The Rise of (Intranet) Citizen Developers

Singapore Mini Maker FaireI was honored to be one of the speakers at the first-ever Singapore Mini-Maker Faire, at Singapore Science Centre (Newton Room) on 4 August 2012.

The working title of my talk was “the rise of enchanters”. I decided to change it to “the rise of citizen developers” as I felt that the term “citizen developers” is more apt for the event and is more inline with the maker culture.

In case you missed it, here is the slides of my presentation.

And here is the outline of my talk. (P/S: read the following text and go through the above slides at the same time – if you want optimal learning experience).

My talk is divided into three parts: (I) The Advent of Experience Economy; (II) The Rise of Digital Native Leaders: Citizen Developers; and (III) A New Class Awakens: Intranet Citizen Developers.

Part I. The Advent of Experience Economy

We live in an experience economy (Exp.onomy) – an economy where people are willing to pay premium price to have memorable experience when using products/services.

So organisations today can create value for their customers, not through superior product or excellent services, but through premium experience.

Let me give you several examples to illustrate the experience economy.

1. Nokia N-gage. It was a great product that combines phone capability and that of gaming console. Unfortunately, it was also a clunky device. And to make it worse, Nokia didn’t offer enough support for gamers. For example, questions like “what happened to my game license when I changed phone line?” are never adequately addressed by Nokia.

2. Microsoft Passport. It was a great product which offered great service. The idea behind it was to provide a single logon services to many Microsoft product. How cool is that? Unfortunately Microsoft didn’t pay enough attention to user experience (UX). The logon windows in Microsoft Passport pop-up many times even when they are not supposed to.

3. Google Wave. Like Microsoft, in Google Wave, Google has a great product that offers great service. Unfortunately Google Wave doesn’t have a clear value proposition! No one knows what Google Wave is and how to use it (it is too complicated to use).

4. Apple Inc. One of the few companies who understand that we are living in exp.onomy is Apple. The key to Apple success is their Insanely Simple design philosophy – which translate into: (a) simple product design that is intuitive to use and (b) simple service process.

This sort of insight (i.e. how to succeed in exp.onomy) is becoming important – especially in the age of social media where people are empowered to be citizen journalist.

Speaking of citizen journalism, one company that don’t get it is Dell. In 2005, a famous tech blogger, Jeff Jarvis, complained about Dell’s product and service. Jarvis’ blog post gets more than 100 comments. (A simple rant is amplified more than 100 times!)

Apparently, in 2009, Dell still doesn’t get it. A customer said that he preferred to buy a new, non-Dell laptop than going through Dell customer service hell.

In contrast, Apple made service process simple. If a customer shows up at its service centre with a broken device, then Apple sales rep would either fix it on the spot or offer a replacement. It is that simple!

Part II. The Rise of Digital-Native Leaders: Citizen Developers

In an environment where there is an insatiable need to have premium experience, who should take the lead?

Let examine several candidates.

Candidates #1. Techies. There are the kind of people who has good technical expertise but low empathy. These folks are in love with the sophistication of the product, and to them, customer experience is about providing a thick manual.

Obviously techies aren’t the best leaders for the exp.onomy.

Candidates #2. Business People. These are the kind of people with high empathy but low technical expertise. The Business folks are in tune with the premium experience that people crave for. Alas, they are often held back by their Engineers and thus succumb to low-tech means to provide premium experience.

Without technology, the Business people fall short of meeting the WOW factor in giving premium experience.

The kind of leader that we need, is business people who can tinker Ala Tony Stark (aka Ironman), who has high technical expertise and high empathy.

Developing ourselves to be such leader is easier than we think, because of the LEGO-tisation of programming. That is, programming using building block (Object Oriented Programming), or assembling third-party software.

The business people who can thinker is also known as the citizen developers. And these are the people who can empathise, prototype, and excite the ground.

Part III. A New Class Awakens: Intranet Citizen Developers

All medium to large enterprise require intranet because as the number of employees grows, email can’t meet the need to organise the enterprise information. Only intranet has the chance to meet the growing need to organise information within the organisation.

The problem is, intranet has to be custom-made. This is because each organisation has unique information need as a result of different groups of people, different business context, and the different content that the organisation consumes and produces.

Because intranet has to be custom-made, it is usually expensive. This lucrative industry is ruled by rapacious vendors who would push as many custom-made function as possible to milk as much money as they can from their clients. The biggest victim is, of course, the powerless employees who crave for a premium experience in information management.

This situation gives rise to intranet exp.onomy. And this intranet exp.onomy is going to get bigger – thanks to social media, cloud computing and mobile devices that complicate the management of information.

Fortunately, like many others in technology industry, intranet is being LEGO-tised. And Microsoft is taking the lead in the LEGO-tisation of the intranet with their hot-selling product: Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 (Sharepoint 2013 on its way).

Sharepoint is built based on webparts (in a way, apps-based), and it can be used in conjunction with other Microsoft products like Access, Excel, Infopath and Visual Studio. So, essentially, Sharepoint is giving you a free-hand in shaping solution to meet customers’ needs.

Microsoft invested a lot in Sharepoint – especially with the recent $1.2b acquisition of Yammer (or better known as corporate Facebook). So, it may be worthwhile to learn about Sharepoint.

The point is, with Sharepoint, you can transform yourself from weak passive employees to be proactive intranet citizen developers. To be a good intranet citizen developers, however, you need more than just a skill in Sharepoint. You also need to know Information Architecture, Content Strategy, Change Management, Usability, and Service Design.

So join me in a journey to change the world – one premium experience at a time.

Check out the video clip of my talk below.


RiseofCitizenDevelopers from Roan Yong on Vimeo.

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