Citizen development is an ever increasing asset for companies that want to maintain or gain competitive advantage in today’s business environment. With advances in technology, and partnerships with IT to focus on the goals of the business for the best outcome, this can become a win / win situation. But left unchecked, citizen development can work against an organization.
Relinquishing control over technology will be tough. After all, whether a solution was created and sanctioned by IT or not, it’s the CIO who will take the rap for problems. So one key to success is developing strategies and tactics that allow for openness and transparency across the enterprise, but provide some guardrails so things don’t go off course.
It’s important that senior leadership understands, is on board with, and supports the direction IT will be taking. You’ll need to provide clarity around how allowing citizen development in the company has risk you will be mitigating, but in the long run will provide good value toward business outcomes. Plus you must have a governance policy and procedures in place that ensures loss of IT control doesn’t mean disaster.
Develop a list of acceptable tools citizen developers and the departments they operate out of can use to create solutions. Clearly explain why they are the tools of choice and offer an option for teams to submit a tool – not already on the list – for consideration. Make sure you identify those tools that are absolute non-negotiables for use in the company. But don’t just tell people they can’t use them, explain the logic behind the decision. Keeping the line of communication open here and helping people understand why a tool is or is not acceptable will help everyone stay on track.
Define guidelines that detail who is accountable for what when it comes to developed or purchased technology solutions. That means identifying who will support the application, who will be involved in updates, how the app will be rolled out and what business areas it will include.
Rules in the form of standard policies and processes, must be established in the areas of privacy, security, compliance and business continuity to ensure safe application for your company. Breaches of these rules should be dealt with using appropriate interventions which may or may not be punitive. Senior leadership support will be critical in this area.
One of the reasons IT exists is to minimize or eliminate duplication of effort within departments across the enterprise. It makes absolutely no sense to have different applications that do exactly the same thing. One way to prevent this is to create a central repository of solutions that are being used across the company. This repository should include – at the very least – what the solution is, where it’s implemented, who owns it, who supports it, and any vendors who may be involved.
You can’t communicate too much. Set up a communications protocol that will ensure citizen development stays in the foreground rather than lurking behind the scenes where damage could be done. Consider regular meetings, an online forum, or email list that includes all departments so everyone knows what is going on with rapid application development in your company. Assign key IT staffers to be the liaison to each department in your company. The objective is to build relationships and be the “human” connection to IT.
Don’t miss Dion Hinchcliffe, widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in digital strategy and enterprise IT, as he shares his advice on this topic in, “Untapped IT Strategy: Unleashing Citizen Development,” in a free webinar.