Project Management & Governance for Citizen Developer

17 August 2022

Dermot Hore is Auxilion's Senior Programme Management Consultant. This is the first in a series of blogs on project management and governance around Citizen Developer, a transformative software development platform.

Citizen Developer has arrived. The potentially revolutionary platform allows users to develop software applications without writing code. Advocates for Citizen Developer claim that this is a great step forward for technology which will facilitate innovation and accelerated development. Others are concerned about potential security risks and irresponsible use of the platform within organisations (some software developers are also understandably concerned about what it means for their jobs going forward!).

Regardless of your position on Citizen Developer, it’s here to stay. And that means organisations must be prepared to implement governance frameworks around it. Project managers and consultants need to understand the benefits and risks of Citizen Developer in order to guide clients in implementing it.



The emergence of Citizen Developer will cause immense disruption. Artificial Intelligence has given software engineering platforms the sophistication to write code based only on visual diagrams put together by business users, without them needing to provide code themselves. This dramatically opens up software development and engineering. People have been using 4GL (Fourth Generation Language) since the 1980s, but it has become far more advanced and accessible to a much wider range of users.

One significant aspect of this development is the increasing global shortage of software developers. In 2020, with 1.2 million computing jobs available, only 400,000 computer science students graduated from universities and training programmes. Could Citizen Developer mitigate this problem, or even eliminate it entirely? Some of the content published around it would have you believe so. While Citizen Developer absolutely does have revolutionary potential, the reality is more complex than some of its proponents make it seem.


Governance & Quality Control

There are significant concerns around Citizen Developer in terms of governance and quality control. Some view it as the next stage in “Shadow IT.” Citizen Developer does indeed have the potential to turn IT environments into the Wild West. However, regardless of potential complications and drawbacks, the potential of Citizen Developer is simply too big to ignore. Furthermore, it has already arrived and will only grow in prominence. As always with developments in the world of technology, hiding our heads in the sand is simply not a viable option.

Project managers are among those who must engage most seriously with Citizen Developer. We need to understand that our roles are about to change. We need to adapt and develop new skills and knowledge.

With this in mind, the Project Management Institute (PMI) have developed a handbook to help project managers and others engage with and respond to these inevitable changes. This will help professionals in the world of IT to truly understand Citizen Developer on a deep and detailed level. For project managers, understanding Citizen Developer will allow us to guide clients on how to prepare for it and take advantage of its potential. We will have to adjust our traditional project management delivery models and apply strong governance.

PMI Handbook Overview

Over the next few months, I’ll be providing my insights and comments on each section of the Project Management Institute’s handbook. I’ll be reviewing specific projects where the new technology has been used and what we can learn from them. I’ll also be speaking to subject matter experts to get their insights.

Section 1 of the PMI handbook opens with a discussion of the potential benefits of Citizen Developer, with a few revealing examples. It then discusses the challenges of introducing it into your business and the need for comprehensive governance. This is extremely important information for project managers. Allowing business users to create applications without this kind of governance in place will cause serious problems across a business.

This section also introduces the PMI framework for engaging with Citizen Developer. It focuses on how it works, how to develop the capability within your organisation, and how to align it to organisational needs with a suggested operating model. It also provides a Citizen Development Maturity Model which addresses such topics as experimentation and scaling to take full advantage of its benefits.

Section 2 focuses on project delivery and introduces the concept of Hyper Agile. Hyper Agile essentially refers to accelerated development with less required documentation. While this concept may cause anxiety for project managers, this section is actually quite reassuring that Hyper Agile development actually has a significant amount of governance intrinsically built into it.

Section 3 focuses on Capability Development around Citizen Developer. It provides guidelines on ensuring that software developments do not have a negative impact on an overall IT environment. It discusses Enterprise Risk Requirement, which ensures that all developers take account of potential risks to their wider organisations. It also discusses Application Development and how to avoid common problems in developing data models, including taking UX considerations into account. This section provides specific recommendations and checklists.

Part 4 focuses on Operational Models for introducing Citizen Developer. The topics addressed include Organisational Structures, Governance, Performance Measurement and how to embed citizen development into the fabric of your organisation. It advises setting up a citizen development competency centre and/or a community practice group within your organisation. It also details a specific recommended operating model.

Part 5 focuses on Organisation Alignment. It outlines how to measure the ROI of implementing citizen development practices and how to apply best practice tracking metrics. It also discusses the cultural change required to make citizen development a success.

Part 6 introduces a Citizen Development Maturity Model. This model lays out the recommended steps for experimenting with and formally adopting citizen development within an organisation, how to scale its use, and how to drive innovation by truly embedding citizen development practices. This section makes clear that the process will require comprehensive preparation, long-term thinking and consistent development.

The PMI handbook does not treat Citizen Developer as the silver bullet to all of your development problems, as some content around it does. It engages with it honestly as a potentially transformative asset that requires significant, detailed consideration and organisational planning to adopt successfully.

In subsequent blogs, I’ll be engaging with these individual sections of the handbook in more detail and providing my own responses. Citizen Developer and hyper agile coding will cause significant disruption, but with the right preparation, organisations can take advantage of its enormous potential.


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