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.
Citizen Development – Handbook Breakdown
In this second post relating to the PMI's Citizen Development: The Handbook for Creators and Change Makers I will provide a breakdown of what the handbook contains. One significant point to note, the name of the handbook " ... for Creators and Change Makers", this is a signal to all, that the profession of project management is changing. Yes, it is still about standards and certification but driving change within organisations suggest that project managers need to up their game. Software development platforms are getting more and more mature, the nature of application development projects is changing and as a result Project Managers will need to learn more skills and adapt.
The Citizen Development handbook has the following sections
Part 1: Introducing Citizen Developer Canvas This section covers what citizen development is, what are it benefits does it bring. It also includes one or two examples and some real challenges introducing this type of software development into any organisation. The handbook does not pull any punches in terms of the problems that will arise if you allow business user loose on creating applications without ensuring professional IT personnel are consulted and/or a proper governance structure is not in place.
It introduces the PMI's Citizen Development Canvas, which lays out at the high level three main topics
1. Do - how does it work and developing the capability within your organisation
2. Manage and Lead - alignment to organisational needs and a suggested operating model
3. Citizen Development Maturity Model which addresses such topic as experimentation and scaling the capability to take full advantage of the benefits
Part 2: Project Delivery This is the part of the handbook that explains how Citizen Development works. There are some scary terms and suggestions that made me stop in my tracks, probably because I was schooled in Project Management before 'Agile' was even a thing.
Hyper Agile was a new term for me and it means what it says, the suggestion was even faster development and wait for it ... even less documentation and that scope creep should be embraced - blind panic setting in now. A Citizen Development Software Development Lifecycle is illustrated and as I read through the detail the panic subsided.
One of the main criticisms of Citizen Development is that it is essentially Shadow IT but this addressed directly in the handbook and the development has a lot of governance built into it and in a way removes Shadow IT
Part 3: Capability Development This section of the handbook covers three topics
1. Business Analysis and Design - how to ensure that any application does not have a negative impact on the IT environment
2. Enterprise Risk Requirement - ensure that development consider wider risk to your organisation
3. Application Development - avoid common problems pitfalls in designing data models and UX considerations
This section is not technical in nature, though that could be a relative statement. Some good process suggestions and checklists
Part 4: Operating Model The topics addressed in this section covers Organisational Structures, Governance, Performance Measurement and how to embed Citizen Development into the fabric of an organisation. It considers setting up a Citizen Development competency centre and/or a community of practice or a hybrid of both. An Operating Model is suggested
Part 5: Organisation Alignment Part 5 starts with the statement "Citizen development has the potential to digitally transform and organisation’s ability to empower individuals to build business apps that solve the problems they see around them" - strong words. This can only be achieved if the change is done at an organisational level.
The handbook outlines how to measure the return on investment of implementing citizen development practices and 'apply best practice tracking metrics' and the cultural change needed to make citizen development a success.
There has been much written about Citizen Development mostly positive and most of it is light weight. In some ways this section gave me heart. The PMI are not painting Citizen Development as a silver bullet but needs significant consideration and organisational planning to adopt successfully
Part 6: Citizen Development Maturity Model I am getting tired of this phrase but "it's a journey" from taking the first initial steps to experimenting, formally adopting citizen development as another development tool, scaling citizen development efforts, and driving innovation by truly embedding citizen development practices.
All very fine words but without saying it the PMI are laying out that anything worth doing will require vision and sticking at it.