#Microsoft365 – I’m happy to report that I’ve seen “Citizen Development” pop up more and more at conferences. I felt it needed the attention and recognition. This post is a shout-out to all the amazing people who create great applications with OTB tools, but it also comes with a WARNING.

For previous posts in my #Microsoft365Challenge go to the index page.

I have never installed / configured SharePoint. I tried a couple of days ago on Azure and failed at that too. Not sure if much of that was my fault really. Thankfully with age comes wisdom and I no longer feel compelled to be great at everything.

You know what I am good at? Rapid Prototyping. I can build something faster in SharePoint than it takes most people to make the notes in the Requirements Gathering session.  I understand business, I see opportunities, I empathize with the frustration end users have. That’s my super power. And there’s many of us out there.

Homemade Superheroes

Citizen developers makes me think of Homemade Superheroes. They’ve made their own suits from materials ‘lying around’, Lois Lane’s not writing cool articles about them and they’re not funded by Tony Stark’s millions – but they’re still trying their best and they’re doing good, every single day.

Always remember that bad things happen to good people, for a reason. For many years companies would not invest in me by giving me a Photoshop or Visio license, or access to SharePoint Designer (for example). And do you know what happened? I learnt to use Microsoft Office and SharePoint so well – that most of the time I didn’t need the fancy tools any more. Yes, yes, sometimes it takes longer – but I get the job done.

I come across many people who over-complicate systems and develop unnecessarily because they don’t know the ‘base product’ well enough.

Don’t for one moment reckon that I don’t think developers are rock stars. I do! Thanks to all those amazing guys and gals out there who built the code behind those buttons that I click every day to make stuff happen. I am fully aware of what happens in the background and I’m forever grateful for all the work that goes in behind the scenes to allow for Power Users to achieve more.

If we take a look at Microsoft’s vision, it’s clear that they also want the end user to become more.

Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

 

What is a Citizen Developer?

citizen

[situh-zuh n, -suh n]
noun
1. Someone who is a citizen of a particular country is legally accepted as belonging to that country.
2. You describe someone as a citizen journalist or a citizen scientist, for example, when they are an ordinary person with no special training who does something that is usually done by professionals.

developer

[dih-veluh-per]
noun
1. a person or thing that develops or innovates:  a software developer.

 

The QuickBase 2015 State of Citizen Development Report describes it like this:

“Citizen Developers are empowered problem-solvers from the various lines of business who have the drive and determination to engage in app development even though they lack traditional coding skills.”

I’ve been telling my students for years that I’m there to teach them to be developers. Quite often this has annoyed ‘actual developers’ who understand programming languages and use code to create really cool applications. I have never undervalued their skill or dismissed the importance of their role in the bigger scheme of things. I have however also valued the Power User.

The Missing Link:

A couple of years back I presented sessions at the South African SharePoint Saturdays on The Missing Link. I spoke about how the roles in SharePoint has changed and that I’ve identified a ‘gap’ in these.

Think traditional waterfall model projects. The typical 4 roles would be:

  1. Developer
  2. Business Analyst
  3. Project Manager
  4. Tester / End User

With the introduction of various Office 365 Apps which allows for end users to create business applications / solutions (PowerApps, Flow, Teams, Forms, Sway etc.), the project methodology as well as roles have changed.

Example:

Mary works in Human Resources. She’s responsible for the gathering and analysis of the twice-yearly performance appraisals (among other things).

Mary’s skills currently is the basics of Office and she’s gotten to grips with Pivots in Excel – which in everyone else’s eyes – makes  her an Excel #fundi. Instead of building a solution for Mary for the performance appraisals, I spend some time with her and show her the basics around SharePoint libraries, Forms, Flow and PowerApps. The rest is history, she’s out there shining, building really cool stuff for HR and making a difference in everyone’s lives.

So what’s missing?

  1. Mary understands the business processes which is great
  2. She’s learnt how to use technology to optimize and automate processes

But Mary won’t only be doing the ‘developer stuff’, she needs to pay attention to the following as well:

  1. Gathering Business Requirements (BA)
  2. Documenting the requirements (BA)
  3. Time management / admin (PM)
  4. Test the system (Tester)
  5. Train the end users (Trainer)
  6. Plan, communicate and launch the new solution (Change Manager)

I know you’re probably thinking – this is crazy – she’s just building something small with minimal impact. The problem is, pretty soon Mary will be building much bigger solutions with greater culture and cost impact – and then it will be too late to change her ways.

It’s all good and well that Microsoft supplies us with an environment which enables superheroes (and I love them for it), BUT… if we don’t help those people to grow the soft skills necessary to support and enhance their newfound ‘hard skills’, then we’ve failed.

Please, I beg you. Do not set your power users up to fail.

 

Examples of Soft Skills:

  • Communication
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Motivation
  • Patience
  • Persuasion
  • Problem Solving Abilities
  • Teamwork
  • Time Management
  • Work Ethic

Interesting that a business analyst requires all these soft skills and more. Here’s a great article that goes into some detail. Consider doing a free online course to build your soft skills.

There are some great sites out there with free resources around these skills. My favourite is MindTools which is also available as an app for iOS and Android.

Lastly, don’t forget Digital Literacy. See my recent blog on the topic.

Well, that was fun to write. Hope you enjoyed the post 🙂

Purpose of this blog challenge:

I will write 365 blogs in 365 days around Microsoft 365. I did a similar challenge with Office 365, blogs can be found here. I won’t just be talking about the new Microsoft 365 subscription model. I will be sharing any news, tips and tricks around Office / Office 365 / Windows / Mobility and Security. And let’s not forget all the great new Apps & services available.  A lot of what I’ll share on Office and SharePoint will also be applicable to none “Office 365” versions.

Feel free to #AskBraam if you have questions or would like me to write about a specific topic. I’ve created a Flow to monitor Twitter for the #AskBraam hashtag and will try my best to incorporate any questions into the blogs, or answer them directly on Twitter. This is a “Learning through Sharing” approach to teach my pet sheep about Microsoft – read more on this here.

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