Citizen Developer Interview – Christie Martin of Efficiency Engineering

By Jason Peck on March 3, 2016

It's been amazing seeing how platforms like GoCanvas are enabling business professionals to rapidly build technology to address specific business needs. With GoCanvas, these “citizen developers” can build mobile solutions that automate work, streamline processes and improve efficiency, without needing ANY coding or programming knowledge.

Since we've been doing this for a few years now and helping organizations in over 65 countries, we figured it was a good time to start shining the spotlight on some of the amazing citizen developers we work with on rapid application development and digital transformation.

For our first interview, we caught up with Christie Martin, a LEED accredited Lighting Specialist and co-owner of Efficiency Engineering Inc. 

What does “citizen development” mean to you?

In the sense of GoCanvas, “citizen development” means that GoCanvas sets up a framework that allows business owners like myself to design apps specific to our process. Part of what makes GoCanvas a great fit for us was that I was in control of the app development and could play with development version of the apps to tailor them to our specific needs.

Efficiency Engineering has been performing energy audits on buildings for 25 years. We are in a relatively small market, which means there aren’t very many apps available on the market that enable mobile energy auditing. And there are certainly none that allow audits to be performed to the level we complete our audits at. In the past we used paper forms to gather building information on site. Over the years we tweaked and perfected the level of detail contained in these forms. Once gathered, the information would be inputted into a software program we developed. While this process met the task, it was far from efficient and not always as accurate as possible.

Through GoCanvas, I was able to easily convert our paper forms to mobile apps. Best of all I was able to easily make changes based on feedback from our energy auditors. The GoCanvas platform allowed me to build in checks and balances to make sure our staff completed everything that was required on site. Obviously with paper forms this could not be enforced. The software also allowed me to guide the energy auditor through the process sequentially so that important information was not overlooked. The ability to embed photos with the apps ensures that photos are linked to specific pieces of equipment. This was a fantastic addition to our process because it eliminates the chance of mixing up photos. 

How did you get started with this stuff and taking charge of improving your work processes?

Part of our quarterly business development plan is a “Quarterly Innovation Day”(QID). This is a day that all our staff set aside project work and explore processes or products that may contribute positively to our business. My personal goal was to find an app that could successful assist us in gathering all the necessary information required for a lighting audit. While online I stumbled across a GoCanvas lighting app. While this app did not have everything I was looking for, it did link me with GoCanvas and opened the doors to a process of developing our own apps for our unique process. I dove in head first and developed our first app that very day. By days end I presented a business plan for going paperless using GoCanvas and our operations group okayed full development. Of all our innovations considered during our QIDs, this has hands down improved our process and generated the most savings for our company.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting started?

I can honestly say that there really wasn’t any challenge in getting started. The website was clear and concise and I found it easy to convert forms to mobile apps. I guess that challenge came was once our staff saw what possibility came about now that we were paperless. For the first 4 months of GoCanvas use at EE, we set up a review and feedback forum. This allowed energy auditors to custom tweak the 20 apps that were developed. The phrases “Could we maybe try this” and “ We could make this even better than the paper form by…”, were common place.

What trends do you think we'll see in 2016 and beyond for citizen developers?

I think the trend will be to see the corporate use of citizen developers increase. In the past, companies have either hired IT staff or contracted outside sources to develop specific software for their needs. This was costly and not very flexible if changes were required. A quality citizen developer tool places the development decisions in the hands of the user and gives unlimited flexibility and capability.

What's your favorite part of your job?

My favourite part of my job is visiting unique places and meeting unique people. Probably the most unique was the  Rockwood Psychiatric Asylum for the “criminally Insane” located in Kingston, Ontario, built in 1859. Long since abandoned as a mental health facility, this building had all the fixings of a good horror flick.

When you're not working, what's your favorite thing to do in your free time?

When not at work I enjoy getting away to the cottage or the slopes with family.