The Benefits And Pitfalls Of Citizen Development

June 18, 2023

What Is Citizen Development?

Citizen development is a revolutionary approach to IT solutions, which leverages the power of the internet and modern technology to change the way we approach technology development. The citizen development allows for the participation of non-technical employees in the development process. It is based on the idea that “citizens” – any staff within an organization, or even those outside of it – can create their own custom applications using visual tools and pre-built templates, without the need for programming skills. This approach is made possible by the use of low-code/no-code development platforms, such as Microsoft PowerApps, Nintex, Salesforce App Cloud, or a variety of other platforms, which provide a user-friendly interface for creating applications.

Citizen development uses the collective knowledge, skills, and capabilities of an external community to develop products or services. The community of users can be internal or external. It’s also possible to have multiple groups working on different aspects of the same project at once–for example, one group might focus on user experience while another is responsible for content creation.

The most common type of citizen development involves external communities: users who contribute their time and energy as volunteers without being paid directly by your organization. But there are many other types besides this model; some companies choose to work with internal employees as well as external parties like contractors or partners who aren’t part of the company itself but still have valuable input into its efforts toward creating new products/services based on user feedback.

Pros Of Citizen Development

  • Faster Development Time: One of the biggest advantages of the citizen development approach is its ability to accelerate the development process. Because business users can create their own custom applications using visual tools and pre-built templates, the need for extensive programming is eliminated. This can significantly reduce the time it takes to develop and deploy new software applications.
  • Cost Savings: Another benefit of the citizen development approach is its ability to save costs. By eliminating the need for extensive programming, businesses can reduce the need for expensive software development teams and instead rely on the expertise of their own employees. Additionally, many no-code/low-code platforms are subscription-based, which can also help businesses to reduce capital costs.
  • Increased Employee Empowerment: Citizen development also empowers employees to take an active role in the development of software applications that are tailored to their specific needs. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and engagement, as employees feel more invested in the success of the solutions they have created.

Cons Of Citizen Development

  • Limited Capabilities: Although the citizen development approach can be a powerful tool for creating custom applications, it does have some limitations. Because it relies on pre-built templates and visual tools, the capabilities of the applications that are created may be limited compared to those created by traditional software development teams.
  • Lack of Expertise: Another potential drawback of citizen development approach is that it may require business users to have a certain level of expertise to create custom applications. While many no-code/low-code platforms are user-friendly, they may still require a certain level of knowledge of best practices and platform functionality to use effectively.
  • Risk of Inconsistency: If multiple employees are working on different parts of the application, it can be hard to maintain consistency and quality in the final product. It may also lead to “re-inventing the wheel”, when different users attempt to resolve similar use cases. This is something that needs to be closely monitored by management to avoid quality issues and inefficiencies.
  • Added Complexity in your Environment: Without a centralized approach to managing Citizen Development, your technology environment can easily sprawl with hundred of independently developed customizations, without the ability to understand which are in use and dependencies they may have.
  • Challenges Maintaining and Updating Applications: It can be difficult to maintain and update applications built by citizen developers as organizational requirements change, or your organization may become dependent on a single individual who understands the application’s architecture.

How Citizen Development Can Help Your Organization

  • Streamlined Operations: Citizen development can help businesses streamline their operations by allowing employees to create custom applications that are tailored to their specific needs. This can improve efficiency and reduce the need for manual labor.
  • Improved Collaboration: The citizen development approach also promotes collaboration within organizations, as employees can work together to create custom applications. This can lead to better communication and more effective teamwork.
  • Increased Agility: Citizen development can also help businesses become more agile by allowing them to quickly develop and deploy new solutions.
  • Better Decision-Making: One of the key benefits of a citizen development approach is the ability to quickly create custom applications that can provide valuable insights into business operations. By using visual tools and pre-built templates, businesses can create applications that can analyze and visualize data in new and innovative ways. This can help organizations make better decisions by providing insights that would otherwise be difficult to see.
  • Increased Innovation: citizen development also allows for increased innovation within organizations. By empowering employees to take an active role in the development of software applications, businesses can tap into the creativity and ideas of their employees, and gain insights into solutions from those directly involved in a process.
  • Reduced Dependency on IT: Using citizen developer can also reduce the dependency on IT departments within organizations. By allowing business users to create custom applications, organizations can reduce the need for IT support and allow for more autonomy in the development process.

Make Citizen Development Work For You

Citizen development approach is a powerful tool that can help businesses achieve their goals.  But there is a need for caution in order to harness its power effectively and avoid the pitfalls of this decentralized model. If you are going to empower your users to become citizen developers, it may be wise to implement governance policies so that your systems maintain consistency, adhere to best practices, and are approved by your organization. Microsoft , for example, provides a Power Platform Center of Excellence Starter Kit to help you manage development of applications with this no-code/low-code platform.

On the other hand, if you require assistance with a challenge that is beyond your citizen developers’ capabilities to tackle, or would like to discuss how to implement governance through a Centre of Excellence, Elantis is here to help.


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