In 2021 and beyond, citizen automation is a term you need to know to have a say in the tech world. Many teams bet on it to make their department’s work faster, simpler and more flexible. In this interview, Florian Frey – General Manager of SAP Ruum – shares his thoughts on citizen automation and explains why “citizen developers” can soon be indispensable for each organization.
Florian, the entire tech world talks about citizen developers, a new persona on the rise. What is so exciting about it?
A citizen developer is a person without development experience being able to build and automate business processes. This ability enables everybody from a sales manager to a logistician to contribute to the efficiency and agility of an organization. And for me, it is even more than that. The citizen developer embodies a whole new mindset on how you tackle your daily work. We can all be citizen developers and improve our company’s processes. This inclusiveness and multiplication of development resources make this trend very fascinating.
But how do organizations benefit from workflows automated by people like you and me?
This democratization of IT enables organizations to build more automated processes. It will speed up work with a low budget and makes it more flexible. HR, procurement, finance, legal, facility department and many more LoBs can tap into new potentials and improve even more processes. This is the big promise of citizen automation. From an employee perspective, being your own IT expert comes also with a certain degree of ownership.
How is SAP driving citizen automation initiatives?
SAP has a long tradition in optimizing standardized and integrated core business processes managed by IT with SAP’s Intelligent Suite. In the automation cosmos, we put a massive effort into technologies such as Robotic Process Automation, Workflow Management or combined Hyperautomation solutions.
But we also acknowledge that every single department and team has its own very specific processes. With our Low-Code/No-Code capabilities such as SAP Ruum or SAP Intelligent RPA we can allow business users to become citizen developers being able to rapidly and flexibly build individual processes. Other than that, they can extend and integrate them with core processes leveraged by what SAP already delivers.
Extension and integration are key pillars of SAP’s approach to citizen automation. When you build a new process for let’s say approving a new investment, you want to be able to say which cost center will cover the costs of the new investment. And you don’t want to manually copy and paste a cost center number. That’s not only tedious but there’s also a high risk of making mistakes. You will want your new process to integrate with your existing systems and data. SAP is committed to making access to data and systems seamless and secure for citizen developers. This is how we create something very valuable for our customers.
Through the pandemic, the world has moved to a distributed remote setting in a matter of days. The impact on how work is organized changed rapidly.
Citizen developers are the key persona to tackle this tremendous change. They empower the fast building of highly needed processes instead of running a three-month IT project that costs too much time and money.
In 2020, our customers had to react to ten times the change in one-tenth of the time with zero budget. In the home office, companies acknowledge the value of automation capabilities, the demand is tremendous. We can’t put all this burden on the IT departments. We all need to take part in this. Today’s remote work can’t survive without citizen developers.
The best Low-Code / No-Code capabilities are worth nothing without proper execution. How can organizations upskill their people to become citizen developers and put this trend to reality?
We work very hard to deliver a radically simplified experience with the need for as little upskilling as possible. We from SAP Ruum provide free learning materials and online training that helps everyone get started with building automation right away! We recently teamed up with Evonik’s tax department to empower them to build individual workflow automation solutions with Low-Code / No-Code. We’ve seen three complex processes being built in only two hours by people who never before encountered software development.
Read more about Ruum’s Hackathon with Evonik here.
Citizen automation receives a lot of attention, but not everybody is willing to hop on this trend. One of the biggest perceived threats is that professional developers will be replaced by citizen developers.
I understand this concern, but we get different signals. Citizen automation enables employees to tap into a part of the company that’s not yet automated. Citizen automation excavates the gold mine and hands over the large, complex chunks to the IT departments. The smaller, easy to carry elements are in the hand of the citizen developers instead.
It seems like citizen automation comes with the nice side effect to get over this decades-old gap between IT and non-technical teams.
I’m certain this symbiosis will increase the need for professional developers and citizen developers alike. For me, citizen automation is about creating a winning team that has the great opportunity to drive digital change across IT and business units and unleash the full potential of every business!
You can also read this interview on the SAP Ruum blog.