The past 18 months have seen an unprecedented seismic shift in how businesses and individuals work in recent times, with remote working and distributed team members. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Workspace have become household names — quite literally in fact — with business users working from their kitchen tables, bedrooms, studies or even garden sheds!
This new hybrid way of working has led to business users rapidly creating or evolving existing processes and innovating new ways to meet unique challenges, With IT teams supporting new home workers and developers that focus on core line of business applications, business users often resort to shadow IT and applications to support the new and often urgent business challenges, especially when it comes to automation and pop-up applications. Enter the citizen developer.
Citizen developers are, first and foremost, business users. They often have no development skills, but are able to look at a challenge that impacts their team or business function and, by leveraging the appropriate platform or tools, rapidly create a solution. This solution could take the form of an application or robotic process automation (RPA) implementation that solves a specific problem or automates reoccurring tasks — thereby significantly enhancing the efficiency of a business process.
Empowering business users as citizen developers often results in an immediate direct benefit; for example, freeing them or their team from a repetitive or time-consuming task. Therefore, citizen developers usually have a strong interest in ensuring the successful implementation and rapid adoption of the new application.
Business user citizen developers introduce significant benefits because they can identify, create, and implement point solutions without the cost and time needed to engage an application developer. This drives rapid improvements in efficiencies, cost reduction, agility and innovation within the business.
Reconcile business and Digital challenges
New uses, expectations and tools: Transforming and focusing on value production
Shortage of technical skills, subcontracting
Security and compliance risks
New employee needs
Governing shadow IT
Business process, dematerialization
Differentiation, new customer expectations
New digital business models
How to facilitate this partnership?
Applications for internal use
Limited time and resources
Digital transformation driven by business users can be further leveraged and accelerated by establishing communities of like-minded citizen developers to promote and foster collaboration, information exchange, idea sharing and build camaraderie.
Many organizations have had great success by introducing gamification and recognition for the most proactive community members — resulting in even higher levels of creativity and business innovation. The accumulation of user-driven citizen development activities results in lower cost and faster application development, along with more responsive and agile businesses.
So where does this leave the traditional IT department and developers?
We believe this phenomenon will drive an evolution of IT departments, especially towards working with citizen developer communities on application governance and lifecycle models. It will also help support models evolve away from traditional break-fix to more knowledge-led and guidance support.
Citizen developer governance and engagement models should include guidance on when a professional developer is required for more complex applications or business challenges. This could also include monitoring and providing guidance and governance when a change to a more industrial, capable, or scalable development platform is required.
Create business solutions, fast!
The future combination of an evolved IT department supporting and encouraging user-driven citizen developer communities with governance and platforms such as Microsoft Power Platform, Azure, Google Workspace and AppSheet will only grow stronger and help businesses rapidly adjust to meet new challenges. Low code will also evolve, especially with the drive to promote coding theory and skills in schools, and new low code applications like Microsoft Power FX targeted toward business users with Excel coding skills.
The push towards integrating and leveraging augmented reality, RPA, AI, and machine learning in the workplace opens exciting new possibilities that citizen developers can exploit across many industries and sectors.
This exciting evolution of IT is only beginning, as the journey continues from adopting cloud-based evergreen platforms to communities of citizen developers taking a lead role in driving and shaping the digital transformation of their organizations.
Karl is the global service architect for Microsoft M365 Intelligent Collaboration and Google Workspace within Atos Digital Workplace practice. With strong technical background spanning over 20 years from operations through to migrationtransformation projects, design, consulting, technical architecture for multiple government and global organizations, Karl has great experience in successfully delivering innovative customer digital transformation projects in the Microsoft collaboration space across multiple industries. Karl is passionate on driving awareness and helping businesses leverage new collaborative technologies including establishing a patented evergreen lifecycle based service. Karl is also an active senior member of the Atos Expert Community and is always keen to help drive change, awareness and mentoring within Atos communities.