How citizen developers are improving the customer experience

How citizen developers are improving the customer experience

Enterprises are looking for a middle ground – software platforms that are quicker and less expensive to customize in house, but don’t require armies of programmers.

Across industries there is a common fear – disruption.

Digital technologies like smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, online gaming consoles, smart household appliances, and multimedia devices are multiplying. In the communications industry, take, for example, the growing number of streaming services available – Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, HBO Now, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue. The rapid expansion of digital channels and devices means more choices for consumers, but it is disrupting business as usual. And organizations are scrambling to launch products and services that give them an advantage over the competition in this ever changing digital landscape.

To keep up with the changes in digital technologies and channels, organizations must build new processes into their systems.

In the past, they have addressed this need by either by buying, deploying, and operating within the confines of a packaged app, or by building in house. In-house builds require creating a list of requirements, then hiring programmers to build the code for a new or updated application. Java, JavaScript, Python, Perl, C# – regardless of language, the approach is the same. The only common denominator is a programmer with programming language knowledge.

There are downsides to both of these approaches. With the in-house, code-based approach, it takes dozens of programmers (with typically little in-depth knowledge of business needs) months of time to produce a result. Packaged software solutions, on the other hand, are quicker to stand up, but many times cannot be modified to meet a business’ unique and specific needs.

Enterprises are looking for a middle ground – software platforms that are quicker and less expensive to customize in house, but don’t require armies of programmers.

Luckily, the digital explosion has not just affected the consumer, it’s also opened the door to new technologies and opportunities on the developer end as well. Instead of coding apps, tech-savvy business staff can now design them. The newest low-code application development software gives a non-programmer the ability to visually build out application specifications – and it’s not just for IT. By replacing the coding requirement with visual models business people like marketers, CX leaders, and operations experts, can work collaboratively with IT to design new and updated application processes that exactly fit each business’ needs.

You may hear this more inclusive approach to development described as “citizen development.”

Analyst firm Gartner defines a citizen developer as “a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.” End users leverage shared services, visual modeling programs, and an Agile development approach to build internal and external apps. And according to Gartner’s research, citizen development initiatives are already being adopted by enterprises. Half of their research survey respondents say they are aware of citizen development initiatives at their own organizations.

This citizen development approach is gaining in popularity because of its benefits. Using a platform with built-in Agile development tools helps business and IT groups collaborate, model, and build new functionalities together. It’s not only a way for IT to self-service its apps, but it’s also a way to bring the business side into the development so that the end result is precisely relevant to the organization’s unique needs.

As Pega Founder and CEO Alan Trefler explained in his 2018 article for the World Economic Forum, software that supports Agile processes and citizen development allows workers in different roles to collaborate and construct app functionalities together in real time. “Even complex analytical constructs can be visually modeled, simplifying the incorporation of semi-structured and unstructured data. Meaning, projects that once took dozens of programmers, months of time, and tens of thousands (if not millions) of dollars may now only take days, weeks, or months with internal staff.”

Vodafone UK is using citizen development to improve the customer experience.

Businesses are seeing success with this agile, collaborative approach. For example, in the communications industry, broadband customer service is becoming increasingly challenging. More and more new digital technologies, like Amazon’s Alexa, are connected via broadband, increasing the types of customer requests that CSRs need to field and resolve. This is driving the need for rapid adaptation/change in customer service. Plus, in this on-demand age, customers expect you to be able to solve their problem quickly and efficiently.

As Vodafone’s UK Enterprise IT Senior Manager, Jon Smith, and Automation & Data Domain Manager, Ro Chopra, described in their presentation at PegaWorld, Vodafone UK’s existing code-heavy, IT-centric, waterfall approach was not producing results quickly enough to adequately keep up with the pace of change for customer service inquiries for their home phone, broadband, and mobile consumers.

As Ro puts it, “Our customers need to be connected, and when something goes wrong and they’re not, we need to fix it as quickly as possible. Basically, the faster we fix our customers’ problems, the happier our customers are.”

To deliver new capabilities quicker, and adapt to new technologies coming out three to four times per year, they envisioned a platform that would empower the business to "self-serve" and create solutions with minimal IT support – and they looked toward an Agile environment that allows business users to work together to rapidly build and deploy rules, offers, strategies, and treatments.

Leveraging no-code software and an Agile approach, Vodafone UK empowered their citizen developers, working collaboratively with IT resources, to create a guided assurance program for their broadband customer service group called Casper. Casper provides a structured process for service reps to follow so they can focus on the customer and provide the best resolution.

“We wanted to put the power in the hands of our people,” explains Jon. “It’s the people in the businesses that make the difference and deliver the capabilities using all of the cool technology.”

An Agile development approach, co-located collaborative teams, visual models, and built-in DevOps capabilities allowed Vodafone UK to bridge the expertise gap of business and IT, and make it possible to rapidly adapt to the business’ changing needs. By bringing citizen developer business people into the Scrum team, they also helped ensure that end users got the functionality they needed. For a project that started from nothing, Vodafone UK was able to build out Casper as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in just 120 days, and has been able to go live with new requirements within as little as 2 weeks.

Within the first four weeks of rolling out the app, Vodafone UK noticed a 10% reduction in Average Handling Time for cases, a drop in first call resolution times by approximately 5%, and an 18% increase in their NPS score.

About 1,500 users are currently in the system, and Vodafone UK is expanding the functionality to other areas internally. Long term plans on the consumer side include rolling out a self-service app to customers, and on the developer side, increasing participation of business users in the citizen developer environment.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In his role as Pega’s Global Industry Market Leader for Communications, Media, and Consumer Services, Kenneth Benner applies his more than 20 years of experience building world-class CRM products to advise clients on the best way to drive new business and provide outstanding customer experiences.