How to unlock the potential of employees to scale automation with a citizen development model

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A Firstsource perspective

Years back our journey with automation started with technology interventions and building products when programming and development skills were exclusive to IT personnel. However, times have changed. As the demand for quicker development cycles for automation grows, today’s organizations need to operate at warp speed.

We embarked on the ‘Digital First, Digital Now’ journey over the last year, and realized the key to speeding it up was through democratizing automation: providing a super cape to our people to identify opportunities and then design & build their own automated solutions.

What is a citizen development model?

As a BPM service provider, we are driven by our purpose to deliver business value to our clients. And for that, a tech-forward mindset, and an eagerness to serve with innate humanness is imperative. There’s obviously a top-down COE-driven default assessment approach which I think every organization follows.

But we realized the need for a ground-up movement to enable every Firstsourcer to manifest the digital-first mindset and make the cultural shift.

And, we introduced the citizen development model with ‘Firstsource Automation league’ – to empower our non-IT employees on the frontline to identify automation opportunities based on the challenges they face, and then design & build their own solutions using low-code and no-code (LCNC) tools.

Empower our non-IT employees on the frontline to identify automation opportunities based on the challenges they face, and then design & build their own solutions using low-code and no-code (LCNC) tools.

A new wave of transformation

In today’s ever-changing business landscape, we believe one of the ways to reskill employees is to empower them with new tools, techniques & arsenal, and approach problem solving through incremental changes.

In collaboration with leading digital transformation trainers Tiny Magiq, we developed a curriculum to harness motivational techniques around the cumulative power of small changes. Based on B.J. Fogg’s model of creating tiny habits, we enabled change in people’s behavior and mindset with three converging elements: Motivation, Ability, and Prompt.

The training methodology was created in collaboration with UiPath where employees were trained through gamification techniques to identify tasks amenable to automation. Citizen developers were able to prioritize tasks perfect for automation and build, publish and run their own automations on the no-code platform Studio X with pre-designed templates.

What are the benefits of citizen development?

Our ideology behind the citizen development model was not to focus on immediate ROI but a mindset change with the ability to develop solutions even though you’re not a technologist and, in addition, make the best use of what the COE does. Many employees became evangelists and their successes stories echoed across the organization. Others opened up to trying automation solutions for their challenges to drive the next wave of digital transformation.

The recognition created a set of ‘Power Users’ who not only shared more bots within their line of business unit, but also worked alongside IT to identify automation opportunities for use in the wider organization.

Citizen development is fundamental to digital transformation, and over time, we realized multiple benefits of scaling automation including higher operational efficiency and productivity across the organization.

Our pilot program was highly successful adding tremendous value to internal processes by reducing errors and freeing up time. It helped drive innovation to boost top-line revenues and bottom-line profitability.

“Pulling together summary reports used to take ages. Now the bot chases the team for me and collates all their data in one spreadsheet. All I need to do is check it and push send to my line manager. The bot saves me 460 man-days, and it’s saved the business $56,355.” –Poonam, Team Leader at Firstsource

How can citizen development be enabled safely and sustainably?

It’s an extremely important piece of the puzzle as privacy laws around data protection are extremely critical. The employee at the frontline can’t be expected to know all of the regulatory and compliance controls necessary when they’re developing a solution to a productivity problem. Hence the Compliance & InfoSec teams are integral to everything that we do from day one to eliminate the risk of shadow IT.

It’s an extremely important piece of the puzzle as privacy laws around data protection are extremely critical. The employee at the frontline can’t be expected to know all of the regulatory and compliance controls necessary when they’re developing a solution to a productivity problem. Hence the Compliance & InfoSec teams are integral to everything that we do from day one to eliminate the risk of shadow IT.

The Compliance & InfoSec teams are integral to everything that we do from day one to eliminate the risk of shadow IT.

While this ensures security and control, citizen developers can learn from IT by executing projects traditionally led by tech developers. With proper governance, citizen development can become an integral part to an efficient IT strategy and work as a sustainable model over the long haul.

Seven steps to realize the benefits of organization-wide automation at scale

  1. Institutionalize standards to ensure quality, security and control
  2. Onboard employees that can become citizen developers across disciplines
  3. Identify the right processes to automate in a governed model
  4. Create teams including your citizen developers, mentors for positive habits and skills, process-owners, and IT experts
  5. Decide which no-code/low-code citizen development platform to go with
  6. After training on intuitive automation software, find your “power users” creating and sharing bots across business units
  7. Reward successful bot developers and watch them turn into program evangelists

How can you harness the power of citizen development?

Citizen developers present a unique opportunity for organizations to bridge the gap between the growing demand for automation and the shortage of skilled staff to develop these solutions.

Firstsource’s citizen development model has saved our business time and money, and also made our people happier. We’re now putting our first-hand experience to work for our customers and helping them to establish an efficient and effective citizen development strategy and run programs that realize their digital transformation ambitions.

Find out how the Firstsource Automation League framework can help your enterprise scale automation through citizen development

Featured Resource

Do check out the blog ‘Behind the hype: does citizen development really work?’ which highlights three key learnings on developing, shaping, and implementing a citizen development program.

Author

Sundara Sukavanam is Chief Digital Officer (CDO) at Firstsource Solutions. He drives the ‘Digital First, Digital Now’ agenda for the organization with the focus to help our customers in their digital transformation journey. Sundara leads Firstsource’s Digital Services including Intelligent Automation, Analytics, and scaling Business Process as a Service (BPaaS).

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