Basic app building with no-code can be learned in a couple days of training. That’s not the hard part. The lack of framework to empower citizen developers to transition from ideas to implementing value-driven apps is what often keeps organizations from realizing the full benefits of low-code/no-code (LCNC) development.
In our first article in this series on fusion teams, we discussed why citizen development is here to stay and how fusion teams can help you ensure this way of working continues to benefit your organization. If you’ve read this far you’re probably interested in assembling a fusion team or, as we are seeing more often, your organization has launched one already. So, we’ve put together our best practices for ensuring your fusion team is fully capable of low-code/no-code development, based on our clients’ success stories.
Find the right use case
Before you even assemble your fusion team, you should identify an initial business use case for citizen development. This pioneer project will help shape your fusion team, so that’s why it’s the first step on this journey. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re selecting a good business use case:
- Keep it simple - the first project shouldn’t require extensive integration that will involve many stakeholders and intensive coordination. Also, avoid use cases with significant security implications.
- Keep it relevant - find a problem that is a big pain point for many people in the organization. That way, you’ll gain more traction with the positive outcome.
In short, find a low-effort use case that can make a high impact. We often point our customers to applications that will replace spreadsheets, automate processes, or improve the functionality of legacy systems. Consider projects that will provide a front-end portal to a new or existing system or facilitate back-office administration. As your team progresses and establishes a practice of design thinking, your following use cases will continue to be relevant and value-adding.
Get the squad together
Once you have a business use case, you can start putting together the team that’s the best equipped to take up that particular challenge. We’ve already covered in our first article of this series that people who are proactive about solving problems in the business have the right mindset for a citizen development fusion team. But what about the necessary skill sets? Of course, the roles of your fusion team members can vary according to the business use case, but here’s a list of the kinds of fusion team roles that you will typically need to fill:
Those close to the business challenge (domain experts) who will develop applications with your no-code platform to add true business value. While they can come from any area of the organization, they’re generally people who rely on analytics or technology for their work and are interested in finding ways to improve their job performance or efficiency. They don’t need to have any traditional IT or coding background (i.e. no-coders).
- Product owner
Own specific apps and will focus on drawing out the functionalities and guiding app development by compiling acceptance criteria/stories.
Understand the bigger picture from a technology perspective and provide guidance and technical leadership.
- UX designer
Ensure good design principles are implemented and guide important design decisions.
Ensure quality and reliability of apps using tools for automated tests, performance and load testing.
Train your no-coders how to build applications.
- Team lead or Scrum Master
Enable the team to build and deploy quickly by coordinating work and encouraging agile practices.
- IT pro/admin
Although they do not always need to be included as official team members, your IT professionals and admins are essential assets to your fusion team. They will lead the governance, compliance, and maintenance of apps across the organization.
- Experienced developer (optional)
Capable of building custom components in case the citizen developers want to add more advanced features that will require coding.
Hit the first milestone
Now that you have your team ready to tackle their business use case, you should consider how much time they’ll require before they can show good results. We find that when organizations determine that low-code development doesn’t work, it’s often because of misaligned expectations. When Betty Blocks consults with a new client, we help them to map out a strategy that will lead their citizen developers to their first success milestone. When fusion team members dedicate approximately 8 hours per week to training in LCNC app development, we see that they’re already able to show value within 8 weeks.
For example, one of our clients wanted to prove the potential for truly value-adding citizen development. Their citizen developer, a business employee who didn’t have an IT background, built an application that was reviewed by their experienced developer. After dedicating approximately one day a week to training for two months, the citizen developer managed all of the app development and afterwards the experienced developer was able to add custom components. As such, the citizen developer clearly demonstrated the knowledge and capabilities for nearly self-sufficient app development.
Commit to a creative learning environment
That brings us to another essential element to the success of your fusion team. In addition to dedicated time for training and developing apps, they need an atmosphere that’s conducive to citizen development. We’re not going to mislead you; this part can be a real sticking point. It involves a vision for citizen development being embraced at the highest levels of the company and it will invariably result in a shift in company culture based on a new way of working.
But, don’t worry, this doesn’t need to happen all at once. These adaptations can be incremental and usually become easier as your capable fusion team continues to demonstrate their success and value for the business.
The first shift for many companies in the way of working comes down to creating a continuous learning environment that transforms problem-owners into creative problem-solvers. Your fusion team will initially require knowledge and guidance through the phases of the development cycle. They’ll need coaching to help them identify viable business-use cases and make the right decisions that will lead to secure, value-adding applications that integrate seamlessly into the existing IT system.
Training capable developers means giving them opportunities to get-hands on with the tools and giving them space to fail, re-evaluate, and try again. This isn’t a mindset that comes naturally for many in the business environment so it might involve an adjustment period.
Your LCNC platform provider should help your organization design personal learning paths targeted to the skills and needs of each team member. Consequently, your organization will need to invest in intensive employee learning and development that won’t immediately impact the bottom line. The outcome that we see from companies that fully embrace this investment is that they reduce their IT backlog, prevent shadow IT, and increase their overall resilience and agility as an organization. Ultimately, they cultivate a culture of learning, creativity and innovation.
Next stop: a better way of working
That’s a major milestone on the journey to something much bigger. It’s tapping into a workforce potential that Deloitte says “is not about what workers were recruited to do, or what they are certified to do, or even what organizations or leaders want them to do next. It’s about giving workers more freedom to choose how they can best help tackle critical business problems as organizations and ecosystems evolve.1”
As citizen development expands across business operations, these companies are then able to catalyze creativity and learning throughout the organization. According to Forrester, “The power of creativity as an ‘operating principle’ is that it applies everywhere and costs almost nothing extra. Creativity doesn’t mean more people; rather, it means empowered individuals and teams thinking and working differently2.”
Low-code/no-code development platforms are certainly having a moment right now. Chances are, you’ve already got access to Appsheet or Power Apps through your current licenses. But it’s important to keep in mind that these are just tools. We believe that true citizen development is ultimately a transformation.
It’s a different way of approaching challenges and managing people. It’s boldly empowering your problem-owners to become problem-solvers and then stepping back with the peace of mind that your governance is working for you. If that sounds like something that you’d like to see happen in your organization, stay tuned for our next part of this series on adapting and scaling citizen development.