Bridge the business/IT divide with low code

Business and IT are the same thing: it's a phrase we have all heard often, and yet there remains this divide between the two concepts.

Johannesburg, 24 May 2018
Read time 4min 40sec
Glen Ansell, Sales and Marketing Lead, Nimbus Digital/Jurumani Cloud Solutions.
Glen Ansell, Sales and Marketing Lead, Nimbus Digital/Jurumani Cloud Solutions.

Even though IT is as much part of the business machine as any other department, it often gets segmented and isolated. An attitude of 'us versus them' develops and is likely already ingrained into the culture.

This is actually perfectly normal, because IT has a very distinct and encompassing role to play across business, yet at the same time its functions are not as elaborately entwined into other parts of the company.

To compare, a finance action is often part and parcel of a business process, whereas a technology adjustment is something that is more peripheral. It is much harder for business people to take ownership of and apply direction to technology incentives. Hence the divide.

Well, if you can't go to the mountain, have the mountain come to you, says Glen Ansell, who leads sales and marketing at Nimbus Digital and Jurumani Cloud Solutions:

"In the context of transforming one's business, low code development environments are a great way for companies to get their teeth into transforming digitally in a way business can understand, reduce cost, and iteratively expand across the business."

What is low code?

The phrase 'low code' has surfaced more and more of late. This concept finds its roots in the nineties, when rapid prototyping of software became a big focus. Those systems embraced certain principles, such as automatic code generation and visual design. From a developer's perspective, one could cite Visual Basic and similar environments.

But low code has evolved considerably and now engages users of all levels. Just look at the rise of online Web site building platforms. The progeny of the WYSWIG (what you see is what you get) Web developer tools of the early 2000s, today it's possible for anyone to build a nice and functional Web site with no technical knowledge at all.

What if this could be applied to business problems? This is the power of low code.

"When we give a view of low code, people light up and they understand it's not an IT thing, but an empowering thing," says Ansell. "You have IT and business sitting around and talking the same language, where before you start talking .Net and functions and procedures, all of a sudden it gets lost in a world of tech. By looking at things in a visual way with process flows and hierarchical structures, it creates a Babelfish effect."

Babelfish, originally coined in the Hitchhiker's Guide books as a universal language translator, is a fitting comparison for low code. By using the right low code environment, even seemingly complex tasks can be designed by business with relatively little of IT's involvement. This solves a critical problem in today's business world.

No more Department of No

The pressure is on IT to perform, to transform the business. To take an extreme example, if a retailer decides to expand into banking services, you can bet most of IT's time will be focused on that project. Thus, if HR needs a new capturing or records system, it's going to be told to wait.

But business can't wait, so HR is more likely to look for a solution elsewhere. This attracts shadow IT, the compliance and standards landmine that further complicates technology environments. But what if HR had a means to visually design processes, integrated into the backoffice systems they rely on? Not only will this reduce reliance on IT, but make it easier to collaborate with IT, which no longer feels like it is carrying the design burden.

"With IT's support, non-core development requirements can be covered by low code, while giving full powerful niche functionality to the likes of SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, et cetera, as well as full integration into APIs. Integration has to be pretty seamless for this to work."

Thus a low code environment needs to be chosen on the criteria of the business' needs and assets. It should be able to scale. For example, the best way to wean someone off Excel dependence, where they have crafted elaborate formulas and workarounds to their task demands, could be to help export their data to other systems through digital processes they designed. This vastly reduces buy-in and training requirements. In some cases, the users are so much in control that none of that is even necessary.

Low code provides a visual layer of interaction that business users can easily adopt. Don't underestimate the average business person. They understand technology that makes sense for them. It's unlikely any techie in a company has the same Powerpoint skills as the business crowd. Low code is a way to tap that talent and bridge it into the complex world of IT systems. Today's agile and integration-friendly environments have made low code an invaluable tool to align processes to digital transformation, without encumbering IT or browbeating business.

When done right, there won't even be a distinction. IT is business and business is IT. Low code is the glue that brings them together.

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