I spend a lot of time with regular business professionals.  People that have been tasked with running a company, division, or team.  While these business professionals vary wildly in what they are trying to accomplish, I can tell you one common fact.  None of them can code.  Maybe it’s time to embrace the Citizen Developer.

Ask anyone that has spent time with me doing any sort of business data modeling and I’m sure that they will tell you that I ask a lot of questions.  What attributes do you want to track?  What is the next step in the process?  What pain point do you hear most from your people?  I believe you have to ask a lot of questions to determine how to properly model how a business works.  My Dad always told me that “You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion”.  After all these years asking questions, I have a new one.  What if you didn’t need an expert to model your business?

People that specialize in implementing large alphabet-soup systems (ERP, CRM, CMS, ECM, BPMS, ETC) come with a hefty price tag.  How much can those services cost you?  In an article from ERP News, they wrote:

it is more common to see software to services ratios of 1 to 1.5 or 1 to 2.5

This means that businesses are commonly spending more on implementation than on the actual software.  The ERP News article does a good job of laying out how enterprise software purchases work.  What the article doesn’t talk about though are the implementations that drag on for years and rarely work as expected.  What do the big corporations do when that happens?

In my anecdotal experience, here is how it typically goes down.  The member of management that signed off on buying the software has skin in the game.  They are determined to not let the project fail and will go to great lengths to keep it going and reporting with a good status.  This translates to more money being spent on bringing in additional consultants and contractors to help the project limp along.  When it’s all said and done, the corporation will have spent an egregious amount of money on a solution no one wants.

What can the small to mid-sized companies learn from this?  I believe that they need to leverage their internal Citizen Developers and start looking for low-code solutions.  These solutions require a product that can offer enough customization to model a business without the need for expensive consultants and contractors.

However, finding the perfect low-code solution for your business can be a daunting task.  The typical way that software companies try to achieve this is to choose a specific vertical and create a purpose built offering based on an industry standard.  Has anyone used an “industry standard” process or application that didn’t require customization to how you do business?  I know I haven’t seen that work out on any job throughout my career.

I submit that it’s time to leverage the existing knowledge workers and empower them to become Citizen Developers.  Businesses spend an undocumented amount of time trying to explain the intricacies of their business to temporary consultants. Why not provide your existing workers that know the business with a platform that allows them to build solutions?  Don’t get me wrong, is there still a need for consultants?  Absolutely. Companies of all sizes sure could use a break when it comes to the number of tools, technologies, and external resources required to model how they do business.