How Your Organization Can Benefit From Citizen Development
The digital era has spawned a sharing economy in which a broad range of participants contribute to the community’s greater benefit. Wikipedia is a prime example: an online encyclopedia created and maintained by a network of non-experts, resulting in a knowledge repository often more usable and accurate than reference works produced by professionals. Similarly, nonprofessional citizen scientists help monitor endangered species, identify new celestial bodies, and advance emerging technologies.
An analogous trend has taken shape in application development: the emergence of “citizen developers” in businesses across industries. With citizen development, business users – who aren’t formally trained in writing software – use no-code software development tools to create, deploy and continually improve applications. The resulting applications increase productivity, speed up business operations, and enhance customer service.
Citizen development represents the democratization of application development. It leverages the insights and innovation already embedded throughout your workforce. The trend is expected to accelerate as no-code tools shift a growing portion of development from scarce, high-cost professional developers to users who directly benefit from the software they create. In fact, Gartner says “the future of apps must include citizen development” and reports that 61% of companies are implementing or have plans for this approach.
No-Code Citizen Development for Success
Want to unleash the power of citizen developers in your organization? Here are four ways no-code enabled citizen development can benefit your business today:
1. Drive user engagement and productivity.
Employees in your lines of business (LoBs) understand the workflows they manage every day. They know the kinds of improvements that will eliminate redundant process steps and increase productivity.
In many businesses, however, even simple workflow improvements face months of delay while LoBs wait for development teams to respond to requests for changes. A better approach is to empower employees to create and enhance their own applications.
Enabling such citizen development not only allows employees to accelerate processes, it also makes them better engaged in their work. And productivity for highly engaged teams is 14% higher than for teams with low engagement, according to Gallup.
Such engagement becomes self-sustaining. Citizen developers can share their development knowledge with others, fostering a culture of innovation and continual improvement across your enterprise.
2. Reduce IT costs and workloads while improving IT governance.
As more companies move to digitize more processes, IT faces an escalating backlog of application-modernization and process-optimization projects. Citizen developers can alleviate traditional development teams from having to do less-complex, workflow-specific application creation. That way, professional development teams can focus on coding enterprise-wide, mission-critical software.
In addition, citizen development can help reduce cost and security issues related to “shadow IT.” Shadow IT occurs when LoBs go around corporate policies to purchase their own software. Unapproved software can result in tremendous, and hidden, costs because that software doesn’t benefit from economies of scale. Shadow IT can also introduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities that are often hidden from your IT managers. By empowering citizen developers with approved no-code tools, IT departments can substantially reduce shadow IT.
3. Improve customer experiences and satisfaction.
Many internal corporate activities – from completing online forms to managing workflows – extend to customer-facing processes. Medical practices need to serve customers through telehealth. Schools and universities must digitally expand programs across and off campus. Government agencies increasingly deliver citizen services online. Global businesses integrate processes from back office to consumer, requiring digitization of end-to-end process chains.
Many of these efforts center around delivering superior customer experiences. Citizen development can play a vital role in achieving that objective. User-developed applications can enable back-office employees to carry out processes more efficiently, equip frontline workers to serve customers more responsively, and empower customers with self-service portals, web applications and workflow solutions that make interacting with your brand efficient and satisfying.
4. Accelerate and optimize business operations.
Citizen development isn’t just another way to create applications. It’s also a new way to run your business. No-code development tools enable subject-matter experts in finance, HR, project management, product development, sales, marketing, customer service, facilities management, and other functions to work smarter and faster. Using effective no-code tools, citizen developers can help your company:
Professional developers are valuable but costly. By freeing up IT experts to focus on high availability, mission-critical applications, citizen developers help your organization save money.
Automate for efficiency
No-code tools allow citizen developers to create applications that streamline and even automate repetitive but business-critical processes. Results include reduced errors, faster operations, and more time to focus on strategic goals.
Respond nimbly to changing needs
Traditional development teams can’t keep pace with market changes. Citizen developers can respond fast to keep your business ahead of the competition.
Drive continual improvement
Because of high costs associated with traditional development, many companies believe they need to first achieve return on investment (ROI) before spending on enhancements. Citizen developers can iteratively fine-tune applications and processes for constant, incremental improvements.
Foster a culture of innovation
With software creation limited to traditional development teams, your company isn’t benefiting from the creativity spread throughout your enterprise. Citizen developers empowered with no-code tools become more innovative and share their innovative spirit with peers.
Achieve digital transformation
Digital transformation has become a goal of companies across industries. Yet only 30% of transformation efforts realize their objectives, says Boston Consulting Group – often because of project complexity and organizational inertia. Citizen development simplifies application creation and promotes change throughout the enterprise. The result is tangible progress toward transformation.
The keys to success with citizen development are twofold. First is to identify the most effective no-code tools that will power your application development efforts. Second is to encourage citizen developers throughout your teams. These actions will equip your business to benefit from the growing trend that is citizen development.
Online web forms can be a useful asset for converting qualified visitors to your company’s website into prospects and leads. However, people often worry about giving away too much information via web forms. Luckily, there are ways to keep your potential leads from getting scared off before providing useful information.
Be sure to make the form page appealing. Opt for a clean, uncluttered form. Too many instructions may frustrate your prospects, while a clean form will encourage a visitor to feel more comfortable with the form.
By incorporating these suggestions, you can be sure your forms will be filled out completely. PerfectForms allows you to create sophisticated website forms for your business to utilize — instantly.
It is important for businesses to try to save time and therefore, money. One industry where business process management software can save both time and money is in financial institutions.
Financial institutions have many regulations to keep track of. Workflow process software allows managers to create a streamlined process to make sure all of the steps are followed for reporting requirements.
With customizable templates from Perfect Forms, it is not necessary to know how to program to create business process software. The experts who know the most about the particular process can create the workflow in the software, eliminating the need to wait for the IT department. Since the experts are creating the workflow, they can assure that all the necessary steps are included. And it can be integrated with existing databases, making it easy to access historical information.
Perfect Forms has a number of workflow templates already available for customers to modify, including expense reports, loan applications, and invoice management documents, among others. It allows for automatic notifications, so a form will never get lost on someone’s desk. The system is online, allowing it to be used anywhere you have an Internet connection.
Jon Brodkin recently wrote a thought-provoking, if controversial, piece in Network World highlighting the common misconceptions surrounding cloud computing. Even though it seems like cloud computing and cloud applications affect every aspect of our business lives (which I don’t feel is a bad thing), there appears to be a lot of confusion out there amongst business users as to what the cloud actually provides. And oddly enough, I wouldn’t be surprised to find some IT users that are stumped as well – not by what the cloud can do, per se, but by what it can’t do…which according to Brodkin includes: replacing MS Office, pre-determining legal ownership of IP, and always being cheap.
Jon’s article is less of a celebration of cloud computing and more of a myth-busting “gotcha” segment. I agree that the more information we can share about the intricacies of the cloud and how it compares to traditional on-premise deployments the better, but there is one point in particular with which I take issue, and one point with which I totally agree.
Disagree: Brodkin says cloud computing isn’t as affordable as people think. He uses the example of some cloud apps offering attractive subscription prices and then requiring Internet bandwidth upgrades or bizarre contracts. While it’s up to a customer to read through the contracts they sign (and as a cloud provider I can tell you that no one I know puts out shady EULAs), the Internet bandwidth argument is a little questionable. While bandwidth upgrades can cost upwards of $10,000, it isn’t difficult to find out how much you’ll need for any given cloud app. That’s part of due diligence, and there are thousands upon thousands of cloud applications that will not hog your bandwidth.
Agree: The article’s first contention is that cloud computing will not put IT professionals out of a job and/or make them obsolete. I wish that more IT staffers would absorb this reality and stop worrying that the cloud above their heads is planning to rain all over their careers. “Moving to the cloud” does not need to be followed by IT losing their jobs, and very rarely is. While companies that have been forced to lay off workers due to tough economic times can work more efficiently with collaborative cloud-based BPM solutions (increase productivity, decrease cost) – there will always be a need for management, supervision and technical liaison with cloud vendors. As Brodkin notes, certain skill sets might eventually become less relevant, but employing people with technical knowledge will never fall out of fashion.
I recently came across an interesting opinion piece by analyst and consultant Allen Bonde on SearchCRM (part of TechTarget’s publication network, which now includes eBizQ as well). Bonde made some very reasoned, topical arguments acknowledging the prominent role of “social CRM” in the enterprise and cautioning companies to wait a minute before diving in. I wholeheartedly agree.
As Bonde points out, there are three major ideological questions around the concept of a “social business strategy” that must be answered to ensure that we’re adopting social media for the right reasons – not because the bandwagon beckons. First of all, will social methods of operation really improve our products’ market prospects or adoption? Second, is going from “social media to Enterprise 2.0” really a clean transition? And finally, here’s the question that really piqued my interest – are we prioritizing style over substance when it comes to balancing what’s best for the business with what’s hot for consumers?
Obviously this is a point of lively debate and so long as traditionalists and experimentalists continue to work alongside each other, it won’t be resolved. Nonetheless, I can’t help but see the “old school” and “new school” attitudes as two faces of the same coin. To argue that social media and “Enterprise 2.0” are the folly of over-stimulated twenty-somethings is to dismiss a fundamental change in our business environment for fear of embracing progress. Conversely, putting up a Facebook page for one’s middleware solutions company and expecting to have 100,000 IT executives fawning and fanning over it is equally ludicrous.
In the business world we’re all too eager to co-opt any successful trend as our own creation. It’s as though we simply must use popular social networks because ignoring them will show our age and creative limitations. What we’re conveniently forgetting is the reason such communities were started – not for the purposes of sharing product updates and podcasts, but as a haven for checking up on friends – a repository of fond memories. That’s why I’m hesitant to barge ahead and force my company to assume an identity in a social space that is still tremendously successful at facilitating college romances.
That’s not to say that I’m a traditionalist, either. As I’ve discussed in the past, we’re moving towards a communications renaissance through which we can connect with others across the globe face-to-face, and shunning that incredible potential for fear of looking silly is a disservice to your customers, to your employees and to yourself. The key is to incorporate not just the most popular of consumer social media elements, but those that actually directly involve one’s target audience. There are so many places on the Web where IT executives, business executives, purchasing managers and any number of specific groups congregate, and these places don’t just pay lip service to our commonalities – they exist because of them.
Social media is not defined by a single application like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Posterous. Forcing a square peg into a round hole doesn’t make us fashionable and hip; it reduces us to drones. The Internet is nearly limitless and filled with opportunities for every company to customize, create and hone their social business experience; to mingle with the right contacts; to learn from customers and grow in maturity and influence. I assure you – engaging one’s true followers, loyal customers and trusted friends, through genuine conversations and caring, thoughtful interactions will never go out of style.
Numerous articles have been written over the past several months on the critical role that collaboration and “social” elements will play in helping companies move forward post-recession. The idea that rendering a process or even an entire organization accessible via a public or private network is taking the enterprise community by storm. The premise of bringing people together – especially those who would otherwise not communicate closely with another group – is long overdue. In essence, we’ve gone full circle in how we view collaboration as a business productivity tool.
The very earliest forms of structured organization for the purpose of financial profit consisted of simple business processes – producing a commodity, trading or bartering for another item or service, and a close-knit network of relationships built over years of trust and routine reliability. This is not to say that the earliest forms of incorporation were joyous and peaceful, as the oldest group activity was battle, but each transaction followed a process that was constantly being refined. Business took place face-to-face.
In the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century, we saw the proliferation of technology, specifically for manufacturing and mass production, and the propensity for individuals with a common goal and a variety of skills to pool their resources for potential fame and fortune. It was during this time that businesses began a gradual type of disassociation with collaborative thinking; workers were separate from management, plants were separate from executive offices. International travel was becoming less prohibitive and more efficient, and global operations grew stronger, interpersonal communication got weaker.
Now we’ve voluntarily reversed what seemed to be a permanent fact of business life. We’re talking again. Business and IT departments are starting to collaborate (even if it’s not quite mainstream yet) on business process management initiatives, and solutions like workflow automation are making it possible for employees, who would otherwise be preoccupied with mundane tasks, to join the real human conversation. The communication tools we now have at our disposal – from videoconferencing to social networks to instant messaging – can help us facilitate person-to-person interaction no matter where we are and what we’re doing.
I often hear people express reserve at the idea that our daily activities are becoming so driven by technology that society might eventually feel almost robotic. On the contrary, modern technological solutions are helping us communicate more frequently and more genuinely than ever before. If anything, technology is succeeding in making us more human.
In an interview with Victoria Barret of Forbes this week, IDC Senior Vice President Frank Gens predicted that 2010 would be “a transformational year for IT.” In particular, Gens discussed a potential economic rebound that would see IT growth return to 2007 levels, and a technological renaissance of sorts – “the basis for new leadership around mobile computing, cloud computing and emerging markets.”
I completely agree with Gens’ expectation that 2010 will be a watershed year for priming the future of the IT sector, but not necessarily because of stellar software sales or a new widget. In the wake of a unparalleled recession, preceded by more than thirty years of vendor-driven autocracy, we’re now wise enough – and some would say disillusioned enough – to realize that maintaining a herd mentality when it comes to product adoption and deployment is counter-productive. For years we were sold on huge, enterprise-wide solution suites (ERP comes to mind) that sent our data to silos and hundreds of thousands of our dollars to vendors up-front, even though we knew inside that not all of these applications were necessary, that some of it was merely bloatware. We feared becoming beholden to large vendors and their suite upgrades but we went along with it because that’s just how it was.
Well, in 2010, that’s not how it has to be. Gens likened the old-school model of on-premise installations to pouring concrete and letting it set “for four or five years” as opposed to the cloud computing model, in which you can pay as you go, consume only the elements of a product that you feel you need and execute your company’s objectives with some degree of freedom. Of course it’s a monumental financial relief to not have to pay for unnecessary add-ons, but more importantly, using on-demand solutions is testament to our level of engagement in how we run our businesses.
The good news is that in today’s environment of cloud computing you don’t have to be a fortune 500 company with a multimillion dollar IT budget to get the benefit of the latest revolution in computing. All you need is a little time to put together the list of companies that best suit your requirements, a web browser and you can get started paying as you get value right now. If the past decade has taught us anything at all it’s that everything in IT is transitory – as soon as something is determined as the “new ideal,” it is on its way to being dethroned.