The benefits of citizen development for CX

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Despite what the headlines might say, we’re a long way away from automation taking away every single human job. But we have reached a point in time where automation tools and technology have made our jobs easier, and the overall workforce more productive in general. According to McKinsey, while few occupations are fully automatable, 60 percent of all occupations have at least 30 percent technically automatable activities, meaning that there is opportunity for automation technology to bridge productivity gaps without threatening to completely overhaul a whole job role.

Until recently, IT departments within companies retained sole responsibility for new mobile and web applications, and the development of automation often involved deep technical or specific coding skills. This meant that when it came to solving tech issues and/or updating any software, only the IT department had the skills and capabilities to do so, putting pressure on them and creating potential barriers to solving problems quickly. Delivery new features and swift problem solving is non-negotiable in today’s highly demanding customer service market, and so having one department or set of employees solely responsible for the tech-side of the business isn’t a sustainable option anymore. 

One concept which has recently come to light, and particularly since the pandemic-driven surge of investment in digital transformation, is citizen development – whereby companies adopt low-code or no-code tools so that employees with less technical and coding skills can contribute to solving problems and generating ideas, ultimately improving the overall speed of delivery and enabling a transformed customer experience.

Who can be a citizen developer?      

There is no set criteria to be a citizen developer within a company - in fact, it’s arguably more of a persona within a business rather than a fixed title or job role. A typical citizen developer is someone that has knowledge of business operations and would report to a business unit or function outside of the IT department. The concept is quickly growing among companies, with Gartner predicting that active citizen developers will outnumber professional developers at large enterprises within the next 18 months.

Not only can citizen developers dramatically increase the pace of change for technical projects, but citizen development can also empower employees to create their own solutions to tech problems quickly, effectively, and constantly. The ability to get involved in citizen development is also a game-changer for employee engagement – and attracting new talent – allowing existing, but as yet untapped potential to be unlocked in both people and operations. 

Gerald Pullen

Gerald Pullen is Technology Director at Gobeyond Partners.

Getting the citizen development framework right

Having competent, motivated citizen developers is just the start of making the framework a success. Ensuring that there are tools, training and support needed to share ideas and collaborate on tech projects is what enables the framework to deliver value for the wider business. There are also several other factors to consider when developing a citizen development framework, since it’s not as simple as taking a one size fits all approach – for example the type of organization, tools being used, core capability and level of investments are just a few of the parameters that a company needs to consider.  

Another key consideration is communication. It’s important to define the roles and responsibilities of the IT department, citizen developers and business unit representatives, not only to ensure projects align to broader strategic goals, but to also make sure each person knows what they what o take ownership and lead on. That way, everyone knows exactly what role they play in the framework, and no one is stepping on anyone’s toes – ultimately the central IT department should play the role of deciding who shoEmpowering citizen developers to improve CX uld be responsible for issues that arise, acting as an ongoing support mechanism and, crucially, ensuring continuity of service for employee and customers. 

Empowering citizen developers to improve CX 

From a CX perspective, there has never been a more crucial time to adopt citizen development frameworks. The increase of digital technologies has paved the way for new channels of communication, meaning that customer requests have naturally increased, and customer service providers must quickly adapt and evolve to meet their needs. Not only does this impact large programs and specific customer requests, but it’s also beginning to affect business-as-usual too – for example 67% of consumers worldwide used a chatbot for customer support in the past year, with this trend only set to become more accessible thanks to the likes of ChatGPT and other future large language models humanizing the CX approach.  

Citizen development is about bridging the expertise gap between business and IT to rapidly adapt to changing business needs, therefore bringing quicker solutions and developing ideas to the forefront of the customer’s need. It’s a way of empowering non-developer or technical employees to enable rapid response, easy to adopt, and accurate solutions all while maintaining supportability and acceptance from across the organization.

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Gerald Pullen is Technology Director at Gobeyond Partners. Gerald is experienced in technology enablement and intelligent automation, having delivered solutions at scale in complex, regulatory environments over several years.