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Best Practices for Citizen Development

Main Digital, 6 minute read

By Michael Lopez, Senior Manager, Intelligent Automation, Main Digital and Steve Nerheim, Executive Vice President, Business Development and Partnerships, Main Digital


Pega’s low-code/no-code capabilities empower business users to become citizen developers, by making it possible for them to create applications and automate processes for themselves.

A well-designed Citizen Development Enablement Program (CDEP) encourages and enables business users to create intuitive solutions without the need for a programming background. Organizations that adopt citizen development improve their speed to market, reduce the risk associated with “shadow IT,” and lower their IT costs.

So why isn’t everyone doing it?  

In this blog post we explore a few reasons that citizen development programs fail to reach their full potential and how you can set your organization up for success.

Executive Support

Executive support and sponsorship are critical to the success of any program and citizen development is no exception. In addition to providing funding for the people, resources, and toolsets needed to enable a program, executive support sets the tone and provides the energy and enthusiasm needed to realize and sustain results.

When there is inadequate sponsorship, the level of commitment from teams and individuals falls off quickly and efforts become “side of desk.” 

In our experience, engaged and active executive sponsorship is the top driver of program success. It is important to select the appropriate program sponsor based on their high-level responsibilities and their strategic alignment with the broader organization. These sponsors are critical for creating conditions of success, helping to proliferate the program within the organization, and celebrating successes.

Standards and Governance

Unstructured programs lead to unpredictable results. It is one thing to develop a tactical application and it’s another to build strategic solutions that can scale.  As citizen developers start creating, it is important that they consider standardization and best practices from the beginning
Playbooks are a great way to incorporate standardization and governance into the early stages of your program. A well-designed Playbook provides step-by-step guidance to Discover, Design, Implement, and Operate automations and applications.
Whether you use a Playbook, or something similar, having a set of standards in place allows your program to run like a well-oiled machine.  With the right governance in place, the outputs from your citizen developers will provide greater impact across your organization.

Continuous Improvement / Continued Education

One of the key benefits of citizen development is upskilling employees. Therefore, it is important to factor in a resourcing strategy as part of your program. The skills and training you provide are dependent on the team structure you adopt. For example, let’s consider the structure of a team for a Robotics project. Will you adopt a POD team structure consisting of Project Manager, Business Analyst, and a Developer?  Or will you upskill a single employee to wear all the various hats required to deliver on your project goals? 

Regardless of the model you choose, don’t approach training as a “one and done.”  Pega is constantly producing new material through Pega Academy. Encourage your citizen developers to seek out training as it becomes available. As their capabilities mature, create opportunities for them to work alongside IT resources to learn and understand how to deliver more complex solutions.


In our experience, the most successful citizen development programs are driven in an apprenticeship model. In this approach, a Pega subject matter expert advances business users through the learning curve by teaching and providing hands-on experience. However, just pushing business users through an apprenticeship will not produce expertise on its own.  There must be continued support and energy from the top of the organization or your program will quickly lose focus and return to business as usual.

Citizen developers should begin their journey by taking available trainings through Pega Academy. With this foundation in place, they should start working alongside experienced Pega SMEs to apply their new skills on a real project. Working in this collaborative way will empower them, and your program, for continued success.

Many enterprises have implemented citizen development initiatives successfully and many more are now realizing the competitive advantage this is creating for them in the market. 

So, what are you waiting for?



Don't Forget

About the Author

Main Digital is a consulting firm focused on digital transformation services. We empower people to create new possibilities by reimagining business processes to leverage intelligent technologies. Our Main () MethodSM engagement framework includes Intelligent Automation, Agile Product Management, and Total Experience best practices to deliver scalable solutions. Main Digital is proud to be a Certified Women-Owned Small Business and a Washington Business Journal Best Places to Work company.

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