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Accelerate software development utilizing citizen developers
Citizen development: five keys to success
Utilizing Citizen developers for low-code and no-code application development? While the potential benefits are enormous, businesses can and should take steps to optimize results and avoid pitfalls. Learn the five keys to a successful citizen development strategy and roadmap.
Citizen development: Five keys to success
Emerging low-code and no-code (LCNC) technology platforms are redefining the software development process. With their intuitive, visual interfaces, LCNC models empower “Citizen Developers”—those with minimal to no coding skills—to build sophisticated web and mobile applications.
By reducing reliance on specialized coding expertise, LCNC democratizes and streamlines software development while removing the bottlenecks that plague traditional development life cycles. The potential result? Enhanced speed, agility, and flexibility, along with the rapid prototyping and “fail fast” capabilities essential to the competitive posture of businesses.
While the potential benefits of LCNC are enormous, businesses can and should take steps to optimize results and avoid pitfalls. Taking on a Citizen Developer role, for example, requires skills, training, and preparation. The organization also needs a way to gauge progress, keep initiatives on track, and prevent infrastructure sprawl and shadow IT.
For a clearer understanding of how to get it right, here are five keys to a successful citizen development strategy and road map.
1. Get the organization on the same page
To be effective, citizen development must be a strategic priority that establishes a transformational mindset—one that fundamentally changes an organization’s approach to culture, engagement, and talent development.
More specifically, citizen development redefines the relationship between business and technology, particularly in the context of digital transformation and application development. Rather than being a technical order-taker confined to coding and fixing bugs, the IT function takes on a more strategic role focused on value-adding tasks related to governance, data integrity, and security. By enabling Citizen Developers to build applications with minimal supervision from IT, moreover, the model enhances productivity and efficiency and expands the IT talent pool by freeing resources.
While driving positive outcomes, a citizen development model can create a formidable change management challenge. Adopting and scaling the model can also involve multiple layers of stakeholder interests across business and technology. To align these interests, avoid confusion, and prevent resistance, cultivate change ambassadors with strong organizational understanding and effective communication skills at each layer of the organization.
2. Chart a journey for talent growth and career advancement
Not everyone can or should take on a Citizen Developer role. Keep in mind as well that specific skill requirements will vary based on an organization’s goals and objectives for LCNC. Identifying the right personas and cultivating talent through effective training are therefore critical to optimize outcomes.
An LCNC talent growth model that integrates business and technology can develop required skills and foster a culture of employee empowerment. By clearly defining responsibilities for each persona, and by detailing career advancement trajectories, this kind of model can head off resistance and motivate employees to pursue new and innovative roles. Without a well-defined growth journey, LCNC can create uncertainty within IT departments about roles and opportunities for career growth, which in turn could negatively affect turnover.
3. Stand up a holistic governance model
An operating model oriented to citizen development provides a complementary governance structure to address requirements around suitability, scalability, supportability, security, and accessibility of applications built on the LCNC platform.
Elements include a flat organizational hierarchy focused on value creation and decision-making defined by expertise rather than seniority. Self-organized teams set clearly defined goals and ensure transparency of individual contributions. Outcome-based metrics gauge financial and operational performance while rewarding success. Tools identify required features and capabilities within the platform. Policies balance control and freedom to facilitate innovation while maintaining compliance.
A center of excellence (CoE) dedicated specifically to citizen development can address some of the unique requirements related to LCNC implementations. For one thing, a CoE combines technical application development and software life cycle management expertise with softer communication and collaboration skills. This integration helps secure buy-in from Citizen Developers on cross-functional teams, as well as commitment to scale and adopt citizen development. Meanwhile, the CoE can formalize and reinforce IT/business collaboration and bring clarity, transparency, and accountability to the program.
4. Have a consistent way to intake and assess initiatives
A robust framework to assess, prioritize, and track citizen development initiatives is imperative. Without one, businesses risk uncontrolled application sprawl. Consider the scenario where Citizen Developers unleash their newly developed skill and develop software applications as if they were Word documents or a PowerPoint presentation. This could create significant technical debt and limited adoption, and introduce sprawl and enterprise risks around security, functionality, and quality.
An assessment capability is also critical so that each application reflects nonfunctional requirements such as security, usability, and interoperability. Requirements like these are easy to miss during the application development life cycle, leading to a wide range of security and performance issues which can be detrimental to the entire project and the organization.
5. Choose the right partner
Successful adoption of an LCNC model relies on breadth and depth of expertise in strategy, technology, operation, and change management. With so many moving parts, organizations pursuing a citizen development vision can benefit from a partner to help them chart the digital innovation journey.
Specific attributes to seek in selecting a partner include the partner’s ability to align with the organization’s overall vision and direction, while at the same time customizing LCNC implementation to address specific objectives. Experience around unique industry requirements is similarly essential, as is the ability to align the LCNC model with the particular attributes and skill sets of Citizen Developers. Since business requirements will inevitably evolve over time, a partner must have the capability to respond to changing conditions and competitive dynamics.
LCNC platforms and the citizen development model create new possibilities for businesses aiming to redefine their approach to software development, drive digital transformation, and enhance competitiveness. But the model does need key elements such as leadership commitment, effective governance structures, and mechanisms to drive collaboration and buy-in. Third-party expertise can help with the development of a comprehensive strategy and implementation road map that pulls these elements together to optimize results and mitigate risk.
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