Fostering a culture that encourages citizen software developers

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By 2030, it is estimated that there will be a shortage of 10 million software developers in the United States, according to Forrester Research. This shortcoming, coupled with the proliferation of automation tools, is helping to sprout an army of citizen developers — those who aren't trained in computer science but are becoming de facto programmers through the influx software available to them.

Some employees eagerly jumped at the opportunity to become citizen developers, fortunate employers have noted. But others have held back from embracing this title, others say. Heading into 2020, which is primed to be the automation decade, organizations need to work to qualm employee anxieties, around the idea of becoming a citizen developer.

To get a better idea of what some of the top challenges are to creating more citizen developers, Information Management spoke with Terry Simpson, technical evangelist at automation company Nintex.

Information Management: How can enterprises build a culture that encourages citizen developers?

Terry Simpson: The most important things enterprises can do to encourage citizen developers are to give them the right tools and empower them to use those tools. One of the major success criteria for a citizen developer is a no-code solution. Unfortunately, in many organizations, IT departments keep these solutions from the business or citizen developer types.

IM: What will citizen developers look like in the next year? Can anyone be a citizen developer?

Simpson: Citizen developers are on the rise. Anyone in the organization who really understands a process and how it works is a great candidate to build and manage their own solutions. Typically they start with a system of record like SharePoint, Salesforce or other repository of data and quickly start automating processes around those systems.

IM: How can employers ease employee anxieties connected to the rise of automation?

Simpson: In a wide variety of scenarios, automation is making processes much more efficient and accurate. Employers are seeing that the employees involved in these processes are reducing inefficiency and adding more value.

Smart managers are recognizing and rewarding employees for automating processes that help the business run better. Those employees are being great stewards of the company time and resources that they have been entrusted with.

IM: What are the key steps in implementing a successful automation strategy?

Simpson: Executive support is often the key to driving success. I personally have found it very helpful to have a tool that allows me to start by documenting the process I want to automate. Keep that documentation up to date and leverage it as the foundation for the next step, the actual automation. This provides a great working copy of processes that you are automating.

On the automation side, giving citizen developers no-code solutions that are fast and easy to use is the key to long-term sustainability.

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