Citizen development, also known as citizen-assisted development, can help your organization achieve process optimization using intelligent automation (IA) technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning (ML) to automate repetitive tasks and streamline processes—all while maintaining governance and security.
Advancing technology is changing the way we think, and most organizations are looking for better ways to improve workflow, reduce bottlenecks and achieve better returns on investment (ROI). Yet these same organizations may lack the funding to cover extensive development costs or the resources needed for integrating and learning new IT systems.
Citizen Development in RPA
We’re going to help you understand and implement an effective citizen development program in your organization. In this blog, we’ll cover five main topics:
- What citizen development is
- How to use citizen development effectively
- Potential challenges
- Benefits and applications
- Four pillars of finding the best citizen developers
Defining Citizen Development
A well-crafted, federated citizen development model can relieve overworked IT staff and give employees new career growth opportunities. Citizen development is about training non-IT employees familiar with the business to develop no-code or low-code solutions for process automation.
Citizen developers can implement automation software solutions with simple drag-and-drop features, so no prior coding knowledge is required, and monitor and maintain these automations once they’re active.
What Is a Citizen Developer?
Citizen developers are non-IT employees familiar with the business processes, trained to create low or no-code automation using simple, drag-and-drop features to develop more efficient end-to-end processes in an organization.
Low-Code Platforms Versus No-Code Platforms
Low-code platforms are software platforms requiring basic coding skills to design and develop applications, often simplified for faster accessibility.
No-code platforms are similar to low-code platforms, except they are more accessible to non-technical business users, allowing them to design and develop applications with drag-and-drop features. No-code platforms don’t require any coding.
Uses and Application of Citizen Development
Citizen development empowers employees to seek out automation opportunities enterprise-wide. And once these processes are automated, staff will have more time to focus on higher-value, more interesting work.
RPA performs repetitive, mundane tasks, working accurately and efficiently 24/7 to reduce errors and increase an organization’s potential ROI.
However, the initial deployment of IA and RPA is just the beginning. The true value of automation is in its scalability. That’s where citizen development can help.
Requirements for Citizen Development Initiatives
When looking for potential citizen developers, you should find internal employees and business leaders with prior knowledge of your organization’s quality standards and business processes. They don’t need to be professional developers. They just need to be interested in finding ways to improve process efficiency and think up ways automation can simplify complex projects.
For a successful citizen development program, it’s imperative you have a governance framework in place. This will ensure your team’s automation efforts follow your organization’s compliance requirements.
A governance process lays out a set of rules and regulations for the development process so your citizen developers consistently maintain compliance.
Operational technology management is a way of connecting your production environment with digital workflows, including key applications for your automation. This program helps monitor your IA once it's up and running. This ensures compliance and scalability and measures your system’s capabilities for consumption.
There are many real-life examples of citizen development working effectively. But what about the challenges?
Challenges with Citizen Development
A citizen development program can help your organization with scalability, growth, and improved ROI. But starting your citizen development journey can be daunting if you’re not prepared.
That’s why it’s important that prior to starting you fully understand what to expect, what to avoid, and how to reap the most benefits from citizen development.
- Citizen development isn’t for everyone, meaning not every employee is suited to the task. For citizen development to work, you need to find the right people within the business who have the skills and interests aligned with IA and RPA. Find employees interested in discovering new application types within a low-code/no-code space.
- Training every employee on a platform is time-consuming and resource intensive. If you’re not fully prepared to train your staff, then chances are you’re going to feel the pressures, especially within your Center of Excellence (CoE) and IT teams. If your professional developers don’t have the time to effectively teach, then the quality of your processes may suffer.
- Without a governance framework for your citizen development program, security and compliance may be at risk. Bringing non-tech employees into your process production environment can mean greater risk. That’s why a CoE team should oversee your citizen developers to ensure they’re adhering to compliance and security rules. Without this structure, your IT teams will be further burdened, rendering the citizen development program ineffective.
- A big-picture view of automation is essential for scalability. Without proper structures in place, citizen developers can easily get caught in development silos. This is where they’re focused on automating their individual needs rather than viewing the entirety of development lifecycles and finding ways to meet the overall business automation goals.
- A lack of governance can stifle automation. That’s why roles and responsibilities need to be determined before implementing the citizen development program. Every person should know what’s expected of them and how they’re going to produce quality automation. Governance is about planning and communication, so your entire organization understands the scope of the project.
- Little or no planning can cause your citizen development program to fail. Your organization needs a strategy for driving automation at scale. An automation strategy should be a tactical guide for organization-wide intelligent automation.
What Is a Center of Excellence?
A Center of Excellence (CoE) is a unified set of automation teams across an organization following a defined federation model to ensure compliance and scalability.
Benefits of a Citizen Development Program
Citizen developers can alleviate your shortage of developers by using simplified automation tools—or citizen development tools—to create cohesive business processes across the entire organization.
This development should be done using a governance framework following your industry standards. That way, your citizen developers can create secure and consistent business agility through automation.
Your citizen development team comprises people familiar with your systems. They use their insider knowledge to identify automation potential and evaluate how these process changes will affect your users and systems.
Citizen development projects allow your organization to have faster scalability in its processes using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Once a basic code framework is developed, citizen developers across your organization can launch automation programs using a standard set of drag-and-drop features from low-code/no-code software for easier scaling in end-to-end processes.
Employees want to feel like they’re contributing to the overall business. As low-code, no-code automation developers, they don’t have to be business analysts or professional developers to utilize an IA system. Using low-code and no-code platforms, citizen developers can create and manage useful business applications.
This empowers them to seek out opportunities for the business and keeps them engaged in interesting work. Citizen development flourishes when employees are satisfied with their work and looking for new ways to innovate.
Employees want to be interested in their work, and citizen development projects are a great way to get them more involved.
Use the existing knowledge base within your business to brainstorm ideas. Then give your automation developers the space to experiment with those ideas. The more space you allow for growth, the better chance you have at proving application uses and finding better ways to invest in automation.
Four Pillars of Successful Citizen Developers
An effective citizen development program requires careful planning. That’s why we’ve built a simple four-pillar model for you to follow.
Ask yourself: what does a good citizen developer look like?
Citizen developers can come from anywhere in the organization. All you need to do is find those people with the attributes and skills suitable for citizen development. Here are four key attributes to look for:
- Curious. Citizen developers should have a keen sense of where IA and RPA will fit into your larger automation strategy.
- Measured. Find people who are dedicated to documentation and following procedures. Citizen developers should understand how control procedures and delivery methods work.
- Technologically adept. Your citizen developers should have some computing skills and be interested in technology enough to embrace low-code no-code platforms.
- Growth-oriented. Find those who are interested in growth and problem-solving, with the mindset of wanting to learn and develop their skills.
Following security and compliance is crucial when automating processes across your organization. This is why it’s crucial to have a CoE in place.
Your CoE can teach your citizen developers the best practices before they start automating. Here are four key points to look out for:
- Roles-based access. Not all business users should have the same levels of access. Any low-code platform should have levels for different users based on capabilities and training. For example, citizen developers may only be able to drag and drop objects, while IT or development teams have access to the entire test and production environment.
- Secure access to target applications. Citizen developers will be automating processes across the business. It’s imperative for all connections to meet regulations by creating access in secure areas.
- Multi-team environments. Citizen developers can be from many parts of your organization. Having these teams spread out is a good way to ensure assets are securely shared so there’s less risk of security breaches.
- Data security. All citizen developers in your team need to be thoroughly trained on data security so they know what laws apply to what they’re automating.
Establishing a governance framework gives you the power to set best practices for better compliance. It also helps citizen developers know what they’re doing and why to keep them working effectively.
Real-life examples of this would be given strict deadlines for working with sensitive data to limit exposure, or defining a strategy so developers know where to aim their automation efforts.
A CoE team plays a key role in governance. If your team is looking for further guidance with setting up a framework, the SS&C | Blue Prism® Robotic Operating Model 2 (ROM™2) is a step-by-step guide that helps expand your IA capabilities by strategically designing and scaling your organization’s automation journey.
Guidelines are essential in establishing and maintaining an effective citizen development program. At a minimum, your governance framework should include:
An automation methodology
- A well-defined software development lifecycle (SLDC) with accessible training
- Tools and templates for deliverables
- Staged gate reviews at every level of automation
- Deployment and governance, including a hand-off mechanism
Design authority and quality control
- Ensuring high standards for all solutions
- Reusing shared objects where possible to save time
- Keeping projects on track with regular checkpoints
- Sharing expertise and guidance regularly
- Upskilling citizen developers through community sharing of best practices
Care and feeding
- Clarity when changing management methods
- Regularly checking automation performance and feedback
- Reviewing processes to ensure they’re still meeting the organization’s overall automation goals
- Setting up groups to discuss issues
- Assigning CoE members to citizen groups for one-on-one guidance
Citizen Development Toolkit
The final pillar of effective citizen developers is ensuring your team has access to the right tools. Your CoE will be able to help you find these tools, but here are a few we think are important for meeting your goals:
The foundation of a citizen developer toolkit should be a no-code platform, allowing for simple drag-and-drop actions to reduce launch time. This helps citizen developers automate quickly and easily while keeping their focus on the organization’s needs.
There are many types of discovery tools. Manual discovery tools like process assessment offer guidance on choosing the right processes for automation. Others, like process mining and task mining, can use the data found in your process assessment to build process skeletons on which to deploy your RPA or IA.
This is huge for scalability and consistency. Objects are the graphic building blocks in automating a process. When these objects are designed with compliance and best practices in mind, they can be reused across the organization, helping citizen developers work more efficiently.
With human in the loop, your citizen developers are working alongside the RPA digital worker performing the automation. Essentially, the digital worker communicates with the citizen developer to complete the task. HITL is extremely useful for any process requiring human oversight or permissions.
Designing processes can be time-consuming and difficult, but using IA tools such as SS&C Blue Prism® Capture can cut this time by up to 75%. Design tools use a combination of task extraction and computer vision to prove a quick route to prototype building.
Continuing Your Citizen Development Journey
Setting up citizen developers across your organization is a great way to achieve process automation and optimization while maintaining governance and security. RPA and IA can improve process efficiency, lower risk, and human error, increase employee satisfaction and digitally transform your organization.
You can learn more about how to train citizen developers using our citizen toolkit, and how to set up an effective federated citizen development model.