This year has exposed one of IT's biggest challenges inside the enterprise, and it's time for a change: We need to let the users inside the gated walls of the IT department, grant them a seat at IT's table (yes, you read that right), and take advantage of new methodologies and tools to deliver software with greater speed and transparency.
Because, at the end of the day, aren't we all tech professionals now?
IT's always been a bit of a mystery to users. (I should know. I was a CIO before taking on the reins of CEO.) Most software developers and security pros probably feel it should stay that way: All those PEBKAC users ("problem exists between keyboard and chair") can be dangerous, annoying, and costly.
Here's the thing: These aren't your grandmother's users anymore. Today's users have nearly two decades' worth of being accustomed to consumer-grade user experiences outside of their day jobs, possessing nearly omniscient mobile devices in their hands , and feeling more comfortable than ever manipulating their digital environments. (As technology professionals, shouldn't we actually be celebrating this?)
Put another way: Users want what they want when they want it. And let's just forget about "Shadow IT." Users today are doing their own IT right out in the open - nobody's hiding a thing.
For some businesses struggling with staffing cuts during COVID-19, this development has been critical to keeping the lights on. I was recently sitting in a presentation about customer experience and its proliferation, and the imperative to address this topic struck me. So, with all that in mind, here are a couple of things that IT leaders and their teams can do today, and one big result that's attainable.
Pulling back the curtain
IT's reputation has improved over the years — that's my anecdotal assessment in talking to business leaders. But there's room to do better, and that's never been truer in 2020 as corporate agility and financial flexibility have become critical principles for continued corporate existence.
So, as I see it, IT needs to change from a place "where projects often go to die," to a place "where projects always go to thrive." Those are the words of far too many non-IT colleagues.
One way to do that is to ensure that users have a seat at the IT table. Let me be clear: the days of users having to fill out a 50-part form, hear "we'll get back to you in about six months," and then also hear that the price tag of said project is upward of $1 million, are long gone. To me, that famous scene from "The Wizard of Oz" is applicable in this case. (Spoiler alert.) As the great and powerful Oz's true identity is revealed, he desperately yells: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" The gig is up.
Today's users not only want to see the women and men behind the curtain pulling the levers; they want to pull the levers themselves.
Rise of no- and low-code development
Which leads me to this trend: the surging interest in no-code development for users and low-code development for the pros.
For clarification, this is how I define the two approaches:
No-code: citizen developers who can create lightweight apps with lots of guard rails, training wheels, and digital support.
Low-code: reusable, consistent, and approved automated tools that make professional software developers' lives a bit easier.
Here's why there's a crunch right now, and why it's only going to intensify: "The problem is that we love data, databases, and software so much that there aren't enough software developers on the planet to keep up with the demand for extra application functionality, additional layers of integration, and brand-new apps built to suit as-yet-unknown use case requirements." That sentiment is from ASUG Insights author Adrian Bridgwater, and he's spot on.
So, taken together — in small or vast portions, as organizations deem appropriate-the power of no-code app-making for swashbuckling users combined with time-saving low-code options for the pros can be a huge boon to anxious business users who are clamoring for faster and better core applications and new software bells and whistles.
Results may vary among the vendors offering services such as these, but one provider, Mendix, claims an ability to deliver SAP apps 10 times faster than traditional methods.
To be sure, it's going to be a mix of both no- and low-code, especially when considering enterprise software stacks. But the results are apparent: "All of this dramatically shortens the development time for creating an application, allowing companies to make progress with digitalization projects that would otherwise sit on the shelf due to competing demands on IT resources," writes Christoph Garms, in a related diginomica post.
In the end…better business results
What do we want? Better business results. When do we want them? Yesterday.
A combination of targeted, transparent user involvement in IT software development and no- and low-code options for all interested parties can lead to improved IT-business relations, bette r optics for IT departments under duress, and better business results. This is the innovation driver that we all talk about but find so elusive to deliver.
Jon Scolamiero, who oversaw ConocoPhillips' application development from 2015 to 2018, recently shared with CIO.com his success story.
"Scolamiero implemented a low-code development platform from Mendix, whose developers worked with ConocoPhillips data scientists to build applications orchestrating data and analytics sources," writes CIO.com's Clint Boulton. "The solution helped the company boost oil production using less time and fewer resources." Energized by the app's success, ConocoPhillips crafted 20 more solutions.
"We delivered outsized business outcomes," Scolamiero boasts to CIO.com, adding that the results changed the conversation internally about IT's role in bolstering the business. At ASUG, our webinars and events get into how these issues impact SAP product development and adoption. Recent member webinars, covering topics such as rapid app development on SAP Cloud Platform and SAP UI5, dive deeper into the impact of these types of tools on customers.
Changing the conversation, delivering outsized business outcomes-well, wouldn't that be a great way to finish out 2020 and get a jump on 2021? It's time for IT to embrace the changes that will get our businesses where they need to go, faster than ever before.