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3 Strategies to make low-code automation work with you—not against you

By John Kucera, Senior Vice President of Product Management, Automation

As an IT leader, when you hear “low code,” does your skeptical side start preparing your argument for why it’s a bad idea? Or are you on board, eager to use low-code tools to automate workflows and chip away at your backlog of projects? No matter where you stand, the reality is that low code is here to stay. 

Let’s be clear: low code is not about replacing developers; and it’s not about giving business users with little or no coding skills carte blanche to automate business-critical workflows. Instead, it’s about empowering them to use low-code tools in a way that allows IT to focus on strategic projects, empowers business users to build automated workflows, and helps the entire business keep up with the quickening pace of digital transformation. This is particularly important as companies in every industry are looking to create digital HQs to support remote and hybrid work across every department.

Research shows that 87% of consumers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives. On top of that, 96% of IT leaders see increased demand from business users for new apps and processes. But meeting these demands shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of IT. 

Organizations are increasingly shifting workflow automation to business users. In fact, 92% of IT leaders are comfortable with giving business users access to low-code tools, as long as the proper training, governance, and processes are in place. With that in mind, here are three strategies to help you be successful with low-code automation and make sure it’s working with you — not against you.

Shift your mindset from execution to governance

Empowering business users with low-code tools is a smart approach to deliver more automated workflows, but to be successful, governance needs to be a priority, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal. Every automation project requires different levels of governance. 

You can start by providing low-code tools for projects where data and logic have minimal, if any, impact on overarching security and data management across various business systems. For example: scheduling follow-up sales calls is a fairly siloed process which business users can automate with minimal IT governance.

On the flip side, consider a business team using low-code tools to automate a highly structured process with inter-related logic, such as updating a customer order or streamlining part of an insurance claims process, both of which carry higher risk if not done correctly. In this case, you’ll want (and need) higher levels of governance and more involvement from IT to review, test, and ensure the automated workflow is working as expected.

This right-sized approach to establishing, applying, and enforcing policies assures you have a scalable way to focus your resources on high-impact projects while empowering business users to quickly execute on low-risk projects. 

Pair low-code building blocks with pro-code development

Some low-code tools may give you fast time-to-value, but it comes at the expense of security requirements. Others make it easy for business users to build automation quickly, but can’t handle more complex or demanding use cases. If your tools don’t check every box, that’s when low-code automation efforts can go off the rails. 

Especially when you’re using low-code tools to automate workflows, it’s critical that developers can extend low-code automation with pro-code development, while also providing reusable building blocks to business teams. 

For example, several regions around the world have created guided, self-service experiences for vaccine management, using automated workflows to help consumers quickly make appointments. In the past, this type of automation required massive amounts of pro-code development. Now, business users can use industry-specific templates to quickly design the experience, then partner with IT to create reusable, pro-code building blocks to integrate with other systems and deliver automated workflows in record time.

The benefits also extend to developers, who can use low-code tools to save time creating pro-code frameworks and accelerate their automation efforts. For example, using a low-code, multi-screen form framework with pro-code UI components is faster and lower risk than building the whole smart form with code. This approach to customized automation solves for unique business needs and leads to happier teams, at a far lower cost to IT. 

Partner until you reach success

The way to successfully operationalize low-code automation efforts comes down to three elements: clear vision, clear scoping, and clear accountability.

Business teams are often focused on departmental goals: How can we reduce the amount of time needed to open and close cases? How can we identify and prioritize leads faster? How can we streamline new customer onboarding? In contrast, as the IT leader, you need to ensure new processes in one department don’t break automation in another department or introduce security vulnerabilities. It’s your job to identify and flag where and how each project impacts other areas of the business: If a service case gets opened, will that also impact the renewal pipeline? And if so, who needs to be notified? What systems need to be connected? Forge an ongoing relationship to keep that complete business vision front and center at all times. 

It’s also important to get agreement on how you’ll meet the needs and expectations of the end users. Maybe the automated workflow needs to help the sales rep generate quotes faster, or the service rep quickly authenticate customers, or the insurance adjuster streamline the claims process. Will this require customization? What systems are involved? What departments? How does this affect or change the current workflow? Scope the project up front to avoid surprises later about what can or can’t be built for the end user. 

Finally, get clear on roles: who owns what and who is accountable if there are problems? Once multiple sets of people are building, creating, and testing, accountability gets tricky. Ensure you have clear expectations on how to route issues, who is responsible for fixing them, and in what timeframe. Otherwise, IT may be blamed for what business users create, or vice versa, all while customers or employees wait for the fix and lose trust in the process.  

Low code works. Now make it work for you.

Over the last 18 months, IT leaders have experimented with giving business users low-code automation tools to create seamless, connected experiences for customers and employees. These tests went better than expected and for a large majority, their fears didn’t play out: 90% of IT and business decision makers saw improvements in IT-business alignment over the past year. 

Now’s the time to ramp up adoption of low code to ease the burden on IT, automate rote tasks that slow your teams down, and help your organization adapt and innovate. With the right governance, tools, and partnership, low code works, and your automation success depends on it.

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