Digitally dexterous organisations and their need for Citizen Developers. New reality or vendor fallacy? Part 1 of 6
For the last 50 years IT departments have been the only business function responsible for managing the organisation’s computer information systems. During this time autocratic IT departments have set rules of their own making and created friction whenever ideas were brought forward that did not conform to their prescribed governance standards.
But then, the world and the nature of work changed. The pace of new and emerging technology increased. Digital roadmaps, once measured in years, accelerated rapidly in days and quickly proved their worth in weeks.
Organisations now operate in a business environment that is increasingly uncertain, ambiguous, and complex. As such, every aspect of business needs to move faster. Organisations must become as digitally nimble as their rapidly shifting market. Today’s technology enabled economy demands ‘digital dexterity’. Organisations must be both bold and nimble to react quickly enough to succeed.
Digital business cycles are accelerating. Rapidly changing customer expectations, the consumerisation of technology, and increasingly numbers of unexpected events necessitate organisation and workforce flexibility. Central technology teams can no longer act alone as the vanguard for all things digital or technical. Organisations need to give their digitally hungry workforce the data, digital tools and knowledge they need to leverage digital advantage to pivot with demand.
Never before has an organisation’s ability to exploit digital and automation technologies been such a key determinant of their immediate and future success. Programmers, digital analysts and data scientists now control the world. As such, the survival of the digitally fittest is the modern day equivalent of Digital Darwinism.
So how can ‘digital dexterous’ organisations manage massive digital and technology transformation with just their IT department and a handful of trusted partners? Step forwards the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) industry and ‘Citizen Developers’.
According to leading global research and advisory firm Forrester, in the U.S. alone there will be a deficit of 500,000 software developers by 2024
(How To Harness Citizen Developers To Expand Your AD&D Capacity, Forrester Research, Inc., April 19, 2017).
The RPA industry and Citizen Developers. Never before have organisations had such an opportune time, or need, to transform. Covid; cloud computing; low-code/no-code platforms; digital natives entering the workforce and a well stocked supplier market are all accelerating organisations digital capabilities.
McKinsey suggest that as many as 45 percent of the activities…can be automated…In the United States, these activities represent about $2 trillion in annual wages…The magnitude of those benefits suggests that the ability to staff, manage, and lead increasingly automated organizations will become an important competitive differentiator.
Yet, in the age of digital commerce there is something missing. That something, is capable digital and automation staff, in sufficient numbers to accelerate and scale automation at the speed in which it is currently demanded. Less than two percent of the world population can write code. The RPA industry has attempted to change the game with their low and no-code development platforms and the concept of the ‘Citizen Developers’.
“In order to write about the pros/cons, successes/failures of Citizen developers from an agnostic automation point of view, you must first define what a “Citizen Developer” means at the most base level. Otherwise, everything else means nothing.”Dani Rickard, Chief Information Officer
Citizen Developers are non- traditional technologists who use low-code-no-code tools and other platforms to program in a way that would have required deep technical acumen in the past. They are computer users with no formal background in computer science or software engineering but who have access to development environments or tools. They are often organised, hard working, creative problem solvers, who want to make a positive impact on their way of working and on the business in which they operate.
“Low-Code/No-Code platforms and Citizen Developer are a game changer because our solution would make software development exponentially fast and economical.”Shige Sato, Low-Code, No-Code Platform Founder and CEO
Though they can be unintentionally dangerous without the right support and governance.
“Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should” was famously quoted in Jurassic park. And although Citizen Developers, aren’t quite a T-Rex, it doesn’t mean that’s they are not dangerous. Get this concept wrong in your organisation and you can cause some serious damage”Wayne Butterfield, Intelligent Automation Expert
Forrester identifies 3 Citizen Developer profiles who each support businesses in different ways.
Diagram 1: 3 types of Citizen Developer (How To Harness Citizen Developers To Expand Your AD&D Capacity, Forrester Research, Inc., April 19, 2017))
A Citizen Developer is able to use drag-and-drop application components, then connect them together, in order to design and build powerful applications, which can grow and adapt according to the needs of a business.
“Citizen Developer does not mean that every employee will become a developer of Ml or AI, far from it. But it does mean that they could. This carries as much risk as it does opportunity, in our view the winners will be those who best select, train, monitor and govern this inevitable next disruptive step.”Nick Andrews, Executive Chairman | Global Automation Advisor
The IT department’s dominance of business system delivery is being challenged by ‘Citizen Developers’ with automation tools that help millennials or other such digital ninjas build automations in hours or days. This is the new normal or so low-code/no-code vendors, particularly Robotic Process Automation (RPA) vendors, would have us believe. Don’t get me wrong, IT departments are still part of the game but they are no longer the only game in town.
“Citizen development is happening, and IT needs to be more engaged.”Gartner, 2017
The democratisation of technology tooling.
Democratisation is a term used to describe when a technology experiences exponential growth. Mobile phones were once brick-sized and available only to a wealthy minority. Today, almost everyone has access to a mobile phone with access to more apps then they will ever need or understand. The smart phone and its simple-to -use interface democratised mobile technology.
When Marc Anderson invented Mosaic in 1993, the first truly web friendly interface, very few websites existed. Roll forward a few years and hundreds of thousands of web sites and millions of web users exist. The power of the web browser was that it democratised web technology.
Similarly in the robotic process automation industry, and indeed beyond, Lo Code | No Code platforms enable non-tech experts to get involved in the development of computer code. Many large enterprises see radical change just around the corner when it comes to computer coding and digital transformation.
But can organisations look forward to vast improvements in productivity, freedom from boring work, and improved quality of life from ‘Citizen Developers’?
“The idea of ‘Citizen Developer’ is the equivalent of a ‘Citizen Dentist’ it would be nice for everyone to know how to fix teeth, but not feasible. As we can not all be dentists, we cannot all be developers, carpenters and so on.”Dimitrios Ntakoulas, Principle Application Developer
Will Citizen Developers become the new normal? Will everyone learn to code a robot just like everyone knows Microsoft Word before they ever started a real job?
“Today’s school and university leavers have automation skills. They have used UiPath on the academic journey, so they will expect it in their professional careers. Citizen users will be the norm, just like O365, we will accept it as normal. A few years ago we had to complete windows training, office training, now it’s the normality for a professional. The same will go for utilising RPA/ML/IA.”Graham Lee , Automation Expert
But do people actually want to be Citizen Developers?
“For all the talk of low and no code solutions, I’m not sure, at least in my industry, that customers even really want to take ownership of it themselves. They’re fundamentally brokers and underwriters, not technologists, and in my mind, it’s equivalent to sending your trained accountants on plumbing courses because the toilet in the office keeps getting blocked.Edward Halsey, Human Paracetamol for MGAs
Are Citizen Developers a business risk too far?
“We’ve had low-code Citizen Developers for decades, and the value to the enterprise of their efforts was often real & measurable. But so was the cost of massive technical debt. Undocumented, massive, unwieldy, fragile, unmaintainable by anyone else, and ultimately exposing the enterprise to massive risk.”Jon Silver, Automation Expert
Do organisations simply need to put the right foundations in place and begin their ‘Citizen Developer’ journey?
“What’s worse, unpoliced, ungoverned VBA and macros that anyone with Office can create or Citizen Developers with access to a digital assistant? If you start this journey with the right foundations you will exceed. The metrics these could collect would be invaluable data which is becoming the new oil.”Gavin Price, Process Specialist
Will tech savvy employees, increasingly aware of the fact that they can have automation at their fingertips, continue to complete manual, repetitive tasks that deny their creative best or will they vote with their feet and exit at pace? Let’s see.
This series looks to answer all those questions and more besides. The series will examine the concept of a Citizen Developer. It will consider the pros and cons; and recommends the governance process that needs to be put in place to give Citizen Developers a fighting chance to succeed.
Additional articles on Digital Dexterity and Citizen Developers:
- Less Citizen Developer and More RPA Neighborhood Watch Joe Labbe VP of Business Development
- Pega Low Code Enterprise Factory Method
- Gartner Says Too Few Organizations Have the Digital Dexterity to Adopt New Ways of Work Solutions
- Four fundamentals of workplace automation McKinsey By Michael Chui, James Manyika, and Mehdi Miremadi
- Avoiding the Loose Ends of Citizen Development
- Purple People: The heart of cognitive systems engineering.
- Citizen Developers by Betty Blocks
- Governing Citizen Developers Betty Blocks
#intelligentautomation #bots #rpaworks #digitaltransformation #roboticprocessautomation #rpa #cognitiveautomation #digitaldisruption #digitalworkforce #processautomation #digitalfuture #digitalstrategy
If this could benefit someone else tag them and share this.
Free to reuse: We are a community of RPA, analytics, digital and intelligent automation experts with years of real world experience. We have stories to tell and the scars to show for it. We share our collective wisdom for free to simply provide as much value as we can to you. Therefore, if you want to post this article on your LinkedIn page then please feel free to do so. The more information we share within the RPA community the more likely businesses are to succeed with this excellent technology.
Further Help: If I can help you in any way please do reach out.
Note: The views expressed above are our views and not those of my employer or the employers of the contributing expert