6 Reasons Why You Should Empower Your SharePoint Citizen Developers

Intelligent and secure ways businesses can embrace Microsoft citizen development to improve efficiency and productivity

In today's corporate infrastructure, more and more business applications are being created by “citizen developers,” rather than specialized IT professionals. In fact, Gartner researchers predict that citizen developers will be responsible for at least 25% of new business applications by 2014. This trend is not some marketing tactic, but simply the reality of how enterprise is evolving with the times to maximize productivity and minimize costs.

Those in IT are all too familiar with Microsoft SharePoint, which establishes a platform for the adoption of citizen development, among other things. But before citizen development is expanded, businesses and IT managers should first ask two questions:

•  Do I shut down citizen development completely to reduce the risk of disrupting SharePoint performance and productivity?

•  Or do I empower citizen developers to improve productivity through SharePoint and reduce the burden of my IT professionals by properly governing customization?

Below you will find several key reasons why the second choice is the only real option for businesses who want to maximize productivity. But first:

What is a citizen developer?

A citizen developer is a user who develops, or “configures,” new business applications for use by other companies. In the past, the development of applications has been limited to single-person or workgroup use, and they were built using tools like Microsoft Excel or Access.

However, in modern IT, users can configure solutions for an entire enterprise, or even public use, through shared services like cloud computing and other development platforms.

Microsoft SharePoint is the premiere development platform for citizen developers. In the beginning stages of SharePoint, end-users quickly learn how to use monitoring tools to create apps that will improve corporate efficiency and make business technology processes simpler. Eventually, users will seek ways they can customize the platform for enhanced productivity and efficiency. By doing this, users become citizen developers.

The logical and efficient way to manage business app development is to support your citizen developers in a way that is both cautious and intelligent. Letting end-users run free, without proper governance, can result in an application that harms productivity in the end. But citizen development done right has a wide range of benefits.

Here are 6 reasons why you should empower your citizen developers:

Reason #1: Allows enterprises to build their own business solutions

Development platforms like Microsoft SharePoint allow businesses to construct their own applications, or at least configure a framework that another developer can fill in. This process provides a final product that is completed in less time and with more accuracy to the original goal. Ultimately, the longer an organization has their hands on the developmental stage of a technology solution, the stronger the final result will be.

Reason #2: Empowering skilled citizen developers improves the long-term value of your solutions

By empowering your citizen developers—and keeping them educated on the most supported and upgradable ways to enhance SharePoint—you are simultaneously increasing the longevity of your solutions. While citizens do have a leg up since they understand their business more than professional developers, they often lack understanding on the importance of things like testing solutions before use, reusing proven solutions, and the value of proper documentation. Steering citizen developers to use these methods and other good practices can improve the long-term value of your solutions even more.

Reason #3: Citizen development frees up IT to focus on more value-added projects

It's almost impossible for IT to address all the technology needs of a business, which is why prioritization is a must. When you empower your citizen developers to make their own constructive customizations without posing a risk to the entire platform, you are also reducing the burden of IT, allowing them to focus on projects that have the highest value to the company.

Reason #4: Supporting citizen developers helps IT better understand business needs

IT is generally only seen as a final defense for when a problem arises that is beyond the average user's ability to correct. However, when citizen development is enhanced, IT is better able to understand the needs of the business and provide solutions to respond to those needs. Advanced citizen development through SharePoint can establish a closer link between IT and the business, turning IT into an enabler, rather than just a backup.

Reason #5: Citizen development improves SharePoint implementation

You might not know it, but odds are that there are lots of citizen developers within your organization. By helping just a few of them to acquire a greater understanding of Microsoft SharePoint, you can prevent them from becoming frustrated with its limitations and show them how to build their own solutions to be more efficient and convenient for their day-to-day responsibilities. This process will help make the adoption of SharePoint easier and more successful.

Reason #6: Microsoft's SharePoint 2013 app model enables users to install business apps from a public store

The ease at which a business can enable its citizen developers has gotten even easier with the new SharePoint 2013 app model, which now enables site owners to locate and install applications for their business from a public SharePoint app store. With this model, citizen developers don't have to install new apps directly onto the SharePoint server, but instead can host the app in the data center or cloud. This greatly reduces the risk of citizen development.

As a growing number of businesses face the dilemma of getting rid of citizen development altogether or expanding upon it, what's becoming clear to many is that embracing citizen development through SharePoint has numerous benefits on productivity, efficiency, and accuracy in customizing business apps. Provided you supply the proper oversight and good governance, citizen development is the best way to get the most from your investment in SharePoint.

Learn more about how Microsoft SharePoint can empower your business's citizen developers by talking to one of our certified SharePoint consultants.