Low-code applications and the public sector
Private enterprises worldwide embrace low-code application development platforms as the preferred tool for successful digital transformation. In the following, we argue that low-code is also the better approach for developing software applications for the public sector.
The public sector is complex
Organizations in the public sector are complex and often have complicated structures and business processes:
- They are service organizations at their core, always dealing with people as opposed to e.g., private manufacturing companies.
- It is harder to set specific goals and strategies. Instead, it is more about adjusting and optimizing work processes and complex case management applications.
- The public sector and politics are often interlaced and changing.
It is therefore not surprising that software solutions in the public sector tend to be complex, and implementation projects are often hard to manage. Adding digital transformation to the equation introduces additional risk as work processes need to adapt to new software solutions.
The needs of individuals risk getting lost
During digital transformation processes, the needs of individuals are at risk of getting lost. There are several reasons for this:
- Individuals must learn to use new software solutions, introducing new user interfaces and alternate ways of registering data.
- Multiple solutions can result in a more fragmented workday.
- New solutions will sometimes overlap, thus creating confusion and frustration.
- The individual loses influence on how to perform his own work. For example, the digital implementation of a business process may require a specific order of how tasks are solved, also when this is not necessary for the outcome.
These are examples of consequences of digital transformation that can result in lower job satisfaction and lower job efficiency, in direct opposition to the purpose of implementing new software solutions.
Digital transformation has many pitfalls. Can low-code technology help alleviate these challenges?
Low-code platforms allow for more user involvement
Low-code platforms enable more experimentation and prototyping as compared to traditional software development. New features can be implemented, tested, and deployed to users in hours instead of days or weeks. This shortens the feedback loop between the users and the developers considerably.
When developing with low-code, end users are encouraged to participate in workshops. Their feedback and ideas are implemented and made available during the workshop, not several weeks later. This immediate feedback loop is particularly useful to adapt and make small changes in the workflow that affect their workday.
This approach to software development is possible using low-code application development platforms (LADP). There is no handwriting of code when developing with LADP – everything is done using visual tools and in a click-and-point manner.
Low-code applications are more flexible and easier to change
Modern low-code platforms have a clear separation between business logic and technology. This allows business domain experts to focus on solving business problems, while the low-code vendor maintains and continuously develops the technical platform and removes technical debt. These processes are independent of each other and allow the business logic to be deployed independently of underlying technology details. This separation facilitates a truly agile approach, allowing new business problems to be explored and functionality to be adjusted quickly.
The business-IT gap is removed
For years, enterprises and the public sector have experienced that functionality provided by IT often differs from the functionality the business wants. This is the renowned business-IT gap.
The best approach to remove or reduce this gap is to make sure application developers have the necessary domain expertise and work closely with end-users. This is a core principle of low-code application development.
Low-code developers spend less time dealing with technical challenges compared to developers using traditional programming. Thus, low-code developers can gain insight into the users’ domain knowledge faster, accelerating the overall delivery process, and reducing the number of costly misunderstandings.
In addition to the points above, in Genus, we believe in offering sustainable software, by delivering low-code applications designed to be continuously improved at low cost. This ensures that the customer applications remain updated and relevant for a very long time.
This alleviates a problem for both the individual and the organization, namely the rather frequent need for replacing old applications with new ones. By focusing on updating your existing applications in step with both your users and the organization’s changing needs, you will:
- save upgrade costs
- always have a solution that is up to date
- keep your users happy
Indicia is an example of sustainability
The low-code application development platform made by Genus is used to implement several solutions in the public sector. One of them is Indicia, a national system for investigation and prevention of crime. Indicia is developed and maintained by a team of low-code developers at the Norwegian Police ICT Services.
Indicia was launched in 2007 and has since its inception been adjusted to new requirements and changing business processes. Strong user involvement right from the start has resulted in a system that stays relevant and up-to-date.
Read more about Indicia and a debate around user involvement in this article (in Norwegian) by Senior Police Officer Lars Helge Eklund at Kripos, Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service.