Taking a Low-Code/No-Code Approach to Business Process Automation
For many years, organizations that needed to make changes within their software ecosystems had only two options: they could build new software from scratch, typically relying on professional developers with extensive knowledge of programming languages to do the work involved, or they could buy pre-built software from an external vendor. Both options had drawbacks: the “build” approach could be costly and time-consuming, but was pretty much guaranteed to produce systems that were perfectly tailored to meet business requirements. On the other hand, the “buy” approach often meant that you’d get software right away, at lower cost, but it might not fit your existing business processes very well.
Today, there’s another approach, one that makes it faster and easier for developers and business users alike to quickly create apps tailored to unique business requirements. Low-code and no-code development provides a way for non-technical users to build applications with little or no need for coding. Low-code/no-code platforms make it possible to create software using simple interfaces and drag-and-drop features, so that people with little or no programming expertise can build entire applications. This is a great option for businesses that are looking to accelerate their digital transformation by automating business processes.
Low-code/no-code platforms can also enable skilled professional development teams to build, deliver and create value faster, making it possible to maintain, update and enhance existing apps in a fraction of the time — and costs — that used to be required. This can empower the business to increase efficiencies and eliminate burdensome manual workflows. Still, not every business process is equally amenable to automation.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors to consider when you’re evaluating whether (and where) to apply a low-code/no-code approach.
If you’re in search of a starting point, you’ll want to look for:
• Business processes with lots of human touchpoints
Begin by seeking out business processes that involve a great deal of standardized, repeated manual effort. Data entry is a good example of this. Whether you’re inputting information from documents — perhaps as part of an invoicing workflow — or exporting it — to create a purchase order, for instance — these processes demand that people type things, forward them to others for review, and make rote decisions. Automation can smooth and streamline these tasks, freeing employees’ time for higher-value tasks.
• Business-critical workflows
Look for processes that impact the day-to-day operations of the business, perhaps involving people who are generating revenue for the company. An example is automating the process through which the sales force issues quotes. Not only can this save time, but it can also make it faster for salespeople to close deals.
• Business processes with high visibility
In a job market where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract and retain top talent, new employee onboarding is a good example of this sort of high-visibility process. Being able to get new hires up and running faster, with all the tools they need for productivity right at their fingertips, means they’ll begin contributing value to the organization sooner. This value is something that you can quantify, but it’s also something that stakeholders across the organization will quickly see and appreciate. This means that you’ll begin generating goodwill almost immediately.
• Complex workflows
Processes that involve multiple systems and multiple decision points are often strong candidates for automation. This is particularly true when the decision-making involved is highly linear. Rather than having that knowledge “live” inside an employee’s brain, you can train a machine to follow a set of discrete steps, freeing that employee to instead contribute in ways that are more strategic, and ultimately, more engaging and rewarding.
This doesn’t mean that every complex workflow is an excellent candidate for automation with a low-code/no-code approach. If something is so complex that automating it will yield an enterprise-grade software solution that will be used by 100,000 people each day, it probably doesn’t belong on a low-code/no-code platform. And if a process is so simple that individual employees can figure out rapid, technology-enabled ways of getting it done fast (i.e., automating it by themselves), it probably doesn’t warrant a low-code/no-code approach either. The best candidates are business processes that fall within a sweet spot within the middle.
Here are a few questions you can ask to help you figure out whether or not a particular business process is likely to be amenable to low-code/no-code automation:
• Is it well-defined? (To automate a business process, you need to be able to understand its inputs and outputs, and to delineate every step of the process on a chart.)
• Is it measurable? (To demonstrate the value of business process automation, you need metrics.)
• Will the people involved be able to manage the deployment without creating risks for the business?
Low-code/no-code and agile development: A match made in heaven
The biggest advantage to leveraging a low-code/no-code approach isn’t necessarily that it makes it easier for non-technical people to build software; instead, the greatest value often comes from the fact that low-code/no-code makes it much faster to build and release working prototypes. For organizations that have adopted — or are working towards adopting — agile ways of working, this is invaluable.
With low-code/no-code development, it’s quick and easy to get working software in front of its users, making it possible to gather feedback and prove business value before a great deal of time or money is spent on development. It’s also possible to generate a great deal of data as part of the low-code/no-code development process, which can be leveraged for insights about a particular project’s success, as well as to indicate which additional business processes might be fruitfully automated in the future.
Both low-code and no-code development platforms can empower business users to accelerate the organization’s digital transformation. But without proper governance, both can pose risks as well. Check back for a future blog on how implementing the right low-code/no-code governance processes can mitigate these risks.
Want to learn more about how Netrix helps clients build, integrate and maintain software that’s right for their unique individual business needs? For more information and insights, visit us at netrixglobal.com.