Digital enablement in a time of crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted the priorities and software strategies of most organizations. With a sudden need to adapt to a “digital only” workplace, IT must respond quickly to the changing conditions. Initiatives that were prioritized before the crisis must make way for urgent demands that have become business-critical overnight.
The current crisis has underpinned the criticality of being an adaptable and digital enterprise. With short notice, a workforce that could previously communicate and make decisions by the coffee machine and in meeting rooms has been physically distanced and spread across home offices. While the trend towards more remote work is not new, many organizations were not prepared for the consequences of a full-scale remote workforce.
The sheltering of employees has also resulted in new kinds of collaborations. Video conferencing services such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom and WebEX have helped many isolated employees stay in touch. As a result, companies already familiar with digital meetings had a head-start when isolation started.
However, these video conferencing services are not necessarily well suited for collaborative work processes relying on creative teamwork, sharing and distributing information, and tracking and following up on activities. Analog, paper-based processes were also hit hard by the crisis as the “passing around” of paper forms was off the table. Even processes based on isolated desktop tools such as Excel were disrupted, as they lacked the collaborative capabilities that are essential for a remote workforce.
The low-code response to the crisis
For both public and private organizations, the sudden changes have resulted in new processes being rapidly implemented – often without the necessary application support. For companies relying on off-the-shelf business applications or complex, custom-coded solutions, the result is often an IT landscape that no longer represents the business processes they are supposed to support.
The corona crisis is not unique in that it has dramatically impacted the way we do business. However, the overnight shift in a global context has made businesses realize that adaptability to unforeseen circumstances is vital. For IT leaders, this means that they must turn to new technologies to develop and change business applications more rapidly while working in a distributed setting.
Low-code platforms are particularly well positioned to help organizations respond to emerging situations. Being built for rapid application development and business agility, these platforms have been a key element in many organizations’ response to the crisis.
In particular, these platforms:
- Bring business people and IT together in agile, rapid-result based projects that can deliver applications in days (instead of months or years)
- Allow for rapid change and experimentation. This is especially important in times of uncertainty, and when new business processes are not always clearly defined initially.
- Enable a new type of talent, the Business Engineer, to participate in the delivery of business critical applications to supplement already overloaded IT departments.
- Have built-in security capabilities, enabling development of custom solutions with advanced security requirements due to sensitive information.
- Are scalable, making it possible to rapidly scale solutions from teams, to departments, to entire organizations.
- Are cloud-enabled, and allow you to utilize public cloud resources rather than depending on your own, often under-funded, infrastructures.
The road ahead
The corona crisis has exposed some of the fundamental challenges with current software development practices. Lengthy and extensive analyst-led requirements gathering followed by complex and isolated development projects are not capable of responding to urgent needs.
For way too many enterprises, day-to-day business is now a fight for survival. In their case, investment in new technology is most likely off the table. For companies in a slightly better position, this is the time to go beyond their current comfort zone and look for technologies (such as low-code platforms) that enable more rapid response. Be sure to evaluate the platforms properly to make sure they can solve your specific needs. This may also be the time to contract with the vendor’s experts or professional services to improve the odds of quick success.
Our hypothesis is that enterprises’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will largely depend on their business agility: their ability to quickly respond to unforeseen demands. A critical capability for IT leaders in these enterprises is to put in place the technologies for sustainable business applications that can continuously evolve, scale and adapt as change requests are thrown at them.