In the past, conducting and coordinating work via manual productivity tools, like paper, spreadsheets and email, worked just fine for most organizations. The speed of business and their consumers didn’t demand otherwise, so companies maintained the status quo.
Today the world of business has become increasingly global, sophisticated and complex, and the need to accelerate the pace of organizational operations and to respond to market changes agilely is becoming critical to overall corporate success. This reality becomes even more apparent when you consider that 40% of companies that were on top of the Fortune 500 list in 2000 were no longer there in 2010. As a result, enterprise companies are increasingly looking to innovate beyond the status quo and work towards the goal of digitizing their operations, but what is the digital transformation strategy for enterprise organizations?
When thinking about the shift towards the digitization of enterprise operations, it’s worth considering the three following significant drivers.
The Competitive Landscape
The barrier to entry across industries is shrinking due to the exponential advances in technology and the rapid globalization of the business world. With new competitors primed to disrupt established industries, inefficiencies and delays caused by manual work or tools, like spreadsheets or paper, will hinder an organization’s ability to sustainably compete in their respective markets. Companies do not want to fall victim to a situation, like that of Blockbuster, which failed to adapt quickly enough to market changes and thus saw their market share diminished by the rise of online vendors. As such, many companies are looking to leverage modern, flexible technology in order to gain more operational agility and ultimately to help them maintain their competitive advantage.
The “Now Economy”
Change occurs rapidly across industries due to evolving market conditions, government regulations, and a consumer-base that is driven to find solutions that solve their evolving needs immediately. The time that a company has to compensate for or to respond internally to external changes is shrinking. As a result, companies are turning to flexible technological solutions that are rapid-to-implement and quick-to-change. They know this will be paramount to their efforts to keep up with constantly changing market conditions and consumer demands.
The Millennial Effect
With the entrance of the Millennial generation to the workforce, access to technology that supports work and enables productivity is expected—not tomorrow, but now. Power-users of technology, this generation is not conditioned to wait on IT to develop solutions inhouse, to be satisfied with just-good-enough technology or to use off-the-shelf solutions that only meet their partial needs. This Millennial attitude can be seen emulated by other generations in the workforce, which have now experienced the powerful impact that technology can have when it comes to enabling their work. The vast majority of the workforce has now adopted, what one might call, “a Millennial mindset,” when it comes to their expectations for tools that support their work.
These drivers, among others, have caused the demand for new or improved enterprise applications that support operations to increase exponentially, especially apps that also can be used on a mobile device. In fact according to Gartner by the end of 2017, market demand for mobile apps will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organizations’ capacity to deliver them. As this statistic demonstrates, the drive towards achieving digital transformation is tangibly present and here to stay. That said, it also illustrates that the growth of requests for applications that support digital operations presents challenges for today’s organizations.
Consider the current realities of today’s companies, and you can begin to understand why organizations are often struggling to keep up with the growing demand for modern applications aimed at fueling their digital transformation efforts.
Under-resourced IT Teams with Mounting Workloads
It’s estimated that the IT backlog has increased by 29% in the past 18 months alone. It’s clear that the increased demand for new, modern business applications is creating a daunting backlog for enterprise IT departments. These requests represent additional work that sit on top of IT’s current workload. This issue is only compounded by a shortage in the global supply of “traditional IT or development talent.” A recent Information Week survey indicated that 73% of respondents at companies with fewer than 1,000 employees, and a whopping 88% of respondents at larger companies feel challenged by a shortage in critical development talent. The bottom line is there is more work for IT to accomplish and less people available to perform it than ever before.
Shadow IT is on the Rise
TrackVia research found that 42% of employees say company tools don’t meet their needs, and 52% of them want new applications that enable more productive work. When presented with software that does not meet their needs or when forced to resort to manual tools, such as spreadsheets, paper, and email, employees often turn to unsanctioned apps. In fact, TrackVia research indicates that over half of employees admit that they use outside apps to support their work. This phenomenon, often referred to as, “Shadow IT,” creates additional headaches for both business users and IT. Often, outside apps can only solve a portion of one’s work needs and don’t connect easily to other internal IT systems. This disconnected assortment of applications creates reporting and process management difficulties within the business. Additionally for IT, the security and data management issues caused by this issue only further compounds their challenges.
With an increasingly competitive business landscape, a consumer base that expects instant gratification, and a workforce that is the most technology-centric to date, the need for business applications continues to rise. Despite being faced with mounting obstacles, organizations continue to strain to meet this growing demand. They know that any barrier to their ability to keep up with rapid pace of business will have significant repercussions on their competitive advantage. As such, companies are looking for new ways to bridge the gap and are turning to a new breed of rapid and flexible solutions to help them do so.
When it comes to overcoming the challenges posed by the current corporate realities and addressing the unique needs of today’s businesses, Aberdeen research asserts that simplifying and speeding up solution development and deployment is the top priority for today’s leading organizations. In order to accelerate their ability to support their digital transformation efforts with technology, many companies are turning to low-code technology.
A leading analyst firm, Forrester, defines this new wave of low-code technology as, “Platforms that enable rapid delivery of business applications with a minimum of handcoding and minimal upfront investment in setup, training, and deployment.” Low-code solutions provide companies with an easy and fast way to meet employees’ demand for improved business applications while using less IT resources than ever before. The two main core capabilities found in most low-code platforms are easy customization and integrated mobility.
A one-size-fits-all approach to business software has proven to be problematic for companies that have unique processes or evolving operations. Low-code platforms solve this issue by providing the ability for technical users to use intuitive tools for rapid app development, such as adding code directly into the system’s user interface. Furthermore, these solutions also provide drag-and-drop, visual tools and features that business users can use to easily configure and make iterative changes to applications without the need for advanced coding knowledge. This comes in handy for IT teams, which may only need to step in to assist with advanced requirements. Additionally, it empowers business users to easily and quickly customize their applications according to their more intimate knowledge of day-to-day operations and any changes occurring in their area of the business. Business users no longer have to wait for IT teams to code small, frequent updates to their applications. Meanwhile, this type of versatile and easy configuration frees up time that IT once spent on small requests, which can now be used on strategic projects and to carry out other important responsibilities.
With a global workforce and distributed operations, the growing demand for mobile applications shows no signs of slowing. Many low-code platforms, like TrackVia, provide an integrated mobile and web functionality. This provides companies with the ability to develop a single application and instantly deploy it for use across all end-user devices. Some solutions offer native mobile capabilities. This allows app creators to take advantage of the hardware-based functionality of today’s mobile devices and ultimately enables end-users to do things, such as gather and access information, take and annotate photos, capture signatures and geo-location information, record audio notes, and the like. This functionality becomes especially powerful when providers of low-code platforms offer offline mobile capabilities, which allows apps to fully function with or without an Internet connection. This means work can be performed, data can be collected, and processes can remain coordinated anywhere, anytime—even in remote locations.
Although the popularity of low-code technology has begun to accelerate, vendors, like TrackVia, have been providing industry-leading companies with this type of technology for the last 10 years. In fact, Aberdeen research shows that many companies have already adopted this approach to rapid solution development, citing that Best-in-Class organizations are three times more likely to leverage a low-code application platform. Furthermore, Aberdeen research suggests that in doing so these companies have increased their speed to operational improvements by a factor of two.
Increasingly, companies are seeing their IT teams use low-code platforms to help streamline their delivery of applications to the business and to cut down on their backlog of app requests. Additionally, many citizen developers, or technically-inclined employees that often live within operational departments, have already introduced these types of platforms to their organizations. This exposure has caused an increasing number of IT departments to proactively procure low-code application platforms on behalf of the line of business, so they can help with the initial set up of applications, create any necessary integrations, and provide overall system governance. From there, they can then hand the administration of these platforms off to citizen developers within their organization. This allows departamental employees, which have a better pulse on operational needs and changes, to iterate upon the system without the need for advanced programming or IT involvement. Low-code platforms bring together IT teams, citizen developers, and company management that are all looking to better leverage technology in order to drive performance and enable innovation across the enterprise.
As discussed throughout this whitepaper, keeping pace with the increasingly rapid speed of business is top of mind at organizations across every industry. Low-code solutions provide a technological springboard for speeding up the pace of application delivery and deployment. Newfound access to enterprise solutions also helps enable employees to be more productive, operations to be streamlined, and clients to be better served. Additionally, low-code applications are easily and rapidly adjusted, which ensures that operational technology can always keep pace with evolving markets, client needs, regulations, and the like. Ultimately, the use of low-code technology allows companies to remain agile and to accelerate their speed to enterprise improvements and performance.
Visibility & Control
When companies have to wait to get access to technology, work often is performed using manual tools, like email, spreadsheets and paper. These tools simply do not provide any means for management, or even the people performing the actual tasks, to understand where work stands at any given point in time. Enter low-code technology, which allows for the rapid digitization of previously manual work and provides real-time reporting. This means management now has complete visibility and control over their operations while employee work is better coordinated and streamlined. Lastly, this type of insight enables data-driven decision-making to occur at every level of the enterprise and allows companies to shift their problem-solving mindset from reactive to proactive.
IT wants to enable its organization for success, but without low-code, rapid development tools, they have been limited in their capacity to do so. In their absence, manual tools and outside applications have flourished, which left large security and data management concerns looming. With the help of this new breed of technology, IT can now retain complete control and governance over the low-code applications deployed across the business while also providing departments with access to tools they need to support their work. Utilizing this type of low-code technology, employees are able to better perform their jobs without the risk of unintentionally introducing potential security vulnerabilities.
Digitizing internal operations with low-code solutions means that the manual, inefficient tools once used to complete work can be left behind. Replacing outdated tools with low-code, customized applications enables employees to accomplish their work more productively. It also allows previously disjointed or uncoordinated processes to be streamlined allowing work to seamlessly flow from one step to the next—across various teams and departments. This eliminates delays or inefficiencies that may have previously existed and enhances overall company efficiency.
1‘Brian Solis’ Future of Business
3 SoundCloud.com, “Top 5 Tips for Beating the IT Backlog
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