Citizen Development offers CIOs the ability to solve two of their greatest challenges: development capacity and creating better engagement through automation. They should, therefore, embrace it and make it a core part of their technology strategy

As a CIO you are responsible for the applications needed to deliver on the organization’s IT strategy.

The development process is where the rubber meets the road and, therefore, as your development efforts go, so goes the success of the IT organization.

This fact also means one more thing: your development team is essential to your success.

While this remains true, there has always been more demand for development activities than the capacity to meet that demand.

In response to this unmet need, business units often took matters into their own hands creating so-called Shadow IT functions.

To the chagrin of CIOs everywhere, business unit leaders did everything from creating applications on legacy self-service tools such as Lotus Notes or Microsoft Access, to buying Software-as-a-Service applications, to actually hiring teams of developers — all to take care of their own IT needs.

These efforts, however, often led to an ungoverned and uncontrolled hodgepodge jumble of applications that lacked the cohesion and integration necessary to help the business units or the enterprise over the long run.

Still, the capacity problem that led to these efforts remains. More recent evolution of both approach and tools, however, may finally offer CIOs a path forward: Citizen Development.

Getting a Grip on Citizen Development

Citizen Development is a new approach to traditional development in which business users use so-called no-code development platforms, such as Betty Blocks, to create business applications. These no-code platforms use graphical interfaces and declarative approaches without requiring traditional coding.

In many cases, these platforms also enable integrations to traditional corporate applications, facilitate sharing of applications across the enterprise, and allow for IT-based governance and controls. As a result, they empower non-technical business users to create sophisticated applications that fit into the enterprise IT ecosystem.

Unlike efforts of the past, the Citizen Development movement offers CIOs the ability to solve two of their greatest challenges: development capacity and creating better engagement through automation.

CIOs should, therefore, embrace the Citizen Development movement and make it a core part of their technology strategy. This is the business case for doing so.

The Case for Capacity

There has always been a capacity problem in IT — and it is unlikely ever to go away.

Even though new development platforms and more sophisticated programming languages have made application development increasingly easier and have increased developer productivity, the demand for new applications continues to grow at an even higher rate.

A bit like a dog chasing its tail, it seems that the IT organization will never create enough capacity to meet the seemingly insatiable demand of the enterprise.

While this has always been true, the historical method of managing demand was through prioritization exercises. Organizations accepted a capacity limit as a legitimate business constraint, and those automation activities that did not receive a high enough priority would just not get done.

As CIOs are reminded every day, however, that is no longer an option.

Digital transformation and the continuous shift in customer expectations demand that enterprises act. Automation and the digitally-enabled customer experience are now primary drivers of business value — and IT must respond to meet this demand.

Citizen Development is one of the CIO’s best options for doing so.

Unlike the wild west approaches of the past in which business units operated with few rules or constraints, Citizen Development approaches enable the CIO to effectively “deputize” line of business users and bring them into the IT fold.

Used strategically, Citizen Development can help CIOs solve their capacity problem. Creating a controlled and managed environment, it gives business units the freedom they need and want to explore and innovate, while freeing IT’s professional developers to focus on the highly sophisticated enterprise-wide applications the organization requires.

The Case for Engagement

The business case for Citizen Development, however, extends far beyond merely solving the IT capacity problem.

In fact, solving IT’s capacity challenge may not even be the primary reason that a CIO should embrace the concept.

The real reason that Citizen Development is becoming a top-of-mind consideration for IT executives is that it helps to meet a more strategic need for the enterprise: the need to move automation as close to the point of engagement as possible.

In the digital era, it is the customer (or partner, or employee) experience that is one of the primary drivers of business value. While traditional applications focused on the enterprise’s core business processes, organizations create experiential value during small moments of engagement.

The value created or lost in these small moments of engagement is often difficult to capture at the macro level. The business users closest to these points of engagement, however, are often able to quickly identify them and how they need to change, improve, and automate business processes as a result.

The Citizen Development approach and no-code development tools enable these business users to seize the moment, take the initiative, and innovate at the point-of-engagement — yet to do so in a controlled and managed environment.

It is often these little moments of automation that are the difference between exceptional and differentiating customer, employee or partner experiences — and those that do just the opposite by creating frustration or worse. It is the ability of Citizen Development approaches to put the enterprise on the right side of this equation that may generate the most substantial return on investment for the CIO.

The Intellyx Take

The runaway risks of ungoverned applications, uncontrolled enterprise data, and security vulnerabilities were real concerns that caused many CIOs to be justifiably wary of so-called Shadow IT functions.

The reasons that business units created Shadow IT functions, however, were often grounded in legitimate business needs.

Most progressive CIOs, therefore, recognized that merely slamming the door on business unit IT functions was not a smart move either politically or for the purposes of meeting enterprise demands. The challenge, of course, is that leaving IT functions uncontrolled and ungoverned involved substantial risk.

Modern no-code platforms, such as Betty Blocks, however, enable CIOs to embrace the Citizen Development approach and meet the needs of both business units and IT simultaneously.

These platforms allow the CIO to extend development capacity by enlisting business users as part of the official development process in a controlled, managed, and collaborative environment.

At the same time, these platforms provide business users the freedom to rapidly innovate and automate those micro points of engagement in a way that IT would have had trouble doing with its resource constraints.

It is the classic win-win and creates a solid business case for adopting no-code platforms and the Citizen Development approach. It’s a business case that CIOs everywhere should be championing.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Betty Blocks is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper.

1 Comment

  1. You may find the Gartner article G00227632 “Citizen Development: Reinventing the Shadows of IT” by Mike Rollings published on February 2, 2012 or a chapter in “Unleash the Power of force.com” by Jonathan Sapir complementary to your article.
    The question remains what to do with the legacy of those citizen-built apps, numbering hundreds if not thousands in large companies.

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