The demand for rapid innovation and streamlined processes has never been higher. A fascinating trend emerging from this need is the rise of the citizen developer—a term that has become a buzzword in organizations across the globe. According to a recent Gartner report, by 2025, 65% of all app development activity will be undertaken by citizen developers. But who are these new-age innovators, and why are they so crucial to modern businesses?

As organizations worldwide recognize the untapped potential within their workforce, the question arises: how do we effectively upskill our employees to become citizen developers? Unlocking this potential requires a strategic approach, from identifying the right candidates to providing the necessary tools and training.

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What is Citizen Developer?

Citizen developers are non-IT employees who leverage no-code or low-code platforms to create business applications, automate workflows, and solve problems without traditional programming skills. This democratization of software development is not just a passing fad; it is a transformative movement reshaping the workplace. Originating from the necessity to bridge the gap between IT capabilities and business needs, citizen development empowers employees to take the reins of innovation.

Why has this movement gained such momentum? The benefits are clear. Companies that embrace citizen development see remarkable improvements in efficiency, agility, and cost savings. Employees become more engaged and invested in their work, transforming into problem solvers and innovators. This shift not only accelerates digital transformation but also alleviates the overburdened IT departments. Thus, allowing for a more collaborative and dynamic work environment.

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Upskilling your employees is a must, not a want

Upskilling your employees is not just a nice-to-have—it is a critical necessity. The rapid advancement of technology and the evolving demands of the market mean that staying static is simply not an option. Employees need to adapt quickly to these changes to remain relevant. By investing in upskilling, you ensure that your workforce is equipped with the latest skills and knowledge to handle new challenges and opportunities. In fact, a study by the World Economic Forum suggests that by 2025, 50% of all employees will need reskilling due to technological advancements.

Here’s why upskilling is imperative for any forward-thinking organization:

The Imperative of Upskilling

The digital revolution has fundamentally transformed the way businesses operate. New tools, platforms, and processes emerge almost daily. Keeping pace with these changes requires a workforce that is continually learning and adapting. Upskilling employees ensures they remain relevant and effective, allowing them to leverage the latest technologies to drive innovation and efficiency. According to a report by McKinsey, 87% of executives say they are experiencing skills gaps in the workforce or expect them within a few years.

The Cost of Complacency

Ignoring the need to upskill your workforce can have dire consequences. Without ongoing training and development, employees can quickly become obsolete, leading to decreased productivity and a drop in morale. This stagnation can also result in higher turnover rates as employees seek opportunities where they can grow and develop their skills. Moreover, companies that fail to invest in their employees may struggle to keep up with competitors who are more agile and innovative, ultimately losing market share and profitability.

Fueling Growth Through Upskilling

Investing in employee development, particularly in enabling them to become citizen developers, is a powerful catalyst for company growth. Upskilled employees can take on new challenges, develop custom solutions, and streamline processes, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement, organizations not only enhance their operational capabilities but also encourage a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Upskilling your employees is an essential strategy for any organization that aims to thrive in today’s dynamic business environment. It is not just about keeping up—it is about staying ahead.

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Why Upskilling with Citizen Development Program?

Empowering employees to become citizen developers means they can create and implement applications tailored to the unique needs of the business without heavy reliance on IT departments. This democratization of technology fosters innovation from all levels of the organization, leading to more agile and responsive business practices. For example, a company that upskills its employees in no-code development can quickly adapt to market changes, launch new products, and improve customer experiences faster than its competitors.

Here is why this approach is vital for modern businesses:

Bridging the Skills Gap

The rapid pace of technological advancement has created a significant skills gap in many industries. Traditional IT departments often struggle to keep up with the growing demand for new applications and process automation. By upskilling employees through a citizen development program, companies can bridge this gap efficiently. Employees across various departments can leverage low-code and no-code platforms to develop applications, reducing the reliance on overstretched IT resources and accelerating the innovation cycle.

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Enhancing Agility and Responsiveness

Citizen development empowers employees to quickly create and deploy solutions tailored to their specific needs without waiting for lengthy development cycles. This capability allows organizations to respond swiftly to market changes, customer demands, and internal challenges.

Fostering Innovation and Engagement

Citizen development democratizes innovation by enabling employees at all levels to contribute to the organization’s technological evolution. When employees are given the tools and training to develop their own solutions, they become more engaged and invested in their work. This empowerment fosters a culture of innovation where ideas can be tested and implemented quickly, leading to a more dynamic and creative workplace.

Cost Efficiency and Resource Optimization

Traditional software development is often time-consuming and expensive, requiring significant investment in skilled developers and lengthy project timelines. Citizen development, on the other hand, offers a cost-effective alternative. By training existing employees to use low-code and no-code platforms, organizations can reduce development costs and optimize their resources. This approach not only cuts down on expenses but also speeds up the development process, allowing for quicker deployment of solutions.

Supporting Digital Transformation

A successful digital transformation strategy hinges on the ability to innovate and adapt continuously. Citizen development aligns perfectly with this objective by equipping employees with the skills to drive digital initiatives. Whether it is automating workflows, creating custom applications, or integrating disparate systems, citizen developers play a crucial role in advancing an organization’s digital agenda. This internal capability enhances the overall digital maturity of the company, making it more competitive and resilient in the face of technological disruption.

Enhance Your Company Efficiency with Citizen Developers

Citizen developers are a game-changer when it comes to boosting company efficiency. They bring a unique blend of business acumen and technological empowerment, allowing them to create solutions tailored precisely to their needs.

The beauty of citizen development lies in its ability to democratize innovation. Employees across various departments can take charge of their own workflow improvements, leading to a more agile and responsive organization.

Moreover, citizen developers help alleviate the burden on IT departments, which are often swamped with a backlog of projects. By taking on some of the development workload, they enable IT professionals to focus on more complex and critical tasks. This collaboration between citizen developers and IT fosters a more efficient use of resources, ensuring that technological advancements are implemented swiftly and effectively across the organization.

Cost savings are another notable benefit. Traditional software development can be expensive and time-consuming, often requiring external consultants and long development cycles. Citizen developers, on the other hand, use existing resources to create cost-effective solutions quickly. This not only saves money but also accelerates the deployment of new tools and applications, keeping the company ahead of the competition.

How to Identify Potentials for Citizen Developers

Identifying potentials for citizen developers is about recognizing the trailblazers within your organization—those who possess the curiosity, creativity, and drive to leverage technology as a catalyst for positive change. By nurturing and supporting these individuals, organizations can unlock a wealth of untapped potential, driving innovation and transformation from within.

Identifying potential citizen developers within an organization involves a keen eye for individuals who possess a unique blend of skills, traits, and motivations. These emerging tech-savvy problem solvers often exhibit a natural curiosity, always intrigued by the inner workings of systems and eager to explore innovative solutions. They are the creative minds who see inefficiencies as challenges waiting to be conquered, bringing fresh perspectives and outside-the-box thinking to the table.

Effective citizen developers are not only adept at navigating technology but also excel in communication, bridging the gap between technical complexities and practical applications. Their adaptability shines as they embrace the ever-evolving landscape of digital tools and techniques, embodying a spirit of continuous learning and growth. Crucially, they are self-starters, driven by a passion for improvement and a desire to make a tangible difference within their organization.

While not necessarily professional programmers, they possess a foundation of basic technical skills and are eager to expand their capabilities through training and support. Recognizing these individuals requires fostering a culture that values initiative and innovation, providing opportunities for them to shine and empowering them with the resources needed to thrive.

Questions to Ask Before Starting with Citizen Development Upskilling Program

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

1. Is your company ready?

Evaluate Current Skills and Needs: Conduct a skills assessment to understand the current capabilities of your employees and identify gaps. Determine which areas of the business could benefit most from citizen development.

Gauge Interest and Gather Support: Engage with employees to gauge their interest in citizen development. Secure buy-in from key stakeholders, including leadership, to ensure the program has the necessary support and resources.

2. Is your objective clear?

Set Specific Goals: Clearly define what you aim to achieve with the program. This could include increasing process efficiency, fostering innovation, reducing IT backlog, or enhancing employee engagement.

Align with Business Strategy: Ensure the objectives align with the broader business strategy and goals. This alignment will help in securing support and resources from leadership.

3. Have you chosen the right low-code or no-code platforms to start with?

Choose the right low-code or no-code platforms and tools that suit your organization’s needs.

4. What is the training program be like?

Design Training Modules: Create a structured training curriculum. They have to cover the basics of the chosen tools, principles of application development, and best practices. Include practical exercises and real-world examples.

Incorporate Multiple Learning Formats: Offer a mix of learning formats, such as online courses, workshops, webinars, and hands-on projects, to cater to different learning styles.

Some Strategic Approach to Note

Take a good look around your organization and see where things stand. Are people comfortable with technology? What are the pain points that could use a tech boost? Talk to your colleagues and gauge their interest in learning new skills. This initial assessment will help you understand the current skill levels and where the biggest opportunities lie.

Next, get clear on what you want to achieve. Are you looking to streamline certain processes or foster a culture of innovation? or maybe reduce the backlog for your IT department? Having clear goals will guide your planning. Make sure these goals align with the broader business strategy, so everyone sees the value right away.

Start small with a pilot program. Choose a diverse group of enthusiastic participants from different departments. This way, you can test out the program, gather feedback, and make improvements before rolling it out on a larger scale.

Support is crucial, so set up a robust system. Create an online forum or community where citizen developers can ask questions, share tips, and collaborate. Organize regular meetups, hackathons, or knowledge-sharing sessions to keep the momentum going. Mentorship programs can also be a great way to provide ongoing guidance and encouragement.

Finally, keep track of progress and be ready to iterate. Measure how many employees get trained, the impact of their projects, and gather feedback. Use this data to refine the program continuously.

By following these steps, you will build a vibrant, empowered community of citizen developers who can drive innovation and transformation across your organization. And remember, keep it fun and engaging – after all, learning new skills should be an exciting adventure!

Written by: Kezia Nadira