Blog | Aug 4, 2022

Citizen Developers: How to Dodge the Wild West

Citizen Developers: How to Dodge the Wild West

Today’s Business Landscape

Leaders want to make their mark on the world. And the real work begins now. In an era of constant change, never has business agility been more important. Businesses must react to unforeseen circumstances. This often means the ability to scale up or down on demand. Pandemics, natural disasters, political unrest. These disruptions are all too real. So-called ‘100-year events’ are happening with sobering frequency. No industries are immune to supply chain disruption. Are you prepared for an uncertain future?

Why Your Business Needs Citizen Developers

Chances are if you’re a large company you’ve thought about robotic process automation (RPA). You may even have an RPA program. This often starts by implementing automation in your back-office processes. Hopefully, you’ve seen positive results. How do you bring this value to scale RPA long term? How do you do it securely and with little risk? Citizen development! Done correctly, it makes scaling automation a reality.

What Are Citizen Developers?

First, let’s get the citizen developer definition straight. Citizen development is when non-technical employees are trained to create and run automation. These applications can be used by others, inside and outside of the business. Some businesses take what we call a Wild West approach. Citizen developers create automation without oversight or a plan. With this method, developed automation often has no return on investment. And they don’t contribute to business momentum. Worse still, they could open the business to a breach in security and non-compliance.

What Makes a Good Citizen Developer Model?

Effective citizen automation is driven by a center of excellence (CoE). Think of the COE as a governing board. This team will set a plan for how to best provide automation to the business and involve IT. They’ll provide citizens with the right development tools for the job. These RPA tools are often a no-code or low-code platforms. They’re also approved by IT. One benefit that citizen development creates is time. With less traffic through IT, professional developers can work on complex projects. The COE will set best practices including a governance model. They’ll provide training and mentoring for your new automation developers. So, a good model for citizen development = COE + IT + citizen developers.

Key Benefits of Citizen Developers

Intelligent automation removes mundane work from humans. This is huge. Employees are more satisfied and can focus on more valuable work. It also processes information quicker without error and works 24/7. However, most businesses say that implementing automation at scale is #1. This is where citizen development rules.

There are many benefits to citizen development. No one knows processes better than the employees who work with them daily! These business users are also great creators of automation. Opening automation to more employees is a way to crowdsource ideas. You can also test business applications with low risk. Citizen development helps to provide re-skilling and career advancement. With more automation creators available, you can launch new automation faster.

Being a citizen developer is not for everyone

You may think that any employee can be trained to be a software developer. Not everyone will be good at application development. Think of it this way. We all have access to Excel, but few of us use macros to make work easier. We have found that certain qualities make a good RPA citizen developer. It might surprise you that citizen developers are found across departments. Sometimes in places, you wouldn’t expect!

Five Key Qualities of Your Citizen Developers

Five Key Qualities of Your Citizen Developers

1. Your citizen developers will be good problem-solvers

They like logic and can identify simple business processes for automation.

2. They have a curious nature

    Your citizen developers have a keen sense of where automation will fit into the bigger strategy. They’re also big on documentation.

    3. Your citizen developer embraces technology

    They have some computing skills and understand technology.

    4. Embrace a measured approach

      Your citizens understand how control procedures and delivery methods work.

      5. Your citizen developers love growth

        They love to learn new things and solve issues. Finding new ways to grow their skills is a passion.

        Part-time vs. Full-time Citizen Developers

        Many organizations approach citizen development as part-time. They train several citizens to develop automation as needed. We’d like to offer a different way of thinking. Train fewer employees to be full-time citizen developers. This way, citizens can devote enough time to being good at it. They will be faster and more efficient at building automation. They also retain the benefits of knowing the business side. Placing these citizens in the COE ensures they get the support they need. It also provides these employees with more career opportunities.

        A Few Words on Recording Automation

        Right now, there aren’t digital solutions that can develop end-to-end automation. That may surprise you. Yes, there are recording tools available. However, recording tools can’t run automation securely and at scale. Intelligent automation often uses more than one person to create. A recording can’t do this. Recordings also can’t consider exceptions or fault handling. This is a must for healthy automation.

        Five Tips to a Better Model

        Citizen development is here to stay. The good news is, you’ve got this! You already know that a COE + IT + citizen developers = a good model. Plus, you know how to plan effective citizen development initiatives. Here are five tips to build an even better model.

        1. Automate at scale

          Set a goal of using automation everywhere it makes sense. Intelligent automation will be the hero of your transformation journey.

          2. Build a strong COE

            A COE is key to successfully scaling automation. The COE will manage training, process discovery, and reuse of components to name a few things.

            3. Encourage participation

              Use different departments in the creation process for the biggest benefits. For automation to work together, create them with best practices.

              4. Reuse and avoid duplication

                Build a place to save your automation. Then make sure you reuse them! This will set the standard for automation and help you scale faster.

                5. Security and Compliance

                  This is the most important concern for businesses. Wherever automation is going, they must follow security and compliance rules.

                  Creating automation from a central team has had its day. Citizen development is how your business will be prepared for a successful future.