For the last few months, I have been speaking at meetups and conferences on how to engage, support and govern citizen developers within Microsoft’s Power Platform. For the most part, my audiences have been IT professionals focused on the GOVERN part of the conversation because they realize they have not put the right guardrails in place, and they are playing catchup. And that’s fine; Withum’s Digital and Technology Transformation team already has a strong practice around helping our clients implement Power Platform governance, and I enjoy helping organizations get up to speed in this vital area.
But I continue to be surprised and – truth to tell, a bit disappointed – by the amount of negativity toward the concept of ”citizen developers” that some IT pros are expressing. I’ve heard everything from “I talked to five people at this conference, and they said it doesn’t work” to “you can’t trust these people and I would lock everything down if they’d let me”.
Now, I get that managing citizen developers might feel like just one more thing on your to-do list. I don’t pretend that it will be a walk in the park; there’s real work involved, and some of it may not be the sort of thing your IT team likes doing (communications, training, change management). But I have a horse in this race, so to speak because my career path really took off when I became a citizen developer many (many) years ago. I’ve certainly worked very hard to get where I am today, but I’m also full of gratitude for the opportunities that I have had over the years, and I am committed to helping others have those opportunities. I would even say that with the Power Platform, today’s citizen developers have much greater opportunities to learn and grow their careers than I had back in the day when we developed solutions on top of on-prem SharePoint.
Withum’s Power Minute: How To Build Citizen Developer Success
Four Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Hate on Citizen Developers
So, dear IT pros, let me give you four reasons why you shouldn’t hate on your citizen developers:
1. Citizen developers are ENGAGED employees.
In this period of “quiet quitting”, finding employees who believe they can make things better and who are putting in the work to make it happen is getting rarer and rarer. Yet, this is exactly who citizen developers are! They have identified a business need and are willing to lean into learning a new technology, often taking a bit of a career risk to improve a critical business process or fill a technology gap. Even from a purely employee-engagement standpoint, stifling their enthusiasm seems like a short-sighted move to me. Instead, why not partner with your HR department to recognize these folks for the engagement they bring to your company?
2. Citizen developers are INNOVATING employees.
Lots of organizations talk a good game around innovation but don’t consider the citizen developers all around them who are already innovating at the point of need. If your organization has a formal innovation program, this is an opportunity to show how IT can facilitate innovation. You may be able to obtain additional resources to train and support citizen developers if you can position your efforts as part of the larger innovation initiative.
3. With the right training and guardrails, citizen developers can be force-multipliers.
For the first six months or so, you’ll probably be putting more effort into nurturing your citizen developers than any benefit you and the organization are receiving. But once your program is well-established and you have the right guardrails in place, your citizen developers could relieve some of the pressure on your team, especially if you recently hired a Power Platform developer who already has a huge backlog of requests – something we see more and more. In addition, I’m of the belief that citizen developers are the ultimate M365 “Champions” – they don’t just promote new ways of working in the platform; they create them! They constantly demonstrate “The Art of the Possible” to other employees, promoting the use of your approved platforms and lessening the temptation of others to “go rogue”. If shadow IT is an issue for you, citizen developers are one of your best defenses.
4. Many of you started your careers as citizen developers.
Like me, many of you IT pros didn’t start out in IT. You started out somewhere else in the business but ended up in IT because you had that knack for all things technical or digital. You saw the potential that technology had to revolutionize how you and your colleagues worked. Why not give someone else the chance to branch out and explore their technical abilities? You could just make all the difference in someone’s life.
Any budding citizen developers reading this, rock on! You never know where the journey will take you.
Reach out to our Digital and Technology Transformation Services Team today to chat about launching a successful citizen developer program or if you would like to share a success story!