Customer Stories

Transamerica expands career paths with Citizen Development

June 27th 2019

Our citizen developer program helps us support our field force of over 45,000 licensed agents across North America.

My name is Dave Neely and I'm a Senior Manager of Technology for Transamerica.

The role of IT at Transamerica is moving more from right to left to being more closely aligned with our business functions. 

And then we have a core team at the center of corporate IT that deals with governance, security and architecture.

We serve over 45,000 licensed agents in the field and one of our challenges is always delivering as much functionality to them as we can in a short timeframe. 

Our first introduction to the concept of citizen developers came when our success manager was learning our business model and providing ideas on ways we could leverage the platform. 

As we confronted the reality of resource constraints and only a certain amount of bandwidth in IT, he said, "Have you thought about citizen developers?"

As I really looked at the citizen developer program and realized the benefit it could provide, I bought into it and then I had to figure out how do I sell this more or less to the rest of my team and to the company as a whole. Once we explained that this actually filled the gap on more simple declarative type applications that could be developed and released to the field, that wouldn't take a time burden on our IT teams, I think they bought into it and they understood the benefits.

What we did is we sent out a series of 30-minute meetings to the entire company for anybody who wanted to participate, we didn't know what kind of response we would get. We get people involved in technology that normally they would never be in that field from their day jobs. They want to expand their career and build some skills.

As we got the response back, we set up a series of trail mixes through the Salesforce learning platform, Trailhead. Trail mixes are custom sets of learning courses available on the salesforce platform. We went through and determined all the core skills we believe the citizen developer would need and put it together in a custom trail mix so they could go online very easily, log in to Trailhead and see every course they needed to take to build those skills. And this actually built the core foundation of skills across the people who were interested. 

The Lightning Platform is awesome because it has a set of pre-built objects that are immediately available for a citizen developer or a traditional developer to use. These objects make it very easy to pull together ideas and make working prototypes and then be fleshed out into fully formed applications that we might want to release. So we don't have to spend additional time working on "a mobile option" because that's baked into the platform and it’s a huge benefit.

The key thing to note about citizen developers is that they don't replace our technical staff. They work on things that don't require coding behind the scenes or any type of complex integrations. Subsequently, our technical teams work on the data integrations, the security requirements, the data modeling, those technical things that a traditional developer wouldn't still normally work on.

Our citizen developers and our technical teams actually work very closely together to develop their ideas and make sure that the functionality that the citizen developer is trying to implement actually comes to pass in a way that is useful to the end user. Our technical teams and the citizen developers interact in a series of councils that we have set up specifically for citizen development type work. Those are weekly communications as well as many other impromptu communications. We've actually got a really good relationship between our technical teams and our citizen development teams that I think have allowed both sides of that equation to be successful.

When we first started the citizen developer program, we really approached it as a way for people on the ground working with our customers to come up with great ideas from their perspective and then have a means to make those ideas into reality for functionality release to the field. It's becoming a much more prescriptive resource set versus just people who may have ideas and want to work on them. Meaning that now we've actually got a list of a backlog, if you will, of items that we want to get developed that we know fit the citizen developer skill sets. 

We're continuously looking at the program and trying to tweak it and expand it to get the most value from it. Since at the time of our initial launch two years ago within the retail distribution area, it's now been institutionalized across all of Transamerica

Transamerica really prides itself on being an innovative company and we really feel this is something that's attractive to people when they're looking at Transamerica as maybe a place to continue their career or more certainly for people who are already here and now they have an opportunity to do things that they have never envisioned. Just watching people reinvent themselves from whatever their normal job function is into a citizen developer was very rewarding.

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