Clearing IT bottlenecks with citizen developers

  • Now on Now
  • Solutions
  • Catherine Waago
  • 2021
May 06, 2021

Clearing IT bottlenecks with citizen developers

“I can clear your IT bottlenecks” is all it took.

When my colleague approached me and asked if my organization would be interested in participating in the citizen developer pilot project, I signed on right away. After all, who wouldn’t want to clear their backlog?

[Learn more about ServiceNow citizen developers at Knowledge 2021.]

As the director of IT customer success, I lead teams that help deliver transformation initiatives at scale. Fulfilling business needs is also my priority. So, I pay close attention to requests that drive productivity and efficiency at the individual and team levels.

What is a citizen developer? A citizen developer is a user with little to no coding experience who builds applications using IT-approved technology and processes.


The digital transformation paradox

In my six years at ServiceNow, I’ve seen the world of work evolve faster than ever before. This past year, we’ve seen an unprecedented acceleration of digital transformation across the board. Those of us leading digital initiatives are seeing massive demand for last-mile digitization and connected systems. We need to transform faster; velocity and agility are crucial.

Like many businesses, we’re expected to build solutions and adjust within weeks—or even days. That means more software is needed. Yet, IT professionals are stretched thinner than ever.

The traditional software development and deployment model is not sustainable. Software owned and/or built by IT teams can only cover a part of ever-growing enterprise demands.

Instead of waiting for skilled programmers, what if we could empower everyone in the organization with a low-code development platform they can use to address IT needs for their line of business?

A low-code, no-code solution

As the name implies, a citizen developer is an everyday user who builds applications to address their own business needs. Equipped with a low-code platform, citizen developers can build web, mobile, and back-office applications that replace spreadsheets or database tools and reduce manual data tracking and repetitive administrative tasks. This helps the business realize value.

Citizen developer opportunities include web, mobile, chatbot, and IoT to help employees, partners, and customers.


As promising as all this sounds, I had some concerns at first. Just how much resourcing would citizen development require from my team? Would developing our own app really be faster than waiting for the IT backlog to clear? And would I be creating yet more shadow IT by empowering my team to create its own apps?

Spandan Chakraborty, a director of IT product engineering at ServiceNow, assured me these pitfalls were addressable and preventable. “Citizen development is not about automating bad workflows or building redundant apps,” he says. “It’s about turning business owners with little to no coding experience into citizen developers.”

By leveraging IT-approved technology and processes, Chakraborty’s team provided well-defined guardrails and a clear learning path. The process goes something like this:

First, IT evaluates all submitted app ideas and sorts out capabilities that already exist, require pro developers, involve customers, or use external apps. Once the idea is approved, selected citizen developers learn to build and test their apps with IT support.

Make work, work better for me

Tom Dungan, a senior customer reference manager at ServiceNow, used to spend hours putting together reports using Excel and PowerPoint. By becoming a citizen developer, he was able to workflow the cumbersome process. A time-intensive report became an automated dashboard providing real-time data. This is an example of business transformation creating a different way of working altogether—so that workers can spend their time on projects that really excite them.

To enable full innovation, it’s crucial to align business and IT perfectly. That’s why a citizen development program doesn’t replace an IT department or professional programmers. IT should be present throughout the process to monitor a secure and centralized platform where low-code development takes place.

Low code, no hassle


As for me, citizen development has effectively reduced my backlog as Chakraborty predicted. I knew the program was a success when Dungan told me one day, “The citizen development program empowered me to make work, work better for me.”


See us at Knowledge 2021

Join Chakraborty and me in the Knowledge 2021 breakout session, Citizen developers innovating ServiceNow with low code and no hassle. We’ll share our citizen development journey and discuss some of the key lessons ServiceNow has learned from using the Now Platform’s low-code capabilities internally. The session is available on demand, with live chat sessions available in AMS, EMEA, and APJ. Registration is free.


ServiceNow, the ServiceNow logo, Now, and other ServiceNow marks are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of ServiceNow, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries.

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