As someone who started out as a programmer and software developer, I’m always keen to get involved in the nuts and bolts of IT development. It’s really satisfying to know that your creative thinking can be turned into a tool that helps save people time or ease their working day. Lately, as technology has become far more democratized, I’m thrilled to say this has become a whole lot easier—and means everyone can innovate.

Woman looking into the distance

Recently, I was talking with my colleague Sean Butterworth about putting the power of IT into the hands of our people in a podcast on the topic of citizen development. Because Accenture has fully embraced the cloud, we can leverage the power of platforms, especially low and no code platforms, to make digital transformation happen. And with just a few weeks training, complete novices can develop working applications from any area of a business. In other words, ordinary citizens can become do-it-yourself developers.

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For many, it’s opened up a whole new world. Take the Accenture team that created a compliance application. They took a disparate and complex process and put a rules engine over it to simplify it for their team. As a result, they are seeing a 75% reduction in security-related incidents—and it proved to be so useful that it was adopted more widely across the organization.

Meeting demand

Today, I say to our citizen developers if you’re comfortable creating a PowerPoint presentation, then you can definitely create a power app. And it addresses the elephant in the room—organizations today have a lot of unmet demand that central IT solution delivery simply cannot meet. We’re seeing that ourselves within our own organization. When citizen developers are empowered, they can create solutions ten times faster than if they were relying on IT.

We’re also solving problems at the point of need—creating solutions that would be unlikely to ever hit IT's radar. For those us within global IT, it means we have greater visibility and understanding of that demand. And our own developers and architects are freed up to focus on the more complex solutions that truly drive enterprise value. It means greater overall productivity (for us, 98% less time spent creating operational dashboards) and better business outcomes—we’ve seen more than 8,000 power apps developed in just six months.

Change agents

Of course, this does involve a mindset shift in how our global IT team typically does application development. So for instance, we need to change how we think about compliance and governance, addressing them at the platform level rather than the app level as we do today.

There are always lessons to learn with any technology change, so here’s some of those learnings I shared with Sean:

  • You need guard rails. All applications need guard rails—in areas like design, data integrity, analytics, security and regulatory compliance—and there are a lot of players in the ecosystem around low and no code platforms. So it’s important to hone down on a set of use cases around what should live on each of the platforms in the organization.
  • Don’t ignore scale. You need to harness all this citizen development goodness but important, too, to think about licensing implications. Cost-effectiveness is still a factor when demand is so high. We have well over 14,000 applications that have been built within our environment—and that’s continuing to grow.
  • Keep it simple. It’s easy to overcomplicate things when you’re building out this technology. Scalability matters. Sharing real-life examples with the user population of what good looks like helps. And demonstrating the value that can be gained is really important for adoption. Being open about the pitfalls and benefits can help increase usage over time.

Listen to the full podcast and read our case study to find out more about Accenture’s successful citizen developers. The future looks bright as we find more ways to connect back to enterprise systems that people use—Salesforce, and ServiceNow and the broader Microsoft ecosystem, not to mention self-service robotic process automation—so that we can benefit from the huge advantages for our workforce.

Karen Odegaard

Managing Director – Global IT, Digital Worker Technology

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