We know the drill: You’re an automation leader in your company’s center of excellence (CoE). It’s 8:30 pm. You should be at home. But you’re still working away—lots to do and not many on your team to do it. You’re wrestling with the question your CIO just asked: can’t you go faster if you train up some citizen developers? You understand why citizen development sounds great. But the practical side of you thinks opening up automation development across the organization sounds risky in terms of governance and quality. We get it. But with the proper tools, training and support systems in place, Citizen Development is an incredibly effective way to scale automation success across your enterprise. It can even take the pressure off of your own time- and resource-strapped CoE.
Preparation is Key
Make sure you have these key elements in place before moving forward with a citizen development effort:
Secure Sponsorship. General support is good. But citizen development requires more than that to be an enterprise-wide success. It also takes convincing key leaders to be program sponsors to ensure prioritization and participation.
HINT: Meet with departmental leaders to understand their most critical business goals. Explain the program's benefits for their departments. At the executive level, the discussion will probably not only focus on alignment with objectives and priorities but also on how to enlist citizen developers and what support is required to make the program work.
ANOTHER HINT: You may need to be in education and evangelism mode when you meet. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to explain what automation is and why it’s a powerful co-investment for your business partner. If your business partner is chomping at the bit to empower their teams but they don’t yet understand the time commitment or training needed, you’ll need to educate them.
Identify which roles will be part of your first Citizen Development cohort. The most likely roles are:
- Highly skilled developers who are new to automation.
- Tech-savvy business analysts who fancy themselves “coders on the side.“
- The completely uninitiated—they know how to use their computer but otherwise will likely think: “low-code...what?” This is ok. Lack of technology skills is not a barrier to creating your first automation. As long as your pool of talent is motivated to learn and has an innovation mindset, they’ll be successful on a cloud-native platform.
Leverage your existing automation presence. If people within your organization have already experienced the benefits of automation, convincing them to contribute resources for even more benefits should be an easier sell than starting from scratch. If your company doesn’t yet have an automation footprint with a track record of success, focus on that before considering Citizen Development. See 5 Pillars for Moving Your Automation Program "Beyond the Bot" and Blueprint: Winning Plays for all 5 Pillars of Success and Scale to kickstart your Automation Program.
Ensure that your Center of Excellence is operating with excellence. An established CoE with robust best practices around development, deployment, ideation, and governance is also a prerequisite. Citizen development can be adopted with a centralized or business unit-specific CoE. As the program matures, the CoE can also evolve into a federated model.
Up Next: Getting to the Good Stuff
So, you’ve checked the boxes on prerequisites. Now it’s time to plan, evangelize, and train. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Define the vision. What are the objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), coverage, and timeline for the program? Those metrics should reasonable, practical, and attainable within the scope of your organization’s capabilities and priorities.
Step 2: Evangelize to the business units. What makes sense to automate? Collect automation use cases from the business unit you’re partnering with and secure buy-in from users and leaders.
Step 3: Generate excitement. Think demos, introductory webinars, and in-person presentations that can be created for:
- Potential citizen developers
- Anyone who could benefit from the program
- People willing to support it
Make participation easy and provide self-service program elements like digital co-worker templates, best practices, and policy documentation.
Step 4: Identify your first group of citizen developer candidates. What makes a good candidate? It could be anyone in your organization, from sales executives and payroll administrators to accounts and even external consultants. What they have in common is that they have a deep understanding of a business process or a series of tasks. They’re well-placed to identify new opportunities that improve operational efficiency or enable better customer service. And they have their manager’s support for investing time in learning new skills and serving as an automation ambassador in their business unit. Look for people who are:
- Naturally curious and motivated to innovate
- Willing to create solutions that they need or that their team, department, or customers need
- Already using IT tools in their job
Depending on the company, 5% or more of business users are a perfect fit to be citizen developers.
Step 5: Establish an automation lifecycle for citizen developers, underpinned by strong governance, and best practices. This should include guidance on how to collect ideas and configure governance in Automation 360.
Step 6: Launch the program and track the benefits. The planning is done. It’s time to get final buy-in, launch, and start scaling your automation success. Start small—get things in place and working before launching a full-scale effort. Get a small team of one to five people together who are championing citizen development. Together, they can identify and automate one or more use cases that demonstrate quick, quantifiable value for an organization.
Step 7. : Roll out citizen developer training and enablement. Use in-house learning or what’s available through Automation Anywhere University. You can even reward citizen developers as they complete training, create their first digital co-workers, and hit their targets--or win a Bot Games challenge! Our favorite ways to get started include: Citizen Developer Basics Citizen Developer Practitioner “Beyond AAU” -- list of challenges and learning resources
Finally, You Can Focus on Growth
With planning, governance, training, and EXCITEMENT firmly in place, your Citizen Development pilot baby is ready to leave the nest. After the first few business-built automations are a success, You’ll see people who want to make positive change and drive transformation in the organization through automation. They’ll begin discussing opportunities to collaborate and innovate in self-organized groups, and they’ll share their success metrics and business impact regularly and visibly. That’s when your citizen development effort has reached full maturity. And your developers in the CoE can get time back without compromising governance, ensuring efficiency and quality—time back for more higher-value projects such as enterprise-wide, business-critical initiatives. Talk about a win-win!