What happens to an organization when they first start with low-code?
With low-code you can develop better and faster software with fewer people. This allows you to be more innovative and to respond quickly to the needs and demands of the Act-Now economy. In order to make optimum use of low-code, the organizational set-up is crucial. That is why the combination of low-code and the agile way of working is such a good synthesis. After all, agile working focuses on short-cycle value delivery and working in multidisciplinary teams. How does this synthesis work exactly? Low-code is a widely used means of accelerating digital transformation. Because with low-code – and certainly with USoft – you can work in ‘natural language’ and business and IT work together even more easily. That is the theory, at least. In practice, we often see that organizations are still far from achieving this. Too often organizations are not used to think and work in the pace that is required, as a result of outdated organizational working methods and procedures, and because form and content are not properly separated. What’s the story here exactly?
Companies using low-code for the first time
One thing is certain. When you start working with low-code, you accelerate. It is not unusual for clients to be surprised to receive a working prototype just a few days or weeks after providing input. Nine times out of ten, it turns out that the app does not really meet the requirements. The reason for this is that the image of the desired end result was not yet entirely clear. Clients are used to having time to weigh, rethink, revise and consider. If you are going to work with low-code, it is important that you have already done part of this before you actually start developing the solution. On the other hand, you can use agile working and low-code very well to build systems iteratively, in which learning ability plays a major role. Then, for example, you can work from a prototype towards the final solution in steps which enables you to incorporate new insights immediately. But the organization must also be ready for this.
Pitfall: I choose low-code and am ready for the future
Organizations also have many fixed patterns that are not easy to break. Often, they are set in an outdated organizational system that is not geared to developing initiatives quickly and subsequently testing and tune them. If an organization has several management layers that need to give approval or if there are complicated budget cycles, this too has a limiting and delaying effect. Many managers fall into the trap of thinking they have found the best low-code platform. They expect a low-code platform to change the organization by itself. Of course, that is not the case. It is a requirement that the teams and the organization as a whole really embrace the new way of working. For example, premature ideas can be picked up quickly and developed into a usable concept in close cooperation between the business and IT.
Separating form and content
Anyone can say: We are going to digitalize. But if the organization remains the same, little or nothing will change. If you are going to work on change, make a distinction between content and form and therefore between technology and the ‘way of working’. In terms of content, you need a few things, namely the right knowledge of the target group, the requirements for the new application, the way end users can use the application most easily and which integrations with other systems are needed. In short, a clear view of where you want to go. The other part is about the organization of this: is the organization set up in such a way that the set goal can be realized properly? Do you have to go through many layers of management for approval or could it be done faster?
In practice, during the adoption period, form and content often get intertwined. And then you can’t make progress. This is frustrating, because the organization opted for low-code in order to accelerate and innovate. But if the organization is not ready for it, it will be a fiasco.
Is the form right? Then the content will reap the benefits. Of course, a complete organizational change is not made overnight, so start small. Try to form a Gideon’s Army*. This keeps things small and concrete, enables you to quickly implement a solution and get results quickly. Then let it spread like an oil slick. Because others see what is happening, become enthusiastic and see that things can also be done differently. Ask yourself: What is the MVP? Within how much time do we need it? We see that this way of working works very well for both large and small organizations. And it doesn’t matter which low-code solution you use. The principle remains the same. By bringing operations and IT together and based on trust from management and an agile working method, you can demonstrate in the short term how low-code and agile working can accelerate transitions. And in particular how you can further scale this up within your organization.
Low-code as a trigger for organizational improvement
Organizations choose low-code because they want to bring business and IT closer together, move faster, be scalable and break away from the normal way of configuring and building. If you want to start doing this, but the organization is not yet ready, then low-code painfully exposes this. It makes it crystal clear where the obstacles are in the way of working. After all, what happens to the organization if there is a working prototype soon after the briefing? Does this get the whole organization working faster, or does the organization remain stuck in the old pattern? Or what happens if there is a really urgent need for solutions that are available within three to six months, but the processes in an organization do not actually allow these short turnaround times?
Fortunately, there are many successful examples of this. An infrastructure service provider that combines ‘traditional’ and IoT data sources and deploys a small team to get a grip on its utilization in a few months in real time. Or a logistics service provider which, in small steps and with very specific solutions, enriches its existing systems to make sub-processes smarter and to support the operation much better.
Towards pragmatic and short cyclical
Many people think of low-code as mainly about front-end apps. But there are also low-code platforms with which you can build complex business-critical (back-end) applications. Or with which you can tie together existing back-end applications so that data flows smoothly through your back-end landscape and you can easily add functionality on top of these core systems (orchestration).
Large organizations often have to deal with legacy. In this context, the Tax Administration indicates that it is unable to keep up with changes quickly. Literally they say: “To do that properly at the Tax Administration, you need at least eight to ten years. This situation has grown that way in the course of about forty years. Then it is not realistic to say: ‘I’ll solve that in a year or two or three’.” With low-code, however, this is possible. Changes can be tackled in a much more pragmatic and short-cycle way than people often think. A different view of a legacy transformation already makes it less heavy, intense and huge. Look, for example, at the most important components or the low-hanging fruit, and tackle them first. This way of working really has to be top-down. If the management team is not going to do it, it is not going to work.
Look in the mirror
Do you dare to look in the mirror? Is your organization ready to bring business and IT so close together? Is your leadership set up in such a way that you can achieve speed in decision making? Do you know what you really want to change when you start digitizing? Is the answer to these questions ‘yes’? Then start with a project with clear parameters and a high impact and let it spread like an oil slick in your organization. Success guaranteed!
Low-code and no-code
Low-code simplifies application development. This makes things faster and easier. Compared to traditional software development, much less code is written, as visual blocks of existing code are used. No-code goes one step further in terms of development speed and citizen development.
*Gideon’s Army: a small group of combative individuals, usually acting as the vanguard of a larger group.
The original article is published in the third edition of 2021 from Blue Striped Frog Magazine.