Rich Waldron is the CEO and co-founder of Tray.io, a leader in low-code general workflow automation.
Recently, you may have heard a great deal about technology democratization, the concept of making formerly complex technical functionality more accessible to line-of-business (LOB) professionals who aren’t engineers by trade.
Due to the new business realities introduced by the pandemic, businesses across the globe have been making an aggressive push to streamline operations and complete tasks more efficiently. Unfortunately, IT teams have struggled with an uncertain hiring market, record employee turnover and a shortage of technically skilled employees while facing two massive challenges.
The Challenges: Centralized IT Leads To Centralized Bottlenecks
IT’s first challenge: The project backlog typically extends three to 12 months, as IT teams receive never-ending requests from LOB for integrations, process automation and data management requests across their rapidly growing tech stack. LOB’s increasing reliance on cloud software tools has become an important reality of remote work, leading 72% of IT leaders to report that their backlogs are preventing them from focusing on more-strategic projects.
The second major challenge for IT is those strategic priorities themselves: digital transformation; the already-crucial initiative to modernize legacy, on-premise systems to the cloud so that remote teams can work effectively; as well as information security and data privacy.
Over the years, LOB teams have continued to acquire technology at a prodigious rate, dramatically increasing the need for technical support from IT. As a result, IT organizations have increasingly garnered a reputation as a centralized bottleneck—the only team that can handle technical requests.
The Solution: Democratization For LOB And IT Alike
Technology democratization is effectively a movement to decentralize IT operations, giving non-engineering teams the power to resolve their own technical challenges using low-code automation and integration platforms. Democratization not only removes bottlenecks but also promotes rapid innovation.
As LOB teams across the organization, being closest to their own software and technical challenges, build out their own bespoke solutions, they can share their newly built functionality with other team members and empower other departments to do more, faster. Democratization is also a net positive for overburdened IT organizations, who can redirect their scarce resources to more-strategic projects.
With low-code technology, business units across the enterprise—in marketing, sales, customer service and many other departments—can self-service their own technical challenges. The marketing team that has used the same marketing software for the last five years knows the limits of that software, as well as the resulting challenges, better than anyone else. Using low-code platforms, business users can take some control of technical processes such as integrating data between applications and automating custom data flows across their entire tech estate.
According to Gartner, “citizen developers” will outnumber professional developers four to one by 2023.
Low-code platforms, for example, present one opportunity to professional developers. By empowering LOB teams to self-service and complete most day-to-day development tasks, businesses can remove a significant portion of IT’s backlog, reserving engineering resources for more-strategic initiatives—such as product innovation, digital transformation and information security.
Moreover, technology democratization gives IT organizations the opportunity to step out of a custodial role, having to triage LOB backlog issues and act as stock keepers for an ever-growing tech stack. As companies democratize tech processes across the organization, IT now has the opportunity to step into a new role as a strategic partner and technology enabler.
Democratizing technology with low-code platforms is one potential step to empowering team members, and customers, to modernize their tech stacks, migrate to the cloud and take advantage of forward-thinking technology options, such as serverless computing, to dramatically scale operations while reducing CapEx burdens.
How To Drive Business Innovation Across The Organization
Democratizing technology can help redefine the future of business, since it will also decentralize innovation and process improvements—putting both into the hands of every team across the organization. In fact, 79% of organizations are actively seeking to address the growing skills gap, which includes learning how to use and drive ROI from new software applications.
By embracing low-code and enabling teams to learn how to self-service their business challenges, businesses can help tackle the skills gap, which threatens to cost businesses $8.5 trillion by 2030, according to PwC. By embracing reskilling and upskilling with such platforms, employers offer their teams valuable opportunities for professional development—a key factor in increasing employee satisfaction (and decreasing attrition).
But, to reap the benefits of technology democratization, companies must lean in to an automation-first mindset. To do this, leaders should:
• Empower teams with low-code technology and enablement. Companies must embrace an “automation mindset” from the top down, encouraging team members to avoid repetitive manual work and seek opportunities for process improvement using low-code platforms.
• Train and hire for an automated organization. Offer teams upskill/reskill training with low-code tooling and seek opportunities to become proficient with low-code platforms. It’s also time to seriously consider hiring automation specialists who can improve team-level operations and, where relevant, cross-functional business technologists who can expediently provide software integrations across the organization.
• Make process improvement a company-wide goal. Consider setting team-level or departmental goals around process improvements to encourage innovation and free up your teams’ valuable time to focus on higher-level strategy rather than mundane manual work.
With these steps in mind, organizations can help enable teams to get the absolute most out of their tools, self-service their technical challenges and innovate business processes, which can ultimately create a competitive advantage for the organization.