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Digital Transformation, Low-Code/No-Code and the Citizen Developer

pmo project management strategy technology trackvia Aug 18, 2021
Digital Transformation, Low-Code/No-Code and the Citizen Developer

For at least 10 years I have heard that digital transformation (DT) is coming. As Google defines it, “Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. This reimagining of business in the digital age is digital transformation.”  

But as I see it, and many other agree, It isn’t coming…. it is here!  

It came in March 2020 when the world suddenly had to work from home.  

Leaders were forced to adjust the way they work and as a result have discovered that business objectives can still be achieved in the digital world, in many cases, faster and with less cost.  Based upon these lessons learned, businesses will continue to make the adjustments to the full extent of DT over the course of the next few years.

One of the hallmarks of DT is that all those non-digital, “office” processes, will be changed.  The industry talks about 500 million apps that will be created over the next 3-5 years and only enough programmers in the world to do about 80% of them. (Satya Nadall, Inspire 2019 & Gartner 6/21/2021)  

Citizens who live in the paper forms, emails, spreadsheets and online shareable documents that end up being the back-bone of existing processes, are those who are most qualified to modify those processes.  Thus, the increased activity around Low-code/no-code (LCNC) development tools and the need for a framework to utilize those tools outside of the traditional IT department.  These citizen developers (CDs) are now armed with LCNC tools and are hungry and empowered to make change!

As project managers you have worked with these early citizen developers before.  But more recently with more than 250-400 different LCNC tools on the market, you are going to be working in these platforms and with citizen developers even more.  They may start out automating a simple process or workflow but will soon be doing ever increasing complex processes as they become the subject matter experts of the tools.

Does IT embrace these CDs?  Tolerate them?  Fear them?  Depending on the culture of the company, probably one if not all three of those attitudes arise for sure.  What they fear the most is shadow IT—people who build and access corporate assets without IT’s knowledge and without regard for digital security and resource consumption.  As LCNC software vendors mitigate those fears, IT will and should increasingly turn to CDs as a way of taking care of an infinite backlog of application development requests.

IT departments everywhere are creating methods of managing the CDs or pragmatizing a structure.  Citizen Development Programs are on the rise—at TrackVia, we have worked with a dozen companies in the past year, that are organizing their citizen developers to work with IT so they are not in the shadows.  As a PMI Gold Tier Technology partner, TrackVia is also well versed in helping companies establish citizen development within organizations. Helping to create smart admins and low/no-code developers that will help the digital transformation thrive. 

The Project Management Institute (PMI) recently launched certifications around a methodology of Citizen Development programs within corporations.  Having a standard and some base level expectations and processes is potentially every bit as important as the original digital transformation. Through the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, PMI has held the role of “agent of change” within Corporate America and brought standard processes and a common language across all businesses.  With the new Citizen Developer programs, PMI is again providing insight, knowledge and governance related to CDs and thus creating a common platform that will provide value to all individuals and businesses.