A megatrend in workplace technology is decentralisation. Over the past decade there has been a gradual process of central IT functions in organisations giving more power to non-IT professionals, allowing them to better control their own technology experiences and achieve more through their use of platforms and applications. This involves empowering admins, super-users and end-users through more powerful applications, increased access rights and training.
Now, we are at the stage where super-users from outside the IT department can create their own simple apps which can even integrate two pieces of software together; welcome to the age of citizen developers and citizen integrations!
In this article you’ll find:
- The age of citizen development: configuration over coding
- What kind of solutions are citizen developers able to deliver?
- What are the advantages of citizen development?
- How should you support citizen developers?
- What are citizen integrations?
- Does Workspace 365 support citizen development and integrations?
The age of citizen development: configuration over coding
The opportunities for citizen development are being driven by a generation of ‘low-code’ and ‘no-code’ solutions which allow software to be configured by non-IT professionals to deliver capabilities which are effectively “Micro Apps”.
Outcomes which only a few years ago needed an IT project to deliver, along with coding from professional software developers. These can now be delivered by a super-user through a few clicks with minimal coding needed, or even none at all! Citizen development is all about configuration, not coding.
These no-code and low-code solutions include intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces that allow for the configuration of software by non-IT professionals, usually from within a browser. These solutions might come with a library of popular, pre-built configurations that citizen developers can select to create their solutions quickly.
Critically, there may also be a library of “connectors” that allow a citizen developer to deliver automation and integrations across different software applications.
What kind of solutions are citizen developers able to deliver?
Thanks to trends in software design and the scaling-up of low-code solutions like the Power Platform in Microsoft 365, the opportunities for citizen developers are increasing.
The kind of solutions that citizen developers can deliver include:
- Delivering simple automation of repetitive tasks, such as sending an email triggered by a particular action
- Configuring workflows involving more than one piece of software
- Receiving and centralizing notifications from multiple places
- Creating increasingly sophisticated dashboards and reports
- Introducing simple integrations to view data and complete transactions across more than one piece of software
- Creating simple mobile or web apps that complete one or more of the above.
When citizen developers can also combine more than one of the above elements, they start to deliver more sophisticated solutions. Many of the approaches we’ve mentioned also involve “citizen integrations” which are explored in more detail below.
What are the advantages of citizen development?
There are multiple advantages of citizen development.
Creates more value through local “custom” apps
One of the great things about citizen developers is that they are creating “local” and “custom” apps which are wrapped around the way their local team works. This means that the apps and workflows they create are highly relevant to everyday work, usually well-adopted and will often create efficiencies and raise productivity, therefore providing high value. When you have a high number of apps built in this way across an organisation, the overall impact is significant.
Saves time on central IT development resources
Because apps are being created using low-code and no-code solutions rather than by the IT function, it should save time on central IT development resources. However, it must be noted that time spent on supporting citizen developers can wipe out any savings on software development.
Central IT functions say “yes” rather than “no”
Central IT functions usually want to provide solutions to requests for new functionality where they can, but platform and resourcing capabilities mean they are not always in the position to meet local requests.
Taking a citizen developer approach with the right low-code solutions in place means that IT teams are in a better position to say “yes” – that’s good news for everybody!
Faster and better ROI on digital workplace and digital workspace investments
The positive outcomes from citizen developers can be considerable, and mean organisations are getting more overall ROI from their digital workplace and digital workspace investments.
Upskills super-users and leads to a culture of innovation
Citizen developers acquire new skills, experience and confidence to effectively employ these solutions. This can lead to more sophisticated citizen apps and integrations with better results.
Most significantly, it can encourage a culture of experimentation and innovation, using technology to automate and improve processes which subsequently have a deep impact in the long-term. When citizen developers create a successful solution, they want to repeat that success in more ambitious ways.
Helps to drive digital transformation
The combination of all the above factors, with a swathe of citizen developers using low-code and no-code solutions to support efficiencies and create a culture of innovation and automation, can help drive overall digital transformation in an organisation.
How should you support citizen developers?
If you’re planning to support citizen developers, it’s important to go in with your eyes open. Some planning and thought needs to go into it to ensure you’re aware of the potential disadvantages.
You need governance and clarity
You will need governance to be in place to support citizen developers, with particular clarity surrounding the processes, ownership patterns and responsibilities that come with it.
Who is responsible for citizen development? How is it supported? Does it need approval and monitoring? What happens if it goes wrong? What happens when a citizen developer leaves the organisation – who is responsible for an app then?
All these kinds of questions need to be considered and answers provided.
You need to invest in training and support
Although the interfaces in most low-code and no-code solutions are easy to use, you will need to invest in some kind of training and support to get the best out of your citizen developers.
You will still need some IT development
In reality, “no-code” is often actually “low-code”, and you may need some development involvement to help create solutions that have a real impact.
All this needs resourcing
All of the above needs some level of resourcing, and this may require additional resourcing for IT functions. As already noted, this could eradicate some of the savings you make from decentralising the simpler developments that can be driven by super-users.
Take gradual steps for success with citizen developers
Citizen development is still very new, and an approach that can work well is to take gradual steps and learn as you go. You don’t necessarily need a huge amount of citizen developers to be able to achieve success.
Take gradual steps by initially supporting a smaller number of key super-users in departments where citizen development will have an obvious impact. Here, you can learn about which approaches work well and then start to expand your citizen developers accordingly.
What are citizen integrations?
One of the most valuable aspects of citizen development is the ability to build solutions that involve bringing two or more applications or platforms together in a seamless way that delivers real value.
These are effectively “citizen integrations”, and are usually driven by connectors between the platform the citizen developer is using to develop their solution, and the piece of software they want to integrate.
Low-code and no-code solutions often come with a library of connectors for popular enterprise software that is straight out-of-the-box. They may also include the ability for IT teams to leverage APIs to build connectors with pieces of software that citizen developers can then leverage too.
Citizen integrations come in different forms, but typically include:
- Views and reports, bringing in data from different sources
- Notifications via email, activity streams or chat interfaces from different systems
- Workflow, involving various different steps
- Automation, with something in one system triggering an action in another.
Does Workspace 365 support citizen development and integrations?
Workspace 365 knows the power of customisation, and is all about empowering employees while keeping shadow IT under control.
It’s therefore possible to integrate your own development efforts in the adaptive workspace. Think for instance of applications you’ve created using Microsoft Power Apps, such as an expense claims app or an application for creating project groups for education. With the help of iFrames (web content), you easily unite these applications with all your other apps, processes, documents, tasks and information.
Additionally, admins are able to create custom integrations for the Workspace 365 Activity Feed. With the Activity Feed API, they can create their own ‘if this, then that’ type of flows through of example Power Automate or Zapier, and integrate both custom notifications and actions into their workspace.
This way, the adaptive workspace can be hyper-customised to the needs of specific users and user groups.
Empower your employees with an adaptive workspace
Citizen development and citizen integrations empowers your employees, same as an adaptive workspace. If you’d like to see how Workspace 365 can empower yours, then organise a demo and try it now! It’s free, quick and obligation-free.
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