Over the past five years, many organizations have moved their HR systems into cloud platforms and are looking for add-on tools that allow them to access/integrate – or build their own – mobile apps. This has led to the rise of what we call citizen development.
According to Gartner’s IT Glossary, a citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications using development environments sanctioned by IT.
Citizen development is possible because as long as users understand the basic principles behind application design and development, they do not have to learn the programming languages that were necessary in the past. Mobile app development has been officially democratized.
Integrated, DIY app development platforms reduce IT backlog and enable HR citizen developers to quickly build and implement applications that mirror IT solutions but don’t require the same level of technical sophistication. Their reporting capabilities also provide greater visibility into which projects can be potentially offloaded, and their customization facilitates greater user adoption.
HR apps are more essential today given their intimate connection to the employee experience. Apps allow HR departments to provide employees with tools that work where they work and don’t impede their day. They also provide an opportunity to create a continuous experience for both HR and the employee.
When it comes to development, HR professionals who know their business inside and out will be most effective if IT leaders set the stage, offering governance, implementation guidelines, and best practices. Citizen development doesn’t eliminate the need for IT to be involved; it merely elevates it to a more strategic level. Instead of giving away permission, which can quickly turn ugly, proper citizen development involves knowing who is doing what, bridging communication gaps between IT and HR, and having a shared accountability for and participatory working relationship in developing and maintaining strong applications.
The best culture for citizen development is a self-service one that encourages employee experimentation. Citizen developers should have easy access to high value data sources and familiarity with the customization and configuration of existing platforms. The beauty of citizen development is that IT can ascertain how much it makes sense to be involved in individual situations – especially pertaining to roles and permissioning, integrations, and report generation – and citizen developers can run within the lines painted for them by IT.
When done right, citizen development generates business value from the very beginning. Per a recent QuickBase study, 29 percent of companies have seen a 2X or greater increase in application development speeds, and 62 percent indicated that it takes less than two weeks to build an average application. These results are driven by greater flexibility and agility, less bureaucracy and overhead, fewer control issues, and lower costs.