The next wave of digital transformation is on the horizon — and it’ll be a veritable tsunami. A 2017 SAP report showed that 84 percent of organizations think digital transformation is vital to their success but that only 3 percent have completed their transformation initiatives.
This wave will consist of applications built by citizen developers. Soon, these developers will be able to build their own applications just like business users can build out their own spreadsheets, documents, and presentations.
Where’s IT in all of this? Right now, companies relying on IT alone to propel digital transformation are running at a pace that’s far too slow. If they work solely with professional programmers, organizations will never reach the necessary level of digital transformation.
IT of the Past
Traditionally, IT services have approached digital innovation very slowly. They have also viewed themselves as the gatekeepers of technology: If you want to use it, you have to go through them first. IT teams have done this because they see their primary role as safeguards of the current system — not as digital disruptors. In large enterprises especially, the goal of IT services is to not mess anything up.
For almost as long as IT departments have been around, they have been battling it out with business users for resources and acclaim. But as technology has advanced, this rivalry has grown. If an organization hopes to stay competitive, business and IT teams need to work together.
When computers first came on the business scene, IT was in charge of all technology decisions, both software and hardware. Security is the main reason IT has traditionally been given the final say. But as technology has developed, more and more business leaders and employees have found ways to circumvent IT and use the machines and programs they prefer.
This creates a layer of instability, making true IT security almost impossible. In fact, a study conducted by SafeBreach found that malware succeeds about 60 percent of the time. Having an appropriate security plan in place is not only proactive — it’s absolutely necessary.
With cloud technology and digital solutions required across any enterprise, a new IT approach needs to be developed. Rather than serving as security wardens, IT services should think of themselves as the enablers of technology usage. These teams should search for platforms that offer business users the ability to create solutions of their own. Swaths of core technology haven’t yet reached the masses; IT can democratize technology for those people.
Digital Transformation of the Future
The next wave of transformation will be wide, not deep. Most deep solutions needed by business users have already been solved. But hundreds of long-tail solutions are still needed in each organization. This includes customer-facing aspects of the business: An AlixPartners and MIT study found that a mere 23 percent of companies have fully digital business operations and customer interfaces.
Achieving full digital transformation means finding a way to scale and reach these solutions. The advent of citizen developers will help. These individuals should know the business inside and out — they should be able to work directly with the technology.
Enabling citizen developers, however, means eliminating full-code platforms. Platforms should be simpler, easier to use, and geared toward common business users. In other words, platforms for non-IT users should have a heavy emphasis on UI/UX while offering robust features.
Ready to get started conquering the next wave of transformation? Here’s how:
1. Expand your imagination.
Many business leaders haven’t yet considered creating their own solutions. But IT doesn’t have to exist in a security-focused vacuum. Starting thinking about technology as a solution to business problems. Encourage cross-organizational collaboration between business users and IT professionals. Share stories across departments to inspire all team members to think about using technology to solve business challenges in sophisticated ways.
2. Train your workforce.
Whether you’ve identified them or not, you have plenty of current and future citizen developers in your midst. But it’s possible some of them are too intimidated to jump into the world of building out their own solutions without encouragement. You should identify these eager team members and champion a select group of pioneers who are willing to create custom applications. Fostering a group of leading citizen developers will not only build up those individuals’ confidence in their abilities, but it will also show people across the organization that it is possible.
3. Invest in the appropriate platforms.
While products were the technological golden child of the past 10 years, platforms will become the go-to solution in the next decade. Groups within your organization want to build their own custom applications, so make sure that your company has the best technology possible for multiple functionalities. Consult with leaders of different teams in your organization. Right now, research shows that only 60 percent of business process management is digital, significantly behind the 79 percent of IT management that can claim to be digital — it’s time to catch up.
4. Think about processes, not tasks.
The workforce is increasingly volatile for companies. The freelancing economy continues to gain prominence, with an increased focus on remote work over the typical 9-to-5 desk job. In fact, as of 2016, about 35 percent of the American workforce was made up of freelancers. This disruption is likely to cause churn within teams. Enterprises should be thinking about processes that capture as much data as possible without being dependent on specific employees. This process-first approach will make transitions easier, as context-aware platforms can help onboard and offboard staff more fluidly.
The growing wave of technology capabilities isn’t slowing down any time soon. Companies need to prioritize their own digital transformation to keep up, no matter what industry they are in. Leaders should follow these four steps to ensure they have a digital-first mindset that can keep up with the upcoming wave.