By Nick Pike, VP UK & Ireland, OutSystems
In today’s fast-paced business environment, companies are competing on all fronts. You need to provide a great product or service backed by outstanding customer support, develop new products at the speed of the market, and keep pace with ever-increasing user expectations. To achieve this, you’re scrutinising productivity, costs, processes, and technology, searching for ways your business can operate as efficiently and dynamically as possible. Sometimes, in the middle of all of this, I think we can overlook one of the most important factors: our people. Without a great workforce that is inspired and enabled by their employer, a company doesn’t have that critical edge that means success in today’s market. The workforce and its expectations are changing; businesses need to change with them to unlock the real power of their people.
A Changing Workforce
Take a look at today’s employees. As consumers, they comfortably use technology to organise and enhance their lives. So, why would we or they expect that to change when they walk into the office? The lines between work and leisure have become blurred. So, what if we took the benefits of the labour-saving apps that employees use to organise their home lives and apply them to our business? Employees could get up to speed on technology faster because they’d recognise familiar elements, and their productivity and satisfaction with work would increase. Higher productivity results in greater efficiency, and higher satisfaction leads to greater retention. And, amidst all this, there is the greater ability to be agile and adaptable to changes in market and consumer demands.
Great App Expectations
Remember back when you first used the Expedia app? For me, it was one of those “where has this been all my life?” moments. When you use Expedia and other apps like it, you become your own travel agent. You instantly access itineraries, tickets issued, timely check-in reminders, and tips. You can make decisions based on a wealth of real-time information at your fingertips, and all you need is your phone to get from home to your destination with a minimum of fuss.
Now think about your company’s internal processes. Typically, internal systems have evolved with new elements and data sources bolted on ad hoc. They might rely on manual effort, email, spreadsheets, and the like. For those who have been with the company a long time, this is business as usual; they understand the system and, though cumbersome, it does the job. But imagine how that process looks to a new employee who has grown up with the efficiency and intuitive interface of an app like Expedia? New generations joining the workforce will be less and less backwards-compatible with “old” technology. And, they’ll have much higher expectations of the systems they’re expected to use. Rather than spending time teaching Generation Z how to use spreadsheets, it’s better to upgrade the system so it works the way that they—and most people—want to work.
Transforming Digital Operations for a Better Employee Experience
At OutSystems, we help a lot of organisations that want to improve their employee experience by digitally transforming their internal applications. The typical solutions are composite applications, dashboards, workflows, internal web portals, mobile applications for the front-office or field, and small-to-medium-sized database apps. All of these put the information that employees need at their fingertips wherever they are and on whatever device they prefer to use. Because they have an intuitive user experience, employees work faster, more accurately, and with less frustration than when using patched-up legacy systems.
There are a few common requirements for all these projects. The first is speed: the pace of business means there’s pressure to develop, test, and launch mobile and web responsive apps. Secondly, many will need simple development of forms and workflows to streamline the user experience. Thirdly, there must be seamless integration with existing systems of record so information is always correct in real-time, and users can make fully informed decisions. The fourth factor is the ability to change rapidly and deploy updates to the system without the risk of glitches. Finally, organisations want to know what improvements the new processes are delivering, so productivity insights and dashboards for managers are needed.
Enabling Digital Transformation with Low-Code
Low-code development enables all this, as Logitech found when it adopted it for its mission-critical product launch app. A product launch is the company’s biggest activity, and it wanted a way to move multiple processes from Lotus Notes to a more up-to-date system. Using the OutSystems low-code platform, the company developed an app that brings everything together and can be easily modified. As a result, the product launch process ran more smoothly for everyone involved. Enterprise Collaboration Manager Steven Schmidt neatly summed up what they have achieved by saying: “Low code simply allows us to do more.”
That’s really the key to how low-code should be used in digital operations: to empower employees to work in a way that suits them and makes their working lives easier. Once that happens, we see a cascade of benefits. Business activities can be completed anytime, anywhere; employees are more engaged in business processes and more responsive. They’re also more likely to adopt a process that works intuitively, and that ease-of-use means support costs are lower.
Employees, just like consumers, have increasing expectations of the technology that is designed to support them. To meet those expectations and unlock the potential of a company’s greatest asset—its people—it’s critical to develop and deploy apps that put their people in the driver’s seat.