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HCLSoftware: Fueling the Digital+ Economy

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No code isn’t anything new; what is new are the increasing challenges organizations are facing as a result, like IT complexity, shadow IT environments and backlogs. With an application development platform that supports the full spectrum of developers, from citizen to professional, to build and collaborate, any organization can successfully drive faster innovation while overcoming business and IT hurdles.

We recently hosted a webinar with MIT SMR Connections, where Richard Jefts, Executive Vice President at HCLSoftware, and Andrew Manby, VP of Product Management at HCLSoftware, joined the panel to break down everything you need to know about citizen development implementation, including:

  • How to foster collaboration between professional and citizen developers.
  • How to establish strong IT governance and security.
  • AI and its growing role in citizen development.

To everyone who joined us – thank you! There were a ton of great questions we didn’t get to answer during the live sessions. If you missed the webinar, you can watch the on-demand replay here. Otherwise, read a recap of the Q&A below

How To Get Started With Citizen Development

Q. How do you build consensus from citizen developers on the desired business outcomes? How do you avoid silos?

A. Business outcomes will vary, but we see consensus among citizen developers on their application patterns. They want to be able to build web forms, capture, track and analyze data and automate processes. By centralizing a service that brings these capabilities together in an easy to consume, self-service way organizations can empower all their citizen developers without building silos.

Q. How and where should citizen developers obtain the skills required for their app development? Does a citizen developer need to have basic coding knowledge?

A. A no-code/low-code platform should enable them to get started with little, if any, training, given they can already work with tools like spreadsheets. A citizen developer should not have to be trained in the traditional IT app dev concepts. Rather the platform should help them focus on the business problem and take care of technical concepts like - authentication, database, form field bindings, dev/ops – automatically. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be training. As users get more sophisticated, they will need training on things workflow, validation logic, using services and advanced styling. Training should be part of or included with the product used and available on an on-demand basis.

Q. How do we manage enterprise-wide reuse while getting the best out of citizen development?

A. A successful citizen development program requires more than simply giving users access to the tool. The out-of-the-box capabilities are a good start but will only get users so far. IT will need to invest in a few areas to help citizen developers be productive

Users will need access to data. This includes data on people in the organization for building workflow application, data on customers and products for build apps to help with sales and service, data on performance for building dashboard and analysis apps. The access needs to be curated by IT and made available to authorized citizen developers in a safe, easy to consume way. Custom templates, widgets and themes should be made available by IT to help users with common use cases and patterns. These will enable users to compose apps more quickly and at a higher level than the out-of-the-box product will allow. They’ll also help users build apps with more, reliability, consistency and with a standard look and behavior.

Governance

Q. Can anyone in an organization simply decide to build a citizen app or does the business need to give certain employees, or groups of employees, permission to build citizen apps?

A. Citizen development brings with it many promises and challenges. Most organizations have dabbled in citizen development by giving certain employees permission to build apps. Few had implemented it at scale, meaning opening the tool to all employees with minimal friction much like the company’s email or collaboration systems. This is where we are seeing the biggest benefits.

Q. I don’t understand the concept of letting business users develop their own applications when confidentiality may be an issue.

A. Citizen developers need to be in an environment where they are free to build whatever they want within the bounds of what the platform supports, and complies with internal policy. For example, apps created can be limited to internal facing audiences, low on the complexity scale and the amount and type of data they process. The platform could be configured for intranet only, have limits set on data size and have internal policies against building apps with highly confidential data.

Q. When citizen developers are given the right to develop, it becomes quite a challenge for IT. How do you control runaway code inventory?

A. You can think of citizen development in 2 zones:

  • A self-service zone which allows users to safely create apps without IT involvement.
  • An assisted zone where citizen developers are collaborating with professional developers.

In the first zone, it is vital that IT keep track of apps which have been deployed. IT needs to know who the owner is, who can be contacted for support of the app, the type of app, the expected life of the app, anticipated level of usage and data volume and more. The app owner needs to provide answers to these questions and also agree to abide by the acceptable use policies that IThas in place for the platform.

The check-in between the app owner and IT needs to be an automated process which starts weeks after the app is deployed. The process needs to notify the app owner and present them with an attestation form. If the attestation form is not completed by the app owner, IT then needs to remove the app from deployment.

The process needs to be repeated periodically to verify if the app is still needed and if the ownership and support contacts have changed. And again, if the form is not returned by the app owner or if the app is no longer needed, IT then needs to remove the app from deployment. The attestation process is one of the key pieces to avoid the sprawl of unwanted apps and to hold the citizen developer accountable to comply with organizational policy.

In the second zone, where citizen developers are working with IT, the approach can be different. With IT involved, they can manage the issues related to security, compliance, scalability, availability, and maintainability while the citizen developer focuses on the business aspects of the app. IT understands how to harden apps for security, define for scalability, etc. This is where they are experts. The citizen developer is an expert in the business.

Collaboration

Q. Do you have a way to transition from a citizen-developed application to an IT- enhanced application (i.e: take it out of the hands of citizens and migrate it to develop it into a professional app?)

A. A key consideration is to select a platform that allows apps created by citizen developers to be extended and enhanced by professional developers. At some point an app developed by a citizen developer might need to be hardened and turned into an enterprise app. You might also have a scenario where the citizen developer is engaged in a piece of a larger effort which is led by IT.

Or perhaps they are involved with building out a prototype to prove out a concept, which if successful gets turned over to professional IT developers for completion. Having this ability improves the final solution and saves time and effort by not having to re-write the app.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Q. Do you see AI helping citizen developers?

A. Absolutely. AI can help citizen developers in many areas – namely developer productivity and automation of app creation. Often the biggest challenge is understanding how to approach the problem with the tool. AI can help here. It can learn from past experiences and start you off with a partial solution that it creates based on your inputs to work from. And in terms of productivity, there are many simple things, like typing in field names in an address block, which AI can do automatically.

When it comes to debugging your app, AI promises deeper insights into issues and faster resolution. This all means improved speed and quality. AI also holds promise as a feature of the apps you build. For example, it can help highlight and interpret data for deeper analysis.

It’s time to embrace citizen development. HCL Volt MX makes it possible for developers of every skillset to work together to solve business challenges, reducing the time, cost and technical expertise needed to get apps built and deployed.

Learn more about HCL Volt MX here.

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