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ATD Blog

The Talent Development Professional as a Citizen Developer

Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Talent development professionals are usually the first to adopt new technologies. From PowerPoint to learning management systems to podcasting, training professionals always look for ways to make learning more engaging and effective. Technology application is a part of the Association for Talent Development’s Developing Professional Capability domain of the Talent Development Capability Model.

According to the technology application definition, “practitioners should be able to identify opportunities to adapt and leverage the right technologies at the right time to meet organizational goals.” A developing area of technology is no-code/low-code application development. Users employ a visual interface to build mobile or web apps—fitting together pieces of code like LEGO blocks. Users can use this to create an app with little or no coding needed. Examples of no-code/low-code platforms are Microsoft’s Power Apps, Salesforce Lightning, and Zoho.com.

This year is an excellent time for talent development professionals to learn more about citizen development. A quick YouTube search for “citizen developers” will pull up several pages of videos devoted to no-code/low-code development. Training on the most popular no-code/low-code software platforms is plentiful.

The Need for Well-Trained Citizen Developers

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), “ 86 percent of IT decision-makers say the biggest challenge to digitally transform their business is too few software developers.” Late in 2019, PMI launched a citizen developer program to provide the “world’s first vendor-agnostic methodology, frameworks, learning program and certifications for citizen development.” The idea is to help citizen developers learn how to design and execute a no-code/low-code application project.

The ease by which a no-code/low-code application can be built requires more planning before building the application. Think of how easy PowerPoint made it to design training courses—too easy. You may have sat through bad PowerPoints with little structure, too much content, and a confusing learning flow. As I learned as an IT project manager, automating a flawed process increases the damage that the process can cause.

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Thus, a well-trained citizen developer is an expert in design thinking and process design. Design thinking gives the citizen developer tools to understand the customer’s needs to build an app that a customer will use. Process design skills will help the citizen developer create and test the most effective and efficient process model that will be the basis for an excellent app.

How Can Talent Professionals Use No-Code/Low-Code App Development for Training and Development?

I use Microsoft’s PowerApps platform for my no-code/low-code application development. However, you can use whichever platform you are most comfortable. Here are a couple of talent development apps you can build:

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  • Onboarding App: Microsoft PowerApps makes it easy to integrate Office applications and SharePoint. You can build an app that collects the new employee’s information and places it in the appropriate places. The onboarding app can create meeting requests, message the proper departments to request IT services and office space, and provide the employee with the correct guides to begin work. You can build the onboarding app using a template provided by Microsoft.
  • Mobile Leadership Development Course App: Imagine building a mobile course in which you can provide short video lessons interspersed with assessments that track the students’ learning progress. You can have a dashboard that tells you which students excelled and which students needed additional coaching. The coaching can also be automatically scheduled and provided through the app.

How to Start Citizen Development

Look at your daily work. What are manual processes that you repeatedly perform? Can you automate the process or at least parts of the process? It is often easier to start with a simple automated process and evolve it up. Enlist the help of your fellow talent development colleagues. A great benefit of no-code/low-code development is that it is easy to have a group develop the app because you can parcel out parts of the process for individual team members to design and create. Then, the pieces easily fit together in the final application.

Citizen development is a powerful skill in the talent development professional’s toolkit. Technology application is an integral part of your job, and no-code/low-code development is a great way to bring your application ideas quickly to life.

About the Author

Bill Brantley works in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Enterprise Training Division. He has been the program manager for the Emerging Leader Program and Supervisor Certificate Program. He currently manages the Career Coaching Program.

Brantley was awarded the 2019 Emerging Training Leader by Training Magazine and is IPMA-HR SCP, Certified Professional in Learning and Performance, and a Certified Professional in Training Management.

He also is an adjunct faculty member for the University of Louisville (20 years) and the University of Maryland, and is the author of the Persuasive Project Manager (2019) and Four Scenarios for the Future of the Federal Government (2019).

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