Low-Code Automation and the Goldilocks Effect: Which Approach is 'Just Right’?

Image credit: iStockphoto/AndreyPopov

Once upon a time, the technocrats ruled software development techniques — the coders, developers, and IT experts within organizations who possess the skills required to build applications, automated workflows, and other technical solutions to business problems.

However, the introduction of low-code solutions leveled the playing field, empowering “citizen developers” with access to cognitive capture, digital workflows, and AI, as well as the ability to create their widgets, apps, and automated robots using visual drag-and-drop interfaces.

Today, it seems low code is just about everywhere. According to Gartner, the global low-code development technologies market is projected to total USD13.8 billion in 2021, representing a 22.6% increase from 2020. When we think about the potential of low code, it’s easy to understand why such enormous growth is expected. When IT and nontechnical business users can join forces, a whole new world of possibility and productivity emerges. But is it really a sure thing or more of a gamble — a fairy tale, if you will — that won’t deliver on its promises?

The truth is there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to low code. What works for one organization isn’t going to work for another necessarily. The right approach has to work for all of your users. A low-code solution that’s “too complicated” will frustrate your citizen developers, while one that’s “too basic” won’t allow IT teams to work on more complex tasks and workflows. However, when you find the low-code solution that’s “just right” for your business, you can truly realize the full potential and value from low code and accelerate digital workflow transformation and productivity.

What low-code approach is ’just right‘ for your business?

Often, application development is the first thing that jumps to mind when low code is mentioned. But there are so many more ways low code can add value to the organization. This is why finding the right fit for your business is so essential.

One of the most important things to consider when evaluating low-code solutions is context. Executives and managers need to look inward hard and ask targeted questions. What does your existing IT infrastructure look like? Where is the business in its digital transformation journey? Honest answers will help you determine the best fit. Should you, for example, dive into low-code or no-code app development? Or should you leverage low-code automation to accelerate business workflows?

When it comes to automation, many organizations have taken a siloed approach. Automation initiatives are often carried out within a specific department, business function, or geographical location. However, a disjointed approach reduces the value of automation and makes it difficult to scale. Adding to the scalability challenge is IT’s limited bandwidth to perform the complex coding work required for enterprise-wide automation.

This makes the citizen developer so valuable, and it’s the driving force behind low code. Most companies need to engage business users and IT experts in digital workflow automation. Fortunately, citizen developers are growing in numbers. Gartner predicts that half of all new low-code clients will come from buyers outside of IT by the end of 2025. Additionally, 41% of employees outside of IT customize or build data or technology solutions on average.

Citizen developers are much like Goldilocks, coming into the home of the three bears and trying out their porridge, chairs, and beds. A recent study titled Automation at Scale: Bridging the Gap Between IT and the Business discovered 48% of IT respondents said a top challenge with their automation technology was that employees lack the technical skills to navigate their platform. Additionally, 38% recognize their users struggle to understand how automation works.

Businesses are faced with finding a low-code solution that will make IT and nontechnical users happy and productive. The tool must be sophisticated enough to handle the high-end demands of coding professionals and simple enough for business line managers. What does a “just right” approach for low-code automation look like? The same study on automation at scale uncovered some interesting data to help reveal the answer:

  • 99% of organizations believe a single-vendor approach to automation will help resolve the challenges of siloed initiatives and scalability.
  • Four out of five automation decision-makers said intuitiveness and ease of use are imperative for an automation platform.
  • Business line managers want robust integrations with current technology (74%), an easy-to-learn platform (73%), and an easy-to-use platform (71%).

A low-code platform should offer a drag-and-drop interface to meet these requirements, so it’s easier for citizen developers to build automation. Mobile device support and reusable components are valuable features for keeping nontechnical users comfortable and productive. The platform should expand low code across the various critical capabilities of the organization and elevate it to the level of workflow automation.

What happens when you find the right fit?

A user-centric platform that enables everyone to contribute to digital workflow automation and transformation yields a wide array of benefits. Companies can finally unleash the full potential of their workforce with low-code automation, maximizing existing resources and reducing the reliance on IT for automation development. Nontechnical stakeholders can put their expert knowledge of business processes and operations to good use and help design rapidly, automate and transform digital workflows and other complex processes. With citizen developers able to fully contribute to automating workflows, team members with a more technical background can focus on tasks that demand more complex programming.

Organizations can also reap the benefits of connecting the line of business to the CTO office like never before. Business analysts and citizen developers can genuinely collaborate with IT specialists and professional developers for faster, more successful, and scalable results. Enhanced collaboration and improved productivity contribute to a better customer experience, and organizations also benefit from more agile and adaptable workflows.

Businesses in search of a fairy-tale ending to their low-code digital transformation story need to find a solution that makes everyone let out a sigh of relief and say, “Ah, this one is just right.” When you enable citizen developers to contribute to programming and IT pros to work faster and smarter than ever, you can work like tomorrow, today—and live happily ever after.

Zakir Ahmed, senior vice president and general manager for the Asia Pacific and Japan at Kofax, wrote this article.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/AndreyPopov