What is a “Citizen Developer” and Why Should You Care?

by | Jan 29, 2019 | CRM Best Practices | 0 comments

The citizen developer push is part of a larger strategy to make Microsoft more customer-focused

Satya Nadella has been leading Microsoft through an amazing transformation from a technology- and engineering-focused company to a customer-focused company.

The results have been nothing short of amazing.

One of my long-standing beefs with Microsoft technology is that it has been written from an engineer’s perspective, with clunky names and way too many jargon-y terms for the average small and medium-sized business owner to understand.

And don’t get me started on their love affair with TLAs and even FLAs (three- and four-letter acronyms, naturally).

Confusing, jargon-y names may seem like a small thing, but words have power. And simple words are more powerful than complex words.

So, as part of their transformation, we see Microsoft simplifying terminology here and there.

And I’m loving it.


What’s in a name?

This shift to use simple, customer-centric names has huge impact when we consider the millions of people using Microsoft technology. For starters, the new names make the technology easier to understand and use. That alone represents great strides forward.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The name changes are coming hand-in-hand with user experience changes with the same theme: let’s make things simpler for everyone.

And it’s happening before our very eyes. Microsoft is pushing steadily and inexorably to make it easier for the average Joe and Jane to accomplish their goals.


What is a citizen developer?

There is a big push underway by the folks at Microsoft to put the power in the hands of the “Citizen Developer.”

I (and I’m definitely not alone here) love this!

That term, “Citizen Developer,” really captures the essence of what’s happening here: power in the hands of us all. That power is there for us to do what we need, limited only by our dreams.

This is great, and exactly what I need these days to reach my goals.

Citizen developers can skip the code

In my younger days, I was a hardcore bits and bytes developer. But I’ve let those skills rust. (My variables don’t and my constants aren’t—a little programming humor there!)

But as a business owner who focuses on building the business, I have a strong vision and need to streamline and automate things to make our customer and partner relationships better. Better for them and better for us.

But…I don’t want to spend months and months and an indeterminate amount of cash to solve these things. I don’t have the time or the money to do that.

I want to try things out quickly, cheaply, get feedback, and iterate. That’s an expensive and long proposition if you need to hire the talented uber-nerds to do the programming.

Luckily, with the “Citizen Developer” push, we are quickly moving to a place where business owners and management and smart people at all levels of organizations are empowered to do these things by dragging and dropping and plugging and playing, all with a slick user interface.

Freaking brilliant really.


What’s next?

Are we 100% there right now? No. Definitely not.

In fact, as Microsoft makes these changes, I’m seeing that they have also embraced an “eat our own dog food,” model which is requiring their own applications to be built with the tools that they are sharing with us.

What they are finding is that there are gaps in the current tools. Things that can’t be done easily—or at all in some cases.

This is naturally causing some hiccups and odd bugs and behavior and things not quite working as intended.

But they are iterating FAST. It’s dizzying how fast they are moving for such an immense organization.

Citizen developers simplify customization

Yes, it’s causing and will continue to cause some short-term pain as these iterations and changes ripple through their products and the tools that they release. But the end result is going to be beautiful.

I’m enjoying the ride, rolling up my sleeves, and playing with Flow and PowerApps and Teams and other pieces of the puzzle. I can’t wait to see what we build internally for our own customer and partner experience—and what we can help our customers build for their businesses.


What’s your take?

It’s exciting times for us all. If you are dipping your toes in the “Citizen Developer” tools, I would love to hear from you—good, bad, and ugly stories.

I’ll share some of our wins (and face plants) in the coming months.

And if you’re looking for some help making these tools work for your organization, get in touch! My team and I are always happy to help.

Peter Wolf is the president and founder of Azamba. He has spent the last 18 years focused on helping small and medium-sized businesses become more profitable through effective and efficient usage of CRM.

His passion is blending the promise of CRM with the realities of business needs to create successful outcomes.

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