Software development without skilled or studied programmers - is that possible? Oh yes! Train your employees to become so-called Citizen Developers. Here's what you need to keep in mind.
What are Citizen Developers?
"Citizen Developer" means that theoretically anyone without special programming skills can develop their own software applications. To make this possible, low-code tools like Intrexx or RPA tools like Citrobot are used.
Ideally, Citizen Developers first capture and redefine existing processes with their teams. Then they implement the desired applications primarily via graphical user interfaces. These can be business applications that, for example, aggregate data from various sources or digitize and automate processes.
This means that thanks to low-code platforms, it is possible for non-experts or non-programmers to develop web applications and smartphone apps. To do so, they have to write little to no lines of program code, which greatly simplifies the realization of a software project.
These are the advantages of Citizen Developer
- Thanks to low-code solutions, every craftsman and every marketing manager can theoretically become a Citizen Developer. In other words, your company can use "normal" employees as developers.
- Your company does not need to hire programmers or contract external developers to develop (simple) business applications. In times of a shortage of skilled workers, this is a big plus.
- Often, Citizen Developer and IT work hand in hand. While the business department implements the user interface (e.g., forms), IT employees develop the necessary interfaces to existing systems.
- If employees have great ideas for new applications, they can quickly implement prototypes or MVPs themselves as Citizen Developers.
- Engaging with low-code tools challenges and encourages employee engagement. It allows them to think outside the box, which increases job satisfaction.
- In addition, Citizen Development creates entirely new, digital competencies in your company. Competencies that are extremely important in times of digital transformation.
What are the disadvantages of Citizen Development?
- Many low-code platforms are easy to learn, but hard to master. Thus, every Citizen Developer first needs training and a certain period of familiarization.
- Those who have no idea about software development may approach the design and implementation of applications in the wrong way. This increases the development time and the probability that the result will not be as desired.
- All low-code solutions have certain limitations. Citizen developers, even with very good skills, can only operate within a certain framework. This means that some ideas cannot be realized with the tools.
Security vulnerabilities are a big danger!
The use of Citizen Developers may create a "shadow IT" in your company. This is because the non-programmers who develop new applications with low code often work independently of the actual IT or development department. On the one hand, this is a good thing, because it allows the creative lay developers to pursue their ideas quickly and without any major conventions.
On the other hand, it results in (unnecessary) parallel systems and applications that are not checked by the IT department's IT security measures. That is why Forresterr assumes that the first major security breaches could be caused by Citizen Development in 2023.
How to minimize the risks
Be aware of the disadvantages and actively steer against them. For example, like this:
Every employee can become a software developer thanks to low-code platforms - this promise sounds great. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite correspond to reality. Not everyone has the interest and skills to become a citizen developer. That's why it's important to find employees who really fit your plans.
Create free space
Time is also an important factor: Everyone who is to work as a Citizen Developer must familiarize themselves with the tools and learn how to use them properly. If prospects don't get enough freedom, they will produce unsatisfactory results or none at all.
Pay attention to quality
Think about quality in low-code development, too. Applications that are difficult to use or run out of round will cause frustration and slow down the digitization of processes.
IT security is a "must have"
Results with security gaps are an absolute no-go! Always involve your IT department when introducing low-code tools. The IT department must ensure that the Citizen Developers work in accordance with compliance and data protection requirements. It is also advisable to establish control processes.
Smooth entry thanks to BOT
Implementing Citizen Development can be quite time-consuming. If you would like to have a "smooth" entry, you can think about the BOT model (Build-Operate-Transfer). Here, an external service provider develops your desired product and your team successively takes over the operation and improvements.
Another solution: outsource low code development
If you cannot establish Citizen Development in your company, you should not shelve the topic. You still have the option of outsourcing development - for example, to service providers such as CITRO.
We realize customized solutions for you with low-code platforms. The advantage of this is that we can achieve our goal quickly and cost-effectively. Would you like to know more? Contact us without any obligation.
BOT is a good way to combine the benefits of outsourcing and insourcing. This is how the special operator model works.
Don't let your projects fail!
Digitization is advancing at a rapid pace. And at the same time, there is a growing shortage of IT specialists. Companies are therefore hiring freelancers, agencies and other external service providers to implement urgently needed IT projects.
Great concepts are developed and implemented with great zeal and ample budgets - but in the end, disillusionment often sets in. For example, …
- because the result cannot be supported and further developed internally by the company.
- because operation via further outsourcing would cost too much.
- because the whole project exceeds the budget.
The project fails, the concept and the development were for the garbage can. Do you know this situation? One way to avoid such a flop is the BOT model.
Definition: What dies BOT mean?
BOT is an acronym. The three-letter abbreviation stands for "Build-Operate-Transfer".
The BOT model is known as a operator model and is used, among other things, for public infrastructure projects. In PPP ("Public Private Partnership"), a public client ("Public") awards a contract to a company ("Private") and thus enters into a partnership ("Partnership"). For example, for the construction of a bridge or a hospital.
Similar operator models exist in the private sector. In IT projects, for example, companies use "Build-Operate-Transfer" as a form of outsourcing to have digital solutions developed. In this case, an external contractor implements software ("Build"), oversees its operation ("Operate") for a certain period, and then hands everything over to the client ("Transfer").
How do BOT projects work?
There are usually four phases:
Phase 1: "Plan"
The client develops a concept and discusses it with the contractor - for example, an agency. Within this framework, project plans with fixed milestones or agile milestones are decided, among other things.
Phase 2: "Build
The service provider implements the project as discussed. During this process, the service provider is in constant contact with the client. In the meantime, the client gradually builds up its own internal capacities for the subsequent phases.
Phase 3: "Operate
The digital product - for example, a new intranet - is ready and is hosted, tested and operated by the service provider. The client's experts familiarize themselves with the relevant technologies so that they can manage the intranet themselves in the future.
Phase 4: "Transfer
The service provider gradually hands over operation and further development to the client.
What are the advantages of "Build-Operate-Transfer"?
Looking through the lens of the client, the BOT model yields the following benefits for the company:
- It does not have to develop the required product itself. Instead, it buys in expertise, manpower and external technologies through outsourcing.
- The result is achieved more quickly. Because the external supporters are specialists in their field and do not start from scratch.
- It does not fall into a "black hole" at the end of the project. Instead, the external partner takes the company by the hand until it can develop the software independently.
- It can build up its own capacities with the required expertise. The internal resources do not have to start from one day to the next, but are hired successively.
- There is no forced dependency on the service provider. However, it is possible to ask for support when needed.
What are the downsides of the BOT model?
For the client, a "Build-Operate-Transfer" approach means that he…
- does not develop the product itself. What is an advantage can also be a disadvantage - because the deep insight into the technical implementation is missing.
- must initially reckon with higher expenses, since an external service provider usually costs more than permanent employees.
- has to recruit, train, educate and pay its own specialists. This results in high internal costs.
- cannot recruit the required specialists in the time needed for the transfer. This delays the transfer, resulting in a longer dependency on the external partner.
- has increased expenses in management and quality control when choosing the wrong implementation partner. This often happens with nearshore and offshoring service providers.
Management: What must be considered?
A BOT project is not a classic project. Therefore, there are a few things you should consider and think about in advance to ensure that your four phases run smoothly and successfully.
As the client, plan the product that is to be created as well as possible. Define important features and record your product vision. However, don't get bogged down in details.
Always remain open to new ideas. Nowadays, software is usually developed in an agile way. This means that you go through many small iterations where you can make adjustments. For example, because requirements change or because you have to react spontaneously to new market conditions.
Start the project small and lean. Because you know: Many cooks spoil the broth! When the concept is ready and development begins, you should gradually add more experts and stakeholders.
Use common software or open source for the MVP or prototype. It's best to use low-code tools to get there quickly and cost-effectively.
Coordinate closely with IT. The product and its software base must fit into your company's IT infrastructure and system landscape. For example, a new online store has to be compatible with the PIM or ERP in use.
Bring all systems in use up to the current state of the art and secure them as well as possible. Outdated or poorly configured systems, for example, can become a gateway for hackers.
No software project should be created without sufficient documentation. If this is missing, the transfer phase becomes unnecessarily difficult.
Always think about the users. Test the product or the MVP as early as possible on the target group. Repeat these tests constantly to gain important insights for adjustments.
In the "Operate" phase, the development team must operate the software. Until then, you as the client need sufficient internal and technical resources.
At the end of the BOT project, a debriefing is useful. At this meeting, any remaining ambiguities are cleared up, among other things. And the client and contractor exchange information about what went well and what went badly. In this way, both parties can learn something from the cooperation and become better as a result.
Are you looking for an external partner with whom you can digitize your processes? Would you like to implement fast, lean software projects according to the BOT model? Then contact us! The CITRO team will be happy to assist you in accelerating your digital transformation.