Building a Path to Integrated Automation with Low-Code Development

BrandPost By Appian
Jan 15, 2020
Technology Industry

Digital transformation is an ongoing process and often involves an extensive program of work, not simply one project.

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Credit: AlphaSpirit / Getty Images

To succeed in the digital economy, Asia-Pacific organisations must improve how complex business logic is managed by automation applications, including how these applications are evaluated, procured and developed.

Today’s always-on, 24×7 marketplace and rising customer expectations require enterprises to develop and launch apps at the speed of business.

To evaluate digital transformation progress and drivers for change, Appian, in partnership with IDG, conducted a survey of 305 senior IT managers in organisations with 500 employees or more across a variety of vertical industries.

Digital transformation is an ongoing process and often involves an extensive program of work, not simply one project.

How mature are Asia-Pacific organisations with their digital transformation initiatives? The research found businesses in Australia and Singapore have made good progress with digital transformation; nearly half of all respondents (48%) report their organisations are steadily implementing digital transformation, with 12 per cent currently scaling up pilot programs (7% are piloting projects).

One in five (20%) IT leaders say a digital transformation program is fully deployed and, looking ahead, nearly two-thirds (64%) have plans for new AI and RPA deployments in the next 12 months.

The research investigated which types of applications are priorities and likely to provide value to the organisation. Deploying automation technologies (65%), customer service and support (59%), and compliance (56%) are top of mind for IT leaders across the region.

The application of emerging technologies, including more options for automation, will develop a platform for faster change and better agility.

The evolution of app development

Digital transformation is changing the way enterprises develop applications (apps).

In the past, business units would put in a request for an update or new tool. Then, they worked with the app development team to define functionality, workflows (processes), and goals, as well as tested prototypes and provided feedback for further iteration. The infrastructure and security teams were also involved, providing input where needed to make sure the apps followed corporate policies intended to reduce risk to the enterprise. The whole thing could take months or years depending on the size and scope of the project and almost every project was a new, freestanding silo with a very long maintenance tail.

However, this is simply no longer feasible – there’s just no time for month-long development cycles, and whatever you build must fit into an ecosystem, not be another silo. While the cloud has enabled business units to spin up infrastructure on demand, there has been a major gap around the applications themselves.

Traditional development processes using custom code prevent enterprises from developing and rolling out applications quickly enough. These processes are tedious, largely manual and require coordination across multiple teams.

New, low-code development platforms can speed time to market by accelerating development, reducing IT strain and improving collaboration across business lines. The goal, of course, is to finally bring people, process and data together in a connected and unified fashion.

Lack of alignment and collaboration

For digital transformation programs to be successful, a number of different stakeholders within the business need to be involved. IT staff must deliver services to meet business requirements, and line of business leaders must communicate changes and new go-to-market channels and applications.

The research found nearly one in three (28%) IT leaders see lack of alignment and collaboration across the organisation, including siloes, as a big challenge for IT enabling business outcomes.

When asked whether they anticipated a shift to low-code, the research found a split between APAC C-level IT professionals and their more operational colleagues.

Nearly half (46%) of CIOs stated they anticipate a future shift towards slower, fully custom coding to build applications.

This differed to their IT colleagues, where more than one-third (35%) expect to continue the steady use of faster and easier to use low-code development tools, compared with 28 per cent for CIOs.

IT staff tasked with matching business outcomes with technology platforms are generally closer to the challenges of full custom development.

With automation, customer service and compliance top application priorities, a move to fully custom coding introduces the risk of accentuating many challenges.

IT departments already report they are faced with a myriad of challenges with matching their digital transformation programs with desired business outcomes, including: organisational culture (52%); meeting desired speed of delivery (50%); customer demand (45%); and skills gaps and shortages (43%). Additionally, they also cited organisational issues including: risk management concerns (47%); legacy technologies (44%); limited resources to train or recruit staff (42%); and uncertainty about required financial investments (42%).

Low-Code as an Enterprise App Development Tool

Traditionally, low-code has had a reputation as being ill-suited for mission-critical applications and has been relegated to small or department-level applications. The perception is that low-code doesn’t have the robust availability and security features that enterprises need for their most important workloads. And, they’re right to a certain extent. Historically, low-code platforms have been aimed at people with little or no coding experience to give them the ability to create simple apps. Most self-described low-code technologies are either little more than Excel macros on steroids or tools that only help the hard-core developer shave a few hours off their code writing.

However, modern enterprise low-code platforms have taken a major step forward in terms of resiliency, performance, and security. They are built with enterprise requirements in mind – providing enterprises with a fast and efficient way to develop apps. As a result, low-code is now an accepted and critical tool in the application development toolbelt, and enterprises are reaping the benefits.

Getting alignment right amid new development, automation options

With nearly half of organisations steadily implementing digital transformation, challenges such as a lack of IT-business alignment need to be overcome to enable business outcomes.

Alignment remains a significant challenge to transformation, and without better collaboration, organisations will not get the most out of digital. Other challenges to achieving business outcomes include organisational culture, meeting desired speed of delivery, customer demand, and skills shortages.

With nearly all organisations having one or more intelligent automation systems – from AI to chatbots – in production, the future success of transformation programs will depend on how well these systems are applied.

More than one-third of IT staff expect the use of faster and easier to use low-code development tools to deliver business value from application development. With automation, customer service and compliance top application priorities, a move to fully custom coding introduces unnecessary risk.

Amid the strong desire for more automation, Asia-Pacific IT leaders must also focus on the application integration opportunities to reduce siloes and improve customer experience.

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About Appian

Appian provides a low-code development platform that accelerates the creation of high-impact business applications. Many of the world’s largest organisations use Appian applications to improve customer experience, achieve operational excellence, and simplify global risk management and compliance.