For decades, organizations have had two alternatives when they required new information systems. They had to either build a new system from scratch, using their own in house IT team or outsource a ready-made system.
The “In house development” approach, as with a tailored suit, offers a perfect fit for business requirements, but usually has a very high cost and a long wait time for implementation. The second option of outsourcing ready-made systems from outside suppliers, such as standard sized clothing on the shelf, may not fit as well as the tailored suit however these ready made systems are relatively cheaper and can be implemented faster. The fast implementation isn’t always fast enough, as the average implementation time of an ERP system internationally is 18.4 months. Companies often prefer to modify their business processes to fit the system requirements, rather than the opposite way (modifying the system to fit the business requirements).
Today, however, there is a third alternative that is becoming increasingly popular. Low code / no code (LC / NC) applications. The advantages of these applications is that they are flexible, can fit most of the business requirements, be implemented much faster (within a few days), and usually cost much less than internally developed systems.
But these advantages are obviously not achieved through magic. The way in which these systems achieve these advantages is the RADICAL approach of deciding WHO is the individual who undertakes the development and implementation of each application.
In contrast to the two traditional ways, the responsibility for the development and implementation of the solution lies with the users themselves AND NOT the professional developers of the internal IT department or the external consultant – system integrator.
These systems provide smart menus, drag and drop tools and other functions that allow users without any knowledge of code, to design and implement partial process automation in a matter of hours.
This is where a new company role comes into play, this role is called ‘Citizen Developer’. Essentially these are company employees who undertake setting up and configuring these platforms.
The drastic difference is that these professionals are NOT part of the IT department. Basically, there is no need to even know coding. They are usually employees who are already working in the departments where the technology is applied, they fully understand the business needs, and obviously have the intellectual skills to turn their knowledge and experience into specific digital workflows.
ISSUES TO OVERCOME
Having worked with dozens of companies in the implementation of LC/NC systems, we have identified 3 critical issues for the success of these projects.
The first issue we would need to address is the commitment of citizen developers. Unfortunately, companies do not realize the benefits of having the implementation of the systems driven by executives of the departments that are being digitized which results in it being handed over to their IT departments or to the company that develops the technology. Some organizations understand that handing off these projects to others to take the lead often results in incorrect corresponding time, which leads to a backlog of projects.
The second challenge is to create software silos within organizations. The existence of many parallel systems can cause breakdown of communication, in turn, highlights reliance on the IT department, when this role of setting standards and monitoring the implementation process should be a separate supervisory role. Lastly, when technologies are requested for a large scale organization with a complex structure it is essential to have a centralized design that can cover several different company structures that may arise.
In conclusion, no code/low code software may be disrupting the way companies are currently covering their digitization needs. Just like every other technological advancements there are challenges that will arise, however, if companies stick to it and are determined to progress they can benefit significantly from these changes, e.g. in terms of time frames, costs, and quality.