Citizen development is a no brainer

I am a lucky man. I have been hired by a large consultancy firm to research and write about citizen development and low/no-code. Recently, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Arjun Jamnadass of FTI, Mark DeArmon and Jason Fasbinder of OutSystems, talking about why citizen development is the best thing since sliced bread.

The conversation

Here is my take on the conversation:

  • You do not need an expensive top-down approach to transform your business. Consider using citizen development as an alternative. It will be cheaper, more bottom-up, more effective and faster.
  • Most companies have bad applications and procedures that are covered up by great employees. Citizen development can help improve these poor processes very quickly.
  • Citizen development allows organisations to play at low risk, at speed and with potentially high ROI.
  • The project barrier has been broken—the tendency by organisations to only focus on large projects. Companies can finally decide to engage with much smaller projects. They can let a 1000 flowers bloom.
  • Citizen development reduces cost and increases agility (“pivot on a dime” was used as a phrase).
  • Companies that already used citizen development pre-COVID were much faster in responding to the new circumstances.
  • It is no longer about digital transformation. Citizen development is about business revolution.
  • Citizen development can only work in collaboration with IT and with proper governance. Citizen development allows you to modernise your legacy systems.
  • Citizen development can help you eradicate your shadow IT.
  • Citizen development can help tackle the project backlog every organisation has. Fast.
  • The more you use citizen development, the more comfortable the business will be performing continual ideation.
  • Citizen development is the perfect tool for developing proofs of concept, and it can be done in a fraction of the time compared to traditional hand-coding.
  • A conducive culture and successful citizen development execution go hand in hand.
  • You cannot micromanage citizen development.
  • You do need rules, guardrails and a framework to manage citizen development.
  • IT´s role will change to coaching, training and creating the governance frameworks in which to operate.
  • Education and training in citizen development are fundamental.
  • Change management, transformation and citizen development go hand in hand.
  • Every citizen development platform uses different frameworks or guard rails. Someone should create an industry standard.
  • Citizen development is an ideal engagement tool to involve everyone in improving the organisation.
  • In many cases, management has difficulty understanding the scale of the needed adoption.
  • Once you introduce citizen development, the cat is out of the bag. There is no way back.
  • Even the army is embracing citizen development.

Shadow IT

I have a background in innovation and intrapreneurship. Implementing successful innovation and intrapreneurship programmes are incredibly hard. Citizen development might be a very effective way of introducing these types of programmes, starting for example with tackling shadow IT and use that as the platform for transformation, culture change and increasing the innovation capability of the organisation. Where innovation and culture change are the byproducts of the massive savings, you make on solving the shadow IT issue.

 IT as an enabler

As all companies become technology companies, the role of IT moves from bottleneck to an enabler. Finally becoming the core of the business as an enablement and collaboration tool. Helping to modernise the legacy systems and solving shadow IT at the same time.


The strategic implications of citizen development are enormous. I do not think organisations have a choice whether to adopt or not. They will very quickly lose your competitive edge in areas such as efficiency, innovation, speed of deployment and customer engagement (wait for your customers to discover citizen development).


But they will also not reap the positive impacts on culture, innovation capability, internal clock speed and the inevitable changes to your organisation structure. Giving your organisation the adaptability, agility and speed that it will need to survive in these complicated times. Not as a big bang, but through several less risky small projects from the bottom up. Ultimately it is a choice between becoming a true 21st-century organisation or be left behind.

No brainer

I am not an expert on citizen development or low and no-code, and I am aware there are big differences between low and no-code, which are not reflected in this blog. That is because I do not understand. What I do understand from all the conversations I am having is the massive potential of citizen development. Citizen development is a no brainer.


There is one big BUT. For citizen development to work, you need a robust governance structure. No company wants an unmanaged, ungoverned, and unfettered citizen development capability running wild, that they will have to figure out how to unwind later. That would be like replacing shadow IT with spaghetti code.

Join the movement

If you want to find out more, click here, and join a newly set up citizen developer community.

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Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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