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Governance best practices for citizen developers

The rise of citizen developers is revolutionising the way organisations approach software development. Here is a guide to supporting them

The democratisation of application development brings numerous benefits, including increased innovation and rapid deployment. As this trend becomes more prevalent, it has sparked debates about its security implications, especially for citizen developers or business technologists.

The technology has inherent safeguards developed into the software used by citizen developers to ensure the highest level of security to draw a simple analogy, employing no-code platforms is comparable to navigating a pathway bordered with guardrails. This predefined route, designed with pre-built application components, makes it challenging to stray. These modules are crafted by software engineers, not the citizen developers. This way, IT departments retain oversight and control, ensuring transparency and guiding citizen developers with secure and structured building blocks for their applications. The seamless integration of these platforms, along with their inherent safety features, empowers organisations to enhance their software deployment and innovation capacity in significant ways.

Modern generations of these platforms offer the full range of governance and reporting capabilities needed to ensure that apps will have the ability to be monitored for compliance, security, and maintainability. By giving a standard set of tools for building apps that are business-friendly, it encourages the use of a standard platform that is approved by IT and that can be consistently governed.

Balancing empowerment with security

Empowering citizen developers does not mean compromising on security. It is crucial to create an environment where innovation can flourish within the boundaries of robust security measures. Every contributor within this ecosystem should understand and value the importance of adhering to governance protocols while exploring creative solutions. 

An effective governance strategy is proactive and multifaceted. This includes strict authorisation structures protocols for APIs and data access, ensuring that compliance and security are always at the forefront. This empowers citizen developers to innovate safely, ensuring the protection of sensitive data and the overall integrity of the ecosystem. Collaboration between professional developers and citizen developers in the design and integration of new data sources and APIs is crucial. This cooperative effort, guided by stringent guidelines and frameworks, guarantees the smooth incorporation of new components, thereby maintaining the consistency and stability of the existing IT infrastructure.

To further enhance the governance process, every development proposal should undergo thorough evaluation against existing solutions before implementation. This ensures the citizen developer is working toward the result they want, while also protecting the organisation against redundancy.  It also creates an environment where requests for new APIs and data sources, especially those that might create a heavy workload for the team or future compliance issues can be addressed appropriately through the proper channels. Additionally, continuous architectural meetings and training programs should be conducted to keep citizen developers up to speed with evolving best practices and compliance requirements.

The security of a development platform hinges not only on the platform itself but also on the policies, guidelines, and training implemented by an organisation to guarantee the safe deployment of applications. While no-code platforms come with certain inherent security measures, both business and professional users must understand the limitations of these in-built safety features. Adopting effective strategies and choosing the right platforms are essential for nurturing innovation across various organisational levels.

A roadmap for navigating security for citizen developers

Balancing the rapid pace of innovation with stringent application governance is crucial.  While there's often pressure from stakeholders for quick app deployment, bypassing essential governance protocols can result in extended development cycles and thorough governance checks are vital in measuring the success of your endeavor. 

Common types of governance for supporting citizen developers

  1. External compliance - to assess compliance with external laws, guidelines, or regulations imposed by external governments, industries, and organisations.
  2. Internal compliance - imposed by internal audit teams or committees to enforce adherence to rules, regulations, and practices as defined by internal policies and access controls.
  3. Security - to protect your corporate information resources from external or internal attacks. 
  4. Data governance - to assess how sensitive corporate data is managed and secured.

Successful implementation and application

In conclusion, the successful integration of citizen developers into a business strategy hinges on a delicate balance between rapid innovation and rigorous governance. This encompasses external and internal compliance, robust security protocols, and stringent data governance measures. This approach not only ensures compliance and security but also acts as a strategic enabler for sustainable success in the dynamic digital landscape.

Ultimately, empowering citizen developers is about more than granting access; it’s about cultivating a culture where innovation, responsibility, and collaboration thrive within a well-regulated and secure environment. Strategic governance guardrails are crucial in creating a space where developers can excel, ensuring that the blend of security, compliance, and innovation is harmonious. This well-balanced approach is key to maximising the advantages of citizen developers while maintaining the integrity and security of the entire IT ecosystem.

Andie Dovgan is Creatio's chief growth officer

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