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StartUp, Tech

Citizen Developers and How They Can Help Your Business.

Citizen developers are a new concept to many people, especially in less IT centred industries and lately, it’s become a bit of a buzz term. It is in every blog and mentioned on every tech-savvy LinkedIn page (Even ours 😉). 

What is a citizen developer you may ask?  

To give you a full definition, a citizen developer is someone who creates applications to aid with their work for consumption by themselves, or others using tools that aren’t forbidden by IT. These applications usually have to do with automating processes or improving on a process that is already in place using technology. It is not a title or targeted role, but a type of person and they could be in any department. 

Across different industries, one trend seems to be that companies want to explore automation but do not have the time, or their IT departments are so busy that they are unable to explore any new possibilities. For somebody in this position, citizen developers are a lifeline. They are hungry, they want to make their jobs easier, and they usually have a base knowledge or the motivation to learn new technology in their own time. 

A Recent look into how business is affected when IT cannot deliver new solutions in an efficient manner (By Mendix) shows some statistics that put the importance of citizen development into perspective. 49% of businesses miss out on cost reduction opportunities and 62% of forward-thinking employees become frustrated with their employer.  

Maybe you don’t see your business having any citizen developers within the ranks, but why not seek them? There is plenty of ways to find out your employee’s hidden skills or lowkey interests. It is a case of empowering and investing a little in your people. If you have access to Microsoft365, we have a way to help you. We offer Power Platform training which can inspire your employees and spark an interest in citizen development. If you don’t have the time, we do. You just need initiative. 

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Misc, Power Platform

The Power of Low Code and Employee Engagement. “The Great Resignation” Pt 1.

The working world is currently undergoing what some people are calling the ‘Great Resignation’ with surveys showing that “55% of Americans expect to search for a new job in the next 12 months”. This isn’t just affecting America either, a recent study by Personio found that over a third of UK employees are looking to change their role in the next 6 to 12 months. With these statistics in mind, we can confidently say that the time to focus on employee retention is now. 

Organisations are becoming more and more people focused (rightly so). They are beginning to understand that empowering and investing in your employees can have a huge ROI. In this blog, we are going to discuss how low code programs can help you empower your employees, keep them engaged, increase retention, and improve your business, all at once. 

Citizen developers 

Introducing Citizen Developers, A Citizen Developer is an employee who creates application capabilities for consumption by themselves or others within the business.  

Entrusting your employees with the ability to streamline processes within your business is a hard step to make. Those processes are usually in place for a reason and it’s sometimes hard for the people who they were created by to see how tedious they can be or how they can work better. Employees that use these processes daily know it like the back of their hand, they will be able to identify what works well, what doesn’t work well, and how it can be made more efficient. 

A business with a budget may look into creating new systems to make these processes easier but they can still miss the mark, and this can be a costly endeavour. Allowing an employee to become a Citizen Developer would mean that someone much closer to the challenges can collaborate with their colleagues and find a better solution that will work for them all. All this may cost you is the employees time, but what it provides is an employee who is more invested and engaged with the business and is able to prove their worth in a way that is their own. As well as this they can spend more time on the engaging, valuable work that they actually came to do now that they have eliminated laborious tasks. 

Retaining employees with learning. 

Following on from the idea of Citizen Developers, there is a direct correlation between the ongoing development and upskilling of employees and retaining them. The more businesses are willing to invest in their employees the more willing employees are to stay with the business.  

It’s been noted across many blogs that there is a surge of new, young employees who have an obsessive work ethic. Many of them want to learn as much as they can so they are better equipped to move forward in their careers and their aspirations. This isn’t exclusive to young employees either, there is a new wave coming across the general workforce and it’s the need to learn. People don’t want to feel like they have become stagnant in their work and development. Providing these employees with the freedom to learn, create and automate their way down the career path they have chosen is a valuable way to retain your workforce and better your business as people will apply what they have learnt into their role. 

Open-mindedness 

Everything in the aforementioned sections all comes back to culture, as most things usually do. Not only should a business provide the opportunity to grow and develop, whether it’s in the development space of elsewhere, they should also advocate for it. This way employees can see that their employer is ready and willing to invest in them, this can make an employee feel valued and empowered. A business that takes feedback and encourages ideas from their employees will have a better all-round culture, it creates an innovative and psychologically safe environment for employees and your business to thrive. 

Our Thoughts 

Obviously, with everything that has been said, we are not suggesting that the only way to retain employees is through letting them develop applications and/or putting them through learning plans. This does not work for everybody, and some people react better to other incentives. Retention and the forecasted labour shortage is a problem that needs to be addressed on a contextual basis, these are just some solutions that we can see being applicable in the right business.  

If you are reading this and feel your business would benefit from looking at culture and employee retention from a new angle, we are able to support you by advising on the technology and resources available to you through your Microsoft 365 licenses to help this solution become a reality for you. We also offer training and consultancy within the Microsoft Power Platform, which is a fantastic way to introduce people to low code applications and there are many documented low code Citizen Developers that have created unbelievably valuable applications for their business. Your employees could be next to do that for you. What are you waiting for? 

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Tech

Bespoke vs Off-the-Shelf Software: A basic overview.

Most businesses will reach a point where they need software or applications that will assist them with their operations, processes, and/or day-to-day needs. As a business owner, it is important for you to make sure you understand your options to the best of your ability, ensuring you don’t waste time, money, or effort on an unsuitable solution. 

This article compares how bespoke and off-the-shelf software can be beneficial for business. If you have any further questions or would like a deeper discussion on this topic, please contact us. We’d be happy to help, no strings attached. 

What is bespoke software? 

Bespoke software is a piece of software a business builds or contracts somebody to build and is tailored to the specific processes and functions of the business. This means the software is built from the ground up to ensure that all the businesses needs are met. 

What does bespoke mean for you? 

Efficiency  

Integrating Bespoke software means that you do not have to change any of your business’s processes to align with standardised software. This, in turn, creates a more productive environment as you continue to use the same processes in a more efficient manner or streamline them even further, as they are now automated. 

Integration  

When adopting new software, a major concern is compatibility with the current applications (and sometimes legacy software) in use. Unlike off-the-shelf software, which is prebuilt and packaged, bespoke software can be built and made to integrate with current applications so that no further investment is required to make everything work together. 

Independence 

When you choose the right partner, bespoke software means that your business will not have to worry about rising license fees or possible update fees, provided that you have the right in-house talents or support from your developer. With bespoke software, you can make changes and add features that you want, not what a software provider dictates you should have. 

Better Security  

Off-the-shelf software will always have security but is often a “One size fits all” approach and this is not the case with most businesses. Bespoke software security will be tailored to fit the specifications that the client has, meaning security will be tighter and the business is less susceptible to security issues. 

No Excess Features  

Often, out of the box software has a huge array of features and this can get very exciting for prospective users or businesses. Realistically, a number of these features a business or user does not need and will never use so they end up paying for things they don’t need as they are all part of one package. With bespoke software, the client picks and chooses what they want and need which means this is all considered in pricing. This can also be added to and changed at their will. 

No Conforming! 

Now, for the best part of bespoke software, you can do as you please (subject to the capability of the technology). Unlike regular out-of-the-box software, which is unable to be altered, your software is custom-developed to meet your needs and can be tailored according to your specifications (depending on your agreement with the developer). 

What is off-the-shelf software? 

It is software that is pre-made and pre-packaged for businesses or clients to purchase and install. This means that the integration is much faster as off-the-shelf software is a one size fits all solution for whatever function it is supposed to perform. 

What does off the shelf mean for you? 

Suitability  

Many businesses’ day-to-day operations are not as complex as they think. Often, there is an off-the-shelf product that will perform the tasks they need, so unless the business grows, their processes change and/or they require a more specific solution, there is no need to implement a bespoke solution. 

Cost 

Initially, off-the-shelf software is cheaper than bespoke development, because the initial investment is not usually as high, so it is a good starting point to work out what you want and need. The low cost is initial. It could be the case that as the business grows, you require more licenses at extra cost, or you require more functionality (a higher-level package) which would also come at a higher cost. 

Fast Implementation & Prior Proof of Functionality 

Because the software is pre-made it should, in theory, be easy to set up and install across an organisation. This means that there are probably a good number of businesses that have used the software before, which means prospective users can read reviews, case studies, and/or contact businesses that use the software to find out how useful, effective, and functional it is. 

Regular Updates 

Because the software provider has a certain number of products, they can focus on growing their software, adding functionality and fixing bugs on a regular basis. Usually, these upgrades are not up to the client, but are decided by the development team as to what they deem necessary at the time. The fixes can, however, come at a price to the end user. 

Online Help and Forums 

Again, since off-the-shelf software is a pre-existing product, users can usually find plenty of online help through guides and forums to solve any problem they may encounter, which is free when you do a google search. 

Our Thoughts! 

Like anything, software, both bespoke and off-the-shelf have their advantages and disadvantages. Whatever you decide, it’s important that you are well informed and have the best understanding of; the position you are in, the needs your business has, your budget, and what providers or solutions are available to you. 

If you choose bespoke software, then you need to pick a software developer/partner that you are comfortable working with on a project. A good relationship between you (the client) and your developer is imperative since, if communication is not there between both parties and you are not on the same page, it may result in your software not being suitable or not fully functioning. 

If you choose off-the-shelf, then you may be paying for things you don’t need or you may find that the software no longer serves your day-to-day operations because it may become outdated, discontinued, or your business needs will change, and it may become counterproductive. 

Contact us for help in finding out what you need to make your business thrive using a new software solution. We will tell you what we think is best for you and, if we are not able to deliver it, we will try to help you find someone who can. 

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