Driving Innovation and Efficiency Through Citizen App Dev
In this blog, I will not only explain what citizen app dev is and why it’s important, but will also demonstrate some use case examples of how customers can leverage the benefits to increase efficiency and overcome common business challenges.
Large-scale digital transformation works best when it’s paired with rapid-cycle innovation—which is why citizen app dev, something that can profoundly impact your organisation’s operational efficiency and agility, should be on your transformation agenda.
Citizen app dev happens when ordinary business users are empowered through the use of low-code/no-code technology to create their own business applications and services and to improve their processes.
This can turn users from any line of business into empowered problem-solvers for the whole organisation, without any need for them to learn traditional coding skills.
Micro-innovation Through User-created Apps
Rolling out a new line of business app the traditional way takes a whole development team, coding, and of course, the employment of a developer to maintain and evolve it. In many cases, that undermines the business case for taking on the project in the first place, so the innovation potential is lost. Low-code citizen app dev means many small business challenges can be resolved quickly and cost-effectively without tying up development resources that could be more productively deployed elsewhere.
We're talking about very small and straightforward problem-solving here: An app to help marketers gather feedback from an event, perhaps, or a fault logging app for machinery on a factory floor. But these small and simple improvements can add up to significant changes in efficiency across the organisation.
We’ve seen the potential ourselves at CDW. For example, we needed to manage a limited post-COVID return to the office, ensuring that we controlled the number of coworkers in the space at any one time and complied with all the public health rules. Using low-code tools, we were able to, in just three hours, build a hot-desk booking app that allows coworkers to book the desks and time slots of their choice, easily and quickly—and we get a public health audit trail into the bargain.
Citizen app dev is something almost every business can use - yet many don't know what it is, even though they most likely have access to the tools they require. Any organisation that has purchased Microsoft 365 has access to Power Apps, the solution set within Dynamics 365 that enables drag-and-drop development.
Citizen app dev, and the rapid-cycle innovation it enables, is something that can have a profound impact on your organisation’s operational efficiency and agility. After all, if you empower the people closest to the work to solve their own problems, you drive a form of digital transformation from the bottom that dovetails perfectly with large-scale digitisation efforts from the top down.
The effectiveness of citizen app dev is highlighted by the fact that a recent study has shown that by 2023, there will be over 500 million apps developed using cloud-native solutions—more apps than what has been created in the last 40 years!* Some quick maths will show that there are not enough developers in the world to create these apps using traditional methods. Clearly, these will have to be created using low-code solutions.
The above is ironic, considering that in our experience, finding problems to solve is far from the biggest challenge of citizen app dev. The real problem with a tool like this is knowing when to stop—it is easy to get carried away, wanting to automate everything. But just because it is easy for your people to build apps, doesn’t necessarily mean they should.
Before unleashing the power of citizen app dev, it’s a good idea to consider possible risks and develop policies and practices to mitigate them. At CDW, we’ve seen both good and not-so-good outcomes up close, and we bring those insights to our customers. Our consultative approach can help you put the right framework in place to use citizen app dev effectively and responsibly, and help you to integrate the resulting apps with critical tools like your ERP system. And, of course, when the problem becomes larger than a non-developer can handle alone, we can build the apps for you.
Matt Roberts, CDW Practice Lead - Workspace Solutions
*Source - IDC FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry 2020 Predictions