Citizen development governance: 3 steps to success

  • Application Development
  • Solutions
  • 2023
  • Kim Kaull
May 03, 2023

Citizen development governance: woman working on a laptop in her home

Now that digital innovation and efficiency are business requisites, the demand for great apps continues to grow. The work of software developers has become vital to all aspects of business, yet the shortage of developers is snowballing. Global market intelligence firm IDC forecasts a shortfall of 4 million developers by 2025.1 Many companies are embracing citizen development to bridge the gap.

As a vital part of any hyperautomation effort, citizen development helps shrink IT backlogs, accelerate digital innovation, and reduce the app gap. It also helps ease pressure on professional developers, freeing them to work on more satisfying projects. Investing in innovation capacity can move organizations further and faster than automating workflows and processes alone. Establishing citizen development governance is the foundation for success.

A clear, actionable roadmap

Launching a citizen development program allows organizations to quickly expand their development capacity for new business apps without conventional overhead. Without accountability and guardrails, however, scaling app creation and delivery outside of IT can lead to app sprawl and shadow IT. Allowing separate business units to develop and launch custom apps without enterprise standards can also result in data silos, overlapping functionality, operational inefficiencies, and increased risk.

To avoid snags like these, it’s important to take time to develop an effective governance model. Essentially, a governance model is a framework that defines what program decisions are made, how, and by whom.

This framework provides a clear, actionable roadmap. Ownership and roles are clearly defined, and decision-making authority is assigned—before any issues arise. Proper governance and guardrails also help citizen developers innovate quickly and safely within company standards.

Additionally, good governance helps avoid wasted effort, prioritize projects, deliver fast outcomes, and minimize technical and business risks. Here are three steps to establish strong governance for your citizen development program.

1. Create your governance plan

Before you call up your first cohort of citizen developers, draft your governance plan. Assign a leader to be accountable for the initial definition of the program scope and goals, the project plan, and the implementation team. You’ll also want to capture any existing technology or governance requirements and note any aspects of your organization’s culture that may influence decision-making.

Then, define a vision statement for your program, and create a strategy to show how you’ll achieve it. Once these are complete, you can use them to prepare a compelling business case for your leadership team and stakeholders to gain their support.


Involve people with both tactical and business skills when you set up your governance program.

2. Set your guardrails

Guardrails support your governance structure by enforcing policies and standards to maintain the usability, security, and compliance required for enterprise apps.

Take advantage of a modern, low-code development platform with integrated guardrails to ensure your citizen developers align with best practices. By using and adding to the established policies and standards built into the platform, your administrators and application development teams can gain visibility into and oversight of the low-code applications being developed and deployed in your organization.

3. Prepare the experience

Providing a safe and satisfying experience for your citizen developers is crucial. A unified low-code platform includes engaging collaboration tools to submit app ideas, invite others to build together, and hand apps off to IT for tests and deployments—all in a streamlined environment.

App development capabilities on a low-code platform allow anyone to use prebuilt templates or drag-and-drop functionality and convenient building blocks to make many of the initial technical choices for configuring apps. Role-based access control lets citizen developers work confidently without risk to other developers, data, or the platform.

With the right low-code application platform, you can quickly scale, manage, and safeguard citizen development across your enterprise. A strong governance plan is critical to help keep your organization on track to deliver great apps fast.

Get more tips to effectively plan your citizen development program.

1 IDC, Quantifying the Worldwide Shortage of Full-Time Developers, Doc # US48223621, September 2021

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