Editor’s note: this blog post was originally published August, 2016 and updated September, 2020.
You may already be aware that a digital transformation of your company’s business processes is long overdue. Perhaps you’ve read the Harvard Business Review research study sponsored by Quick Base, where 92% of executives agree that an approach that combines change at enterprise-wide and business processes level is essential to transformation success.
Knowing that the time for change has come is one thing, but knowing where to start with implementing it is another thing altogether.
Your business may be relying on hundreds of manual processes that are good candidates for a low-code application. In order to systematically uncover and prioritize these processes, consider beginning your transformation project with an assessment.
After all, you can’t figure out where you want to go if you don’t know where you are. These assessments provide helpful information to inform the framework for changes to come and ensure that no process, workflow, or data set falls through the cracks.
When completing this assessment, focus your initial efforts on the low-hanging fruit – these are manual processes that are commonly-used in business practices such as spreadsheets, emails, and core systems like your ERP.
By prioritizing these processes first, you will make changes that quickly garner business value and will give you the experience to develop more unique, specialized business applications in the future.
Connect Disparate Systems
If your business is anything like ours, your work relies on a complex ecosystem of technology and tools. As handy as it is to have dedicated software for each specific business need, a lack of connectivity between these systems can cause significant gaps and data silos that hold back progress.
Customizing core systems like SAP or Salesforce, though possible, is expensive, time-intensive, and requires help from highly skilled developers. Building out customization in this way doesn’t really allow for the flexibility your business needs.
Fortunately, there is another way.
Low-code applications can add an additional layer of agility on top of your core systems, using built-in integration capabilities to connect disparate systems and provide full end-to-end visibility. Your application can automatically populate data from sources such as SAP, Salesforce, and Quickbooks into a single dashboard to provide you with the real-time insights you need to inform your business decisions.
So much of your essential-to-business communication happens through emails. But when important requests, follow-ups, and instructions get buried in your inbox or long reply chains, it becomes nearly impossible to gain the visibility you need to organize and act on these communications.
We have all experienced searching through folders just to find that one email that you forgot to loop in one colleague in on, and now having to send them a length email chain that they will in turn have to dig through to find the single piece of pertinent information. Luckily, there’s a better way.
Consider using a low-code application to replace the workflows that you are currently relying on emails to complete. Many platforms, like Quick Base, integrate directly with your email service provider to allow for a layer of visibility and control on top of your basic email inbox.
You might use a low-code application to manage projects with multiple team-members, replacing long email chains with a dashboard that breaks down the project into tasks and assigns each task to a team-member. This way, everyone has access to a single source of truth for the status of the project and has full visibility into who is accountable for what, and by when. You could also use this application to automate email notifications for when a task is assigned to a new person, a due date changes, or when something is waiting to be approved.
If your department constantly receives requests for work via email, you probably have experienced the struggle of keeping track of these requests and seeing them through completion. A low-code application could be used to compile and organize incoming requests, allowing for full transparency into where these requests are coming from, how long it takes for completion, and who is accountable for each one. This can help your team prioritize resources and increase customer satisfaction.
Because they are so easy to use and highly customizable, spreadsheets fill in the gaps left by technology that doesn’t quite meet the needs of the user. Despite their appeal to the average businessperson looking for a simple way to store and track information, spreadsheets pose a huge threat to your company – especially when they are responsible for handling data that’s core to the business.
Spreadsheets are used for a variety of essential functions, such as managing data related to purchasing, project management, inventory management, and work orders, just to name a few.
And these spreadsheet functions are not to be overlooked – it’s likely that your business has been relying on them for quite some time.
But from user management to version control to human error in inputting information, it’s really no surprise that spreadsheets are highly error-prone and can distort information – especially those containing calculations.
According to MarketWatch, 88% of spreadsheets contain errors. That’s not a good thing.
That’s why spreadsheets are the perfect candidate for a low-code app, which can be created quickly using a low-code application development platform by anyone in your business, even if they don’t have a technical or software development background. Not only are they an easy target to ensure consistent and accurate information, but it will also save time and money associated with manual data-entry and costly mistakes due to information errors.
Where Do You Start?
As with any change effort, you’ll run into early adopters, fence sitters, and “not in my lifetime” people. It’s important you gain their trust so they’ll work with you to help you identify what will be good candidates for creating a low-code application.
If you know one area of the company that relies on spreadsheets or emails more than others, start there. If you’re not sure where to start, just pick a department. You’ll need to sell this effort from the top by providing a compelling reason why leadership of the group should buy in to this effort. Make sure you understand both their departmental priorities and pain-points.
Show them how low-code applications can help move their priorities forward by providing, if possible, specific examples of how you can save them time or money and make things more efficient.
Share how you’ve helped other departments the same way and be sure to reiterate how quickly this can be accomplished compared to the lengthy timeline for a new IT solution.
You’ll also need an approach.
You can do one–on–one interviews with selected people or even conduct a focus group to gather information. Make sure you ask people to bring along any documents or data that will help with the discussion. No matter what approach you use, you’ll need an ice breaker that will open people up and start the discussion.
People like to talk about themselves and their achievements. That’s always a good place to start when you’re digging for information. Three questions that really get people talking are:
- What do you do?
- What tools or programs help you get your work done?
- What change would help you do your job better?
Once you’ve conducted the interviews you should have enough information to determine whether it’s worth taking the next step to turn existing tools into low-code applications.