3 essentials for a low- and no-code application development strategy

With IT teams pressed harder than ever, low- and no-code tools can help ease the pressure. Here’s how to build a strategy for success
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More is being asked of information technology departments than ever before, even as budgets fail to keep up. Adopting no-code and low-code development can be difficult, but the payoff is worth it. It democratizes the ability to build business applications by empowering more employees – not just tech developers – to problem-solve.

[ Also read How Cloud AI Developer Services empower developers. ]

Growing the cross-functionality of a company with these developments can also aid in speeding up digital transformation. More hands on deck mean a greater ability to iterate and integrate new tools into the organization. IT projects can be accelerated, freeing up teams for other tasks.

Of course, a company’s interest in low-code application development means nothing if employees aren’t trained, enabled, and encouraged to use it. CTOs hoping to grow their company’s low-code capabilities should start by creating an environment to support employee forays into the application world. To begin the process, consider the following:

1. Raise awareness about official data sets and make them readily available

No matter how low-code an application might be, it needs high-quality and readily available data to serve a useful function.

Citizen developers might create or find their own easily accessible data sources instead of official data sets. When their source isn’t updated the following week, the orchestration quickly falls apart. The same knowledge gap putting pressure on IT is also relevant for low-code applications, and an employee who builds a critical solution might one day leave the company and take their irreplaceable development knowledge with them.

Making official data accessible – and ensuring that employees are aware of it – is half the battle. Whether it’s a list of departments, locations, or employees, when many people in an organization can access an official data set, everyone can help maintain it.

The best place to house official data might be a server database, but there should always be one source serving as the master. From an IT standpoint, it’s critical to orchestrate data sets from the master source to a common repository. Whenever the master source gets new data, ensure that information is automatically updated in the corresponding repository that everyone uses for analytics or self-service applications.

2. Integrate business and IT efforts to democratize information access

IT personnel will be all too familiar with documentation, but the business side of the organization might be guilty of glossing over this part of the process. Information managers and knowledge managers are the obvious exceptions, but many companies don’t have people in these specific roles who are concerned about data and content. For low-code and no-code development to succeed in this environment, it’s vital to have an easy way to preserve and share information around self-service applications.

How exactly does an organization democratize information? Implement a simple process check designed to clearly identify the goal and the best tools to accomplish an initiative at the start. When these checks are a routine part of IT and business conversations, they’ll help break down silos and enable employees to build more effective applications together.

3. Create business process models that enable scalability for low-code and no-code applications

Scale is often a significant hurdle. When inexperienced users develop an effective solution, adoption could expand rapidly throughout the organization to the point where other departments heavily rely on it to conduct their business. This could be troublesome if significant errors make it into the finished product.

Of course, even low-code and no-code applications require a certain amount of knowledge, and not everyone will have that right from the start. Set up communities of practice and assign someone to facilitate their development, whether that means promoting user conversations or setting up wikis to ensure the fidelity of information.

If the company is still operating with a checklist in Word, it’s time for true business process models that serve as a starting point for application development. If a user hopes to change how employees provision new hardware, go through compliance training, or anything of that nature, they need to see what steps are critical to follow. If there’s a high degree of transparency from the outset, low-code and no-code applications are more likely to scale without breaking down along the way.

It wasn’t all that long ago that self-service applications were an overworked IT employee’s most fervent fantasy. Thanks to the rise of low-code and no-code application development, that wish has become a reality – but only if C-suite leaders take the proper steps to set employees up for success. With the proper information management techniques, you can empower employees to create valuable and innovative solutions.

[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ]

As Director of CTG’s (Computer Task Group) Application and Information Solutions (AIS) and Testing in North America, Rick Cruz has executive responsibility for the ongoing development of CTG’s AIS and Testing offerings and teams to deliver innovative, global services that help clients strategically address their business challenges.