Tag: application

Progressive PMOs are harnessing the power of Citizen Developers

A few of my colleagues raise eyebrows when I mention that I used to be a programmer back in the days, I am not talking about assembly language, but I could write a few things in Java and C++. Recently I picked up some new skills creating Power Apps, connecting data with Microsoft Dataverse, building Power BI Dashboards, automating processes with Power Automate, and building chatbots with Power Virtual Agents whilst preparing for Microsoft’s Power Platform Fundamentals certification. This is part of a growing trend of what has been termed Citizen Development.

Citizen development is an innovative approach to dealing with application development needs that a lot of Project Management Offices (PMOs) are now adopting. This innovative and inclusive approach to application development addresses the ever-increasing need for PMOs to keep abreast with technological change and the associated demand for user-friendly, hassle-free applications. Enterprise Technology departments are not always best to shoulder all the responsibilities related to digital transformation.

That’s where the inclusive idea of citizen development comes in as a broad-based and innovative solution. It enables project managers and implementers to develop applications on their own and in accordance with the most pressing PMO needs. Of course, they need to have advanced level of digital skills to use the low-code/no-code (LCNC) platforms, but with those skills taken for granted, almost any team member could take a stab at it.


Citizen development has multiple benefits for the PMO and project management. By project management, I mean its agile and strategic version. Initially, this is far better for the current needs of success-oriented PMOs. Although traditional, waterfall types of project management would also gain. The benefits span many different sectors, whether it be public sector agencies, financial services, or non-governmental organizations. There is growing evidence that citizen development works, and that it works well for both organizations and individual employees. Let us examine what these benefits are and why they are important for the PMO and project management, irrespective of the field.


This is an obvious one. With application development demands being extremely taxing on Enterprise Technology departments, LCNC platforms provide substantial cost-saving opportunities to PMOs. PMOs can thus channel the savings to other, under-resourced needs. Experts estimate that by using LCNC resources, applications can be developed 10 times faster when compared with traditional methods.

PMOs can also expect savings on the maintenance of the new applications. Maintenance and application support are normally separate line items in operational budgets. Higher-end products usually require significant inputs to avoid disruptions and breakdown. The maintenance and support cost are minimal for the applications developed by citizen developers. The overall cost to develop and maintain LCNC -based applications is estimated to be 74% lower than the cost of traditional development led by Enterprise Technology resources. In addition, LCNC platforms hosting present sizable cost reductions, as shown by the experience of Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance. The company was able to save $1.4 million because of creative use of LCNC tools.

Breaking Down Silos

As citizen developers engage in software or application development, coordination with other business units of an organization becomes an absolute must. LCNC platforms do not require expert digital skills to use, but they need citizen developers to ensure that the end products are relevant to the PMO’s needs. From the perspective of effective PMO role, this is a great way of breaking down silos, which exist in all organizations. Improved teamwork and camaraderie are the important by-products of citizen development, which have long-term benefits. Citizen developers cannot go it alone, and it always takes a team effort to ensure that the end-product meets the critical needs of an organization. Importantly, this includes coordination of Enterprise Technology and non- Enterprise Technology resources too.


Citizen development also has the potential to make the PMO more agile. It expects non- Enterprise Technology resources to demonstrate adaptability and willingness to learn – two key attributes of an agile organization. From the perspective of the PMO, citizen development becomes a new and unconventional way of spurring continuous learning as an iterative and inclusive process.

Innovation and Creativity

By encouraging non-Enterprise Technology department resources to become software and application developers, PMOs can create a workspace conducive to creativity and innovation. As it happens, when people are given space and opportunity to punch above their weight, they usually outdo themselves by coming up with something extraordinary. Citizen development consequently becomes a great approach to egging people on to think outside the box. Agile organizations need to be innovative and creative. Equally, they need to be adaptive and committed to continuous learning.

Digitisation and Organizational Culture

The more employees get involved in citizen development, the better for the PMO and digital transformation. As PMOs take steps to adapt to the needs of digital transformation, citizen development becomes a timely and cost-effective method. It nurtures an organizational culture favourable for project resources and other non-Enterprise Technology resources to embrace change and make it work for themselves and the organization. It is this type of culture that becomes pivotal in weathering the storm of imminent changes and making the most of new opportunities for development.

Relevance and Flexibility

The involvement of PMO resources as citizen developers warrants the relevance of newly developed software and applications. No one could be more intrinsically motivated to ensure that they serve the purpose than the end-users themselves. I’m sure you can recall cases when even very expensive IT products turned out to be missing the mark. When developed in isolation from an organization’s core strategic goals and needs, they become underutilized. With less stringent requirements imposed; citizen developers have more flexibility to adjust as they go. As application development becomes faster, citizen development makes it easier to maintain the end products.


Citizen development has been winning over an increasing number of progressive PMOs and organizations. There is growing evidence that it leads to substantial cost-savings, encourages innovation, and makes organizations more agile. PMOs use it effectively to ease the workload of Enterprise Technology resources. Such departments are often understaffed or incapable of dealing with an ever-increasing list of requests and demands.

Citizen development makes a valuable contribution to an organizational culture that promotes creativity and initiative. In the current era of digital transformation, it is critical for agile organizations to create opportunities for their employees. This is to test and improve their digital skills. The experience of organizations that have embraced LCNC platforms for their non-Enterprise Technology resources to develop new applications shows that citizen development is definitely worth the effort.

Is Project Management Being Devalued By Non-Project Managers?

As Project Managers, most of us have experienced someone that works in our organisation slapping a on a PM badge and joining the party.  This party is one with an endless bar tab, the end time doesn’t matter drinks are spilled over glossaries containing project buzz words and generic document templates found on Google.

Only us actual PMs are at the party next door.  Having sensible conversations.  With the right people.  About the right things.  And we brought our own coffee.

Project management is changing where we are seeing more people adopt the role of PM in addition to their day job.  This is due to a number of reasons such as the recruitment of a PM will take too long, project management courses are inexpensive so upskilling is easy and staff know the business better than anyone so it can’t not be a success.

Why is this a problem?

Project management requires a specific skillset, ability to quickly assess and understand the corporate landscape and appreciation of how a project fits into the bigger picture.  PMs are trained to expertly balance the science of budgeting, scheduling, resource planning and estimating with the art of confidently managing risks, issues, dependencies, stakeholders and fluctuations in any aspect of the project.

Where a business function problem exists, there is often a tendency to purchase a new piece of software and bend the internal processes to fit.  Someone is selected as the PM, usually someone who is familiar with the team and processes.  They are chosen over Dan the IT guy as he has no capacity at the moment to manage this project.  So an SME is now also a PM.  Let’s call this PM Chris.

After Chris is given the PM role, they Google sales reporting software and finds a supplier.  Chris liaises with the supplier, who guides says they will get the new software implemented within the quoted 3 months and within budget.  Contracts are signed and everyone is happy.

Chris sends some requirements to the supplier, who can deliver 75% of them but the rest is chargeable. There is some contingency in the budget (nice Googling!). Chris says yes as they’re all must haves anyway.


Chris returns to the project after spending 2 weeks on some priority work at the point of data import.  A sales data spreadsheet is sent to the supplier, which is sent back as some columns need renaming and there’s some data misspelled and missing.  Chris doesn’t have the time to do this so forwards it to a colleague.  When Chris gets it back, it’s forwarded to the supplier, who has more questions.  This 3-way game of data file tennis goes on for 3 weeks.  Chris is now really busy and is feeling the strain.

Testing is overdue so Chris asks a colleague to help but it’s going to take a little longer than expected as the colleague has booked a week off.  The go-live date is no longer achievable and Chris sends an update to their bosses saying go-live is delayed by 4 weeks.  The bosses ask yet again for an update on project spend and a list of deliverables.  Chris forwards a supplier email and reminds them they have a copy of the contract, which should give them everything they need.  It doesn’t.

Go-live day arrives and a short email is sent to the whole company saying the system is live and the project was a success. The broken sales spreadsheet and dodgy monthly report are replaced with a shiny new system. Yaayyy!  However, the budget of £23,000 was exceeded by £5,500 and the project was delivered 8 weeks late and there are no metrics to show what value was delivered.

After a few weeks, it is found that the sales data that was missing from the spreadsheet is missing from the system and the dodgy monthly report looks nicer but is missing the same information.  There are 3 teams who used the spreadsheets and didn’t know they wouldn’t have access to them.  They don’t have another solution so need emergency training on the system.  Most people are asking why they got rid of the spreadsheets.  If the missing information was added to them, this wouldn’t be happening.  People aren’t happy.  Chris’s reputation has taken a battering.  Chris is exhausted and depressed.

We can see that although Chris is knowledgeable about the business area receiving the new system, they are not as experienced at supplier and contract management, requirements gathering and prioritisation, scheduling, stakeholder and role management, testing and communication in a project environment.  Even with experience in some or all of these areas, that experience still needs to be within the project domain or the business will see someone applying generic experience to a complex and sensitive practice, often with disastrous results.

It’s clear that hiring a PM or BA would have meant this project would have prevented damage to a number of areas.  What’s more, that PM or BA could have saved the business from doing the project at all.  The issue was broken processes, which could be fixed with service review, redesign, workshops and training.  Instead, the wrong decision was made, one which probably scared Chris away from project management forever.

Allowing an SME to run a project sends a message that anyone can be a PM.  That doesn’t mean anyone should.  If there are PMs in the organisation that aren’t selected to run the project for whatever reason, it only reinforces this message.  It can massively impact morale, risk the PM’s reputation and affect the organisation’s perception of the value their role delivers.  Having business leaders not understand business analysis and project management can lead to poor strategic decision making.

How do we fix this?

Do we preach defamation of our profession?  Do we mentor the SME/PM through the treacherous journey that lies ahead of them?  Or do we step back and watch the circus that often ensues and hope they won’t do it again?  It’s a delicate balance as we want to help others but we also don’t want to facilitate the erosion of value of our profession.

You can see it’s not just about reading a textbook and applying the techniques.  It’s about rich experience in understanding the purpose of the project and its place within the business.  However, it’s also not just about projects.  It’s about influencing the adoption of project management principles to help the organisation breed a widespread culture of collaboration, accountability and value delivery.  Just like how the Finance department advise us to be cost-efficient or HR advise us to be conscious of how we conduct ourselves at work, we want to broadcast a message to this affect but we can’t do this on our own.

Unfortunately, the company culture is one of acceptance or even worse, encouragement of non-project professionals managing projects. Our leaders must help us raise the profile of project management in our organisations so people appreciate what it means, the value it delivers and just how god damn difficult it is to get right.  Only then will the organisation see that when there is a project that needs doing – only a proper PM will do.