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Low-Code + BPM Software: Aligning Business, Culture and Technology to Drive Transformation

Appian Contributor
February 13, 2017

Low-code application platforms are being touted as a key enabler of rapid digital transformation. On its own, such technology democratizes app dev by enabling citizen developers in the business to self-serve their own small-scale departmental solutions. However, most low-code platforms lack the industrial-strength capabilities (such as process management and integrations) required to drive meaningful transformation at the enterprise level. Continued innovation in low-code, specifically its tight integration with Business Process Management (BPM) suites, is now helping organizations match the speed of app creation with the power needed to support transformational enterprise applications.

Looking at low-code

The early days of low-code app development were marked by businesses pulling down low-hanging fruit by having users create simple apps for non-critical systems. Because low-code technologies make development accessible to business users, many companies have had their workers create simple solutions such as lunchroom and parking apps, making life a bit better in the office. As businesses became more comfortable with low-code tools, more sophisticated solutions started to emerge. However, the general trend was still toward fairly straightforward apps that solve a specific problem, but aren't particularly powerful.

The business world is now on the cusp of a third stage with low-code app platforms. As application development platforms are increasingly accompanied by business process management solutions, businesses are able to create truly enterprise-class solutions while using low-code tools.

"aPaaS and similar cloud systems are changing the way businesses operate."

This progression to powerful apps that are created quickly is possible through Application Platform-as-a-Service technologies. aPaaS tools create a common infrastructure in which low-code development capabilities, BPM systems and completed apps exist within a common ecosystem. This results in an operational climate in which the cloud provides a centralized location for easy-to-use app development tools that empower users to create new solutions and roll those apps into production on an accelerated schedule.

The capabilities that aPaaS and similar cloud systems bring together are changing the way businesses operate. TechTarget reported that the growing cloud landscape is giving companies an opportunity to get more creative in app development while also maintaining rapid speed to market. Modern cloud solutions are allowing developers to mix and match APIs and take advantage of simplified infrastructure to get even complicated projects into production quickly.

According to TechTarget, the rise of citizen developers is combining with easier tools for traditional dev teams to enable businesses to take a two-pronged approach and create apps quickly without sacrificing functionality.

Low-code technologies are transforming traditional development workflows.Low-code technologies are transforming traditional development workflows.

Using app platforms to drive digital transformation

Digital transformation has emerged as a critical enterprise trend as organizations work to use modern technologies to create better customer experiences. In fact, a recent survey from Altimeter found that customer experience is the main driver of digital transformation. Fifty-five percent of digital transformation leaders point to changing customer expectations as a key motivating point in this evolution.

While digital transformation is essential, companies must take a broad approach as they respond. Focusing exclusively on technological innovation isn't enough. Instead, organizations must work to align business, cultural and technical advances in order to support transformation. The focus on customer and business-related goals in digital transformation is clear in the Altimeter study, as respondents said that approximately 34 percent of programs are led by CMOs while just 10 percent are championed by CIOs.

The need to consider customer outcomes, business culture, processes, technological requirements and a wide range of other factors makes powerful apps and services the centerpiece of digital transformation programs. Basic app platforms can offer a starting point here by democratizing development, but solutions that add BPM functionality to this technological advance can have a larger impact on the business. With these tools together, businesses are left with digital transformation platforms.

"Putting BPM at the foundation of an app platform turns that solution into a digital transformation enabler."

The emergence of digital transformation platforms

BPM software suites have long empowered businesses to optimize and automate processes, giving them greater visibility into and control over precisely how they operate. Being able to coordinate processes across business units is especially important as companies transform around digital technologies. Putting BPM at the foundation of an app platform turns that solution into a digital transformation enabler by aligning the best of what low-code, aPaaS solutions and BPM have to offer.

The benefits of this converged platform include:

    • Enabling users to build data workflows that align with process requirements.

    • Allowing citizen developers to solve complex business problems by allowing the BPM component to handle complicated data handling and communications requirements.

    • Simplifying regulatory compliance by documenting data movement and user actions within the platform to create a built-in audit trail.

    • Giving IT teams visibility into app creation and rollouts that they wouldn't get if business teams were subscribing to cloud apps outside of the enterprise ecosystem.

    • Accelerating the delivery of transformational mission-critical enterprise applications

Digital transformation requires careful business-IT alignment. Organizations that empower employees to create new apps and services in an ungoverned manner can keep IT in the dark, creating complexity, costs and risks and new data silos. Companies that segregate technology within the IT department can leave users without the flexibility and responsiveness they require. Digital transformation platforms bridge the gap between business and IT teams, providing the combination of speed and power that these stakeholders need to drive positive change.

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