Citizen Development Program: Enabling Citizen Developers

Content By Devops .com

In part one of this series, we made the case for embracing citizen developers to close the developer demand-supply gap while delivering true business agility. We outlined the foundational elements that are consistent across successful citizen development programs: 1) adopting a low-code application platform, 2) embracing the citizen development journey and 3) marketing (internally) citizen development successes.

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We also discussed finding the right citizen developers – individuals with the right aptitude and attitude to be successful building applications using low-code tools. Now that we have identified the right use cases and the ideal citizen developer, we will focus on the key decisions for enabling (and empowering) citizen developers.

Enabling (and Empowering) Citizen Development

To enable citizen developers, you must focus on the individual and set them up for success through training, support, and recognition. Empowerment addresses the citizen development process, the life cycle of an application and, more importantly, reducing the organizational friction associated with both.

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As you look to build out a citizen development enablement program, you need to answer the following questions about training, support and recognition of your citizen developers:

  • Training
    • What is the training curriculum for citizen developers? Do learning paths differ based on developer category?
    • Is there organization-specific content that needs to be included in the training? If so, who owns the creation and maintenance of that content?
    • How will developer proficiency be assessed?
  • Support
    • How will citizen developers obtain ongoing support?
    • Will you schedule office hours hosted by subject matter experts?
    • Will there be an online community?
    • Will citizen developers be aligned with a specific SME / pro developer?
    • How quickly do you want to scale the program?
    • What are the appropriate checkpoints / milestones associated with scale?
  • Recognition
    • Will you formally recognize training accomplishments? Perhaps though gamification via badges?
    • How will you track, celebrate and reward successful applications?
    • Does demonstrated competency equate to increased developer access?

It is important to remember that the role of “citizen developer” is frequently an additional responsibility beyond an individual’s day job. As such, it is critical to educate them, support them and celebrate their wins in order to ensure success.

In order to empower your citizen developers, you need to consider both the application development process and the overall application life cycle. You need to answer the following questions about the process and the life cycle:

  • Application Development Process
    • What is the overall objective for citizen development? What metrics will you use to track progress?
    • Does each application require a separate approval or are developers, once approved, able to build multiple applications?
    • What are the technical standards and best practices specific to your organization?
    • What is your development process? Who has authority over development, testing and deployment?
    • Is your core development team / center of excellence structured, resourced and funded to support citizen development?
    • How will citizen developers and pro coders collaborate on applications?
  • Application Life Cycle
    • What is your application intake process? Who evaluates new app requests for platform fit, redundancy, cost, etc.?
    • Once an application is moved to production, who is responsible for the ongoing support and maintenance?
    • What is your process for rationalizing and deprecating applications?

As low-code platforms continue to evolve, the capabilities that facilitate the collaboration between the citizen developer and the pro coders are critical to deliver a successful application. It is not uncommon for a pro coder to collaborate with a citizen developer to deliver the last 5% to 10% of an application’s necessary functionality.

We have identified the right use cases and the right citizen developers in part one. We have enabled and empowered the citizen developers in part two. In part three of this series, we will explore establishing technical guardrails to protect the platform from the citizen developers, and the citizen developers from each other.


This post is the second in a three-part series that provides real-world insights on delivering business value from citizen development initiatives.

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