Pluryn took their development needs into their own hands by mobilizing citizen development fusion teams. Here's the steps they took, the success they're experiencing, and their top tips.
As Manager Business Analyst at Pluryn, a leading Dutch healthcare organization, Thomas Geelkerken always struggled with the traditional mindset of his role.
According to Thomas, “IT departments are having a hard time bridging the gap in the relationship with the business. The ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ mentality isn’t working and I was also stuck in that client/supplier relationship.”
A citizen development solution
Thomas has a heart for the Healthcare sector and wants to positively impact people’s lives with technology. He started looking into a new way of working because he was tired of digital solutions that didn’t truly benefit employees or clients. One common factor in this misalignment is that IT departments aren't always the best starting point for technology tools when they’re not the end-users.
“I believe that truly great ideas come from within the organization, from those working with our clients who may not necessarily have strong technical skills. So, why not give them an instrument to help their ideas get translated into a working digital solution?”
Citizen development with the Betty Blocks low-code/no-code platform was the instrument he discovered would leverage the knowledge and expertise of those closest to the clients.
Locating citizen developers
Thomas started building an idea backlog based on topics with a clear gap between what the organization wanted and the available technology. He also inspired people to the value of low-code/no-code apps developed by their own client experts instead of the IT department or outsourced agencies. When people began responding enthusiastically, he selected citizen developers to work alongside professional developers on a fusion team. He’s determined that ideal citizen development candidates in his organization have these characteristics:
- Work closely with clients or the topics being addressed
- Have ideas for solutions and background knowledge to support them
- Business-minded and tech-savvy with analytical skills
- Enthusiasm for developing new solutions to help the organization
- Interest in learning no-code and citizen development skills
- Persistence to develop the solution as much as they can
Establishing a fusion team
Thomas doesn’t expect citizen developers will always be able to fully develop an advanced application. The real benefit is when they can build as much as they are able to on the Betty Blocks platform, for example, up to 80% of the app. Then, an experienced developer can finish the work. This saves time and keeps a resource-intensive project off of the IT backlog so the solution is delivered much faster.
“The IT department will end up having a smaller role because they won’t need to invest that much time into really learning and understanding the topic and what needs to be done. Even with 40% completed, you have enough to understand the idea behind it. So thoughts align and you can search together for the right value.”
Rapid development and improved collaboration
Thomas’ fusion team has been able to deploy four advanced, self-built applications in as many months. One of their first solutions was deployed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Within one month, the fusion team built a customized application to digitize the organization’s purchasing department. Their speed of working was absolutely critical as the app helped deliver personal protection equipment (PPE) to Pluryn’s frontline workers and clients. It’s been so successful in saving the organization’s time and money that they are now extending it to optimize purchasing and distribution for their entire equipment inventory.
Each additional app developed by the fusion team has furthered the organization’s digital transformation. Staff and clients have developed new skills by using the platform and applications.
Moreover, the solutions have resulted in a better way of working that ultimately improves client care. As an added benefit, Thomas has noticed the relationship between the IT department and the organization is much stronger.
“You quickly see a difference because you’ve made something collaboratively. The business no longer has to ask, ‘Can I do this or that’? Instead, IT is asking, ‘What would you like it to do?’ Because now we have a great tool with Betty Blocks that enables people to think about what they really want and need.”
Better ways of working
Even the process of IT security and data privacy has been positively impacted by the citizen development fusion team. The nature of their work requires open and honest communication. From the very beginning of the project, Thomas meets with stakeholders to discuss the data requirements for the applications. IT preps the data sets, which always start with only what’s absolutely necessary for the project. Then the fusion team can begin working in a safe and secure way.
“I also get energy from the freedom we have with citizen development but it comes with a certain amount of responsibility on our part, too. My approach is to talk about it plainly, and be transparent on why we use it and why we shouldn't use it.”
Although sometimes difficult, these talks have nurtured trust and inclusion within the organization. “Working within the healthcare system, I’ve learned a lot from people on the front lines about inclusion – how to involve people and also to include them. It's a complex process, but in the end it's more sustainable.”
A continued process
Heading into 2022, Thomas is working to scale up the possibilities for his citizen development fusion team. Pluryn is partnering with Premium Development Support (PDS), a team of Betty Blocks developers who will help the fusion team grow their no-code capabilities. Thomas also plans to expand the organization’s Citizen Development community by making the Betty Blocks’ digital ideation portal accessible to everyone in the organization.
While the fusion team has only been working for half a year, Thomas has been improving IT operations throughout his career. Citizen development has been a major milestone on this journey and he has this advice for others taking their first steps down the same path:
- Try to gain top-level buy-in from the very beginning. It’s best when you have the trust of the C-suite so they invest in the vision and a no-code platform that will empower citizen developers.
- Then, go find good topics, challenges, or use cases in the organization. The main driver of success in Betty Blocks is finding the right concepts where there’s a clear gap between the organization and the technology.
- Next, inspire people to the possibilities. Talk about the concept with people who will experience a difference with the app. When you pitch the concept for the buy-in you should make the presentation a mix of digging into the issues it will solve and inspiration.
- Always, use the right wording for the audience. The way you talk about challenges and solutions can make or break the use case. Using relatable, concrete wording reveals if you really understand who will be impacted and how they will experience the solution.