7 Things Every CIO Wants Corporate Execs to Know About Business Agility
Pressure, risk, and opportunity in business is nothing new. What’s new and different is that technology — all sorts of technology — emerges, matures, and becomes commonplace at accelerating rates. In response, businesses scramble to capitalize on the opportunities that rapidly emerging and increasingly prevalent technologies create. For instance, until recently, companies primarily depended on traditional application development methods —manual coding— to build apps. But, today’s agile business looks to low-code development tools to meet the ever-changing and expanding opportunities tech offers.
Technologies like AI, the IIoT, virtual reality, blockchain, wearables, offline mobile capabilities, and others are front and center today, while five years from now, it will be some other emerging technology causing a stir. A company using low-code can quickly exploit these emerging technologies to build multiexperience applications and potentially beat its competition in the race to capitalize on opportunities. But keeping the business agile is not easy. Every senior executive must do his or her part to anticipate and respond to risks and opportunities that are fueled by market, consumer, and technology changes. And when it comes to technology, the CIO is perhaps an under-utilized fountain of wisdom and experience. If a corporate executive were to have an unplugged conversation with their CIO, he or she would say the following about business agility.
#1: A business isn’t agile just because you say so.
Lots of executives make a big deal of saying, “We’re agile,” particularly in speeches, presentations, and annual reports. However, a business isn’t truly agile unless it embraces the agile philosophy and values. That means everyone and everything — people, processes, technologies, operating models, company culture, yes everything — has agile at its core.
#2: Agile has been around for a while, and it has a very specific definition.
Agile started with software development but quickly spilled over into construction, learning, business in general, and even manufacturing. Broadly, it relies on iterative and incremental effort and progress, and specifically, the ability to respond and adapt quickly. An agile business:
- Adapts quickly to internal and external changes;
- Responds quickly to customer demands;
- Adapts and leads change in a cost-effective, productive way, without compromising quality; and
- Maintains continuous competitive advantage.
Ultimately, business agility is a company’s entire set of capabilities and behaviors that allow employees and executives (individually and collectively) to be adaptive, creative, and resilient as they face uncertainty, complexity, and change. Similarly, by embodying the principles of agile through collaboration, transparency, iterative development, and continuous feedback, low-code platforms can enhance the success of app development and ensure that applications meet the changing business and customer demands.
Case in point: Zurich Insurance, a 146-year old global insurance provider, turned to agile development to beat digital disruption and execute on three strategic goals: customer focus, simplification, and innovation. Using low-code and a development team that includes backgrounds in both business analysis and computer science, Zurich developed a large portfolio of successful applications – from policy administration systems to customer portals, to an app that turns a selfie into a life insurance quote – to meet its goals.
#3: An agile business is customer-centric.
When a business adopts agile, it can respond quickly to changing customer needs. It doesn’t matter if the demands are from internal or external customers. Two key values are baked into agile — prioritizing individuals and interactions over processes and tools and placing a high value on customer collaboration. It makes perfect sense — when the customer is central to the business, the business is in a much better position to sense and respond to shifts in customer attitudes, needs, and desires.
Take the case of Averta, an IT services company with a focus on the utility and energy industry. The new ways that customers are consuming energy are forcing energy and utility providers to evolve beyond being commodity-based and provide better customer experiences. Avertra’s vision was to help the energy and utility companies transform the way they provided services to their customers. Powered by low-code and microservices architecture, Avertra built a SaaS platform that can be customized per the special requirements of the utility and energy providers, enabling them to offer superior services to their customers. Averta’s customer-centric posture allowed it to be more agile and responsive to the utility industry’s needs and be prepared to address whatever new challenges its customers will encounter.
#4: An agile business is highly collaborative.
Everyone would agree that collaboration among members of a technical development team is important. But what about cross-functional teams and throughout various levels of an organization? An agile business embraces collaboration between IT and business stakeholders. When the organization’s low-code tool has robust built-in collaboration, it lowers the business risk of projects by identifying business requirements and critical defects earlier and allowing all stakeholders to take ownership of innovation and quality.
#5: Speaking of technology, make it ubiquitous.
A key precept of IIoT is making metrics and knowledge ubiquitous. The same holds true for technology initiatives, at least to a certain extent. (Certainly, some tech isn’t quite right for the masses – think simulation software, or maybe statistical process control (SPC)). The days of needing a heavily-staffed development group to create a new application or platform are fading away. Usually, the traditional approach to application development doesn’t support the agile business approach. When a company needs to respond quickly to opportunities and customer needs, it must have the right app development tools like low-code in its arsenal. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity.
Furthermore, with the growing IT backlog, companies can’t limit the tool to just a select few developers. Certainly, everyone responsible for application development and testing should have access to the low-code tool, but it also makes sense to extend it to citizen developers and business stakeholders who can actively collaborate with the development team to build the apps – faster and better.
#6: Don’t let skills shortage or complexity get in the way.
When the team has a business agility mindset, it doesn’t let lack of resources, lack of knowledge, or technical complexity get in the way. For example, if the company wants to develop a native mobile app for internal or external use, it may not be able to apply traditional application development methodologies to get the job done in time for both the operating systems – iOS and Android. Or, the IT team may lack the right combination of skills that span IoT technology, AR/VR, chatbots, etc. to develop multiexperience apps. With a common visual language, the ability to reuse code, platform extensibility, and more, low-code solves these problems by centralizing the entire application lifecycle — right from designing, developing, testing, deploying to managing and analyzing the apps. These elements help the company innovate faster and speed time-to-market, which can mean the difference between being first in the market or last on the scene.
#7: It’s possible to arm a diverse workforce for business agility.
A rapid app development toolset can satisfy diverse end-users. Professional developers can use low-code to focus more on the creative and intellectual problem-solving process that heightens their sense of accomplishment, rather than formatting XML data and hand-coding domain models. On the other hand, citizen developers, the business professional with a brilliant idea, can translate their idea into a basic working app in a governed manner.
In the first case, a company enables speed, efficiency, quality, and job satisfaction while in the second, it eliminates a lack of coding knowledge as a barrier to innovation. Ultimately, a company potentially has many levels of app developers, and low-code solutions democratize the ability to add value through app development.
Last Word: Is Your Business Truly Agile?
How does your company build its apps? Is the app development process agile enough to meet the customer needs and exploit the latest tech? If your company hasn’t been using low-code, you might not be able to legitimately call your business agile. Ultimately, the agile business strives to modify its strategy along the way, apply technology, and use it faster, better, and more creatively than the competition. With a low-code app development tool, regardless of who the technology serves, it will arm business leaders and IT to respond quickly to customer expectations, minimize cost and risk, and ensure high-quality outcomes.