Power to the people

As we start returning to a faster, digitally focused world, Gavin Mee encourages organisations to broaden their scope when searching for people to create tech solutions.

Remote working, combined with the immense pressures businesses are facing to operate in a new reality shaped by the response to COVID-19, has resulted in the acceleration of organisational change and digital transformation.  

The speed and scale of this technological development has been underlined by KPMG, which says that companies around the globe have invested an additional £11bn every week to enable safe and secure remote working during COVID-19. This is one of the biggest surges in technology investment in history.

Once lockdown pressures and the impact of COVID-19 ease, we will be welcomed by a vastly different world.

In response to a potentially faster, more agile, and digitally oriented world, which expects modern businesses to react to and run with new and emerging technologies, we need to democratise access to technology and empower a broader set of experts to help co-create the technology assets that businesses will need.

The question is, how can businesses keep up with the pace of change the world now faces at a time when tech skills are in such high demand? One answer is obvious. Using no-code and low-code platforms, people with no technical background can tangibly become co-creators of software solutions – or put simply, citizen developers.

Introducing citizen developers into businesses and empowering employees to decide how they work most efficiently seems obvious. After all, it not only improves the productivity, engagement and confidence of the workforce, it also makes them advocates for the digital transformation journey the business is planning to take.  

Using no-code and low-code platforms, people with no technical background can tangibly become co-creators of software solutions – or put simply, citizen developers

Better still, the role of citizen developer isn’t reserved for the tech savvy employees in your business. If a worker can navigate most consumer-based, drag and drop software, then they can quite feasibly become a citizen developer.

This is already happening in businesses all over the world. And the trend is only set to continue, with Gartner predicting that 66% of larger organisations will be using a minimum of four low-code platforms, which can be co-created by citizen developers, by 2024.

While introducing a citizen developer initiative may sound complex, it couldn’t be more straightforward and is particularly suited to automation technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Put simply, RPA software can be used to create software robots, or robot assistants, that can take on the repetitive tasks that employees don’t enjoy. These software robots can complete tasks faster and with more accuracy than their human counterparts, giving capacity back to the business and freeing employees up to focus on the more creative and higher-value tasks that they enjoy.

Becoming a citizen developer is less about technical skills and more about mindset. If you can navigate a spreadsheet, create tables, sort data, or rearrange a database, you’re probably halfway there.

That being said, it’s important for organisations to provide their employees with access to a variety of training opportunities, events and resources. Budding citizen developers will only learn with experience – and they should be encouraged to create their own solutions and explore drag-and-drop style software tools and low-code platforms if they’re to hone their skills.

An important step in employers creating a community of citizen developers is for them to truly recognise these workers for their worth. While they won’t become a substitute for the IT department, they will ease the pressures this team will be facing and help to empower colleagues who are being faced with new technology at break-neck speeds.

Properly communicating the governance and rules for engagement around this community will also be crucial.

For example, employees will need to know how they can get involved in the initiative, what its limitations are, how budding developers can gain access to training or software – and perhaps most importantly, which processes the business is looking to automate and how this will benefit the wider business.

Ultimately, this leads to training. While these tools are built with simplicity and ease of use in mind, people will still require support to get to grips with how they work. And while citizen developers can create RPA automations, they will still need to collaborate with those responsible for its implementation so that the business can move forwards with a clean and joined-up approach.

Another option is for businesses to train and enable ‘power users’ first – or in other words, identify and empower engaged employees to become citizen developers that can be deployed to automate processes and build solutions for their specific team or department. This way, these employees can become the first line of support for any of their colleagues who want to use and explore co-creating software solutions.

While there’s no single recipe for success – there’s certainly an array of opportunities ahead for any businesses considering a citizen developer initiative.

As long as these businesses can adopt a learning culture and nurture their employees – providing them with opportunities to build self-sufficiency, promote collaboration, and deliver digital transformation – then they’re already primed for success.


About the author

Gavin Mee is managing director for the UK and Ireland at UiPath.


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