What is a low-code platform and how can it accelerate digital transformation?

in Technology, 21.09.2020

Low-code can speed up your digital transformation in the face of COVID-19 and the new normal

COVID-19 has forced organizations to quickly adapt to operating conditions that are deteriorating far faster than in previous economic downturns.

Current processes are inefficient

The COVID-19 pandemic sent most of us home to work, abruptly changing the work environment almost overnight. Suddenly, processes that worked with everyone in the office became harder and took much longer; we couldn’t stop by a coworkers’ desk to discuss an issue or ask a quick question to someone sitting across from us.

In many cases, this slowdown exposed previously hidden problems. It took mass homeworking for many organizations to realize their business processes were inefficient, difficult to adapt, and were only functioning because of human workarounds.

A faster way to transform the organization

Using technology to address these challenges with a traditional and custom development approach is difficult. It usually requires long hours of manual coding that is notoriously prone to human error. Organizations that rely on this method require both time and highly skilled developers, two things that are scarce in this difficult period.

Fortunately, there’s a faster way to accelerate digital transformation: software development platforms that use prebuilt and drag-and-drop functionalities. These prebuilt functions allow developers — or should we say configurators — to quickly assemble scalable business applications in the cloud or on-premises to:

  1. orchestrate complex processes efficiently and gain full visibility into processes where several teams and types of resources (human and machine) are involved
  2. expand the functionality of existing information systems that lack business-critical functionalities
  3. support or even replace existing back-office legacy applications.

As these applications can be accessed in both web and mobile environments, users can begin a work process on a tablet or mobile and then finish it on their desktops — offering a single and unified user experience.

Low-code use cases are practically limitless

To get their workforce back to normal in a safe and orderly way, organizations can use a low-code platform to quickly create pandemic response management systems to support and communicate with employees and facilitate other repetitive but critical tasks.

Quick and simple examples include:

  • accepting and processing return-to-work applications
  • automating tasks for employees who cannot return to work
  • capturing and managing incidents and issuing daily situation reports to management.

 

A bank uses a low-code platform to accelerate digital transformation

At one multinational bank, a low-code application development platform played a central role in the digital transformation of its consumer finance operations, helping it slice through project backlogs despite limited resources. Its low-codeenabled applications now handle a wide range of customer-facing operations digitally, minimizing response times to customers and improving customer satisfaction. Low-code applications also support middle-office activities such as customer onboarding, credit, collections, and teller systems. Thanks to its reliance on a lowcode approach to programming, the bank was able to dramatically speed up its time to market.

The new architecture enables fast and flexible development and maximizes the reuse of code across multiple products and channels. The bank is now able to quickly digitize processes and streamline operations so that it can launch new products and channels in a much more efficient way. These improvements and innovations are transforming the way that the bank operates and engages with partners and customers.

 

Over the years, low-code platforms have evolved from simple workflow solutions to advanced digital platforms orchestrating multiple underlying technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA) and optical character recognition (OCR). Organizations are increasingly using these platforms to boost their digital transformation, allowing them to take smaller, less-disruptive steps straight away, instead of sweeping changes that are time-consuming and costly.

Typical use cases in the financial industry include:

  • digital/mobile onboarding of new clients with automated know your customer (KYC)/anti-money laundering (AML) checks, direct client outreach, and integration with different data providers
  • management of the entire claims value chain, from reception to payment
  • a self-service app that digitizes the cash servicing process, allowing clients to submit requests, set approvals based on thresholds, and route transactions for execution.

Five tips from KPMG for low-code success

To ensure your organization gets the most out of low code, we recommend you adopt the following leading practices:

Understand the low-code marketplace and determine how these platforms fit into your broader enterprise architecture. Determine the capabilities you need and which platform vendors you will work with and when, and which applications need experienced development professionals and which can rely on citizen developers.

 

Rather than waiting for new applications to be fully baked, encourage developers to launch prototypes quickly in a controlled test environment, solicit rapid feedback, and then continually reiterate and improve the application in response to ongoing feedback until it is ready for prime time. The point is not to wait for a large, single release where perfect happens all at once. The point is to drive rapid, incremental automation and efficiency.

 

While it is true that someone with no coding experience could develop simple applications using low-code platforms, creating more complex applications can be challenging, and a software developer’s experience and sophistication will improve the odds of quick success. Experienced developers also will be familiar with the importance of shepherding projects through an appropriate sequence of development, testing, and production.

 

Low-code platforms are designed to enable custom development rapidly, but that doesn’t mean they are fit for every purpose. In some cases, the amount of customization required may make a traditional approach more effective. In others, purpose-built, off-the-shelf software applications may be serviceable. In still others, combining commercial off-the-shelf software with a low-code application may be the most agile and flexible approach to solving a problem or meeting a need. Lastly, an army of citizen developers building too many siloed applications could prove unwieldy.

 

With so many possible applications, a center of excellence for low-code software development, backed by experienced developers and business unit experts conversant with low-code platforms, will be a useful long-term resource for citizen developers and endusers alike. This center of excellence can establish rules of the road with formal governance policies, ensure consistency across applications, and act as a repository for reusable assets.

Conclusion

The pandemic has disrupted the work environment in its tracks, exposing existing flaws in business processes. A key lesson to take from the challenges faced so far is to resist returning to old ways of delivering services. Instead, this is a golden opportunity to prepare for the new normal by considering alternatives like low code to accelerate your digital transformation and become more resilient for your clients and employees.

Get in touch

If you have any questions or would like additional advice, please get in touch.

 

This article has been written together with Jean-Christophe Denis

Source: KPMG LLP (2020)