How can citizen development help IT? Well, as we have written about before, IT has a hard job. It is responsible for preserving the integrity of the company’s technology stack and enforcing compliance, all while enabling the business to operate efficiently, and while creating new technological and process-oriented solutions to meet agreed upon service level agreements (SLAs). These SLAs exist both internally, for the business, and for clients.
This latter responsibility, over the last year, especially, has become increasingly critical as well as increasingly taxing, as IT’s project workloads swell beyond the limits of their bandwidth.
At Tonkean, we’ve witnessed this first hand. Last year, near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Solutions team of one of our clients—a provider of process solutions for service companies in the healthcare space—was asked to produce for one of their clients a totally new solution, designed to help that client better serve its users. They were asked to take the project from concept to launch in just 60 days. That’s how fast the client needed this.
Our client originally thought their best solution was to have IT build them the tool from scratch. The problem is that custom solutions typically take six months or more to build. The IT team didn’t have the development bandwidth to help the Solutions team meet the project SLA timeframe while also staying on top of their other mission-critical responsibilities.
So they turned instead to Tonkean’s no-code citizen development platform.
Tonkean’s no-code capabilities enabled the Solutions team to build and release that new tool for their client on their own, and in a matter of weeks.
The solution consisted of a new UI, supported by business logic that securely facilitated the required backend system integrations. Tonkean’s accessibility and human-in-the-loop design even made it possible for the Solutions team to enhance the solution themselves after delivery to production. Normally this would have been the responsibility of IT.
IT was able to focus solely on providing consulting support and direction for the Solutions team during their build. This saved many hours of menial, custodial work, which is normally required of custom builds and post-delivery support.
Instead, IT was able to help guide the project to completion while focusing time and effort on other responsibilities for which they were uniquely equipped and which created more new value. This included meeting the several other SLAs it was also responsible for, and for which custom code was needed.
Citizen development, made possible by no-code, helped IT accomplish exponentially more than they would have been able to otherwise—without requiring any investment in additional developmental resources.
And that’s just one example of what no-code can do for IT.
Citizen development can help IT meet SLAs by allowing IT to more efficiently and effectively enable the business.
One of the largest demands on IT’s time—pulling them consistently away from new development—is the task of business enablement.
As we’ve written about, one reason this proves such a drain is the inadequacy of the options for business enablement that IT has historically been limited to. They can be boiled down to the following:
1) Buy packaged, task-specific apps for the business
2) Develop custom solutions for the business themselves
Both options are challenging, and mandate an enormous amount of manual work. They require commitments of IT time and energy. And they all diminish IT’s available resources and ability to deliver on current SLA commitments.
But this is where citizen development, facilitated by no-code, can help.
Used correctly, no-code platforms give IT a third and more efficient option for business enablement.
Tonkean, for example, allows IT to provide nontechnical users a scalable structure for creating their own workflow solutions, complete with IT-created integrations, allowing the business to safely and easily plug into the technology stack. Tonkean empowers IT to effectively establish the parameters in which the business composes their own tools.
Tonkean does this specifically via a capability we call Enterprise Components. Enterprise Components are designed to empower IT to deliver both out-of-the-box and custom-defined reusable building blocks which the business can use—as often as they need—to compose their own custom workflows or processes. These building blocks also allow IT to facilitate integrations with thousands of enterprise systems (and much more easily than via APIs). Taken together, this enables IT to do many things that normally require custom coding with a dedicated development team: extending custom applications, processing unstructured data using NLP and OCR, facilitating people coordination, and more—all while maintaining security, compliance, and governance.
It’s like the old adage, “Give a person a fish, they eat for a day. Teach them how to fish, they eat for a lifetime.” IT can’t teach everybody to code; that’s not the goal. But no-code can help IT help nontechnical users become self-sufficient and even technologically powerful, so they can create for themselves solutions they need when they need it.
No-code platforms can elevate IT from custodians to architects.
The kind of enablement made possible by no-code increases by an order of magnitude what the average enterprise is able to accomplish. That’s partly because the ease with which IT is able to provide this enablement allows IT to focus more holistically on initiatives that truly move the needle. Examples include process optimization and orchestration; new value creation; and operational design optimization.
Now, none of this is to say that no-code will turn every business user into a developer, nor that no-code platforms will entirely absolve IT of the need to take on a more direct role in the development of tools and solutions internally. For truly complex or core solutions, custom code will still be needed.
The value here is that no-code enables IT to focus more on the projects for which they’re uniquely suited, and that require a high level of technical expertise and energy.
The era of citizen development is upon us.
The fact is, no-code platforms are lowering the barrier-of-entry to workflow development. That’s an important shift, and constitutes a new era. The dawn of it resembles, in a way, the dawn of the era of website builders. Remember how, before website builders like Wix existed, people needed to have an in-depth understanding of HTML and CSS to build websites? Now, through the use of templates and abstracted graphical builder interfaces, that is no longer the case. Through no-code website builders like Wix, most people are able to show their personal creativity and bring uniquely beautiful web pages and sites to life. All without disrupting designers or developers.
This is similar to what is happening inside enterprises today, but in the context of no-code workflow solutions.
The advantage of this for IT teams and the business as a whole is immense.
In truth, being able to meet SLAs faster and more reliably is just the tip of the iceberg.