Supporting citizen developers to speed digital transformation
|Bill Kennedy in Enterprise Thursday, May 10, 2018|
Embracing the low-code citizen developer and giving them the help they need, can speed up digital transformation for companies who have an already bogged down IT staff.
Digital transformation is dependent on many factors, but in particular, cloud-based technology is largely responsible for fueling the change. Simply put, overtaxed IT departments aren’t able to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of business. This has led to the rise of a new category of worker - the citizen developer.
Citizen developers are an important component of digital transformation because they allow organizations to modernize by decreasing dependence on outdated, inflexible and expensive legacy solutions, such as cumbersome spreadsheets and emails. Instead, they’re replacing traditional processes by creating custom applications with built-in workflow and collaboration capabilities without the expense and maintenance related to legacy software.
In fact, many organizations are catching on to the citizen developer movement and see the benefits to busy and lean IT departments. According to research we conducted in 2017, one-third of organizations are highly proactive in supporting their citizen developers with training and platforms. Nearly all of the executives we surveyed acknowledge more needs to be done. Executives and their staffs have some programming skills, but more than one in four knows nothing about programming. Still, a majority have downloaded applications on their own, and close to half have worked directly on corporate websites or mobile apps.
So, who are these citizen developers?
Citizen developers, or non-IT developers, come from a variety of backgrounds. According to our research 41 percent are power users and developers embedded within line-of-business units. They could also be outside consultants and employees that have an interest in application development.
Citizen developers do what they do to get the job done because IT teams are usually weighed down with firefighting to keep mission critical enterprise applications, networks and the internet up and running while protecting corporate and customer data from cyberattacks. This is a big job to say the least.
IT teams must prioritize these activities and balance priorities with the variety of requests they get from HR, sales, marketing, etc. Overtaxed IT teams unknowingly create bottlenecks out of the necessity to keep enterprise applications up and running and secure, slowing down response to individual requests.
This aligns with our findings which found a high level of dissatisfaction with the turnaround time IT teams can deliver. The bottom line is citizen developers see the potential of building custom applications with little to no coding expertise as key to boosting the productivity of their jobs. And, citizen developers get applications out the door faster than large IT departments. They turn around their required applications in weeks. In fact, only 17 percent report turnaround times exceeding three months.
Supporting citizen developers is a win-win for organizations
There is no doubt that some challenges to creating synergy between citizen developers and IT departments loom. One of the biggest challenges include data security to make sure the applications don’t open up any “back doors” to hackers, as well as learning proper programming techniques and proper handling of corporate data that respects access and privilege policies.
And there are signs that attitudes are shifting from the top of the organization down.
One-third of organizations polled in our survey are highly proactive in their support of citizen developers on staff and even provide them with training and the platforms they need to get the job done.
Nearly all executives that responded admit that more needs to be done to fully integrate the citizen developers with approved IT functions. While 68 percent of the executives we surveyed admit that they provide no training or support for citizen developers, or are not aware of their efforts, at least 32% actively encourage non-IT employees to develop programming or app development skills, providing training and tools - and that’s a pretty good start. Some of the ways organizations can support citizen developers are:
- Training: Providing training, such as entry-level programming can help build skillsets and confidence. In fact, 25 percent of the companies we surveyed are already providing training and classes to further the capabilities of their citizen developers
- Mentoring: Through one-on-one mentoring, citizen developers can learn Agile practices, which means working in conjunction with IT teams. Twenty percent of the companies we surveyed are already offering support through mentoring practices.
- Hired Hands: Bringing on consultants or services that can help non-IT employees with their programming efforts can be effective and worth it in the long run. Of those surveyed, 12 percent are doing this already.
-Low-code platforms: Using platforms for building and deploying business applications with little or no code allow stakeholders to quickly share information, files and projects easily with their team
At least 84 percent of respondents, however, would like to see their organizations do more to encourage and support their citizen developers. And a majority, 51 percent, see technology-based solutions as the best route to help ramp up citizen developers’ capabilities or
support to help in building and deploying applications. Close to half, 46 percent, also want to ramp up training and education provided to employees to increase their programming acumen. The same number also see Agile development - with business users and technologists working closely together - as the route to build citizen developers.
We haven’t quite gotten to a place where IT managers and business managers see eye-to-eye on what is needed to encourage and support citizen developers. IT managers support more training for business users, but also seek to expand more centralized, IT-focused approaches, such as expending enterprise app stores, introducing cloud and service-oriented architectures, and moving to Agile mythologies.
On the other hand, business managers are more likely to favor implementation of low-code platforms to enable greater self-service when it comes to building apps.
As policies and guidelines are developed to support citizen developers and allow them to work within organizations’ IT frameworks, the trend towards giving lines of business and team members more control over the applications and workflows they need to be more efficient and effective continues, the more companies will benefit from the growing ranks of citizen developers. As companies find ways to support this new employee category they open the door to innovation, but also new ways of accomplishing business and digital transformation goals.
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