Citizen developers: The pros and cons

October 19, 2020

Citizen Developers in the context of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are a much talked about topic. Whether you love or hate the concept, everyone seems to have an opinion on it.  
Here at Roots Automation, our team have experience in both the corporate and IT provider worlds. We would like to share some of our topline thoughts on the pros and cons of leveraging this type of development capability within your firms.
 
Firstly, what is a Citizen Developer?
 
A Citizen Developer is a process expert who is given the necessary tools to develop automations to solve business problems. These developers will sit outside of the IT department and have differing levels of partnership with their IT teams. The solutions they build revolve around their focus areas of knowledge. Finally, it also implies that their development work is not their full-time focus.
 
Cost vs. quality
Pros
 
-        A Citizen Developer is a cost-effective option as it does not require expensive professional developers with expert app-building knowledge
 
-        App-development is no longer solely contained to the IT department and means more people can help with digital transformation
 
-        Citizen developers have no filters in translating their desires/needs into solutions they craft
 
Cons
 
-        Without professional developers, there are likely to be issues/bugs and/or features a professional would foresee but a Citizen Developer might not
 
-        This could lead to a disappointing final product which doesn’t accurately reflect the business standards or one that is hard to maintain and improve upon
 
Customization and user experience
Pros
 
-        With a Citizen Developer, you’ll have the ability to design an app which is tailored to suit the business needs and more easily perform ongoing updates as business needs change
 
Cons
 
-        The user-experience is likely to be sacrificed with a non-professional developer due to a lack of UI/UX expertise
 
-        Ongoing maintenance could become challenging if a solution is developed for today’s problem, without considering tomorrow’s needs
 
IT engagement
Pros
 
-        A Citizen Developer could ease the IT team’s workload by using low or no-code solutions to help meet the business requirements
 
-        This would mean the IT department can concentrate on the day-to-day smooth running of the business
 
Cons
-        Depending on the application at hand, the security will need to meet professional standards; this is more challenging to assure with a less-experienced Citizen Developer
 
-        As a worst-case scenario, this could lead to legal/privacy struggles if used on sensitive or client information
 
-        Testing practices will need to be carried out, if a Citizen Developer has insufficient experience with this, this could lead to relying heavily on the IT team
 
Speed
Pros
 
-        Using a Citizen Developer could lead to improved productivity as a low/no-code app can be set up more quickly than traditional methods, meaning the business solution is available sooner
 
Cons
 
-        The intention of low/no-code is to allow applications to be set up quickly but without a professional guiding the process this could end up taking much longer than traditional methods, and have an overall poorer result

Closing thoughts
Overall, there are pros and cons for both traditional and Citizen Developer methods. Before making a final decision, all points must be considered with the specific business problem in mind to make sure the process and solution will be right for your company.  Considering both methods certainly valid and would likely split based on the complexity and criticality of the intended solution.

RPA, AUTOMATION, Citizen developer

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