Why low-code platforms are the catalyst for true business optimization in EMEA

Nerys Mutlow Profile picture for user Nerys Mutlow December 7, 2021
No optimisation process looks the same, but it has to be a continuous journey. Nerys Mutlow of ServiceNow explores the challenges and untapped value of low-code for the EMEA region.

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(Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay )

Organizations were on a path to change well before the pandemic hit.

What these 18 months of disruption have shown us is that we need to move faster. The successes we’ve had over the past year and a half have shown that we can do it – and we should take confidence from that.

Now, businesses should be looking to power optimization across the length and breadth of their businesses.

Optimization can mean a lot of things to many different people. In the context of business transformation, we might explain it as an attempt to reduce costs and streamline customer journeys – because, ultimately, this is the end goal for most of the digital innovation businesses have engaged in over the past decades, be it hyper-automation, the use of AI, machine learning platforms, and so on. Essentially, if transformation is putting something new in place, optimization is making sure that tool or process works at its most efficient.

It’s important to note that no business’ optimization process will look quite the same, because the exact issues, tools, and processes at hand will differ for every organization. But whatever optimization looks like, it’s important that it’s a continuous journeyWhy? Because as your business evolves, there will constantly be new systems and processes that need to be integrated and fine-tuned to realize the maximum possible value. Optimization that isn’t continuous is effectively just a one-off transformation.

So what exactly is the state of optimization? Our recent research into optimization shows the picture is pretty mixed across EMEA — while some have got the knack of it, others are lagging behind.

But the research also outlines clear ways forward. Low-code technology chief among these — in fact, we found 52% of the executives across all the industries we surveyed get the most value out of their optimization process when using low-code systems.

But what is low-code, and how exactly does it work?

Why the need for low-code?

Low-code is all about driving optimization in your processes, putting it firmly in the hands of the workforce and driving changes at pace.

After all, the best people to decide how to improve day-to-day work are those who do it. And with so much change to drive, no business can possibly scale without everyone being enabled to drive it. 

Low-code solutions enable just that. In theory, low-code is a user-friendly layer that lies on top of traditional code. By moving graphics and icons around to visualize processes, end users can create exactly the systems they want and need, leaving the platform itself to generate the necessary code. 

In practice, it means HR can create the tools they need to manage staffing, onboarding, equipment delivery, and much more. Creatives can outline simple approval processes that cut down admin and allow them to focus on being creative. And finance teams can create simple workflows to ensure payroll, quarterly reports, and the like take place as smoothly as possible.

Simplicity is the watchword here. Our research shows those businesses leading in optimization differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack by the simplicity of the experience they provide — globally, 23% more of these leading optimizers focus on providing a simplified technology experience. 

Ultimately, giving people great tools is not enough. You need the right culture and communication to enable them to drive change. Low-code does just that, providing the transparency and tools needed to enable each and every one us to drive speed and efficiency. 

How low-code can help plug the talent gap

Securing the benefits of optimization is all the more important in today’s climate. 

The ongoing war for talent — and the added pressure of the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ — means that workers in many industries are in short supply. The tech gap is proving particularly problematic for businesses, regardless of the sector they operate in.

This squeeze on skilled professionals means IT can’t — and shouldn’t — be involved in every minute system and process you develop. It’s far more efficient to use these specialists on the most demanding tasks that generate the most value, while democratising access to tools that allow other employees to help themselves.

Truth be told, employees have already been doing this — but with mixed results. Shadow IT is a side effect of employees looking to drive efficiency without turning to IT for help. Low-code platforms allow us to address our optimization needs — but in a governed and secured way.

You could say low-code is its own kind of optimization: finding a way to optimally deploy existing assets to ensure we get the most effective result.

The challenge for EMEA

So what are the ramifications of this for our region?

EMEA is one of the largest, most diverse markets out there. So much of that potential is still untapped.

Just before the pandemic hit in 2019, the World Economic Forum dropped a bit of a bombshell, declaring that “Europe is no longer an innovation leader”.

Now, stats aside, I disagree with that. We don’t lack innovation. We have a wealth of world-leading start-ups, a huge talent pool of some of the smartest minds out there, and some of the biggest, world-beating businesses on our shores.

What we do lack is the knowledge of the benefits that low-code (and other optimization processes) can bring to our businesses. Our research shows only 5% of businesses in EMEA are using low-code platforms, and only 12% will do so in the next one to two years. 7% is an improvement, but there’s much more to do.

Low-code can enable quick wins for companies looking to drive efficiency and optimization, which in turn frees up resources to focus on higher value innovation challenges.

At ServiceNow we hope to change that — to change the perception, understanding of, and use of low-code platforms. If we can challenge businesses to allow their own workforce to innovate, and to drive efficiency and productivity by designing experiences and apps that optimise how they work, it stands to reason that Europe will regain its innovation leader crown.

We have some time to make up. But if we make an effort to really throw ourselves into optimization, and all the benefits technologies like low-code can bring, we can be right at the front of the line once again.

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