As the demand for mobile apps escalates and tech users become increasingly tech-savvy, developers are seeing a dramatic shift in the role of IT from being “prescriptive” to “predictive” in nature. While traditional IT departments may tend to demonize citizen development, it can actually be a path to greater success for an organization by empowering others outside of IT to build apps that inspire a culture of problem-solving across the entire organization.
The democratization of technology is responsible for driving digital transformation by moving technology decisions once strictly managed by IT departments to the hands of managers, project leaders and other workers who need fast solutions to operational problems through rapid mobile app development (RMAD).
The Future of the Traditional IT Department
According to IDC research released earlier this year, more than 56 percent of technology budgets are now controlled outside of IT departments. One reason why 56.5 percent of technology spending now happens outside of IT is because the vast majority of business leaders believe they can make better and faster decisions on technology without the involvement of IT.
Perhaps not surprisingly then, Forrester Research predicts the IT department could disappear as soon as 2020. While that may be a stretch, it’s still clear IT will need to keep evolving to stay ahead of new technologies and incorporate agile solutions to keep organizations competitive, connected and collaborative.
The Emergence of Citizen Developers
The 2015 State of Citizen Developer Report from QuickBase demonstrated how the emergence of citizen developers in organizations marks a paradigm shift in how the Business and IT work together to build, customize and connect cloud apps to achieve their collective business goals.
Cloud apps and their associated platforms are increasingly becoming the drivers of digital transformation, with the ultimate aim of increasing operational efficiency, business agility, and employee productivity. In particular, as highlighted in the report, 76 percent of respondents said operational efficiency is the primary reason that their organizations use low-code rapid development platforms for digital transformation. As a distant second, 13 percent of respondents said business agility was the primary reason, while only eight percent named employee productivity.
"The workplace of the future is driven by self-selection - someone having the skills stepping to solution," as Allison Mnookin, CEO of citizen development platform Quickbase, explained. Mike Morris of crowd sourcing platform TopCoder , says that "A workplace is a perk" and that "Organizations need to find the best person in the world that can help provide a solution." So either bring new digital tools to your workforce and let them step up to solution, or bring the best skills from the outside to solution for you.
Key Practices To Enable Citizen Developers
To enable citizen developers, five key practices are necessary in any organization:
- CIO sponsorship to ensure that IT works with those outside of IT to develop appropriate solutions. This prevents IT from viewing those applications developed by citizen developers as rogue IT. CIOs that are not on board may communicate that these programs are contributing to enterprise data landfills or creating new data governance challenges.
- Formal definition and communication of a strategy. Be sure that the organization is aligning its approach and priorities when it comes to app development. This will ensure that each department is not pursuing a different platform, that programs are successful across departments, and that new apps created by citizen developers do not add more complexity than value.
- Establish the development practices and lifecycle for these new applications. These guidelines should establish review policies, maintenance guidelines and practices, naming conventions and documentation, UX/UI standards, testing protocols, and security requirements for any platforms or apps developed by citizen developers.
- Identify the acknowledged Citizen Developers. Be sure to quantify the necessary skills to become one, take steps to engage managers and support the program, and provide training, mentorship, and rewards to successful developers. Create a rubric for success that supports and shares best practices.
- Market, promote, and provide access to successfully developed applications. Create a standard that can easily be followed that will allow others to find these apps through a consistent access and permissions policy.
Empowering Citizen Development
Alec Sprague, database developer for non-profit organization Work for Progress, has instituted a culture of citizen development by empowering it. He explained, “Our organization is scrappy. We operate on shoestring budgets to maximize our benefit to society and our return-on-investment for our funders and donors.”
That means turning to the employees who can get the work done. “My job is to motivate and inspire people and give them the right tools to do their jobs. The fact that 68 percent of all IT projects fail underscores the need for bottom-up system creation.”
That’s where citizen developers come in, he explains. “you need to empower them by giving permission, space, and tools,” and look for intersections within groups and segments in the organization to allow them to succeed.