Citizen Developers: How to Rein in the Chaos

This post is part of our continuing series, Your Guide to a Successful Digital Transformation.

Your digital transformation journey is likely to rely on citizen developers, the “business” employees who create custom applications to make their own work easier or for others to use. To provide control of critical data and processes without limiting the innovation capabilities of your citizen developers, consider these seven areas as you develop your organization’s Citizen Developer program.

  1. Licensing. Your citizen developers are likely to request licenses to all of the available applications – from RPA developer licenses to intelligent OCR developers – because they are engaged and passionate about the automation opportunities they envision. The cost of purchasing licenses can add up quickly, so you will need to create standards for how licenses are issued, monitored and managed. For higher functionality licenses, an elevation path will help control infrastructure costs. For example, you can broadly distribute PowerAutomate, which is free with Windows 10 or greater, while reserving more expensive licenses for products like UIPath/Blue Prism/Automation Anywhere for your RPA power users who have proven their commitment through use of PowerAutomate.
  2. Transformation Security Zones. While digital transformation has fantastic benefits, it does introduce a new element of risk that reports, automations, or bots will be poorly designed or generate incorrect data or results. One way to address this risk is to classify areas and processes that require additional review and approval processes prior to the implementation of an automation activity. For example, the safety incident management process could be classified as a Restricted Zone that requires elevated testing and approval prior to implementation.
  3. Training. Develop a process to continuously train and improve on the knowledge base of your citizen developers. One or two kickoff trainings will help people obtain a basic understanding of what the new technology enablers are capable of, but building that knowledge base must be ongoing, especially due to the rapidly evolving state of deployable capabilities.
  4. Change Control Board. As data, automation, and bots beyond those for personal use are developed, maintain a list of deployed automations, key stakeholders, a summary of the function of the data, automation, or bot and requests to be issued to change the existing functionality.
  5. Developer Repo. Many components of functionality are re-used across the organization. These include consolidating Excel files, extracting data from PDFs, and generating notifications based on some kind of triggering event. Consider developing a repository to house some of these high-utilization items for your organization so that your citizen developers do not have to continually re-invent the wheel.
  6. Data Dictionary. One of the most effective tools for your citizen developers is creating a data dictionary that outlines what data is available, where it can be found, and which key fields relate across sources and tables. This compilation will help confirm that everyone is using the right information as the basis of their activities.
  7. Data Security. Identifying which security rights are required to access data is a great addition to the data dictionary. Sometimes a citizen developer will start a development process and run into a limitation because the data is not available at his or her security level. This roadblock can lead to frustration because it can feel like wasted effort. Making security requirements readily available will enable these considerations to be easily incorporated into the design process before investing significant effort. This security level should also consider an “anonymization process” in which data at the detailed level may be highly restricted (e.g., employee records) but an anonymized data set (e.g., count of employees by geographic region) can be distributed.

For information about how we can assist in your organization’s digital transformation, contact us. We are here to help.

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What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is the concept of understanding the interrelation of People, Processes, and Technology and identifying where technology can enhance processes.