Whoa! Low-Code Finds Sweet Spot with Enterprise CIOs (Part 1)

Eric Bloom, Executive Director of the IT Management and Leadership Institute

(This is the first installment of a two-part series on how low-code development unlocks the power of IT productivity, featuring Eric Bloom (@EricPBloom), former CIO, best-selling author and Executive Director of the IT Management and Leadership Institute.) 

Never mind the scuttlebutt about low-code development being only good for small departmental applications and small-scale development. The truth is that the modern low-code platform has found a sweet spot with the enterprise CIO looking to inject Agile development processes into her IT organization.

Why? Because she understands the urgency of digital transformation and how the best low-code platforms are now a must-have for the speed and agility required for the largest organizations to turn on a dime and deliver business outcomes faster than ever before.

Back in the day, though, there was skepticism about low-code’s ability to generate business benefits beyond the next IT deliverable. Critics worried about a so-called “seat-of-the-pants” approach to building high quality, maintainable, reusable software. But perhaps the best counterbalance to that argument is that a whopping 75% of companies worry about not being able to deliver applications as quickly as the business needs them, according to a recent Forrester survey.

This is not a problem you want to have when your customer value chain is under relentless attack by digital disruptors.

So, we’re now in a situation where an overwhelming 84% of companies have turned to low-code development to reduce strain on IT resources, increase speed-to-market, and get business leaders involved in digital asset development, according to Forrester.

Which brings us to this timely conversation with former CIO, technologist and best-selling author Eric Bloom.

As a former CIO, Bloom knows a thing or two about IT productivity. He’s written best-selling books about it. In this straight-talking interview, Bloom breaks down the evolution of low-code application development and how it can help CIOs unlock the power of IT productivity.

“With the convergence of cloud computing, digital transformation and tech-savvy business professionals,” says Bloom, “low-code technology is now ready to rise like a phoenix and take its place as a critical part of every strategic thinking CIO’s agenda.”

Hope you enjoy the conversation.

Appian: Hi Eric, and welcome to Digital Masters. You’ve served as a senior IT executive at a Fortune 500 company. Today, you’re the Executive Director of the IT Management and Leadership Institute. So, what does the institute do?

Bloom: The ITML Institute is the governing body for two certifications for IT management, the IT Management and Leadership Professional (ITMLP) and the IT Management and Leadership Executive (ITMLE). We specialize in helping IT professionals enhance their leadership and business skills.

Unlocking the Power of  IT Productivity

Appian: You recently published an article on CIO.com about the evolution of rapid application development and how low-code development is catching on with CIOs. The notion of rapid application development has been around for years. So why is low-code development catching on with CIOs now?

Bloom: It’s about driving IT productivity. Over the years, I’ve used various no-code/low-code tools to develop systems or suggest them (low-code tools) to people dealing with the problem of shadow IT. So, I remember those tools from way back when they were not of the quality or sophistication that they are now.

In their current form, many low-code/no-code tools can now be viewed as true enterprise-based platforms, that can be used to enhance IT’s productivity, facilitate the development of quality shadow IT built software that fits into the overall corporate infrastructure.

Appian: You also argue that it’s good to see that this class of development platforms has finally arrived. What did you mean by that?

Bloom: I’ve described the current version of these platforms as being like a phoenix that’s risen from the ashes, that is to say, that they have been reinvented in a way that now truly helps organizations move faster and deliver better business outcomes. In fact, I believe that most companies have various IT projects that the could consider “technical low-hanging fruit” that could be quickly developed using low-code/no-code technology.

In addition to enhanced user interfaces, the real technical advance is their back-end data integration. That’s a big deal because IT can control the data, make sure it’s accurate and properly secured.

Appian: Which brings us to the strategic value of low-code platforms. How can CIOs can take advantage of these platforms to elevate their status in the organization as a strategic business partner to their C-Suite peers?

Low-Code Delivers Profitable ROI

Bloom: If you look at the challenge from an IT perspective, a low-code platform is a rapid development tool. There are also many small applications that would be helpful to departments, such as budgeting, accounts payable, recruiting, etc.  The primary reason that IT hasn’t paid attention to these small applications is because of their cost/benefit analysis.

It doesn’t make good business sense to spend $200K in a software development effort to save a few hours of work per week. However, with the rapid development features of low-code development, it suddenly becomes financially feasible from an ROI standpoint.

Appian: So, how did application development work before low-code?

Bloom: Before, the business analysts would collect the requirements. Those requirements would be converted into a document that would used as the basis to built the software.

Today, the business analyst, sitting with the user, can effectively build the application on the fly. So, it (low-code) dramatically reduces costs by speeding up development and implementation.

Appian: But there are still skeptics out there. What do you say to IT people who worry that if we make application development too easy, it’s going to make the shadow IT problem that much worse?

Bloom: I’m not suggesting that business users develop software on their own with IT assistance. I’m suggesting that an IT professional, who has been properly trained on how to use the (low-code development) tool, can potentially develop two or three small applications a week for the business community.

Eliminating the Problem of Shadow IT

Appian: So, you see IT playing a role in overseeing the process.

Bloom: Yes, absolutely.

Appian: So, you’re arguing that IT and not business should be building low-code applications?

Bloom: 

What I’m suggesting is that IT would be building these low-code applications  and a way to reduce shadow IT.

It’s an awful position to be in, from a CIO’s perspective, where you tell one of the groups you’re being paid to support: “No we can’t build this application for you because it doesn’t meet our ROI requirements. And by the way, we don’t want you to build it either.”

This can cause the businessperson to say: “The heck with IT. We’ll just build our own app and use it until it becomes unmanageable, then let IT figure it out.”  It’s much better to have IT professionals and knowledgeable business user work together from start, creating a win for both groups.

If you’re ready to reap the benefits of a modern low-code development platform, check out “Large Enterprises Succeeding With Low-Code” on Appian.com.

(Also, be sure to tune in next week for the final episode of our two-part conversation about why low-code development is catching on with enterprise CIOs.)

 

 

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