Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with CP Gurnani, the CEO and MD of Tech Mahindra, a $5.5 billion global technology and consulting organization that serves Fortune 500 companies, about his perspective on citizen development and the “citizen revolution.”
Gurnani is well positioned to understand both the great potential of citizen development, as well as the significant challenges of implementing and scaling it. Below, I’ve recapped highlights from our conversation.
What’s keeping your IT department up at night
The rapid adoption of citizen development is making IT departments very nervous. They are worried, and quite rightly so, that people in their organizations will rush off and create all kinds of applications, ignoring protocols and governance standards, and using any tool available. And, of course, if an application fails, then it falls on the IT department to fix it. They also worry about the complexity that may result, exposing the enterprise to significant risks and impacts on adjacent systems and interfaces that sit behind old working practices. They worry that the citizen revolution will become a free-for-all!
Bringing IT with you on the low-code/no-code journey
Given their many valid points of concern, how can you bring the IT department along? Clearly this shift could be very disruptive to what the department typically does to control the IT environment—both physical assets and software assets. IT manages both the internal and external technology environment of the organization, defines and selects the vendors and partners, and helps decide the priorities for IT capital investments in infrastructure. And now, you’re proposing that you give some—if not all—of that control to others in the business who don’t necessarily appreciate the interconnectivity of systems and sub-systems. From IT’s perspective, this is a disaster in the making.
Citizen development is about the individual
But Gurnani asserts that citizen development is not just about the business. It is a movement that, if managed well, will empower the individuals within the enterprise.
“More than ever today, you need to protect and nurture the free spirit. Which means you need to create belief in the company,” he says. “If you need a digital infrastructure, of course you will need some governance to make sure people feel protected and are comfortable in enabling themselves. With freedom comes responsibility, and hence the need for boundaries and safeguards. We need to make citizen development safe for everyone—including IT.”
According to Gurnani, ignoring the citizen revolution is not an option. “You don’t stop building roads, because of the accidents. You don’t close down the internet because of the dark web. You don’t abandon progress and development because of risk. You address the risk.”
Gurnani does not see citizen development as a threat to companies such as Tech Mahindra. “Five years ago, people were already capable of 3D printing a drivable car in a studio and in a day. It did not destroy Detroit. It changed it. I see low-code/no-code as an opportunity.”
The need for standards and governance
Gurnani has identified three gaps that must be bridged for successful implementation of citizen development. “The biggest challenge for citizen development is to evolve into a level of standards. Secondly, we need data governance rules. Thirdly, there must be a format in which the plug and play can happen across the various low-code and no-code vendors and allow people to share their applications.”
Gurnani believes that PMI, with its deep expertise in developing global standards and certification training, is ideally positioned to help drive adoption of citizen development, serving as an objective resource for organizations looking to apply citizen development tools and methodologies thoughtfully.
Gain a competitive edge through early adoption
By embracing low-code/no-code, you can gain competitive advantage against companies that have not embraced citizen development. In the short term, early movers can create a solution to a problem in a fraction of the time and cost that a traditional software house might deliver. This is exciting in the current times where digital transformation has to be fast, can’t be waterfall-based, and even agile may be too slow.
Gurnani says “One can’t afford to miss out on citizen development. I believe it is the next big wave and again, the role of governance is critical. At Tech Mahindra, we are confronting this in many ways. We have situations where the software solution got developed in two to three weeks, but gaining the security approvals took months.”
It is critical to create a governance framework that your client or business is comfortable with—one that covers the main issues of governance, security, data protocols, and more. That’s where PMI can help educate and enable individuals and organizations.
Watch this space
In coming months, we will have several interviews with top business thinkers about citizen development and the impact on the world of work, business and beyond.
You can learn more here.