A business that is not constantly evolving is on its way to extinction. Digitization and process automation are opening up many new avenues for innovation. But who is driving this critical function in most organizations? How much of a say do process owners and people driving your operations have in this? Sadly, the answer is, not much. With traditional development methodologies for building new enterprise applications, it takes months to get ideas to fruition, and involves bottlenecks at many different levels. The cost for validating innovative ideas is often very prohibitive with full stack development, resulting in many a worthwhile suggestion not seeing the light of day. Innovative ideas need to translate into actions at the speed of thought. With the rise of no-code automation platforms, the time to build and evolve applications has improved by an order or magnitude. With reduced dependence on IT teams and developers, process owners can drive and build applications to keep up with their evolving automation needs. The citizen developer movement enabled by the rise of these no-code and low-code platforms is poised to truly enable innovation at the edge.
But this nascent movement is fraught with challenges around information security, scalability, business continuity and governance. Selecting the right platform with adequate IT oversight to tackle these challenges, yet deliver on the speed, flexibility and ease of use for business users is of utmost importance. Leading no-code automation platforms such as Zvolv provides the right blend of features to help alleviate IT concerns, and deliver the power of immediate solutions to process owners.
Let’s look at a use case to emphasize some of the challenges and how they are currently addressed by no-code. The customer in case has a complex supply chain with dozens of vendors and similar number of large enterprise customers. One of the many ideas to improve business efficiency was to provide self-service access to customers and vendors to track purchase orders, invoices, payments and month on month tracking of trends. This would eliminate hundreds of hours of manual work preparing manual reports based on excel sheets and data dumps from core ERP systems. Frequent errors caused anguish on both sides reducing confidence and non-real-time nature of the data made many decisions difficult to make. The business users interacting with customers and vendors had the most up to date knowledge on the requirements and constraints on automating this process. With no-Code, they now were in full control on defining the automation solution. Here are some of the challenges the IT teams brought up with the no-code approach, and how they were addressed.
Exposing core data from internal ERP systems directly to end users without appropriate controls in place was a big concern for the IT team. An IT control tower can be developed which will give the IT team oversight on defining and approving usage of the API interface between the no-Code player and the ERP system. Definition of the data fields to be exposed, access methods and authentication policies were all configured and controlled by the IT team. With containerized deployment on private cloud servers, SSO, encryption of key data, automated monitoring of resources with built in real-time reporting dashboards, the IT team was in full control of setting up data security, privacy and backup policies. Business users had full flexibility to build applications within the guardrails setup by IT, with no access to change any critical settings that could have potential data security concerns.
Business users may be adept at building applications that get the job done, but may not be the best suited when it comes to addressing scalability concerns. For example, when working with large data sets, compute heavy operations need to be looked at closely to ensure optimal resource utilization. Caching of data and results to avoid running redundant computations, setting appropriate triggers and refresh frequencies and ensuring contextuality of the data are all issues to be paid close attention to. Problems often manifest weeks or months later after applications are launched as data volume and usage grows. Ensuring timely reviews of application architecture and periodic monitoring and analysis of server resources can help identify inefficiencies before they cause major problems.
With today’s work-from-anywhere culture combined with a dynamic job market, business continuity and contingency plans need to be in place at all levels. A key enterprise application becoming unavailable even for a short period of time could have many consequences. Application developers need to follow strictly enforced processes for launching new applications to a production environment or making upgrades to existing ones. Documentation, release notes, peer reviews, backwards compatibility and many more actions that maybe part of standard software development life cycles need to be applied to citizen developed applications too, and the IT team would need to pay great attention to plug any gaps.
SOC-2, GDPR, ISO-27001, OWASP, HIPPA – the list can be long. Different aspects of the business may be subject to many types of compliances and the citizen developed applications need to be compliant to standards. The onus of reviewing, guiding business users, documenting and filling out checklists, auditing and getting external validations where required are all responsibilities of the IT team or other support teams. Expecting business users to be aware of the needs and how to implement fixes maybe a big ask – and guided development would ensure success.
IT assisted citizen development is proving out to be the right model to deliver rapid innovation, with the scale, security and compliance expected from enterprise applications. Without adequate IT oversight, it can become a wild west out there, and no one wants that!
No-Code provides battle tested solutions to enable enterprises to push their innovation to the edge – and leverage the power of immediate solutions to keep your business ahead of the curve.
The article has been written by Hardik Gandhi, Founder-CEO, Zvolv
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