There is no doubt that hyperautomation today is one of the key priorities for organizations as they look to automate business and IT processes with the orchestrated use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Gartner predicts that by 2024, companies will reduce operational costs by as much as 30 percent through the combination of hyperautomation technologies and re-designed operational processes.
As companies fast-track their adoption of hyperautomation for accelerated and scalable automation and application development, certain approaches can drive benefits at anticipated or higher levels. One such approach that has been increasingly gaining traction is the citizen developer model. A Gartner IT survey highlighted that 41 percent of respondents had active citizen development initiatives, and 20 percent of those who didn’t are either assessing or planning to kick-start citizen development initiatives.
The Efficacy of a Citizen Developer Program
The importance of citizen development programs can be gauged by the fact that by 2023, active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times the number of professional developers. Citizen developers are non-IT users trained to leverage low-code / no-code software platforms to automate their business areas. The biggest advantage of this approach is that without significant training and sans IT engineers, citizen developers can automate processes and navigate challenges at work. On the back of their proximity to operations and understanding of process flows and scenarios, citizen developers can bring a relevant perspective and context – unlike IT developers – to address day-to-day problems pragmatically.
We are seeing mature hyperautomation platforms enable citizen developers to not only implement automation but also work towards building application components such as forms, databases, process flows and data flows.
A word of caution, though: as critical as they could be in realizing faster hyperautomation value, it’s imperative that enterprises carefully consider the projects where citizen development could deliver the desired outcomes. A citizen development model is currently suited to simple / small and mid-scale implementation such as invoice processing, eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer), financial statement processing and basic application development, to name a few.
Where the need is more strategic or complex and encompasses the entire enterprise, citizen development combined with a Center of Excellence (CoE) model becomes pivotal due to its well-defined approach to establishing the right modules, design principles, code review, scalability, availability and security controls. Examples could include insurance and claims administration, prescription processing, medical transcription and automated call quality monitoring.
The Extensive Role of Citizen Developers
To go along with their applicability in hyperautomation, researchers are exploring the role of citizen developers in not only designing ML models but diving deeper with explainable models to understand why an application has predicted a particular result. Data scientists at MIT are working towards building explainability into the components of ML models. Explanation methods that help users understand and trust ML models describe to what extent certain elements used in the model contribute to its prediction. This can help business users obtain the information faster, focus on incorporating key features into the model and, eventually, enhance citizen development programs' success rate.
Though at a nascent stage, companies have started realizing value from using the citizen development model in digital transformation programs. However, to unlock the true potential of citizen development programs, business users will have to drive end-to-end automation and application development without any IT dependencies.