Benefits of Citizen Development

citizen development

Citizen development isn’t for everyone but it can be an absolute game changer for the right business. Here at WillDom, we believe in agile teams that can adapt and tackle any task, so you might think citizen development is right up our alley. Well, it depends. We believe in eager tech innovation but only if it’s the right fit for you. Read on to learn if this trend will help or hinder you and your business goals.

What is Citizen Development?

Citizen development is defined as turning non-IT-trained team members into software developers. Your businesses’ “citizens” learn a new skill or two and become multifunctioning powerhouses, developing apps for you left and right. Sounds great, doesn’t it? With the right corporate culture, business structure, and team members, absolutely!

But how do you turn a non-IT team member into a tech wizard? Do they need to learn 6 different coding languages? Thankfully, no. There are many low-code/no-code (LCNC) platforms out there that can create fairly complex business applications. 

And does it need to be one of your current team members? Thankfully, no to that as well! An alternate form of citizen development includes working with a service, like WillDom, to build frameworks or fill in tech gaps in your current team. This strategy gives your citizens more time and guidance as they develop.

Pros

  1. Lowered Cost

Having an in-house citizen developer means saving the cost of hiring someone outside the company. Because taking on the responsibility of a whole new role should come with a pay raise, you wouldn’t be saving as much as you potentially could. But over time, the dollar cost of developing and maintaining your apps could be significant.

  1. Speed

Imagine not having to find a software developer. There would be no more interviewing, sorting through portfolios, or explaining how your business works. Plus the potential turn-around for a citizen-developed app is significantly shorter than a professionally developed one.

  1. Internal Expertise in your Process & Workflow

As we hinted above, your team members know your business. They potentially even work within the workflow they are creating an app for. This saves research time and can produce apps with fewer issues and more customization.

  1. IT Backlog Reduction

Never wait on hold for IT again. You know exactly who developed the app and who can fix the issue; they’re in-house!

Cons

  1. Divided Focus

Your team members already have important roles in your business. It’s possible that steering your team members toward software development will cause a drop in the quality of their current roles. But, if you have seasonal changes in productivity, this might be a great break for those team members.

  1. Increased Employee Training & Responsibility

You must provide training and expectations for your new citizen developers. Though they don’t need to learn C#, Java, or Python, they do need some guidance. Drag-and-drop coding is much simpler than coding-coding but it isn’t necessarily intuitive. Training will take time, so budget that into your timeline goals.

  1. Quality & Maintenance Concerns

While it’s true you won’t be on hold with IT for hours, you may be talking to your citizen developer more. By virtue of starting something new, they will not produce professional-level work on their first try. More oversight and attention to maintenance are required until your team members get comfortable.

  1. Security Issues

Depending on your business, you may be dealing with extremely confidential client information. Professional developers understand the laws, restrictions, and possibilities of cyber security.

How to Approach Citizen Development Successfully

If the pros outweigh the cons for you, and you think you have a team that can pull it off, there are still a few important points to consider.

Does your current corporate structure even allow for citizen development? Are your employees empowered and independent enough within your org chart to create and execute projects faster than a professional developer could? If they are, that’s great!

Next comes oversight. Who is doing quality control and security checks? As with any project, the person working on it can be too close to see issues clearly. And with IT, someone not close enough can’t spot issues either. Citizen development is not a one-person operation. Though they are empowered, your developers still need support.

If citizen development still sounds right for your business and your team, jump in. Current job seekers are already looking for roles where they are empowered, productive, and not micromanaged. Your current team members may be itching to expand their expertise and gain powerful skills for the future. They may even love the ability to solve their own workflow snags.

As always, if you need guidance on how to manage agile, right-sourced teams, talk to us at WillDom or follow us on LinkedIn. We’ve got professional developers to help out while your new citizen development team gets comfortable. We can’t wait to see what they create!

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