Development / DevOps / Tools / Sponsored / Contributed

Digital Workflows, Low Code and the Rise of Citizen Developers

7 Sep 2021 7:03am, by

Laura LeBleu
Laura has been thinking and writing about technology since the late '90s, when she worked at TechTV, a cable network dedicated to computing and the internet. In addition to a writing a weekly column that examined the intersection of technology and humanity, she was the Emmy-award-winning voice and brains behind Tilde, the real-time motion-capture host of the network.

A great employee experience is at the heart of business success. After all, happier employees are more productive employees. This makes creating these experiences a growing business priority, one that’s easier talked about than achieved.

Great experiences hinge on giving people the products, services and information they need at the moment they need them. As an employee, this means being able to execute tasks with little or no friction. This ranges from simple things like requesting time off, or something more complex like checking inventory across multiple physical locations.

To meet this need, organizations are adopting digital workflows that bring together the people, processes and systems that deliver the right outcome at the right time at the right speed. Digital workflows allow businesses to simplify work by connecting backend systems of record, while hiding the complexity behind a curtain of usability.

But how can organizations make it possible for employees to create their own great experiences? By using low-code application development.

Digital Workflows Meet Low-Code App Dev 

The majority of business services rely on a typical request-fulfill scenario, where a user requests that a specific service be fulfilled by a person or machine. Because these service requests are fundamentally similar in nature, they are ripe for digitization and thus a good fit for standardization on a single digital workflow platform.

Meanwhile, low-code tools allow non-technical people to create applications that solve their own problems.

Pair a digital workflow platform with low-code capabilities, and you have a powerful combination.

Take, for example, ServiceNow’s low-code solutions running on the Now Platform. When a business needs to extend services, but its IT department is too slammed to accommodate a ton of one-off app dev requests, solutions such as ServiceNow’s App Engine help them fill the “app gap.”

These tools are fueling a truly revolutionary democratization of development, providing anyone in the organization with low-code capabilities. This allows a new class of “citizen developers” to build apps that solve their day-to-day problems using little, if any, coding.

Putting Problem-Solving Power in People’s Hands

When people are encouraged to solve their own problems, an entirely new category of creativity is unlocked. This problem-solving power can take many shapes, from automating small processes that have traditionally slowed people down, to creating solutions that save significant amounts of time and money.

Gregg Aldana has seen low-code innovation in action. As senior director of creator workflows global solution consulting at ServiceNow, he has a unique insight into how customers are using low code to take problem-solving into their own hands.

One such customer is St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. When COVID-19 hit, like many businesses, it made the unexpected shift to working from home. But it quickly became obvious that that it lacked the digital workflows in place to make a seamless transition. One major issue was that contracts and other documents were stored as PDFs on a third-party platform, Docusign, which hadn’t been integrated with other services.

One employee recognized this as an opportunity to solve the problem by building a low-code app.

“This employee was far from your traditional full-stack professional application developer” Aldana says, “but in less than three weeks, he was able to go from idea to production, building a new low-code workflow application that used an out-of-the-box, no-code integration to connect to their document management platform, DocuSign, and then intelligently route the contracts through reviews and approvals, helping to facilitate the electronic signing process.”

The Low-Code, Pro-Code Partnership

If you’re having visions of people building apps willy-nilly without any oversight from IT, don’t worry. Empowering more people to build applications doesn’t come at the expense of quality, integrity, compliance or performance. In fact, App Engine’s low-code tool is designed for standardization, providing the guardrails that ensure consistent and reliable enterprise-class confidence.

Pro coders work together with non-IT employees in a single environment, where less complex tasks can be delegated to citizen developers. Ultimately, this frees up IT to focus on building bigger, hairier enterprise applications they want to work on, while maintaining governance over low-code app development.

Low code also leads to increased efficiency by connecting process silos. With a low-code visual flow designer and in-platform integration of more than 100 pre-built connectivity spokes, as well as support for more than 1,000 automation actions, it’s easy to integrate department silos via friction-free digital workflows within a common system of action.

For organizations seeking to scale digital business services without overburdening the IT department, low code is a no-brainer. Done properly, a citizen developer program supported by the right digital platform and low-code tools can put the power of app development into anybody’s hand and truly transform your organization.

The New Stack is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Partners. TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in the following companies: MADE, Real.

Lead image via Pexels.

A newsletter digest of the week’s most important stories & analyses.