct IT supervision, use their industry knowledge to build effective solutions, and work to reduce costs and IT burdens.
Citizen Integrator Characteristics
Successful citizen integrators are tech-savvy, subject-matter experts who understand their workflows and which data matters most.
They understand analytics and reporting. At the same time, they’re eager to improve data insights to help the business serve customers better.
Citizen integrators should be self-learners with a growth mindset who are eager to learn new tools that can help improve data transparency.
And while low-code/no-code platforms are quick to learn, technical stills make the process smoother.
Why Organizations Need Citizen Integrators
Demand for IT services continues to rise. Both customers and employees expect more from businesses. In fact, 76% of businesses expect e-commerce services from their partners.
This puts a lot of pressure on businesses to develop digital solutions with features that meet these growing expectations.
At the same time, IT departments face increasing challenges. 88% of IT leaders saw increased workloads in 2022.
Meanwhile, 77% of IT and 71% of businesses agree IT solution requests consistently go unmet. And regardless of the effort, 62% of organizations have growing IT backlogs.
Still, businesses face many integration challenges:
- Siloed data
- Different departments using different systems
- More complex integrations
- Scalability issues
- Bi-Directional integrations
As businesses grow increasingly complex, they add new applications to provide new features and collect new data streams. Ultimately, integrations are necessary to keep that data accurate and usable.
However, IT departments are underwater with extensive backlogs.
As a result, many integration requests get deprioritized for more critical tasks. This reduces an organization’s ability to scale. And that’s where citizen integrators can help.
8 Benefits of a Citizen Integrator
Creating a team of citizen integrators can drastically improve your business. Here are 8 benefits to consider before launching your citizen integrator initiative.
1. Improved Employee Engagement
Only 32% of employees are fully engaged at work, costing the US economy roughly $500 billion dollars. This level of engagement makes it hard to run, let alone scale, a company.
Employees want to be heard.
They face challenges and frustrations every day. But when these suggestions for improvement get passed on to IT departments to be forgotten, it can damage employee morale.
After all, why try to change anything if nothing ever happens with your suggestions?
Citizen integrators flip the script.
Rather than waiting on IT, they can proactively find and create solutions that improve workflows.
Connecting data systems leads to better insights, improved performance, and more recognition. It also removed time-consuming, menial tasks that employees don’t enjoy.
2. Reduced IT Burden
It can take months or years to implement stakeholders' business digital transformation ideas. IT departments struggle to keep up. They have limited resources and growing demands.
Citizen Integrators can alleviate that burden by handling simpler integration requests. This allows IT departments to focus on more complex tasks that require coding knowledge.
The integrations that citizen integrators build can also improve data transparency, providing clearer insights IT can use to guide and improve future developments.
3. Data Transparency + Error Reduction
Applications, departments, and even individual team members create data silos. This increases the likelihood of duplicate data while reducing transparency.
Silos also create slowdowns and errors.
Manual data entry is a time-consuming process that significantly increases error rates. And reporting between separate disparate systems requires human labor to translate and interpret the data.
Citizen integrators connect disparate data sources, automating the transfer of information between systems. This eliminates numerous data silos, improving transparency.
4. Cost Reduction
As such, you want your IT resources focused on complex initiatives that require the full use of their skillset. Building simple integrations is often not the best use of their time.
Additionally, they typically don’t have as much experience with the workflows or tools that citizen integrators do. This leads to ineffective or inefficient integrations that may cause more problems than they solve.
Citizen integrators are a more cost-effective approach. Their solutions have higher success and adoption rates. Plus, they free up your IT resources to focus on more technical challenges.
5. More Productivity
Inaccurate data, slow reporting, and errors create all kinds of problems and bottlenecks. Additionally, sending a ticket to IT and then working with them to build a desired solution takes time (especially when they’re unfamiliar with the workflow, tool, or process).
Citizen integrators are domain specialists. They can build what they need quickly using low-code/no-code platforms. With connected systems, they get more accurate insights empowering them to get work done faster and more efficiently.
6. Improved Service
Citizen integrators are often closer to the customer than IT.
They know what kind of experience customers crave and the features needed to make that happen. They know what will work and what won’t.
As such, they can build solutions that enhance the customer experience.
7. Better Integrations
Citizen integrators often know the tools they use better than IT resources. They know what data they need to deliver results. And they know what systems need to be connected. In short, they’re better situated to create more effective solutions.
8. Increased Agility
Connected systems improve an organization’s ability to adapt to change. Technology and a more global, connected world have increased the rate at which markets can shift.
Citizen integrators help create a more connected business. They also empower IT by reducing their backlog so they can focus on more business-critical tasks. This helps them get ahead of tasks and focus on building the solutions businesses need to stay competitive.
Tools Citizen Integrators Use
How to Empower Citizen Integrators
While the benefits of citizen integrators are immense, they struggle to succeed (or make matters worse) without proper governance.
Your customer data is critical. Keeping it safe and secure requires the right frameworks that enforce compliance. Additionally, your citizen integrators need the right training, resources, and guidance to ensure they build quality solutions that drive your desired results.
It would be a mistake to assume citizen integrators would naturally adhere to IT guidelines without regular governance.
Instead, you’re more likely to put your business at unnecessary risk.
Citizen integrators need oversight, training, and guidance. That falls to the IT department or (trained citizen development consultants). You should foster a culture of communication and collaboration between citizen integrators and IT.
For example, build resources to help train your citizen integrators. Create a Slack channel for them to share their ideas and questions. Establish regular meetings so teams can collaborate. And provide sandbox environments to test out new solutions safely.
This will help ensure compliance while encouraging innovation and the development of secure solutions that benefit your business.