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Democratizing automation with citizen developers: navigating the pitfalls and opportunities

by Contributor

The implications

Enterprise automation technology providers increasingly offer tools tailored to citizen developers, making them easily and widely accessible through low-cost or free cloud services. While citizen developers can improve micro-efficiency, business agility, and innovation, they also present risks, such as security, compliance, privacy, data quality, duplication of efforts and technologies, and mounting technical debt.

In general, citizen developers may possess different technical expertise than professional developers, therefore the applications and automations they implement might be sub-optimally designed. Furthermore, these applications may need to be designed with scalability, a skill that citizen developers don’t necessarily master, thus potentially creating challenges as the organization grows.

Challenges can also arise in ongoing maintenance and support as the lifecycle of citizen-developed applications may not be rigorously managed. Consequently, outdated applications may remain in place for a long time, potentially harming the organization in the long run.

Additionally, the lack of coordination among numerous citizen developers can lead to fragmented processes, uneven development, and duplication of efforts across the organization.

Lastly, documentation by citizen developers can help others understand, maintain, and modify the applications they create, but usually documenting what they develop is not a priority for them.

Technical debt, that is the accumulation of technical issues, poorly developed and hard-to-maintain code, can arise when organizations do not put in place proper development governance processes. While citizen development has a good deal of merits, the risk of building technical debt looms large on it. Ensuring the appropriate governance guardrails are in place and involving the relevant people is essential for success.

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