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Blog Article

Citizen Development – The Catalyst for Digital Transformation 

May 28, 2024 | 5 min

Citizen Development / No-Code / Low-Code

With Citizen Development, business departments are actively involved in developing and enhancing software solutions. This reduces the workload on IT and significantly improves the professional quality of applications. How can companies scale this effect and other benefits of citizen development? It all comes down to which platform you use. What features should it have? And what are other issues that companies need to pay attention to?

Citizen Development

Digital transformation is not a one-time event that will be completed at some point like a project. It has become an integral part of everyday business. In many organizations, the primary responsibility for digital transformation lies with the IT department, which is problematic given the current skills shortage and the large number of digitalization initiatives: many projects have to be postponed or extended because the IT department does not have sufficient capacity. Ultimately, this threatens the success and future of the business. 

Citizen Development – Sharing the Burden of Digital Transformation

Citizen Development can reduce the workload on IT, improve the quality of business software, and increase user adoption. In Citizen Development, IT-savvy individuals, most of whom have no programming skills, create, modify, and extend software solutions. Citizen Development platforms provide pre-built modules that allow Citizen Developers to customize existing applications or build new applications with just a few clicks. As a result, Citizen Development ensures that a wide range of departments and individuals are involved in the implementation of digitization initiatives, spreading the workload more evenly across the organization. This also gives an additional boost to the organization’s digitalization efforts. 

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Greater User Acceptance Thanks to Citizen Development

The fact that the respective departments are operationally involved in the (further) development of their software solution creates an additional benefit for the company: User acceptance increases. Since the employees of the individual departments design at least parts of their solution themselves – they create interfaces according to their wishes, can add useful functionalities, adapt data models, and integrate the required information – they enrich the applications with their knowledge, which increases the quality of the applications in terms of content and expertise. Depending on the platform, this solution is available live with just a few clicks, even to other departments or even the entire company if it makes sense. This means that all employees can benefit from an application whose content has been adapted and improved by the relevant departments. 

Benefits of software solutions rise and fall in proportion to the level of usage, for example: the more employees are integrated into a resource planning application, the more complete and better the capacity utilization situation in departments, divisions and the company as a whole can be analyzed and the use of resources can be planned effectively. Individual departments and teams have customized the interface and functionality of the resource planning solution to maximize its value to them. They benefit from the tool and use it intensively. At the same time, information from all teams and departments flows into a central database, providing the company with valuable insights into future requirements, for example. 

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Scalability of Citizen Development

The more departments involved in Citizen Development, the greater the benefit to the entire company. To successfully scale Citizen Development, companies should consider the following: 

 

Select a Central Solution Platform 

Ideally, the platform used for citizen development should not be an isolated development platform, but rather a solution platform that offers a wide range of no-code and low-code capabilities. In addition to ready-made individual modules and widgets, an integrated solution platform also contains useful functional elements that can be easily modified and extended. These “functional building blocks” make it easy to develop solutions for more complex challenges. 

Common Database 

The software platform should also provide a central database, a true Single Source of Truth. It is the common foundation for all other solutions developed on top of it. Based on such a central database, Citizen Developers can intuitively structure information, define data models, select user interface components, and create custom dashboards for their specific business needs. 

Cross-Departmental Collaboration 

Most enterprise processes involve multiple departments. It is therefore essential that the platform supports cross-departmental collaboration in Citizen Development. It is important that a fine-grained authorization system controls collaboration in a way that ensures privacy and IT compliance. 

Diversity Based on a Defined Standard 

To ensure a consistent corporate design across applications, a standard layout in the form of templates should be defined for the function modules and widgets stored on the platform. Within these predefined templates, Citizen Developers can freely design their workspace and user interface. 

Test and Publish Changes 

Once Citizen Developers have made changes to an existing application or created new applications, they should be able to see and test the new features immediately in their own workspace. It would be very inconvenient if they needed the help of a programmer. On the other hand, it has proven useful to have applications reviewed before they are released to the entire department or company. 

Training and Coaching for Citizen Developers 

Even though Citizen Developers do not need programming skills to create or modify applications, it has proven useful to provide them with specific training. Training courses should provide them with basic methodological and tool-specific knowledge, which can then be deepened in accompanying coaching sessions. 

  

The scalability of Citizen Development also depends on the corporate culture: Citizen Development must become an integral part of the digitalization strategy. In this way, IT and other departments can work together to create a better software environment that benefits the entire company: IT is relieved, and departments can quickly and easily create their own solutions or optimize existing tools to meet specific departmental needs. 

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Extending IT Governance to Citizen Development

One challenge with Citizen Development is orchestration. The approach must not lead to many different people developing applications in random places without any rules. Otherwise, isolated landscapes will emerge, and shadow IT will grow within the organization. It is therefore important to agree on common rules, otherwise the process will quickly reach its limits. 

Greater Value through Scalability

Companies benefit from Citizen Development in many ways: the workload in the IT department is significantly reduced, while the quality of the content of the software solutions improves and user acceptance of the application increases. This effect can be scaled to the enterprise if certain rules are followed, and the chosen solution platform has certain advantages. This can be achieved through targeted trainings that introduce Citizen Developers to the internal processes of developing and publishing applications, to the basic principles of development, and to the specific features of the platform used. 

About the Author

Bastian Rang, Senior Product & Solution Architect, cplace 

Bastian Rang has more than 20 years of experience as a teacher, coach and trainer in the IT environment and in the development and architecture of IT solutions with various technologies. At cplace, he works as a coach for Citizen Developers and as a Solution Architect. His focus is on individual enterprise solutions with the help of No- and Low-Code.

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Bastian Rang

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