5 Questions to Ask Before Launching Your Citizen Development Strategy

askcitizendevelopment (1)Good strategy requires clear objectives, so that’s always a good place to start before introducing something new into your organization. As a CIO or IT professional, maybe you're already convinced of the benefits of citizen development and ready to get it moving. But where to start first? What is your vision for citizen development within your organization? What do you hope to achieve with citizen developers and a no- or low-code platform?

It is likely that many people in your organization will not yet be familiar with citizen development, and more still will need to be convinced of not only its value, but also its viability. You'll have to convince them of the "why" for your pursuit of citizen development in order to educate, generate support, and keep an overall vision central for all stakeholders.

Maybe it's basic, but start by addressing the who, what, where, when and how to lay the groundwork for a citizen developer initiative.

Who are your citizen developers?

Take inventory of who within your organization will be operating as a citizen developer. Are they already self-aware, or do you need to recruit known power users or business developers to the cause? Either way, make sure it is clear who will have, first, clarity on what is expected of them, and of course, access and rights to the necessary tools.

Where (in which department(s)) will there be citizen developers operating?

How are you going to structure citizen development activity? Depending on your organization, you might have designated citizen developers in  one or more departments or business units.

Organizations that have launched successful citizen development strategies tend to roll out new technologies to facilitate citizen development on a small scale first, for example within one department, and growth is scaled outward as it spreads to adjacent departments gradually.

How will apps be developed by citizen developers?

The ideal citizen developer strategy will provide a single, unified platform on which all citizen development activity will be done. This eliminates the risk of having many untrackable, unmonitored Excel spreadsheets or other end-user created applications from LotusNotes or Access and so on running throughout the organization.

In addition to the technology platform, there are existing ways of working within your organization as a whole, and as development teams more granularly. In the age of big data security is always a concern, but military, finance, healthcare and other government sectors are governed by strict processes that ensure due process and protocol throughout their organizations. An effective citizen development strategy has to operate within these existing frameworks.

If the application development and delivery teams are already operating along a common way of working, citizen developers should be encouraged to adopt those practices. Think Agile, DevOps, continuous integration and delivery, etc. Citizen development will be more quickly established when it follows the existing workflow and protocols of an organization.

The desired outcome is a common way of working for all citizen developers. This ensures accountability, transparency, and of course, the uniformity and organization that enables monitoring and governance.


When will citizen developers contribute to application delivery?

It is important to determine how you will you prioritize which applications will be built by citizen developers, and also to set guidelines as to the expectations for citizen developer output. Will departmental workflow apps have priority, or customer-facing ones? How much of a citizen developer’s time should be allocated for application development and delivery, considering that it is probably not their primary role?


What types of apps will citizen developers build?

There are several approaches you can take to delegate the types of applications that fall to the responsibility of citizen developers, in order to implement more structure. One approach is to mobilize citizen developers around single departmental or business unit applications. You could also delegate applications of a particular type, like database or reporting apps, to citizen developers.

If your organization plans to use citizen developers primarily to develop prototypes, you should clearly chart a path for the journey from MVP to enterprise grade. In this case, citizen developer apps will need to be transferred to IT at a defined point.


The thread that connects these strategic pillars is the platform citizen developers will use to develop applications. That platform will serve as a gatekeeper that can be controlled and governed by an organization’s AD&D department, who can keep the wheels turning smoothly (“How to Harness Citizen Developers to Expand Your AD&D Capacity,” Forrester research, 2017). 

To learn more about how citizen development fits into your organization, read our guide here.