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Software Development / Tech Culture

Why COVID-19 Is Ushering in Innovation with Citizen Developers

Oct 6th, 2020 8:59am by
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COVID-19 has forced enterprises across every industry to come up with creative solutions that solve the unprecedented business challenge of continuing operations remotely with minimal disruption. The use of citizen developers to build low code and no code apps at immense speed has grown in popularity in recent months due to its ability to build applications that are cross-functional and applicable to multiple systems and departments.

Remaining agile and innovative is critical for organizations during COVID-19 as they race to develop applications that help maintain business continuity. As a result, COVID-19 has created an innovation inflection point for low/no-code application development. Therefore, it’s important for organizations to understand the need of these solutions and how to increase time-to-value for low/no-code applications. Here’s how:

Low/No-Code Apps Can Tackle ‘Work from Anywhere’ Operational Challenges Across Industries

Josh Kahn
As General Manager of the Platform Business Unit, Josh Kahn is responsible for providing an application development platform for ServiceNow customers and partners to build applications that will transform the way the world works. The Platform Business Unit provides core platform services, machine learning, and integration capabilities accessible to both professional developers through scripting, and to everyone in the enterprise through no-code development tools. Kahn joined ServiceNow in 2016 from EMC Corporation (acquired by Dell) where he was Senior Vice President of Global Solutions, focusing in the areas of hybrid cloud and cloud native application platforms. Prior to EMC, Kahn held product management roles at Veritas (acquired by Symantec), Netscape Communications and several startups. Kahn started his career at Andersen Consulting, developing custom business applications.

Today’s citizen developers are working on the front lines to fix broken and inefficient processes that plague organizations as they shift to fully remote or hybrid workforces. After all, departments across IT, HR and more are facing an avalanche of operational challenges, including managing an increased volume of service requests and processing paid leave requests, or executing remote employee onboarding and more. Luckily, citizen developers have helped take the load off of overwhelmed teams by deploying low/no-code apps when businesses are struggling to keep up.

These apps have been particularly helpful in industries that have been traditionally slow to prioritize low code app development. In health care, for example, when COVID-19 hit, the leadership team and contract administrators in multiple departments across St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital needed to quickly transition from paper signatures to digital signatures. By leveraging a low code application that was developed in just 10 days, the hospital digitized its contract signature process across departments, ensuring business continuity at a critical time.

Additionally, American University’s 4,500 faculty and staff immediately shifted to create a team management system to keep activities going for its 13,000 students during the pandemic. The University quickly automated team formation requests in a service portal, which then triggered digital workflows. It now takes eight minutes for the American University to create a new team versus the 29 hours it previously took, enabling the university’s staff to remain focused on student education needs.

Low/No-Code Enables Companies to Meet Demands Quickly and at Scale

Organizations have capitalized on the benefits of low/no-code apps, not only because they can deliver great experiences to stakeholders, but also because they offer deployment speed and versatility at an unbeatable rate. As seen with greater enterprise adoption, low/no-code solutions back up rich and sophisticated use cases relevant to the business, while delivering superior end-user experiences that are consistent across all departments.

After all, low/no-code solutions eliminate the complexity in software development with a simple, intuitive app-building experience that is metadata-driven and foolproof. The solutions handle the entire application development and deployment cycle with proven and hardened application structures covering data models, workflow actions and end-user experiences. Citizen developers focus on achieving the business functionality of the apps, and have a full-fledged application up and running in limited time, simply by plugging in their own definition of data semantics and relationships into these pre-built application structures.

Driving Collaboration Between Developers and Citizen Developers

Citizen developers have previously been met with skepticism by CIOs and IT leaders who felt they were invading their turf. However, in part because of COVID-19, the tide has turned and developers are realizing that low/no-code solutions aren’t working against existing IT initiatives, but rather they’re assisting with quality management and improving business functions.

For example, low/no-code apps are now being used to automate traditionally manual tasks that often rely on tedious tools, such as spreadsheet updating, making IT departments more productive. And now, by using simple, low/no-code platforms, citizen developers can easily overcome the daunting perception that coding is reserved for developers and innovate with platforms to build workflow apps that help them work better. Still, there are some responsibilities that will never transition away from developers — with simpler tasks now handled elsewhere, professional developers can focus on complex projects they may not have had time for otherwise such as adding more APIs for products and services and building sophisticated business logic with code.

The Bottom Line: Citizen Developers are Delivering a Forcing Function for Digital Transformation

At the end of the day, organizations that can successfully integrate low/no-code initiatives into wider organizational functions across departments will be able to accelerate digital transformation across their enterprise — and in today’s environment, this must be the top priority for most organizations. Work is never returning to the way it once was, and businesses that are embracing solutions through low/no-code tools are adapting faster to this new world of work.

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Unit.
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