Are CIOs sleeping on ‘low code’?

Growing trends suggest CIOs must adopt a new philosophy for executing a low-code culture in IT – and across the business.

Healthcare has often been the victim of hyped-up technology, so it’s no surprise that CIOs are wary of new trends. Welcome to the buzz surrounding low-code software.

Low code offers the potential to facilitate the development of solutions by using a graphical user interface instead of the traditional approach of relying on hand-coded programming, thus requiring little to no coding to build applications and processes.

This more visual approach to software development is on the rise, particularly after a Gartner prediction that low-code application development would represent about 65% of application development activity. In February, Gartner forecast worldwide low-code development to grow 23% this year.

Recent initial public offerings for companies further demonstrate the growing hype. For example, UiPath’s IPO raised $1.3 billion while providing a total market capitalization of nearly $30 billion. The company serves as a global software company for robotic process automation (RPA).

RPA is driving the shift

The success of RPA solutions relies on low-code or no-code applications, and RPA is rising on CIOs’ radar because of the promise they offer as tools that can enable complete hyper-automation and support digital transformation. This growing trend suggests CIOs must adopt a new philosophy for executing a low-code culture in IT.

Four themes are essential to executing this shift.

Keep it simple, stupid. Undergirding the shift to low-code development means that programming and automation should not be complex and not require intensive support from IT to make the change. While that may seem obvious from the underlying problem that low code is attempting to solve, it’s important not to complicate the new approach.

The usability of the products must be simple enough at the start. Organizations have a better chance of understanding the simplicity of a low-code platform when they start using it, so IT executives should not overthink it and buy a platform solution that has too many bells and whistles.

All about speed. By uncomplicating the development process and enabling more people to engage in it, the time to develop should be faster with low code.  There should also be a reduction in costs to develop solutions.

But that won’t help without assistance in education and changing culture. CIOs will need to take the lead role in encouraging the automation mindset for the organization. Employees will need to be encouraged to explore avenues to automate by utilizing low-code technology tools. Seattle Children hospital’s CIO Zafar Choudry said “we've embraced low-code development as it's intuitive, adaptive, iterative and flexible and has allowed us to develop patient-facing apps (idea to app in days) quickly with limited skill sets. It's empowered our teams to zoom in on the patient experience for digital transformation."

Crowdsource the IT department. CIOs must adopt a new, inclusive mindset that envisions wider dispersal of IT involvement. It won’t be easy – it’s a profound shift to think of the future of running IT in an organization where every employee has the basic skills to develop automation.

Low code provides the opportunity to crowdsource solutions within an organization. But to take full advantage of that philosophy, the mentality for CIOs must shift, and they will need to find ways to promote “citizen developers.”

IT department adjustments. The future of IT in organizations needs reconsideration in a shift to low-code software development. To make this shift, CIOs must emphasize implementing training their workforces on how to use the platform. And by extension, that means IT must let go of control to facilitate the transition.

Documentation and oversight will continue to be important, and this is where IT can come alongside the workforce to put the process in place – but CIOs must ensure their departments don’t become a roadblock or gatekeeper. IT also has a role to play in monitoring application design and ensuring security protocols are in place. This also means that security professionals must adapt because these tools are not going away anytime soon.

Next steps

Healthcare doesn’t deal well with change, and CIOs are no exception to that rule. When it comes to low-code transitions, CIOs must deal with their fears of giving up control and realize they cannot try to regulate and control access, especially to data. It can be freeing, really – a CIO doesn’t need to be the technical guru and instead can adopt the crowdsource mindset.

According to Baystate Health Chief Information and Digital Officer, Joel Vengco, “Democratization of data and now democratization of coding through low code are key ingredients to creating a culture of learning and innovation focused on rapid solution delivery.  It promotes reuse or mashups of app components that can accelerate development, especially single use or time-limited solutions.”

On the contrary, some CIOs view this as technical debt part 2. It can be an extension of applications that all of a sudden are unsupported but in production usage. CIOs must decide on their next steps, as low-code platforms are not going away.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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