There’s no denying that modern businesses have more needs — and opportunities — for enterprise applications than ever before.
But often, developers (and everyone else) in IT are already maxed out, with little or no time and priority for such programming requests.
Happily—and not a moment too soon—low-code development platforms are giving businesses creative ways to solve many of these pressing application needs. By letting employees who understand the business problems use these low-code tools to act as “citizen developers,” organizations can meet the growing demand for business applications.
Low-code applications: More building, less coding
With the right training and platform, citizen developers can create low-code applications that solve their day-to-day challenges. (Developers in IT may also use low-code tools at times, of course.)
For example, a PR intern at ServiceNow, with no prior coding experience created an app to streamline the company’s internal press release request/approval process. She did this in about three weeks — including learning how to use ServiceNow’s App Engine — without interfering with her other activities.
This means that more useful applications are being created without adding more IT headcount, or the time to find and hire them — or adding to existing IT backlogs.
Low-code apps look like existing apps, even though they get created faster
From the point of view of employees, customers, and others who use them, these low-code tools use a visually based interface to create apps that look like the other office productivity applications already on employees’ desktops and notebook computers, tablets, and smartphones.
The main difference lies in how they were developed. With low-code apps:
According to Microsoft’s Charles Lamanna, “Over 500 million new apps will be built during the next five years, which is more than all the apps built in the last 40 years.” And most of those, says Simon Bisson in this white paper, will need to be low-code.
One thing that makes low-code so effective is that it puts the power of problem-solving in the hands of those who best understand the issue. Because citizen developers are closest to the problem, they often have the most innovative insight into how it can be solved.
Equally, empowered citizen developers can spot new opportunities for an app that can streamline a manual process and save the employee or customer time. For example, changes in business processes caused by many more employees working from home could impact workflow traditionally done using paper and spreadsheets.
“When you think about all of the business processes that are still handled through spreadsheets, email, and other manual processes, you quickly realize that low-code is a huge opportunity,” says Josh Kahn, ServiceNow’s senior vice president of creator workflow products. Ideal workflow tasks for low-coding include assigning, submitting requests, tracking, and creating tasks.
And, Kahn points out, “There are very complicated, very high-value processes that are still manual today.”
Here are some examples of low-code solutions created by non-IT citizen developers using ServiceNow’s low-code tools and platform:
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital created a workflow app to route contracts and other PDF documents for reviews and approvals among employees working remotely due to COVID restrictions and therefore unable to access documents using previous methods. Time from idea to app-in-use: three weeks.
- An aircraft manufacturer sped up the updating process for the flight manuals essential to safe, compliant flights, routing workflow tasks to the right people, and making/tracking document changes. Results: operators’ receipts updated manuals up to 75% faster — and eliminating 88% of the non-value-added time in the updating process.
- At a university hospital, a small team of citizen developers designed a workflow to vaccinate 14,000 critical healthcare workers. Within three weeks, they launched two apps—one that prioritized employee groups for vaccination and a second that scheduled their appointments.
- At HonorHealth, a six-hospital non-profit, staff created a chatbot-based COVID-19 symptom tracker in six hours[DD4].
IT, while freed of developing these apps, stays in the loop
While low-code platforms let employees who aren’t part of IT develop new apps, IT does remain strongly involved, “guardrailing” the citizen developers and their apps to ensure these new apps are doing what they’re supposed to while meeting security, compliance, and other IT concerns.
IT’s involvement ensures non-technical employees can safely create the applications they need to be more productive, while IT is freed up to work on the bigger, hairier enterprise applications they were trained for. It’s a win for everyone—including the business.