Let’s face it: HR managers, like just about every professional today, have more data than ever to manage. They’ve got employee reviews, acceptance letters, salary and promotion information, personal documents, and loads of other information to sort, compile, track, aggregate, collate, and tabulate. There are a lot of apps out there targeted toward HR professionals but not a whole lot that are focused on managing data and managing documents.
This isn’t just a problem that HR professionals are having—it’s rampant in every industry and with most professional positions.
For two decades, I’ve worked with associations and businesses big and small to build customized digital solutions to their complex problems. But what happens when both the problem and the solution are relatively simple? When I realized that most of the time, people who were approaching us about custom apps were really looking for a simple digital solution like a website or app, that’s the moment I became an evangelist for citizen development.
Far too many people are scared off when they start to think about programming languages and coding systems. Frankly, they wouldn’t know where to start. But technology today has advanced to a point where anyone can be an app developer, and we think HR professionals are a natural user base for these no-code technologies because of the amount of data they need to collect, store, and reference on a day-to-day basis.
It might not be a hot topic or big buzzword right now, but in the coming decade, citizen development is going to move to the forefront of our technological discourse. Some projections estimate that there will be a shortfall of a million developers by the year 2020. We just can’t churn them out fast enough, and those who we can train are quickly snatched up.
Basic economics dictate that with the demand for app development only going to increase, and the supply of app developers becoming progressively more tightened, getting a custom app is going to become more and more expensive—prohibitively so for most organizations. Some of the need will be addressed by hiring overseas developers, but it won’t be enough. That’s why HR managers would be wise to get ahead of the trend.
I’ve seen HR professionals manage all of their data with the most unwieldy and outdated systems—binders and filing cabinets, digital folders, and Excel® spreadsheets, just to name a few. These all used to be sufficient because they were the best systems out there (and, to be sure, an improvement over the systems that came before). However, just like those systems replaced outdated ones, new systems have arisen that are more efficient and better suited to HR managers’ needs.
These new systems actually let HR pros design their own apps, specifying the data and the system architecture. As a result, using no-code technologies, they can build their own system to track employee documents, official reviews, dates of hire, dates of promotion or pay raises, and other HR materials—and it can be built in under an hour. Then, they can create specific data sets to show active employees, which employees are up for review in the next quarter, which employees have not had a pay increase in the last 2 years, or any other type of data configuration.
This is one example, but the possibilities are limitless. After hearing from many organizations that $50,000 and 6 months for a custom app was too much, we wanted to turn our passion for citizen development into something that would actually change the game, allowing anyone within an organization to become a citizen developer. I think we’ve done just that. A no-code platform allows us to pay $100 per month and have our solutions online immediately.
Many HR managers are already seeking custom solutions, either for their own needs or for the companies they work for. If they aren’t now, they will be soon. With the wave about to crest, we think that the time is now for HR professionals to embrace citizen development and recognize its truly transformative potential. Otherwise, they will sadly be left behind.
Doug Wilson is a managing partner at Breakthrough Technologies, an award-winning software solutions provider. Recently, Breakthrough Technologies launched a no-code software development platform called Loco, which allows businesses to build their own apps quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.