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From back-end developers to mission-critical workplace automation: The low-code advantage

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Workplace automation has recently emerged from the back offices of engineers and programmers to the front offices of some of the most powerful companies in existence.

As the optimal output of data management, knowledge management, content services, and digitization itself, workplace automation generates the kinetic business action by which organizations win or lose with their IT investments, and its horizontal utility applies to any industry and use case.

More than the solidification of cognitive computing approaches, dynamic software agents, and business process technology, its newfound mission-critical importance in the enterprise can be attributed to a shift: the rise of low-code development, which allows business users to build and change applications, responding quicker to change. “One of the reasons low code is so powerful is that it enables this kind of real-world design thinking that allows you to put the business and IT people that are responsible for a process in a room and have them build it in real time using low code as they rethink it and redesign it,” said Don Schuerman, CTO of Pegasystems.

Low-code application building is related to several dimensions of workplace automation that are rapidly coalescing, including the following:

♦ Business process management (BPM): An early adopter of the low-code approach, BPM technology allows users to draw processes, then transform “a representation of that process into a running application,” said Carole Winqwist, vice president of marketing at Bonitasoft.

♦ Decision management: Similar to case management options, decision management solutions focus on automating processes in which individual circumstances change their course based on people’s decisions.

♦ Robotics process automation (RPA): RPA facilitates workplace automation with virtual agents that “build an automation pipeline so you can move to a digitally transformed organization where everyone in your company has automation at their fingertips,” said Kashif Mahbub, vice president of product marketing at Automation Anywhere.

♦ Process mining, process discovery: Process mining and process discovery help organizations refine and identify new processes to automate.

♦ Integration: Integrating disparate data, systems, and approaches is indispensable to automation—as is orchestrating their runtimes. According to Mike Gilfix, IBM vice president of cloud integration, “Typically these systems interact with existing systems of record within an enterprise. You need some technology that makes it possible to get the data out of those systems and into the hands of your business process.”

♦ Machine intelligence: Facets of computer vision, natural language processing, and machine learning imbue machine intelligence into automation use cases, increasing their utility.

This confluence of automation imperatives enable organizations to expand low code’s value from IT teams to business users for a variety of mission-critical deployments. The wide-ranging scenarios include improving claims processing in insurance, speeding drug development in pharmaceuticals, advancing health research to cure diseases, and expediting crane setups in construction. The automation opportunities are as endless as the possibilities that low coding delivers.

The benefits exceed simply paring costs. For example, Schuerman cited a telecommunications customer service use case in which workplace automation supported the ability to improve the customer experience to help retain those customers, as well as the ability to sell those customers additional products. “It goes from being a nice practical efficiency in the back office to something that’s strategic and central to the business.”

Low code versus no code

The low-code value proposition is simple. It lets business users automate processes central to their enterprise functions. This capacity is invaluable, Gilfix said, citing Forrester research that there will be a gap of 500,000 developers by 2024. Low-code options enable the business to surmount IT backlogs by designing automation applications themselves with a variety of approaches. However, it is important to understand that low code isn’t synonymous with no code application development which, according to Winqwist, “is not imaginable in a complex process.” No-code app development involves a graphic or observational means of automating processes bereft of scripting.

Low-code methods begin with these techniques but, in the case of RPA, eventually involve developer assistance. “When you want the bot to do five other things, that’s when you hand it over to a programmer and he adds more capabilities,” Mahbub said. Low code’s value is derived from empowering business experts to automate processes that fulfill organizational objectives. It’s the blueprint for easy collaborations with IT, which is still needed for processes such as extending an application to integrate with a legacy system, or to implement single sign-on, Winqwist observed.

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