Citizen devs take on low-code/no-code process automation

Intuitive low-code/no-code platforms have taken end-to-end process automation work out of the IT department, but UX quality will be crucial to success

Low-code and no-code applications have opened up process automation to a growing number of “citizen developers”, business stakeholders with non-technical backgrounds. But user experience (UX) cannot be ignored, say analysts, and the new breed of applications will need appropriate oversight.

According to SSON Research and Analytics, automation and process design/continuous improvement are in very high demand. The 2022 Share Services State of the Industry Survey found automation and process design/continuous improvement are the two top two skills companies are prioritising. The survey also found 81% of organisations have end-to-end process integration as a top priority.

Gartner says low-code and no-code technology use will almost triple by 2025, with application development evolving into application assembly and integration. “The technological and organisational silos of application development, automation, integration and governance will become obsolete,” says Milind Govekar, Chief of Research with the company’s Program & Portfolio Management (PPM) Research. “This will drive the rise of low-code application platforms (LCAPs) and citizen development.”

By 2025, 70% of new applications developed by organisations will use low-code or no-code technologies, up from less than 25% in 2020, says Gartner. The rise of LCAPs is driving the increase of citizen development and the work of business technologists who report outside of IT departments.

“A lot of business operations have manual, repetitive work that can be time-consuming for employees,” explains Shrikant Deo, Director Product Management, EdgeVerve. “These tools can lift the burden for employees having to do that mundane work so they can focus on more beneficial value-related activities. So, the real value these tools offer is bringing human capital back into the organisation.”

Process automation allows added flexibility

Low-code tools allow entire processes to be automated, allowing employees to dedicate their attention to oversight of the process. “Many organisations are implementing process mining or process discovery to determine focus areas for low-code/no-code automation,” says Deo. “By bringing in process mining, employees now have a tool that can assist them in determining which processes are prepared for low-code/no-code automation and which ones need to be further developed before automation can be brought in.

“With this added flexibility, those who understand and work with a process have the capability to manage their own automation strategies while also having the knowledge that IT groups are there to provide assistance,” says Deo.

Best practices to benefit from low-code and no-code automation tools include ensuring department leaders can keep track of what’s being created by teams, explains IT Director and Digital Transformation Leader David Cohen.

Governance should also be provided by IT experts to catalogue, document, and track applications for ongoing support. This is particularly important when people leave the company or move to new roles.

IT heads also need to ensure there is proper training for citizen developers (“No-code doesn’t equal no training,” says Cohen) and teams need to adopt an agile mindset to encourage feedback and find ways to improve. Companies should also consider creating a Centre of Expertise (COE) where a team of in-house experts assist citizen developers in their work.

“Who wouldn’t want to save money, boost morale, and streamline operations?” asks Cohen. “As you pilot and adopt these tools, keep in mind best practices of project management and process improvement. Your journey should take you from a deep understanding of your current processes to a future state that is much simpler, more usable, and ultimately connected.”

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