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  • Mary Maher

Drive your Digital Transformation in 2022 by Empowering your Employees to Play a Role

As organisations consider digital transformation as a priority to stay competitive and keep up with the pace of change, the supply and demand issue of skilled technical staff has become more apparent. To meet this growing demand, organisations are adopting Citizen Development and the use of Low-code No-code (LCNC) platforms to achieve Digital Transformation through a hyper-agile way of working.

What is Digital Transformation? Digital Transformation refers to the deep structural business changes organisations make to core processes and business models by exploiting the use of digital tools to compete and meet customers’ demands. The ever-increasing availability of digital tools and technologies has changed how business is conducted and alters peoples expectations of how business should deliver services. Therefore, to keep up with competitors, businesses need to (i) streamline their processes using technology; (ii) enable better collaboration between the business users; and (iii) provide better customer value.

Organisations that were slow to change or just starting out on their digital transformation journey were propelled into the digitalised world by the recent global COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the shortage of skilled software developers brought to light, organisations are beginning to adopt Citizen Development. Citizen Development is an approach that empowers non-technical individuals that use low-code no-code (LCNC) platforms to design, develop and deploy applications to meet demand and facilitate an organisation’s digital transformation. As derived from a McKinsey Quarterly survey, empowering employees to play a role improves the odds of Digital Transformation success, and hence the adoption of Citizen Development has become a growing priority for organisations in 2022.

What is Citizen Development? Citizen developers are subject matter experts, generally inexperienced in coding, that can create and develop applications on LCNC platforms using minimal code or no code at all, without having to rely on IT or skilled developers and are consequently democratising technology. In many businesses, there is still a reliance on inefficient and outdated processes such as manual data entry into spreadsheets or paper forms. The frontline users of these outdated, and often problematic processes can clearly see areas for improvement and when given the power, can automate processes for efficiency or create solutions for problems that teams at higher levels or the IT department may not have been aware of, and so reduce the burden on IT.

Citizen Development creates a culture of innovation by allowing employees from different departments to develop applications that have a positive impact on the overall organisation. Examples of such positive impacts include work efficiency and optimisation; improved data analysis, and reporting; and improved team collaboration and communication. Fully customisable applications can be developed through Citizen Development faster than traditional methods of development. As explained by John Rymer (Forrester), the use of LCNC can “make software development as much as 10 times faster than traditional methods”. The use of LCNC reduces the need to outsource developers, makes more efficient and productive use of time and resources, and therefore reduces overall costs to organisations

By empowering employees to become citizen developers, organisations will reap the rewards of having people who can identify process inefficiencies and determine how they can be solved with LCNC solutions. Employees will also have an in-depth understanding of the businesses’ processes and are typically eager to make and be part of the change with a problem-solving mindset backed by the technical skills gained from practising LCNC development in a citizen development culture.

What is Low-code and No-code (LCNC) development? LCNC development refers to the use of platforms that allow individuals, with little to no coding skills, to develop sophisticated applications to solve business problems. Low Code platforms alleviate the need for writing multiple lines of complex code to develop an application, by instead using intuitive graphical tools. No Code platforms eliminate the need for coding completely. LCNC platforms typically allow visual icons and components to be modelled with a ‘drag-and-drop’ functionality or with the use of pre-built templates in a graphical interface. The use of LCNC empowers individuals to develop customisable applications that solve problems and can automate and align processes and workflows across an organisation in a matter of days.

Results from a survey carried out by Tech Republic show the percentage of companies surveyed, varying in size and industry, that make use of LCNC to automate workflows (17%), create new applications (15%), speed up development time (15%), automate data collection and reporting (14%), reduce the burden on developers (10%) and connect with and create inter-departmental applications, workflows, and business processes (10%). Findings from an IT leadership survey sponsored by Salesforce highlighted the benefits of LCNC perceived by IT and business users as:

  • Allowing for IT to partner with the business in new ways

  • Increasing process automation

  • Bridging the gap between business requirements and the technical execution.

  • Increasing development speed

  • Improved productivity

  • Allowing technical staff to concentrate on complex tasks

  • Increasing ability to redeploy apps

  • Reducing the backlog of IT projects

  • Reducing shadow IT

There is an ever-increasing number of LCNC platform vendors in the market. For example, Microsoft’s Power Apps is a leading vendor which has been adopted by organisations such as Toyota and Accenture.

Karen Odegaard, Managing Director of Global IT at Accenture, states that more than 8000 power apps were created in 6 months with the use of the Microsoft Power Platform. Karen explains that “our people can produce high-quality solutions, quickly and easily—and it saves them time. On average, Accenture people spend 42% less time performing data management activities, meaning they can achieve business outcomes faster.” Another advancement in LCNC platforms that will further democratise technology and drive digital transformation are pre-built and reusable Artificial Intelligence (AI) components.

These components can be used to create AI solutions that use image recognition or prediction models, without the need for specific AI talent. PowerApps, for example, has solutions to detect objects or process forms to detect text, such as text from a business card. Such capabilities can support to digitalise and speed up business processes and attribute to a greater customer or user experience. In addition, KPMG and HFS Research have reported that the number of business executives listing LCNC platforms as their most important automation investment has risen from 10% to 26% due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. KPMG has also found that 100% of the organisations that have implemented an LCNC platform have seen significant ROI. These findings support the statement by Quixy that “No-Code and Low-Code are the future of software development” and so the adoption of LCNC platforms combined with the Citizen Development initiative to digitally transform should be part of your organisations goal for 2022.

Recommendations for adopting Citizen Development to Drive Digital Transformation in your organisation

To successfully adopt and benefit from Citizen Development as a means to digitally transform your organisation it is important to have a strategy to allow for change by:

Fostering a culture of collaboration: the Citizen Development initiative works best when the frontline business users that identify use cases and solve problems have IT working with them as a partner. Fostering a culture of collaboration will help get buy-in from stakeholders and the organisation as a whole.

Establishing governance: Citizen Development with clearly defined governance standards can eradicate the problem of shadow IT. When IT departments become key partners to their business and provide governance, control, and administration over the citizen development solutions. With specific guardrails in place, citizen developers can focus on automating processes and solving business problems, and so help to reduce ITs project backlog.

Recognising success: it is important to recognise the success of your organisation’s first Citizen Development initiative, this will allow for buy-in from across the organisation and more people being eager to get involved therefore adding to the citizen development talent pool.

Scaling company-wide: by allowing for automation and innovation at the individual or departmental level the value of Citizen Development is seen, it is then important to experiment, learn, grow and scale up those activities so to deliver value across the organisation. The Project Management Institute (PMI) has established a framework that provides guidance to organisations on their digital transformation journey by identifying their stage of Citizen Development maturity and providing advice on the best actions to take to achieve full digital transformation through their maturity model. PMI list five key stages of maturity as follows:

  1. Discovery – assemble a Citizen Development squad and identify a suitable use case to work on to demonstrate the value of Citizen Development.

  2. Experimentation – demonstrate the value of successful Citizen Development projects to achieve its organisation-wide adoption.

  3. Adoption – endorse Citizen Development as a strategic driver of innovation in your organisation.

  4. Scaling – establish repeatable processes and structures that allow for the value creation and growth of Citizen Development in the organisation.

  5. Innovation – have deeply embedded Citizen Development practices that allow for innovation and active transformation of the organisation.

Conclusion The value of LCNC and Citizen Development is being increasingly recognised and adopted by businesses as a means to digitally transform. As per Gartner Citizen Developers will outnumber professional developers 4 to 1 by 2023 and so empowering your people with Citizen Development should be your organisation’s goal for 2022.

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