Steps organizations can take to boost the ranks of citizen developers

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It is estimated that by 2030, there could be a shortage of 10 million developers in the U.S., according to Forrester Research. This shortcoming, coupled with the proliferation of automation tools, is sprouting an army of citizen developers — professionals who aren't trained in computer science but are becoming de facto programmers through the influx software available to them.

While some employees eagerly jump at the opportunity to become citizen developers, others have held back from embracing this title, notes Justin Donato, vice president of information technology at Nintex.

Heading into 2020, which is primed to be the automation decade, enterprises need to work to qualm employee anxieties (job security, ageism, bandwidth, etc.) associated with becoming a citizen developer, Donato says.

Information Management spoke with Donato about the growing need for citizen developers and how organizations can build a culture that fosters citizen developers.

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

Justin Donato: 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?

Donato: 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 often connected to the rise of automation?

Donato: 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?

Donato: 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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