Ireland Chapter of PMI

CD - Power to the People blog

Citizen Development – Power to the People

We are living in an age of disruption; how many times have we heard that? Everything from political shifts to the digital revolution we're living in a world dominated by digital applications and data. Software engineering platforms are now sophisticated enough to write code from a few visual diagrams put together by business users and there you have it; I've just described citizen development.

Let me repeat that. You describe the process (visually) and an engine writes the code. This of course is not new, back in the 1980s people were using for 4GL platforms (4th Generation Language) but with the advances in modern software engines this is now becoming real. Now combine this with another massive problem being experienced in the software development world, an enormous shortage of professional software developers. At the end of 2020 there was 1.4 million computing jobs available but only 400,000 computer science students graduating, this is forecast to get worse. There are simply not enough computer science graduates coming out of third level colleges to meet the demand for applications. This is having a massive impact on businesses.

Much of what I read is incredibly positive, no downside, the ultimate solution because the demand for application development is so big and the goal is so large. But if it sounds too good to be true then maybe it is.

As you would expect there is some pushback from professional developer world. You can imagine the comments, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, “yet another example of shadow IT”, “where is the Governance”, “what about quality control”.

If the code generation engines are not there yet, they soon will be. Regardless of the objections and potential problems (that are real) the prize is so big that Citizen Development has to be taken seriously. The PMI have developed a handbook that addresses the many concerns outlined and provides a framework for harnessing the potential of Citizen Development. As project managers we need to understand the detail not the bright shiny 10-15 minutes introduction podcasts but a deep dive so we can guide organizations to really take advantage of this technology that quite literally could change an industry. Over the course of the next few months, I will be doing a deep dive on citizen development by working my way through the PMIs Citizen Development handbook, reviewing projects where this technology is being used and talking to practitioners to try understand what it means for project managers in an era when our world is changing from traditional delivery to changemakers.