Process automation: How to tackle citizen development difficulties

  • Last Updated: May 10, 2023
  • 11 Min Read

Businesses are increasingly turning to citizen development as a means of boosting process automation and digital transformation. This approach gives non-programmers, such as customers and employees, the opportunity to create their own applications for specific tasks. It also provides companies with the capability to rapidly make adjustments that fit customer preferences or business needs.

Even though there are many benefits associated with this method, it also presents certain difficulties. In this article we'll discuss some of the issues organizations may encounter when implementing citizen development, and how they can be tackled.

Understanding citizen development and its benefits

When it comes to the digital evolution of organizations, citizen development is gaining prominence. This process involves equipping nontechnical personnel, such as business analysts and line of business users, to develop their own applications and automate processes without depending on IT departments. The benefits for organizations include improved agility, faster prototyping and testing of applications, and cheaper delivery times, plus fewer resource requirements from IT staff.

Yet establishing citizen development can be a challenge for many organizations. A key difficulty revolves around making sure all employees have the aptitude to work with appropriate tools proficiently. 

There may be problems with governance and safety when allowing nontechnical people access to sensitive data or systems. Therefore, it's essential that businesses realize the implications of user-generated content, in order to handle these risks while still empowering employees through citizen development projects. 

Another issue firms encounter when setting up citizen development initiatives is achieving equilibrium between control over application design and supplying end users with freedom in how they employ them. Many companies struggle with providing enough independence for customers while maintaining authority over core components, such as data structures or system performance characteristics.

To tackle this problem, it can be helpful for organizations to explore solutions which allow them some degree of oversight but provide end users more autonomy when designing applications or automating processes within a citizen development initiative.

One last obstacle which needs consideration is ensuring every stakeholder within an organization is aware of the endeavour and supports it before implementation begins, rather than seeing it as an unnecessary cost or risk.

For any initiative like this to succeed, everyone needs to understand its purpose—senior management must back its potentials benefits and encourage buy-in from all levels of the organization.

Overcoming resistance to change

Organizations that seek to implement citizen development may face pushback when introducing this change. The process of disruption can be a difficult one, and it's essential for personnel at all levels to be prepared for potential opposition. Staff affected by new technology or procedures may fear job security, while managers could worry about a decrease in authority if employees become more autonomous with their projects. Executives might also reject any changes which involve extra expenses, such as IT infrastructure and training costs. 

In addition, people who don't comprehend how citizen development works, or its advantages, can be another source of resistance. To avoid this issue, organizations must have an executable strategy in place from the start which outlines the objectives and anticipated results of implementing this system—including information on why citizen development can make these outcomes easier than traditional methods would allow.

Fortunately, some stakeholders will likely accept these changes, as they'll understand that it's an opportunity for growth within the organization. This is why companies should involve these supporters early on, so that everyone views progress positively, instead of resisting it altogether.

It's important to remember, though, that no one can force someone else into adapting to something new; hence, support from senior management down is essential throughout each step of transition processes, so people feel safe enough to try out ideas without fear of failure or punishment, if things don't go according to plan straight away.

Developing an effective citizen development strategy

Organizations may find themselves facing struggles when aiming to introduce citizen development. Crafting an effective plan is essential for overcoming these issues. Citizen development involves giving non-experts access to tools that enable them to construct applications, allowing organizations to develop customized applications rapidly and inexpensively, in comparison with traditional software engineering techniques. That being said, there are still challenges that they will need to address while employing this strategy.

One such challenge is making sure the established citizen development programs meet the business's objectives and needs. It's thus necessary for companies to provide clear guidelines and expectations regarding what should be included in each application, so developers understand their responsibilities. In addition, it's important that requirements have been accurately documented, so any alterations or additions can be effortlessly implemented without causing delays or disruption. 

Another difficulty pertains to data security, as these apps usually involve third-party instruments which could pose potential risks if not managed properly. To reduce the likelihood of a security breach occurring, organizations must establish controls managing who has access to sensitive information, along with how it's shared internally and externally.

Encryption protocols must also be employed before releasing any app into production environments where safety might possibly become jeopardized if left unchecked or unmanaged over time.

Supervising deployments across multiple platforms, including web-based services like mobile devices or cloud computing systems such as Amazon EC2 instances or Google Cloud Platform virtual machines (VMs), may also be a hurdle. Ensuring consistent performance on all systems necessitates careful planning; therefore businesses must not only define acceptable performance criteria but also devise strategies for assessing user experience during regular times versus peak hours, which can help detect areas requiring additional resources.

Training employees on citizen development tools

Organizations that have adopted citizen development are seeing promising results. Citizen development tools give employees the power to become developers, making it simpler and faster for them to build applications and digital solutions. While this can be beneficial, there is a need to properly train staff on how these tools work. 

Training requires resources and personnel who understand the tool; in addition, new features or updates may necessitate more training every now and then, which could entail higher costs due to fees charged by external trainers.

There is also the risk of lower productivity if someone has difficulty using the tool correctly, leading to errors or time-consuming tasks during application creation or delivery processes. 

Therefore, introducing any new technology into an organization calls for a successful train-the-trainer program, centered around knowledge of the product being used, as well as teaching methods that include interactive activities with practical examples, so learners can grasp concepts while having fun at the same time.

Assessing digital transformation potential

To maximize efficiency, agility, and innovation through digital transformation initiatives, it's essential that organizations evaluate the potential of their current technology. This is especially true when implementing citizen development projects. Users who are engaged in this type of development not only use but also create applications using existing technologies in new ways. To guarantee a successful outcome for any such venture, businesses must first assess what already exists and determine what needs to be done differently or better. 

Evaluating the types of technology currently available is critical here—traditional software packages like databases or web-based solutions, as well as more contemporary tools such as AI and ML, should all be taken into account with respect to how they can help an organization reach its goals. For instance, AI can allow insights into customer behavior, while ML makes automation—which would otherwise require manual input from employees/contractors—possible.

Once existing capabilities have been examined thoroughly, companies should then move on to assessing their opportunities for digital transformation via citizen development plans—determining if the tech at hand will suffice for the project requirements and whether new tools might make it faster or simpler than utilizing existing resources alone. 

Finally, yet importantly, the culture within an organization plays a key role in terms of embracing change quickly enough, so that success can be achieved within a reasonable time frame; having a thorough plan on how transitions from one state into another will occur minus disruption helps significantly towards attaining fruitful results from citizen development endeavours.

Creating a governance structure for process automation

Creating a governance structure is an important part of any citizen development endeavour. Without it, there can be difficulty in making sure automation initiatives are carried out correctly and proficiently. A well-defined governance model guarantees that all automated processes have been precisely defined, tried, and sanctioned before being implemented into the organization's systems. Moreover, appropriate tests guarantee that automated processes are working as desired and generating expected outcomes. 

A significant aspect of effective process automation governance is having unambiguous roles and obligations for all stakeholders involved in the task. It should unequivocally detail who will control the project, who will endorse changes or modifications to existing procedures, who will monitor performance metrics and assess compliance issues pertaining to automation projects, and more. This ensures everyone understands their role within the process, so they can collaborate fruitfully with other teams across the company. 

Possessing a systematized technique to change management helps make certain that any alterations or updates made during an automation project's lifecycle do not negatively affect other current processes or systems. Change management should also include forming communication protocols between different departments, so they can efficiently coordinate their efforts if needed, during an automation project's implementation phase or after its deployment into production environments. 

It’s critical for organizations introducing citizen development initiatives to evaluate existing IT infrastructure prior to commencing any new ventures involving process automation technology, like robotic process automations (RPA). This assessment should cover both present hardware abilities plus software compatibility issues, which must be attended to before starting any fresh RPA implementations within an organization’s environment.

Companies must consider IT security measures when deploying RPA solutions, since these often involve accessing sensitive data from corporate networks, which may necessitate extra authentication protocols beyond those already used by internal IT teams

Lastly, organizations must factor in budgeting for potential maintenance costs correlated with RPA solutions, which could include developing customized integrations between diverse software applications, on top of basic system upkeep tasks like patching servers.

Implementing security protocols to mitigate risk

Organizations implementing security protocols must take into account a range of difficulties. As the adoption of citizen development is on the rise, there's an ever-growing demand for systems that will protect data from potential malevolence. However, due to both the intricate nature of security protocols and the continuous evolution of threats, organizations need to be persistent in their efforts, to make sure their networks remain safe from external intrusions. This necessitates a combination of preventative measures, such as installing patches and updating software regularly, plus reactive steps, like responding quickly when an incident occurs. 

Besides having a well-crafted security policy in place, companies must also ensure its observance by all staff members through training and educational activities related to handling confidential information safely. Moreover, organizations should periodically review their policies and adjust them if necessary, so as to keep up with changing dangers or technologies. 

Understanding different types of threats to protect against them properly presents another challenge for organizations setting up safety protocols. Although some risks may be easily noticed via external sources, such as news reports or industry alerts, others can go undetected unless proper monitoring tools are installed throughout an organization's network infrastructure. 

Certain kinds of attacks require specialized knowledge or expertise to detect before any harm is done; this means investing in experienced personnel who are familiar with how these dangers operate, so they can take appropriate action if necessary. 

Ensuring compliance with regulations concerning cybersecurity can pose major issues for organizations looking to introduce citizen development, since these provisions vary depending on local laws protecting data protection and privacy rights.

Establishing metrics for measuring success

When it comes to citizen development, measuring success is a major issue that companies encounter. With the continuing rise of automation, organizations have to create their own tools to stay ahead of the competition. Citizen development allows personnel within an organization to build customized applications, web services, and tools tailored to specific needs. It can be complicated if there isn't a plan set out from the start.

It's essential for firms to specify objectives and metrics which show how successful they are at incorporating citizen development initiatives into their business. Objectives should be measurable, such as the number of developed or improved applications, higher efficiency due to automation, boosted customer satisfaction ratings, or reduced expenses related to manual processes. Moreover, these goals must be achievable over an appropriate timeframe and monitored closely, so progress can be tracked leading up to completion or improvement of current processes/applications. 

Before pushing any changes into production environments, it's important for companies to understand what benefits they'll gain from citizen developers; this includes understanding user feedback on existing systems, plus testing new features prior to deployment into live operations. Without this knowledge, it can prove difficult for IT teams (or external consultants) to measure performance improvements accurately over time, if no baseline was established initially when beginning the project/initiative. 

For any successful citizen development initiative, stakeholders across all levels of an organization need assurances that proposed modifications offer actual advantages, compared with pre-existing procedures/systems. Otherwise, resistance can arise, lowering acceptance rates and consequently impacting the overall success metrics laid out at the commencement of the project/initiative.

Building flexible solutions that adapt to changing needs 

Organizations have to deal with lots of issues when executing citizen development. One of the most significant and important is creating solutions that can be adjusted to changing needs. Citizen development projects are developed so users have the capability to make their own applications, while bypassing IT teams and conventional software developers. This means organizations must be able to create, upgrade, and maintain customized applications for each user, as their needs inevitably change. 

To guarantee that citizen developers get the tools they need, organizations should focus on laying a powerful foundation for managing multiple forms of code in production settings. Version control systems enable users to easily track any changes and permit engineers to store a duplicate of all earlier versions, just in case there are problems with  the current version. This system also includes an audit trail, which helps organizations track down mistakes or security-related concerns more quickly, if they emerge down the line. 

Organizations also need to consider investing in automated testing tools, which can be used by both IT departments and citizen developers, when making changes or adding new features or functionality. This helps ensure that no new bugs are added during deployment cycles, by running a suite of automated tests on every release before it's accessible for general use by end users. 

Finally, companies should look into building frameworks which allow easy extensibility, so citizens developers can incorporate additional components at any point, without having too much difficulty integrating them with existing code. This saves large amounts of time, while giving clients adaptability when it comes time to expand existing applications according to their evolving requirements.

Evaluating the impact of citizen development on organizations 

While citizen development can be a boon for organizations, there are also some hurdles that need to be overcome. 

One potential issue is data security being beyond the control of IT professionals or developers, as users can create their own applications without any supervision. Without appropriate governance procedures in place, companies may struggle to ensure conformity with applicable regulations and guidelines. Furthermore, this can result in safety risks, should an application contain sensitive information or be used by several departments within the organization. 

Another challenge connected to citizen development is troubleshooting problems when they arise, due to inexperienced personnel creating their own apps. In such cases, IT staff may require supplemental training on handling these types of issues, so they don't cause any disruptions within the organization or with its operations.


Modern enterprises must carefully consider the pros and cons of employing citizen development initiatives. From streamlining operations to advancing digital transformation goals, organizations can gain a great deal by properly deploying these programs. To make sure they're successful in their implementation efforts, companies should thoroughly assess their current environment, devise an action plan, and build strategies that will help them seize the opportunities offered by citizen development. By taking pre-emptive measures and bearing potential risks in mind, businesses can successfully deploy projects which will be advantageous for employees and customers alike.

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