Why banks should engage citizen developers for digital transformation

While the traditional linear model of software development – where IT teams create and deliver applications and tools to business users – has been in place for decades, citizen development, a business process that encourages non-technical users to build their own solutions, is now bucking this antiquated trend. In fact, industry analysts suggest that by 2025, 70% of new applications developed by organizations will be built by enterprise team members creating their own solutions in a streamlined low-code or no-code environment.

Why citizen development?

Art Harrison, co-founder and chief growth officer, Daylight

In an era of ongoing digital transformation and rapid innovation, banks are under pressure to offer personalized on-demand customer experiences by driving greater efficiencies through automation. In fact, the market for automation and AI in banking is expected to top $23.3 billion in 2022, an increase of $6.8 billion, or 41%, from the year prior. And while many banks have been investing in low-code platforms to support their IT teams, the rise of citizen developers can further elevate the status quo in a positive way.

Here’s the problem: In a traditional enterprise workflow, the IT team works on a solution that they often only have secondhand knowledge of. Not only is this more time-consuming and expensive from a business standpoint; it increases the risk of failure and could lead to multiple iterations, resulting in wasted time and money. This is why the citizen developer model is extremely attractive to banking institutions. Using the right low-code solution enables a non-technical team member to solve a problem with firsthand knowledge of the specific pain points that need to be addressed. This is a much more efficient process.

This evolution of business problem-solving greatly benefits IT teams, as nearly three-quarters of IT leaders say that backlogs prevent them from taking on new strategic projects, while 89% believe low-code tools will enhance IT staff productivity.

The challenge with citizen development

However, giving citizen developers full autonomy to create whatever is in their mind’s eye could create more work for IT in the long run. In fact, if something goes wrong with custom-built systems, the IT department is responsible for fixing it.

In some cases, banks purchase tools to facilitate citizen development only to watch it backfire. In these instances, non-IT resources have built solutions in isolation with no input from IT and no guardrails in place to ensure that the solutions would work long-term. Unfortunately, this type of citizen development doesn’t benefit anyone – IT is called on to help clean up the mess, business teams have to write new requirements, and the customer continues to wait for an improved process.

Empowerment with IT support is the answer

The answer is to empower business users to build their own solutions while having IT support with data flow, governance, security and compliance. To do so, organizations should leverage a low-code platform that is designed for citizen developers but also balances IT’s concerns.

The right low-code platform puts the proper guardrails in place – IT doesn’t have to worry about citizen developers cobbling together a solution that disrupts the organization’s tech stack. It also allows for quick prototyping, so feedback can be gathered along the way, without taking up IT’s time.

For example, a financial advisor might be frustrated by the paper forms they have to get their customers to fill out when they want to transfer their assets. The process is manual, error-prone and takes a lot of time for the back office to process. If an error is discovered, the customer is called to rectify the issue and the administrative process has to start all over.

With the right low-code platform, instead of waiting for IT to digitize the form, the financial advisor can sit down with a business analyst and map out the entire process. They can decide what customer information they have to capture, launch the new digital experience quickly, test it out on a few customers and then tweak any issues they uncover. And they can do all of this without needing to worry about where the data ends up. The right low-code platform can allow the customer experience to be transformed while the data output remains untouched.

How banks benefit

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unfortunate force to reckon with for everyone. It’s also been a catalyst for change in the financial sector, forcing banks to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. However, banks leverage technology across multiple business operations, and they quickly discovered the limited availability of skilled IT talent, which slowed things down. So, they’ve turned to citizen development to keep projects moving.

By using the right low-code platform, citizen developers can build processes across different banking functions, such as customer or employee onboarding, lending solutions, credit card applications and more. When citizen developers build their own processes, they can perform their jobs more efficiently, help banks save on operating costs, help reduce IT’s backlog, and improve the employee and customer experience.

For example, a large financial institution was working to make their small business credit card application process easy and intuitive by offering online applications. The institution needed a consistent, omnichannel experience across all branches that would reduce errors, improve customer experience and attract new customers. With their own internal IT resources overwhelmed, the bank utilized a low-code platform that empowered their subject matter experts to become citizen developers. They transformed their small business credit card application process into a personalized digital experience without IT’s help. It improved the customer experience and saved the bank money, time and resources in the process.

The time has come

Citizen development has the potential to democratize technology in the financial industry. Low-code platforms have progressed from merely making technology more accessible to allowing non-IT resources to develop sophisticated apps with proper IT guardrails in place. They can be used to empower business teams to solve challenges without overwhelming IT resources, resulting in a clear path to digital transformation at scale.

Art Harrison, co-founder and Chief Growth Officer at Daylight, is an experienced entrepreneur and leader with over 20 years of experience developing and delivering production-grade solutions. With a background in computer science and software development, Harrison was previously vice president at iNTERFACEWARE and previously founded MXD Communities in 2001.

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