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Unlock Digital Transformation: How to become a Citizen Developer

Gerry Sweeney -
Becoming a citizen developer in your organisation only involves developing specific skills, leveraging the right tools, and fostering a supportive mindset, focusing on solving business problems and delivering "recognisable" business value. There is no formal job title, specific training course, or certification for being a Citizen Developer; it's a mindset and approach to work you adopt as part of your current role.

For example, suppose you are a CFO with IT expertise in Excel, macros and scripting, and you are able to use a database system to solve system or data tasks, and if you are generally a lead in deploying, configuring and customising your finance/ERP systems, you are an ideal Citizen Developer. Similarly, if you are an IT engineer who understands how your organisation functions, thinks in terms of processes, and applies automation using your IT knowledge, you are also an ideal Citizen Developer. In truth, any function within a business can be considered a Citizen Developer if your work involves process improvement, efficiency and optimisation.

In a previous article I described what a Citizen Developer is:

If you work in IT, why would you consider becoming a Citizen Developer?

While being focused purely on IT, its very difficult to demonstrate business value, much of IT in the last two decades has been commoditised, businesses have options to do IT internally, our outsource some or all of it, especially since the emergence of cloud services and SaaS applications. So while IT roles that focus on IT systems and the ongoing support and maintenance thereof, these roles are seen largely as commodity roles. The proposition for a Citizen Developer is as a non-IT role, that is, the citizen developer role is a business role and not a technical role.

Unlike many roles in IT whose skills are largely transferrable between organisations (and therefore commodity roles), the role of the Citizen Developer is very much business focused, where detailed knowledge of the business and how it functions is paramount, the skills involved in acquiring that knowledge, and becoming and expert in your organisation, makes Citizen developers a strategic resources of much greater value. If you have the skills and motivation, that is an opportunity for you to grow and become a bigger part of the strategic group that drives your organisation forwards.

Here’s a guide to help you get started on that journey: -

Understand the Citizen Developer Role and Its Value

  • Definition: A citizen developer is a non-professional developer who creates applications using no-code/low-code platforms to solve business problems. These individuals typically come from non-IT backgrounds but have a deep understanding of business processes and needs.
  • Value: Citizen developers can rapidly develop and deploy solutions, helping to increase productivity and innovation within their organizations. They play a crucial role in digital transformation by enabling quicker responses to changing business requirements​ (Digital First Ops)​​ (JD Supra)​.

Acquire Relevant Skills

  • Business Acumen: Understanding Business Processes: Have a thorough understanding of your department’s workflows and pain points.
  • Problem-Solving: Develop the ability to identify problems and conceptualize practical solutions.
  • Technical Skills: No-Code/Low-Code Platforms: Get familiar with platforms like Microsoft Power Apps, OutSystems, Mendix, or similar tools. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly and require minimal coding knowledge.
  • Basic IT Knowledge: While not required to be a coding expert, understanding basic IT principles, data management, and security practices can be beneficial​.

Utilise Available Tools and Resources

  • Training Programs: Online Courses: Platforms like Udemy, LinkedIn Learning and Hornbill's own Academy offer courses on no-code/low-code development for workflows and automation.
  • Vendor Training: Many no-code/low-code platforms offer their own training programs and certifications.
  • Community and Support: Forums and User Groups: Join community forums and local user groups to connect with other citizen developers and share knowledge and best practices.
  • Internal Mentorship: Seek mentorship from IT professionals within your organization who can provide guidance and support​ (Digital First Ops)​.

Start with Small Projects

  • Identify a Problem: Look for simple, repetitive tasks or processes in your department that could benefit from automation.
  • Build a Prototype: Use the no-code/low-code platform to build a prototype. This helps you get hands-on experience and demonstrate the potential impact of your solution.
  • Gather Feedback: Share the prototype with colleagues and gather feedback to refine the application. This iterative process is crucial for developing effective solutions​.

Collaborate and Partner with IT

  • Seek Approval and Guidance: Ensure your projects are aligned with IT policies and standards to avoid issues related to security and compliance.
  • Regular Check-Ins: Maintain regular communication with the IT department to get their insights and approval for your applications. This helps in mitigating risks and ensuring that the solutions are scalable and secure.

Demonstrate Business Value

  • Showcase Success: Present the completed applications to stakeholders to demonstrate their impact on productivity and efficiency. Market your contribution, If you don't shout about what you have implemented, the odds are good that no one else will either.
  • Document What You Do: Keep detailed documentation of the work you do, including challenges faced and solutions implemented. This will serve as a guide for future projects and help in refining your development approach​.

Scale and Innovate

  • Expand Your Scope: Once you’ve successfully implemented a few small improvements, take on more complex challenges. This could involve integrating multiple systems or developing automations or applications that address broader business needs within your organisation.
  • Promote a Culture of Innovation: Encourage other non-IT employees to explore citizen development by sharing your experiences and successes. Foster a collaborative environment where employees feel empowered to contribute to digital transformation efforts​.

So what are you waiting for?

Becoming a citizen developer is your gateway to driving meaningful change and innovation within your organisation. By blending your understanding of how your business works, and leveraging no-code/low-code platforms, you can tackle real business problems and deliver tangible value. Embrace continuous learning, align your efforts with your organisation's growth strategy, and communicate in business terms. Collaborate closely with IT to bridge gaps and amplify your impact. Your unique contributions will likely lead to significant improvements in efficiency and innovation, making you an indispensable asset to your organisation. Step up, become a citizen developer, and unlock your potential beyond your technical skills, and help transform your organisation from within.

Hornbill ESM

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