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Everyday man dressed as a superhero with the text Citizen Developer on his chest.

You may have heard the expression “citizen developer” being thrown around a lot recently so we wanted to get some more insight into what one is and whether they should be an integral part of every business. At Solvaa we talk about the concept of “systems and automation champions”, who are people within a company who understand the business processes and are constantly looking for opportunities to streamline and automate them. The term “citizen developer” is a pretty similar kind of role, so let’s explore exactly what they are and how they can help businesses be more productive.


How do we define a Systems and Automation Champion?

At Solvaa we define a Systems and Automation Champion as someone within a company who understands the business processes really well and is able to use technology to streamline and automate the workflows. These champions are individuals who want to embrace better ways of working using no-code automation software tools such as Zapier to implement changes identified to improve systems and processes. They also proactively promote better process thinking and empower their peers to follow suit.

Systems and Automation Champions will oversee the rollout of systems, process and automation change projects to the wider team, ensure that everyone is on-board with the changes and then review and maintain them via continuous improvement.


What is a Citizen Developer?

According to Techopedia, a Citizen Developer is a tech-savvy end user who can build a new software feature from a cloud-based code base, system or structure. It is a low-code approach to software development where authorised employees can design and build applications to meet niche business needs.

Citizen Developers have no formal software training but are employees who are empowered to review processes, improve them and then design powerful applications which they build using no-code or low-code tools. According to Gartner, 61% of organisations have citizen development initiatives or are planning to do so.

So this confirms our thoughts that Citizen Developer is a synonym for our Systems and Automation Champion!


Why do businesses need a Citizen Developer?

With never-ending backlogs, IT teams are struggling to keep up with new requests for developments, and managers are finding it hard to source the technical staff they need to deliver them. Not only are they hard to find, but IT staff are expensive resources, so finding a cheaper solution makes good business sense.

Since system changes can take a long time to implement, business users are typically using clunky spreadsheets and rekeying data from one system into another to get around the limitations of their software applications.

Needing to use manual workarounds causes frustration for business teams, as well as wasted time spent on boring mundane tasks, increased costs and human error.


What are the benefits of having a Citizen Developer in your business?

Using Citizen Developers allows process improvement and automation projects to be delivered relatively quickly, compared with traditional IT development. It’s cheaper for businesses to use Citizen Developers rather than software engineers, so operating costs are lower compared with using their IT team to build every solution. Some smaller businesses may not even have an in-house IT department, and creating one to deliver new systems would be prohibitively expensive.

Therefore it makes sense to empower your workforce to learn how to use low-code automation tools as these vital skills will help them in any role. We believe automation should be something that everyone knows how to do, and becomes a core competency for every member of the team. And, thinking with a systems, process and automation mindset will help the business strive to encompass the right principles to incorporate change as the business grows and evolves.

Because Citizen Developers can introduce change quickly, businesses can maintain a competitive advantage. This agile approach means that no-code tools can be used to clear bottlenecks and improve efficiency, accelerate innovation and deliver solutions when they are needed rather than waiting months for an IT project to complete.

Two members of staff working in an office, standing at a white board with post-it notes to show tasks needed for a marketing project.

Being able to deliver speedy solutions leads to increased job satisfaction and reduced frustration for all members of the team. They won’t waste time on manual workarounds and can instead focus on the more creative and exciting aspects of their roles.

Should you hire an automation consultant or would it be better to nurture existing team members to become Citizen Developers?

Most Citizen Developers are existing staff members who have in-depth knowledge of the business processes and operational needs of an organisation. They understand where issues lie, where the bottlenecks are, why staff use manual workarounds and how existing systems are failing to provide the solutions needed.

Their in-depth knowledge of the business makes existing staff ideal Citizen Developers, and if they don’t have all the skills needed then you can empower them with training to fill the gaps.

For more complex projects, hiring an automation consultant is an option. Automation consultants are familiar with the software tools needed to implement automation solutions and can work with your Citizen Developers during the information-gathering and implementation phases. They are experienced in streamlining business processes and will work with your team to understand where improvements can be made. They will have a wide knowledge of cloud-based apps which can be connected via automation, which is useful if you have outdated systems and need to upgrade them.

Ideally, your business improvement projects will still be led by in-house Citizen Developers, who know the business best, but with help from an automation consultant if needed. There may be technical skills that an automation consultant will possess or in-depth knowledge of a particular software system.

The ideal scenario is to empower your existing business users with the right skills they need to become Citizen Developers. Then you can hire an automation consultant to fill the gaps if extra technical expertise is required. The consultant will share their knowledge and upskill your team further with coaching, which means that for future projects they will be able to undertake the work autonomously.


How can I become a Citizen Developer?

There are some key skills you need to become a Citizen Developer, assuming you work within the business currently. First, you need an in-depth knowledge of the business processes, and where inefficiencies lie. You need digital skills and an appetite to learn about the no-code tools which you will use to implement automation solutions. A willingness for self-learning is really useful to gain business analysis skills as well as acquire knowledge about the existing software apps to be able to connect them via tools such as Zapier.

You should ideally be a great communicator and able to liaise with all departments to improve processes. Collaboration is key and you will champion the use of technology to streamline inefficiencies and deliver change.

Citizen Developers typically have great attention to detail and constantly strive for improvement. They will need to apply governance at all stages of the project to ensure everyone uses the right apps and security standards are maintained. You will also need to ensure the IT department is kept informed to foster ongoing support for your innovation.

If you’d like to learn all the skills needed to become a Citizen Developer then our signature training programme “Simple Automation Blueprint : Zero to Hero” includes modules on business process improvement, how to document processes and then prepare for and implement automation using Zapier. You can find out more below about how to sign up and kick-start your Citizen Developer role!

Reduce your overwhelm with our automation training programme

And finally, if you’re really keen to reduce your overwhelmand  transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business.

It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too! 

Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate.

Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘. 

Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.

Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.

Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors. 

Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.


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