Low-code strategy: A critical asset for digital transformation at scale

Aug 24, 2022
  • IT

Digital transformation represents a fundamental shift for any business. With the global talent shortage for software developers and data scientists, companies must strive to reduce the burden and demands on their IT departments. Having a low code strategy is key.

By Ketan Verma - Emerging Technology Lead

Digital innovations are taking over many work processes all over the world. Organisations have been striving to keep up with the pace by transforming their strategy and operations to remain competitive. However, this digital transformation is the biggest management challenge organisations face today.

Digital transformation is converting a business from its traditional ways to a digital-enabled way. It’s making a company’s operations, products, and services more efficient and effective using technology. A blueprint that can align with the entire organisation must be implemented to achieve this transformation. This is where Digital Strategy comes in.

What is a Digital Strategy?

A digital strategy outlines how a business will use digital channels and technology to build, grow, and scale. It is a roadmap for success in any industry, highlighting how digital technologies can be harnessed in the near future (3-5 yrs). A digital roadmap is a high-level plan that outlines a company’s goals for the future and lists the digital initiatives that will get you there.

Creating an effective digital roadmap

A well-prepared digital strategy drives  a company's digital transformation. While creating this roadmap, it is crucial to consider:

  1. Understand your business goals and align them to improve success chances by analysing how customers use technology, competitors, and the market landscape.
  2. Engage in and encourage Rapid Application Development (RAD) to enable digital services 
  3. Increase automation and workflows in the entire business model
  4. Ensure easy access to AI
  5. Constantly study your strategy to incorporate edits and evolve
  6. Maintain, support and scale throughout the business

For established enterprise, a dedicated a digital officer or innovation officer can step in to align and evolve with business needs with their digital strategy .

A well-designed strategy establishes the current state of your business and where it is meant to be in the coming years, outlining a well-laid-out plan to get there.

To keep up with the pace of digital transformation, it is essential to introduce Rapid Application Development (RAD) into the business model. This is made easy through a Low-code strategy.

Low-code strategy

Many businesses are quickly implementing the Low-code strategy in their work models to increase the pace of their digitalisation.

'Low-code' is a software development method that minimises the amount of custom coding necessary to create an application. This is made possible by platform-based visual design elements like drag-and-drop interfaces, code design templates that can be reused and software development kits, making it easier to provide business applications with minimal code use.

As a result of the struggle to find enough tech talent, the low-code method can help many organisations deliver the digital experiences their customers need. A low-code development platform enables your business to use user-friendly tools to develop new applications that address business problems.

Low-code platforms are unified with integrations, workflows, RAD (Rapid Application Development) and automation under one platform. These platforms provide an ability for consistent governance and security if rightly used.

Utilising the low-code strategy should be a significant part of the digital strategy of any organisation. 

Checklist for Low-code platform

A business leader should ask and be able to answer the following questions before implementing this strategy:

  • Why do we need this platform?
  • What will be built using this platform?
  • Who will use it?
  • How can it be secured?
  • Would it be cloud-based or used on-premises?
  • Is this a platform which will continue to invest in the new features like AI/ML options, chatbots, and RPAs?
  • How do we implement this strategy to affect our short- and long-term business goals?

Low-code strategy limitations

Low-code technology has helps bridge the IT gap by digitalising processes without taxing the IT department, there are limitations to its extensive implementation. The major limitation lies in its customisation. 

A business may not get the exact functionality or tool they need, and the UI options may be limited. This presents a constraint that only pro-code development can solve. However, some platforms offer access to the underlying code, meaning businesses can tweak the basic framework to create the exact customisation they need. Before choosing a platform, you should know the limits of your customisation options.

Organisations have to decide what proportion of their digital needs will need pro-code and what can be done via low-code (considering the limitations low-code will give)

Finally, operating these strategies need long-term commitment and can incur running costs. Thus, having a roadmap and stakeholders' buy-ins for your digital strategy is essential.

Selecting the right platform

What is the difference between no-code, low-code, and pro-code? Which should favour your organisation and why?

Firstly, 'No-Code' is a marketing term that implies all the development tools are purely visual, and “what you see is what you get” on the interface. However, avoiding code generally means all the application function is limited to the tool provided by the vendor. No room for further change, except if the vendor releases new features for use within the tool. 

Tools with the labels “low-code/no-code” or “LCNC” are low-code in their methodology. Low-code and no-code developments generally use templates, widgets and drop-down menus as building blocks for the application functionality. Forbes suggests that organisations Invest in Tools That Offer Prebuilt “Blocks,” but beware of Tools That Are Highly Specialised Solutions. This couldn’t be more true. It is essential to select the platform and not the tool because a Platform is a set of tools that can work in coherence.

The tools included in these platforms generally include RADs, workflow and automation tools, integration tools, and intelligent extensions like ML, chatbots,   and Intelligent document processing. The platform should also offer the possibility of cloud adoption.

Apart from having the necessary tools you need, the right platform should also:

  • Have easy deployment and governance
  • Be easy to learn and internalise within the organisation
  • Be scalable and secure

The Low-Cod, No-Code Centre of Excellence (CoE)

The CoE refers to the skilled personnel utilising the LCNC technology within the organisation. While No-code implies no coding language is needed, the fact remains that a grasp of programming metaphors and technical know-how of visual modelling software is required. The term citizen developers” have been brought up to refer to staff that are non-developers but can take advantage of low-code software to develop applications for their organisations. There is a lot of noise and acceptance about citizen developers, and we need to analyse the various roles of these personnel before we get excited about it. 

The CoE of any organisation on a digital transformation journey would involve:

Pro-developers - Expert IT personnel who are well versed in programming languages.

Business analysts - Personnel who analyse data to process and interpret business processes and services. They utilise this data to draw business conclusions and make informed insights.

Citizen developers  - Someone who can take an existing solution and customise it for their own purposes. They do this without requiring technical knowledge or assistance and can do it with minimal effort and time.

Citizen analysts - Internal business users like HR and finance, who already know the business. 

Instead of converting citizen analysts into citizen developers, it is often best to let them continue driving digital initiatives from the business side. In due course, those who are tech-savvy will get into citizen developer mode.

Usually, the organisation decides what minimum skillsets are needed for different roles. For example, a pro-code developer must be skilled in many IT or digital solutions concepts. In contrast, a citizen developer only requires some basic understanding. The same goes for business analysts and citizen analysts. Even with LCNC, personnel need to understand databases, data structures, workflows, and core concepts like JSON integrations.

When the digital roles have been properly defined, there’s the need to set a governance model around the users and how the platform can be used. This is where the low-code strategy discussed earlier comes to life.

Managing Governance and Establishing Guardrails

One of the major cons of the Low-code strategy is that it puts a lot of power into employees’ hands, which may cause severe security risks, leaving organisation data subject to the agendas of employees. Thus, it must be severely governed and closely monitored.

Apart from the CoE, it is also essential to set up governance structures and data control mechanisms to prevent ‘shadow IT’. Specific platforms have inbuilt “guardrails”, – which can be defined at the organisation level to control and govern the application development and deployment. 

These governance guardrails help the IT department to establish chains of authority and ensure new applications meet security standards. They can also set policies and provide oversight for non-technical teams within the organisation to prevent management issues arising from data security loss. When necessary, administrators should be able to add code, set restrictions and permissions, and maintain the programs that citizen developers create.

In an organisation, neither LCNC nor the citizen developers who use it are intended to replace the traditional developers. Effective oversight is the only way to ensure the Low code strategy is implemented correctly.

Also, integration management is a crucial aspect of management, especially as it deals with third-party applications. As businesses become more interconnected, the business applications should also be integrated with multiple internal and external systems. Thus, every team grows together to scale the business.

In conclusion

Digital transformation represents a fundamental shift for any business. It uses resources and may take time to achieve. Coupled with the global talent shortage for software developers and data scientists, companies must strive to reduce the burden and demands on their IT departments. This has warranted the use of an effective digital strategy and roadmap. 

A comprehensive, flexible roadmap ensures that your digital initiatives deliver impact against your strategic goals. Developing a digital roadmap is ultimately about enabling your company to translate the business vision into a workable action plan that manages risk and ensures that digital initiatives are profitable. 

While low-code platforms do not replace the job of a software developer, they make app development faster, bringing rapid growth. The low code strategy may be the answer companies need to implement a rapid digital transformation.

Report: 9 Emerging Technology Trends 2022