The business-IT divide: don’t fix it


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Business-IT gap getting bigger

IT relevanceWe have talked about bridging the business-IT gap for years.  When IT was all-powerful it was important for the business to maintain a decent relationship. But now the power has reversed, paradoxically at a time when ITs importance has never been higher and their credibility is at an all time low. In another blog I have talked about the “App Gap” which is the huge backlog of apps that the business want built, but are at the bottom of ITs todo list, behind keeping the lights on, upgrading the server infrastructure and 200 other high priority items. Now I am not going to beat up on the CIO and the IT department.  I know how hard it is just keeping the lights on and the hackers out. That takes 83% of IT budgets.

Ignore the Business-IT gap

Let’s assume we are not going to fix the business-IT gap, funding gap and resulting app gap. That’s a trend being seen by Forrester. Instead, the business is starting to use highly powerful, but less technically complex tools to deliver apps – something they are calling the “low-code” in their recent research report: New Development Platforms Emerge For Customer-Facing Applications. Firms Choose Low-Code Alternatives For Fast, Continuous, And Test-And-Learn Delivery.

In summary the report says:

“Hand-coding is too slow to develop and deliver many of the applications that companies use to win, serve, and retain customers. Some firms are turning to new, “low-code” application platforms that accelerate app delivery by dramatically reducing the amount of hand-coding required. Faster delivery is the primary benefit of these application platforms; they also help firms respond more quickly to customer feedback after initial software releases and provision mobile and multichannel apps. Usage of low-code platforms is gaining momentum for customer-facing applications.”

The low-code revolution

Armed with new low-code platforms, business users with a little technical savvy can build elegant, scalable applications which will run on a variety of devices. And this is providing the business a way of addressing the huge list of small, niche, and sometimes disposable apps that they want to make the business run more consistently, more smoothly, and more efficiently: the app gap.

Low-code app gap

 

Low-code platforms certainly don’t eliminate coding altogether; low-code, not no-code. But they do speed up the development cycle, allowing a more iterative approach over a matter of days. The low-code platforms speed up application delivery by providing visual tools for quickly defining forms and the rapid build-out of multi-stage workflows. They also allow the easy configuration of data models and connectors that help eliminate common data integration headaches.

“With this sort of customer-facing app, the pace of change is different to what you find with systems of record,”  says Clay Richardson, Forrester.

Before low-code the business had 3 options

  1. sit patiently and wait for IT; frustrating and missing out on the benefits
  2. build something using Excel spreadsheets or Access; quick but not scalable, multi-device or managed
  3. outsource the development at huge cost; expensive and slow

Low-code is a compelling alternative.

IT should embrace low-code, not see it as a threat

It is easy for the IT department to see low-code as a way for business users to become dangerous mavericks building apps and messing with data with no knowledge or understanding of data security, enterprise architecture or testing. And some of this is true. But low-code is solving a business problem that both the business and IT have.  The business have business cases to build apps. IT doesn’t have the resource. But the business does – the citizen developer.

Low-code developers have a very different skill set to established developers. “These tend to be kids coming out of school with no programming background, but who can be trained in days to do this as a full-time job,” Richardson says. “They certainly couldn’t deliver anything in Java or C#, but they can deliver with these platforms – and they can do so at speed.”

IT can be a hero here. They can help the business decide on the best low-code platform. They can provide a little assistance in terms of development approach, data architecture, configuring the data integration services, security and testing. They can get someone trained up to help troubleshoot. However, the moment IT starts taking over or tries to stop or slow development, then the business will exclude them. And remember, many of these low-code platforms are web-based, so the business user doesn’t even need to go to IT before they purchase and start developing – something I have called “the Stealth Cloud”

Stealth Cloud:  Services being consumed by business users without the knowledge, permission or support of the CIO and the IT department.

Low-code closes the business-IT gap

If the CIO and IT department are smart, they can use the low-code revolution to drive up their credibility with the business users, get apps built using this untapped resource pool of citizen developers – the business guys –  and still have some control over their IT architecture.

IT is engaged and helpful. The business gets their apps and ROI. IT gets to keep a watchful eye on the business.

But low-code is like a delicate flower.  Grab it too hard and you will crush it. But not hard enough and you will drop it.