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Why Should a Project Manager Care About Citizen Development?

project management technology trackvia Feb 28, 2022
Why Should a Project Manager Care About Citizen Development?

We demonstrated the value of a Project Manager becoming a Citizen Developer, in the blog titled, “Project Manager: The Next Great Citizen Developer”. Now we want to provide you more information on how leveraging the Citizen Development Framework can add value to the projects you are leading.

IT Overload Causing Delays

As you are gathering requirements from your stakeholders while leading a project, you realize that in order to bring the scope of this project to life, you need to incorporate technology.  You would like to provide as much value to the organization as quickly as you can.  Based upon this, you believe that taking an agile approach would be best.

You have worked with your IT department on a number of projects in the past.  Those IT team members always produce great results!  However, the IT team is very busy with larger initiatives. You proposed your idea to the IT team and they have told you it will take a minimum of 10+ months to create an application that will fit your needs and another two to get fully implemented. That’s a year for you to wait on your solution, possibly causing the need to be outdated before it’s even finished. 

Upon speaking with the project sponsor, you uncover the fact that rather than developing the technology component from scratch, that it might be possible to leverage existing software (that requires little to no coding experience) to create the initial solution.  You also learned that he/she has a team member that has good experience with this software.

With all this information in hand, the question is; what should you do now?

Enter Citizen Development

Given the scenario described above, at this point in the project, you determine that this project can get started using Citizen Development principles that will help not only to create the solution, but ensure delivery and adoption.

What is Citizen Development?  

Think of the Citizen Development project management approach similar to Scrum.  However, instead of developing new software from scratch, the team will focus on delivering value with cloud based Low-Code/ No-Code applications.

The Project Management Institute calls this Citizen Development project management approach to a software delivery life cycle, Hyper-Agile SDLC.  “The Hyper-Agile SDLC is an end-to-end process for developing and delivering applications of varying risk and complexity into an organization using citizen development. It is the characteristic of a citizen development end-to-end process for developing and delivering applications into an organization.” (Citizen Development—The Handbook for Creators and Changemakers, 2021, Page 30)


Leveraging The Hyper-Agile SDLC

Again, building upon the principles of the Scrum Framework, many simple, yet powerful, apps can be designed, built, tested, and deployed by “Citizen Developers” with a low/no-code platform. Like working on sprint goals, low/no-code platforms can enable quick implementation of applications to be able to evaluate solutions and ultimately make it easier to implement needed modifications. 

The solution created could be the final outcome of the project or maybe it is used to create and deliver a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).  This MVP, could be a simple no-code app that would provide that initial value to the business quickly. Once the organization has seen that initial value, further iterations of the application could implement more complex solution sets, each iteration just as quick and easy to implement as the first. If necessary, a more complex build that can be tested in a sandbox environment before deployment. The key here is you’ll be able to maintain a timeline and control of the project with an easy to use, low/no-code solution that your team can easily learn how to use. 

IT Approvals and Control 

One of the biggest concerns that IT departments and organizations have with Citizen Development is what is commonly known as “Shadow IT”.  Shadow IT is the use of information technology systems, devices, software applications, and services without explicit IT department approval. (Forcepoint)

The Hyper-Agile Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) provides processes and tools that guard against Shadow IT.  The process involves the IT Organization working WITH the business and it’s Citizen Developers.  The IT departments would be a key partner in:

  1. Ensuring the proposed projects are good candidates for Citizen Development
  2. Protecting the organization from harmful events (external hacking, service availability, etc)
  3. Guiding Citizen Developers with technical requirements and supporting publish-worthy applications

In the above scenario you’ve already discussed the initial project with IT, so get them involved in the beginning and let them know you’d like to use the low/no-code software your company already has in place, or you know of an LCNC platform that could be used. They would likely agree that for your solution it might work best and help you with any needed integrations for data transfers if needed. 

But in a matter where IT wasn’t initially involved, look to engage them early on, especially if you are pulling data from other ERP, organizational software, or network systems. IT can provide you the necessary information to get things integrated correctly and often help you decide what permissions or access should be made available. 

Managing a Citizen Development Project

As a Project Manager, leading a Citizen Development project, you would follow the Hyper-Agile SDLC and leverage tools like the Project Concept Worksheet, the Suitability Scorecard, a Risk Assessment, and a Technical Assessment to ensure the project is a good fit for Citizen Development and to select the proper SDLC path.

If it is established that Citizen Development is a good fit for your project, there are guidelines for “Ideation 2.0”, organizational change management as well as transitioning to support.

Let us again return to our real-world scenario.  Working collaboratively with your sponsor and stakeholders, you developed a Product Vision Board.  That will act as the team’s North Star. It informs and influences everything from who is engaged and to what extent, how the application will fit in the wider landscape, what requirements are captured in the backlog, and what the build priorities are.

You just ended a meeting with your team and you shared this Vision Board.  All participants provided thoughts that were captured in another tool called an Ideation Board.  The team goes back to their usual duties and meets again in the afternoon.  When the team returns, a few hours later, they do so to a reasonable working application that was created by the Citizen Developer from the business who had experience with the Low-Code/No-Code application.  This product can now be demonstrated and feedback captured, and it is ready for the next iteration of improvement.  You don’t need to wait, weeks or months to iterate. Modifications can often be made in near real-time, making the session even more valuable.

This is an example of how Citizen Development works.  It is easy to see that we can bring value to the organization very quickly.  And this is the primary reason why we believe a Project Manager SHOULD care about Citizen Development.

Call to Action

So with this knowledge in hand, what should you do next?

  1. Become more aware of Citizen Development.  You could Google the topic, but I highly recommend you visit this PMI website: the “Citizen Development; The Handbook for Creators and Change Makers” book and do a little reading.  
    1. If you are a member of PMI, you can download it for free  HERE.
    2. If you are NOT a member of PMI, you can acquire a copy  HERE.
  2. Complete the “PMI Citizen Developer Practitioner” course.  I know it may sound as if we work for PMI, but another recommendation is to sign up for the PMI Citizen Developer Practitioner course.  You will learn about the process that we have mentioned many times and you will be given tools (templates) to assist you as a Project Manager. It has been a game changer for many and we think this will help you too. 
  3. Learn one of the Low-Code/No-Code solutions.  With this knowledge, you too will become a Citizen Developer.  Leveraging your knowledge to improve our project management solutions.  With the knowledge of working with this tool, you can also coach and mentor others.  There are many of these software applications on the market. 

By Rich Weller and Roger Moffat