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Low-Code and Change Management: The Perfect Pairing for Enterprise Modernization Efforts

Kyle Thomas, Global Public Sector Industry Lead
July 12, 2023

Large-scale enterprise modernization initiatives are taking place across the public sector, with agencies striving to gain efficiencies through better use of more modern technologies, such as low-code platforms, and employing data in novel ways in the decision-making process. These modernization efforts disrupt the business processes that have developed around the outdated solutions these efforts aim to replace. And the desire to employ data has the potential to change work across the enterprise, reducing the need for certain roles and creating openings for new ones. This all boils down to change. Accordingly, change management has become an increasingly critical pillar of success for any modernization initiative.

The importance of effective change management is underscored by the sheer number of change management methodologies promising to ease the transition to a new way of working. One such methodology, called the ADKAR® approach, characterizes the change management journey as one that progresses through five steps: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. It argues that any significant change will be best received if those affected are advanced through the stages, and offers strategies for doing so. 

The incremental approach to change management aligns perfectly with the agile and incremental approach to delivering value quickly through low-code platforms like Appian

This blog explores how Appian's low-code platform pairs perfectly with change management concepts like ADKAR to ensure success in large-scale enterprise modernization.

Go incremental with low-code.

The incremental approach to technology replacement is not new. But low-code extends that approach beyond development all the way through product delivery and implementation, including change management. Here's how:

  • A key advantage of low-code is that early iterations of a solution can be lightweight and adapted quickly based on end-user feedback, leading to an ever-evolving solution that brings end users along on the journey. This attribute reinforces the desire and knowledge concepts in change management methodologies by building trust that the solution will be modified to meet their needs, promoting buy-in. Consumer off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions lack this adaptability and therefore undermine the change management process.

  • Low-code applications are quick to develop and place in the hands of users. Conversely, delivery timelines for custom solutions are so lengthy that the ability stage of the change management journey is often delayed, and the awareness stage—the first stage in most change management journeys—is often skipped entirely. 
  • As opposed to big-bang style modernizations, the low-code approach delivers a constant and consistent stream of value to the business. This supports the change management discipline's call for reinforcement of the changes taking place. Simply put, change becomes part of the operating assumptions of the end-user community. By spreading change over time and continually delivering improvements, low-code reminds users that modifications will be responsive and positive.

[ Learn more about the power of low-code and how to evaluate low-code platforms. Get the Low-Code Buyer’s Guide. ]

Sharing the costs of change.

A challenge with any modernization effort is managing the costs of implementation and operation, which include training and support. Here, too, low-code offers advantages that help organizations implement change the right way. 

Appian's clean and consistent design ensures that applications across the enterprise share the same navigation and usability characteristics, lessening the training burden. In many cases, later applications delivered in the modernization pipeline can forgo training entirely, as users are familiar with the new paradigm established by earlier applications. The ease of use inherent in Appian solutions reduces not only training time but also the need for ongoing support by remaining easily changeable if usability issues are discovered after release. Higher rates of user satisfaction at the end-user level bring an additional boost to the ability phase of change management journeys. Embracing change is easier when users trust that there is flexibility to adapt to it and it’s delivered by a solution that enhances their abilities.

The creation of training artifacts often adds considerable cost to application delivery. Here, too, low-code offers significant advantages over its custom and COTS predecessors:

  • By developing applications on a unified platform like Appian, familiar user interface and design elements allow training artifacts to be reused across multiple applications. This speeds up the time to create and deliver artifacts, accelerating the realization of the benefits of a new application.

  • The incremental approach offered by low-code platforms introduces changes gradually, which allows users to adapt and embrace the change. Compared to COTS and custom solutions, which typically result in all-at-once delivery, low-code delivers change in manageable increments.

  • With Appian's flexible data fabric, existing data sources can be seamlessly integrated into new applications. Users develop a deep familiarity with enterprise data sources over time. By integrating with the data rather than moving it, say, into a data lake, Appian's data fabric makes it easy to continue using familiar sources of data while eliminating the effort of migrating data.

Bringing the business into the development process.

The most powerful change management feature of low-code platform development is how it brings the end-user community closer to the development process than either COTS or custom code. COTS solutions, by their very definition, distance end users from development. Since they are designed to meet broad and general sets of use cases, the implementation phase can be painful. Enterprises often discover areas where the solution does not fit the complexity of the business, raising the risk of end-user abandonment. This immediately shifts the burden of a successful implementation from the solution itself to the change management, training, and operations teams. They are left to invent workarounds and deal with the fallout of low user satisfaction.  

Custom solutions, on the other hand, offer promises of high end-user satisfaction from their tailored design and bespoke functionality. But where custom solutions fail is in their time to delivery and the fatigue experienced by the business users participating in development. With custom applications, subject matter experts are typically engaged throughout a lengthy development lifecycle but have few chances to interact with the solution as it is developed. Even with agile development methodologies, the time it takes for an end user to interact with a complex custom solution is so lengthy that preparing for the change becomes an afterthought. Further, this approach leads to skepticism rather than excitement for the new solution, which undermines any change management effort. 

Low-code alleviates these issues by bringing end users close to a fast-moving development process. Functioning iterations of an application can be interacted with almost immediately, bringing the change to reality and allowing for fast iterations that incorporate user feedback. In short, low-code offers the ability for users to ride along on the journey to the future state—a far superior experience to the infrequent check-ins offered by custom development or the all-at-once approach of COTS solutions.

Addressing change management from the start.

Enterprise modernization necessarily brings change, and with change comes risk. Often the modernization project results in more change than initially anticipated, or end users reject the change. With COTS and custom solutions, these risks are offloaded onto the shoulders of the change management or operations teams, who are tempted to blame the solution if it does not deliver on its promises. Low-code not only reduces the magnitude of the change by bringing it to the business incrementally, but it also reduces risk by bringing the end-user community into the development process, where they have the ability to influence the solution and embrace the change. 

By investing in a platform that complements good change management practices, such as the Appian Platform, you gain faster development of a product that meets the precise needs of your end users while reducing the burden on your risk management, change management, and training teams.

Appian’s focus on easy deployment and the total customer experience contributes to its being recognized year after year as a leading low-code platform. Read the Forrester Total Economic Impact™ of Appian study to see how you can accelerate operational processes by 95% and pay back the initial investment in Appian in less than six months.