Governance Guidelines Tip 1

Frame your strategy

Good strategy requires clear objectives, so that’s a good place to start. Write down what you want to do, and make it visible. What is your vision for citizen development within your organization? What do you hope to achieve with citizen developers and a no- or low-code platform?

It is likely that many in your organization will not yet be familiar with citizen development, and more still will need to be convinced of not only its value, but also its viability. It is therefore crucial to document even the “why” of your pursuit of citizen development to educate, generate support, and keep an overall vision central for all stakeholders.

Once you have identified your objectives in implementing citizen development, the following key questions should form the basis of your strategy. These should serve as a starting point for the implementation of a citizen development initiative (“Use a Light Touch to Govern Low-Code Development Platforms,” Forrester research, 2017).

Who are your citizen developers?

Take inventory of who within your organization will be operating as a citizen developer. Are they already self-aware, or do you need to recruit known power users or business developers to the cause? Either way, make sure it is clear who will have, first, clarity on what is expected of them, and of course, access and rights to the necessary tools.

Where (in which department(s)) will there be citizen developers operating?

How are you going to structure citizen development activity? Depending on your organization, you might have designated citizen developers in one or more departments or business units.

Organizations that have launched successful citizen development strategies tend to roll out new technologies to facilitate citizen development on a small scale first, for example within one department, and growth is scaled outward as it spreads to adjacent departments gradually.

How will apps be developed by citizen developers?

The ideal citizen developer strategy will provide a single, unified platform on which all citizen development activity will be done. This eliminates the risk of having many untrackable, unmonitored Excel spreadsheets or other end-user created applications from LotusNotes or Access and so on running throughout the organization.

In addition to the technology platform, there are existing ways of working within your organization as a whole, and as development teams more granularly. In the age of big data security is always a concern, but military, finance, healthcare and other government sectors are governed by strict processes that ensure due process and protocol throughout their organizations.

An effective citizen development strategy has to operate within these existing frameworks.

If the application development and delivery teams are already operating along a common way of working, citizen developers should be encouraged to adopt those practices. Think Agile, DevOps, continuous integration and delivery, etc. Citizen development will be more quickly established when it follows the existing workflow and protocols of an organization.

The desired outcome is a common way of working for all citizen developers. This ensures accountability, transparency, and of course, the uniformity and organization that enables monitoring and governance.

How will citizen developers fit in to the broader IT space?

Citizen development of course must also follow the existing workflow and protocols of the full scope of your organization’s IT efforts. For example, you will need to ensure data coherence and standards for data handling. A good starting point is to establish a master list of authorized data sources with a network of APIs to guide citizen developers and create a robust IT ecosystem. Establishing a clear plan for the data that citizen developers will work with, and how, creates alignment with the IT department and also serves to mitigate security risks.

When will citizen developers contribute to application delivery?

It is important to determine how you will prioritize which applications will be built by citizen developers, and also to set guidelines as to the expectations for citizen developer output. Will departmental workflow apps have priority, or customer-facing ones? How much of a citizen developer’s time should be allocated for application development and delivery, considering that it is probably not their primary role?

Organizations that have launched successful citizen development strategies start small and scale growth outward.

What types of apps will citizen developers build?

There are several approaches you can take to delegate the types of applications that fall to the responsibility of citizen developers, in order to implement more structure.

One approach is to mobilize citizen developers around single departmental or business unit applications. You could also delegate applications of a particular type, like database or workflow apps, to citizen developers.

Yet another approach is to classify applications by class or purpose, eg. apps for external engagement or noncritical departmental apps.

If your organization plans to use citizen developers primarily to develop prototypes, you should clearly chart a path for the journey from MVP to enterprise grade. In this case, citizen developer apps will need to be transferred to IT at a defined point.