Kids growing up in the 90s witnessed a fledgling internet transforming the world. And it wasn’t uncommon for them to participate by creating their own websites, perhaps hosted on GeoCities or Angelfire. Without realizing it, they had acquired the basics of a valuable skill, but that was the end of the journey for many of them.
These early enthusiasts didn’t have the drive to become professional developers or accessible tools that could enable them to continue making websites that fit with a fast-changing world.
Today, the same kids with little or no knowledge of manual HTML coding can create beautiful, feature-rich websites using WordPress or even monetize them using Shopify. Such low-code or no-code (LCNC) platforms are enabling citizen developers across industries to build custom solutions for specific functions, a task previously under the domain of business IT.
Citizen development can lead to innovation, but this new wave of developers needs support to deliver on that promise.
Lowering barriers to innovation
Traditional business structures had developers operating in a siloed environment. They would get handed down requests for solutions from upper management, which arose from the needs of various departments and employees. Developers would build the code and hand it off, and that was that. They didn’t see how the software was being deployed, which meant losing their insights for improvement.
The alternative for businesses was to purchase ready-made solutions on the market. They would get something that works for a specific use case but likely overpay for features they didn’t need. And often, wanting to maximize ROI, companies would adjust to match the system instead of having one customized to suit their needs.
With LCNC platforms, your developers no longer work in silos. They can be found everywhere, from the frontlines to the C-suite. With little to no coding knowledge required, the barriers to entry are lowered. Suddenly, people who are best placed to perceive business needs, gather and deliver feedback, and make vital decisions are also the ones who develop the solutions.
This closes the loop between design, implementation, and feedback. It makes organizations more agile and helps to foster innovation.
A new challenge of complexity
However, problems can arise out of this rapid, decentralized development process. Citizen developers may end up creating the problem of shadow IT. You could wind up with a proliferation of unregulated technological solutions that could take up more resources than necessary, leading to a slowdown.
Some of these might even be undocumented or pose cybersecurity risks. In a big organization where support relationships abound between departments, requests can be covered by the ServiceNow platform. But are your citizen developers properly securing access to their custom solutions?
Companies might also need to manage their portfolio of ServiceNow applications to ensure that usage justifies the cost of maintenance and investment. This ties into the issue of scale. Business growth tends to be accompanied by a complexity increase, and without oversight, you might have multiple developers working on parallel solutions.
What happens when you’ve scaled to a point where the LCNC platform you’ve been using no longer seems to offer the capabilities to build what you need? You could be locked into a specific vendor and struggle to transition to a new one as more demanding deployments arise.
Building a platform of support
The potential for problems of complexity to ensue after adopting LCNC platforms and empowering citizen developers actually ties into a historic theme of progress. Multiple elements must come together to support and enable innovation.
Historically, successful innovation didn’t come from people who only had the skills required. They needed access to tools and resources, extensive knowledge, and contacts across various disciplines.
Right person, right time, right place, and the right support. Those things combine to create a sort of infrastructure your citizen development strategy will need to bring success without spawning subsequent issues.
Maybe you don’t want to intervene and regulate the development process, as it could negate the benefits promised. But a citizen developer still needs governance and guidance in some form. The use of robotic process automation can help streamline their work to maximize compatibility by emulating human actions and how a user would navigate through different systems. In the process, it can yield insights that help reduce security risks as well.
Worried about inherent growth constraints that LCNC-based solutions might have? Invest in further coding training for your people. With a more advanced foundation in this skill, they can unlock hidden potential in the platform.
With citizen development still a nascent movement, there will be a rush of early adopters, but only those that provide such support to their developers will reap the rewards.