Citizen Development is a lever for scale that many organizations leverage to expand and multiply the ROI for their automation programs. A citizen developer is an employee who comes from something other than a computer-science background - who is creating automations that are consumed by themselves or their team. Citizen Developers are typically motivated business users who’ve identified areas for streamlining/automating areas of their business processes and are interested in creating solutions to meet their own need(s).
Organizations who’ve taken on Citizen Development programs have unlocked 2 key benefits:
Faster Innovation - With business users able to self-identify, and prioritize their own use cases, they aren’t reliant on the capacity of a central automation development team to deliver innovative automations.
ROI Acceleration - The development of additional automations means that organizations are seeing automation impacts more broadly across their organization, rather than being limited to the use cases submitted to and the capacity limitations of a centralized development team.
Sowing the Seeds for a Robust Citizen Development Program
Identify Automation Champions - As you evangelize and promote the benefits of your automation program, identify individuals who are excited about the prospects of automation and show interest in a deeper, continued engagement. These individuals make for excellent contributors and creators of automation opportunities. If you’re looking for areas to start, consider business analysts, or those with an interest in exploring new technologies to solve problems across the various teams that you discuss automation opportunities with. You may find some teams that have already been pursuing “shadow IT” automation
Establish a “Licensing” Program - Just like there are requirements to get a driver’s license (written test, classroom time, hours driving with an already licensed co-pilot), establish the expectations for a business user to be “licensed” to build automations to meet their needs/the needs of their team. This can include the citizen development learning trail materials available from Automation Anywhere University as well as custom training/knowledge base articles you’ve created locally specific to your automation frameworks, development best practices, testing procedures, and release management process.
Launch a Pilot - Start small, working with a select group of motivated aspiring automation builders to identified some low risk, quick-win processes that they can get started with automating. Make note of common issues that come up and potential gaps in the knowledge transfer. Ideally this onboarding of net-new citizen developers can be continuously refined/streamlined to make the process as effective as possible.
Build the Business Case - As the participants of the pilot program continue to mature in their ability to deliver value for their teams with the automations that they build, make note of the metrics (business value and operational) and stories (employee morale improvement, business unit able to “do more without hiring more”) that tell the story of the success of the program. These metrics/stories will be critically important as you present the case to senior leadership for an expanded and scaled Citizen Development Program.
Conclusion & Actionable Takeaways
Expanding automation development capabilities beyond the automation CoE team is a great way to scale, and a great way to enable various functional areas within your organization to prioritize and meet their own automations needs. While not everyone may ultimately be a long term fit for Citizen Development, expanding automation development capabilities to business users is a great way to provide an upskilling opportunity to motivated individuals who want to develop new skills as they meet the needs for their team and their organization. Final Note: The goal of this phase of Citizen Developer Enablement is just a pilot. As you jump into the Scale phase of Citizen Developer Enablement, we’ll focus on scaling the program to have a much broader organizational reach and securing formal program buy-in.
- Identify 3-5 motivated individuals who might be a good fit for your Citizen Development pilot program. Build excitement for the opportunity by letting them know this is a “first of its kind” opportunity to build automations that can help meet the needs of their team.
- Determine the best way to provide “guardrails” for Citizen Developer created content. This may come by way of an easy to understand automation framework that ensures consistency in the way that error handling, logging, log management, and metrics capture are done across their automations.
- Make sure the “burden is light” here...especially for their first automations. Don’t give them a framework that has 15 subtasks and expect them to understand where their logic goes - start with a simple bot framework that clearly identifies where their code should go - ideally in a single task/bot.
- Include these new automation developers in your community of practice so they have a place to come listen in, ask questions, and get help as they need it. Thinking back to the Start phase of Promotion and Engagement, Building an Internal Community of Practice is key to providing a social and technological safety net for these new users.
- If your internal community of practice is getting too big, consider setting up special office hours JUST for your new community of Citizen Developers. Remember - you too were new at this at one point, and you too may have asked bad questions - so the importance of treating these new users with patience and kindness cant be overstated. Make for an inclusive, welcoming environment.
- Get them started! Get some of your identified individuals started with some of the freely available resources from Automation Anywhere University. Show them the available learning trails, and progression they should follow as they get started.
- Get them plugged into Automation Anywhere’s Community Edition so they can try out building their first automations!