The topic of Citizen Development recently received a lot of attention – the latest coming from new Gartner report and from ebizQ forums. So I’d like to revisit it.
The temptation of “citizen” application development dates back to the prehistory of the PC – the introduction of micro computers and products such as Framework and dBase. That was the time when we entered the market with Magic Software, and I supported the thesis that 4GL’s enable line of business experts to directly implement business applications shortcutting much of the traditional development and programming process. Reality proved otherwise, showing that such easy to use tools actually amplify lack of IT skills, which sometimes led to very unhappy endings. We revised our approach very fast to target system analysts rather than LOB professionals, and observed amazing results – very small teams providing very rich and comprehensive applications (an example in More about Enterprise RIA in practice).
Nowadays, I believe that citizen development can be effective provided the following combination: easy and intuitive assembly and composition tools with adequately enforced governance, and a professionally developed collection of services (building blocks). A good example of such a mix is Convertigo.com, which evolved from Programmatic Integration to Enterprise Mashup’s and now to SOA backend enablement (targeted at IT professionals via an Eclipse based studio) and Front-End composition (targeted at citizen developers with Convertigo’s own Composer as well as other popular composition tools).
What do you think about Citizen Development?
Last week I spent a lot of time going over case stories around application platform, trying to crystallize drivers and benefits. Yesterday came up a very related question at the ebizQ Web 2.0 Forum (www.ebizq.net/blogs/ebizq_forum/2009/05), in which I am a regular commentator: In What Area of an Enterprise is Web 2.0 Most Underutilized?. Here’s my comment on that.
While collaboration at large (including wikis, blogs and networking) is probably the most widespread Web 2.0 practice to penetrate the enterprise, I find that Enterprise 2.0 applications and UI’s are the most underutilized. That is understandable, since it is in that area that enterprises have extensive investments and legacies, and changing and evolving applications is complex and expensive. Yet, that is probably the area that will have a very significant business impact. We start to see the first implementations, which are indeed delivering the expected benefits. Here’s a recent example I came across – a project which I think is pretty representative of Enterprise 2.0 applications – in the general context of Web 2.0 and “millennial” lifestyle.
The enterprise at the heart of this story produces an innovative “millennial” outdoors consumer product, which is taking its time penetrating the market. In order to accelerate the penetration, they decided to accompany the web and viral marketing campaigns with group events, in which they let groups experience the product. That required their channel partners to organize such events, publish details, register participants, and handle the logistics. The solution had to deal with a combination of requirements that are usually handled by distinct software product – Content Management, Process Management, Procurement, Accounting, Resource Allocation and more. The business case did not justify a long and expensive project and the acquisition and integration of several systems, and this was well beyond the scope of Situational Applications. so the CIO saw here an opportunity to use one of the new platforms that claim agile development and Enterprise 2.0 capabilities. The objective was to provide the various functions in a “cloud” manner, from a single location and a single application to partners and visitors wherever they are. The specification described a Rich Internet Application for the use of the channel partners and implementers, and a dynamic web portal to promote the events and handle registration. Using one of the new RIA platforms (Magic Software’s uniPaaS in this case), they were able to address in one project the varied user personas and use cases, with the appropriate mix of Browser based interaction for visitors and rich interactive clients for power users – all part of a single application. Moreover, given the pure Web Architecture, the entire deployment is in a single data center and no local installation is required. It enables to on-board new partners and scale up the channel with practically no IT hassle – a truly agile operation.
I think that one of the reasons for the slow adoption is also the scarcity of appropriate application infrastructure. But it is probably only a matter of time before this would change.
Posted in Impressions, Mindshare
Tagged Agile Development, Application Development, Application Infrastructure, Application Platforms, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Enterprise 2.0, Magic Software, RIA, Situational Applications, uniPaaS, Web 2.0