Microsoft has been pressing the concept of Citizen Developers over the past few years; power users with the ability to build low-code or no-code solutions using their Power Platform in Office 365. While I’ve always been an advocate of spreading knowledge and skills to a broader audience especially within the business, the power of the Power Platform does raise concerns and considerations that must be addressed to avoid a chaos scenario of solutions.
The term is loaded but the phrase “best practices” can make a huge difference when it comes to creating long term supportable solutions vs. short term throwaway solutions. There are a number of professionals out there (Laura Rogers, Shane Young, and others) who can easily educate you on how to build Power Platform based solutions but are you educating within your organization and developing internal best practices to follow?
Documenting the construction of Power Platform based applications is not the easiest task because of how the applications themselves are configured and built. For a Citizen Developer to build a long term solution they need to be cognizant of the fact they may not be the developer who supports their application a year from now. Even more common, if they’re a skilled citizen developer, they may be called to task to support someone else’s application. Dedicating time and process to proper documentation can make the difference between spending an hour troubleshooting a problem and spending a day.
By it’s very nature, the Power Platform pushes a developer into certain design standards to allow for scalable and responsive design. Organizationally, coordinating your citizen developers around design standards for solution types, business branding, and usability helps mitigate the chaos and encourages a shorter learning curve when users are working with solutions built by different developers.
Nothing new under the sun
These are not new concepts; they have been around the developer community from the beginning days of computing. Where this is new is that non-developers have to learn the value of this effort and adopt it as part of their everyday methodology. It is in this that seasoned developers can be advocates of good development habits and procedures as citizen developers become more mainstream.