By Robert Duffner
Robert Duffner is Senior Director, Product Marketing, Cloud, at ServiceNow
How often does someone from HR, finance, marketing or another business unit come to you with a request to develop a new business application? There’s likely an ever-growing collection of these open requests that you just can’t find the time to develop. Fortunately, instead of being a roadblock to these requests, you can leverage cloud-based low-code development platforms to help your users help themselves. Adopting a delegated approach to application development frees you to devote your time to more strategic priorities, and positions DevOps as an invaluable partner across all lines of the business.
Forrester defines low code development platforms as those that enable rapid delivery of business applications with a minimum of hand-coding and minimal upfront investment in setup, training, and deployment. The analyst firm sees three dominant forces shaping the landscape for low-code platforms:
- A drive to expand and diversify the developer talent pool
- A shift towards general-purpose usage of low-code platforms
- Increased funding that validates the market for low-code
Not long ago, helping users to develop their apps wasn’t an option. The high risks associated with assigning them the necessary administrative privileges was too high. That led to the rise of the Shadow IT trend, with users implementing third party solutions without IT’s permission or knowledge. Delegated development reverses that trend and also reduces your backlog of requests so you can focus on more strategic projects.
Before launching a delegated development program, take a step back and confirm you do not already have a viable low-code platform in place. A number of SaaS platforms are built on an application platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that offers tools for declarative programming low-coders can use to define, customise, and create new apps without writing a line of code.
Once you’ve determined whether or not you need to implement a low-code platform, you’re ready to take the first step. Since the Major League Baseball playoffs are underway, football season has begun, and the NBA tips off this month, let’s stick with the sports theme for this next recommendation: embrace the MVP.
I’m not recommending you select someone as organisation’s Most Valuable Player. Rather, look to implement what I call the “minimum viable product” to help you deliver apps to users faster than ever. A primary benefit of low-code development is speed. The quicker you get your apps to users, the quicker they can provide you with feedback that you can use to guide iterative development. Users prefer apps that do one thing, maybe two, very well. Rather than building all-in-one apps that try to do everything, select one function for your app and make sure it excels at performing it.
The key to achieving and maintaining this speed consistently is to create workflows that automate traditionally manual processes. A good low-code development platform can replace manually-intensive tasks like trading emails and updating spreadsheets with collaborative workspaces and automated business processes to streamline the flow of work.
Facilitating collaboration will help you break down the silos that typically separate the individual lines of business from one another. IT has the opportunity to lead the move away what is likely a vertical and departmental approach to one that brings departments together to brainstorm and contribute to decision-making processes. Your low-code platform can be an invaluable tool for this effort by enabling you to architect, design and implement based on the requirements across the entire company. Again, IT is seen as the leader of the organisation-wide digital transformation.
Finally, strike a balance between providing users with freedom to create and collaborate without sacrificing control. You can provide low-coders with a platform featuring templates for building apps without administrative privileges. They have the freedom to create apps that help them get their work done, but within metaphorical guard rails that prevent them from accessing data they don’t have permission to see. One template can serve the needs of multiple departments, eliminating the need for IT to create multiple variations.
You may have noticed that the common thread woven through all of these recommendations is the goal of positioning IT as a partner to the entire business, instead of a roadblock that users try to avoid. Your users can move at the speed of business, and learn to rely on IT as an invaluable services provider that drives innovation. The result: IT evolves from its old role as Keeper of the Data Center to a modern services provider that helps users solve their own problems while also getting Shadow IT under control.