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Unlocking the power of citizen development - What every IT leader must know

Team Kissflow

Updated on 21 Mar 2024 3 min read

At Kissflow, we recently had the opportunity to partner with NASSCOM and host a webinar for businesses to understand the importance of citizen developers in digital transformation.

The event brought together CIOs, IT Directors, and Chief Digital Transformation Officers to discuss how empowering citizen developers and freeing up IT teams accelerates the digital transformation journey.

The session featured 4 speakers from different industries:

  1. Manikandan Ramalingam - SVP Digital Engineering & Low code at Indium Softwareict
  2. Sivasankaran Natarajan - General Manager, IT at Ford Motors
  3. Varundeep Kaur - CIO at Spicemoney
  4. Dinesh Varadharajan - CPO at Kissflow Inc.

Dinesh moderated the session and the rest of the speakers shared their experiences in unlocking the power of citizen development. He started off the session with the question, “Who are citizen developers, and what is your perspective on citizen development?”

According to Sivasankaran Natarajan, “Citizen developers are a set of curious people who want to solve their problems by themselves.” He added, “The millennial workforce is born in the internet era and has a DIY mindset. They identify the gaps that affect their productivity in the products they use. The DIY mindset drives them to bridge the gaps themselves and boost productivity.”

Manikandan Ramalingam opined that earlier, programmers/developers were the key stakeholders of automation and application development. But that is changing now with Low-Code/No-Code revolution and citizen developers are now unlocking innovation.

Varundeep Kaur, felt a little nostalgic while talking about the decade-old self-service BI. Self-service BI has always fascinated her and how it can help people with no programming knowledge do wonders without IT dependencies.

Dinesh intervened to add, “The drag-and-drop tools are in the maturity phase, helping citizen developers to build apps with the help of LCNC platforms.”

He asked, “Will citizen developers using LCNC replace IT?”

Sivasankaran swiftly answered that citizen developers and IT teams complement each other rather than being a competition.

Dinesh further added his key findings, “Every spreadsheet and email conversation about work is potentially an application that can be developed by a citizen developer. So, it results in massive automation.”

Manikandan threw in some light by defining the roles and responsibilities. “If a business builds a core functionality for their product that requires algorithm-heavy, mathematically complex programming, then IT teams will focus on developing such core functionalities. They are not going to spend their time building automation tools for internal teams. Business teams will focus on internal automation; the things they want, the small wins, the easy wins, and they will not waste IT’s time. IT can focus on solving the core problem of driving enterprise-wide digital transformation, which is much bigger.” he added.

Varundeep said, “Citizen developers can take up the jobs of creating operational efficiency and productivity enhancements in their own areas of work. There is only a limited possibility for those tasks having a larger scope outside the application where there are high-security risks. Here, there is a delicate balance between freedom and control when you assign the tasks to citizen developers and IT teams. Businesses must also be mindful of innovation vs. risk management while assigning the tasks.”

Varundeep’s thoughts took the conversation toward governing citizen developers to reduce security risks. Dinesh asked, “How will you address the possible security risks in apps developed by citizen developers? What are the guard rails for citizen developers?”

Manikandan mentioned that there are 3 pivotal steps to mitigate security risks: standardizing LCNC tools, training citizen developers, and mentoring citizen developers.

3 Pivotal Steps to Mitigate Security Risks

Step 1: Standardizing LCNC tools

  • Standardize your tool sets: You cannot use all the tools available in the market and don’t flood your IT environment.
  • Establish Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): You should establish SOPs for how citizen developers must use the tools.
  • Ensure expert-driven due diligence: There should be expert-driven due diligence to identify the right set of tools that solve your problems and suit your use case. It could be a low-code tool/platform or a no-code tool/platform.

Step 2: Training citizen developers

You can’t assume that citizen developers will voluntarily participate and solve the problems they have. You need to initiate an LCNC training program that handholds the citizen developers for a few weeks or months so that citizen developers can develop the best apps.

Step 3: Mentoring citizen developers

After following the two steps, you can’t let citizen developers get into the wild. You should have a mentorship program within so that they can reach out to the tech team, discuss, and make sure they are on the right track.

Why IT Teams needs to Govern Citizen Development

Citizen developers are not going to implement functional flows through drag and drop features or write codes. The IT teams need to govern citizen developers to ensure that the overall security of the app is not compromised.

On the contrary, Varundeep warned by saying: “Too many controls will actually slow down the pace and will also reduce the creativity. This actually defeats the purpose of having a low-code/no-code environment.” She further added three things to mitigate risks: prevent, detect and control.

Sivasankaran added, “Make the (citizen development) environment self-healing, self-sustaining, and self-governing.”

Speed up Innovation and Digital Transformation

This webinar brought out the increase in the attention that is given to citizen development and how Kissflow's citizen development platform is making digital transformation happen. It also shows that focusing on citizen development and identifying the right LCNC tools could be the first step in expediting digital transformation.