Creating Power Apps, connecting data with Microsoft Dataverse, building Power BI Dashboards, automating processes with Power Automate, and building chatbots with Power Virtual Agents are all skills which are now being associated with the growing trend of Citizen Development.
Citizen development is an innovative approach to dealing with application development needs that a lot of Project Management Offices (PMOs) are now adopting. This innovative and inclusive approach to application development addresses the ever-increasing need for PMOs to keep abreast of technological change and the associated demand for user-friendly, hassle-free applications.
Over time, we have seen that enterprise technology departments are not always best suited to shoulder all the responsibilities related to digital transformation, resulting in the inclusive idea of citizen development as a broad-based and innovative solution. It enables project managers and implementers to develop applications on their own and in accordance with the most pressing PMO needs. Of course, they need to have an advanced (a solid?) level of digital skills to use the low-code/no-code platforms, but if those skills are available, almost any team member could take it on.
Citizen development has multiple benefits for the PMO and its agile and strategic project management practices. Initially, citizen development is far better at meeting the needs of success-oriented PMOs, although traditional and waterfall types of project management would also see some gains. The benefits span many different sectors, whether it be public sector agencies, financial services, or non-governmental organisations. There is growing evidence that citizen development works, and, with the right guard-rails, works well for both organisations and individual employees. Let us examine what these benefits are and why they are important for the PMO and project management.
This is an obvious one. With application development demands being extremely taxing on enterprise technology departments, low-code/no-code platforms, like Microsoft Power Platform, provide substantial cost-saving opportunities to PMOs. PMOs can thus channel the savings to other, under-resourced needs. Experts estimate that by using low-code/no-code resources, applications can be developed 10 times faster when compared with traditional methods.
New applications and products usually require significant inputs to avoid disruptions and breakdown, whereas the maintenance and support costs are minimal for the applications developed by citizen developers. The overall cost to develop and maintain low-code/no-code based applications is estimated to be 74% lower than the cost of traditional development led by enterprise technology resources. In addition, low-code/no-code platforms hosting presents sizable cost reductions, as shown by the experience of Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance where the company was able to save $1.4 million because of creative use of low-code/no-code tools.
As citizen developers engage in software or application development, coordination with other business units of an organisation becomes an absolute must. Low-code/no-code platforms do not require expert digital skills to use, but they need citizen developers to ensure that the end products are relevant to the PMO’s needs. From the perspective of an effective PMO role, this is a great way of breaking down departmental silos, which we all know very commonly exist in organisations. Improved teamwork and camaraderie are the important by-products of citizen development, resulting in positive long-term benefits. Citizen developers cannot go at it alone, as it takes a team effort to ensure that the end-product meets the critical needs of an organisation. Importantly, this includes coordination and connection of enterprise technology and non-enterprise technology resources too, along with the development of good ‘guard rails’ and best practice learnings to enhance the citizen development efforts.
Citizen development also has the potential to make the PMO more agile. It expects non-enterprise technology resources to demonstrate adaptability and willingness to learn – two key attributes of an agile organisation. From the perspective of the PMO, citizen development becomes a new and unconventional way of spurring continuous learning and improvement as an iterative and inclusive process.
Innovation & Creativity
By encouraging non-enterprise technology department resources to become software and application developers, PMOs can create a workspace conducive to creativity and innovation. When people are given space and opportunity to move beyond their traditional role, they usually outdo themselves by coming up with something extraordinary. Citizen development consequently becomes a great approach to encouraging people to think outside the box. Agile organisations need to be innovative and creative. Equally, they need to be adaptive and committed to continuous learning.
Digitisation & Organisational Culture
The more employees get involved in citizen development, the better for the PMO and digital transformation. As PMOs take steps to adapt to the needs of digital transformation, citizen development can become a timely and cost-effective method. It nurtures an organisational culture favourable for project resources and other non-enterprise technology resources to embrace change and make it work for themselves and the organisation. It is this type of culture that becomes pivotal in weathering the storm of unpredictable changes and making the most of new opportunities for development.
Value Added Work
Citizen developers are often in the best position to understand how technology can be used to manage or remove many time-consuming and often labour-intensive processes. By re-engineering workflows, connecting information sources and reducing manual handling, citizen developers enable the PMO to focus more time on delivery and less on administration. These types of digital solutions can also be used to increase compliance and reduce costly errors often caused by inconsistent, manual handling.
Relevance & Flexibility
The involvement of PMO resources as citizen developers elevates the relevance of newly developed software and applications. No one could be more intrinsically motivated to ensure that they serve the purpose than the end-users themselves. I’m sure you can recall cases within your business when even very expensive IT products turned out to be missing the mark. When developed in isolation from an organisation’s core strategic goals and needs, they become underutilised. With less stringent requirements imposed; citizen developers have more flexibility to adjust as they go. As application development becomes faster, citizen development makes it easier to maintain effective end products.
Citizen development has been winning over an increasing number of progressive PMOs and organisations. There is growing evidence that it leads to substantial cost-savings, encourages innovation, and makes organisations more agile. PMOs use it effectively to ease the workload of enterprise technology resources, as such departments are often understaffed or unable to deal with an ever-increasing list of requests and demands.
Citizen development makes a valuable contribution to an organisational culture that promotes creativity and initiative. In the current era of digital transformation, it is critical for agile organisations to create opportunities for their employees to test and improve their skills and with the right guidelines and sharing of best practice, the risk is low
We have seen many organisations embrace low-code/no-code platforms and we would be happy to provide further insight and expertise into how you can best do this for your business. Please reach out to us here and we will be happy to advise and showcase to you why citizen development is certainly worth your consideration.