Up until recently, companies were laser-focused on digital transformation because their biggest threat was disruption by cloud-native startups. To succeed with their digital transformation strategies, organizational leaders knew that their businesses needed to become more agile so they could pivot as necessary to weather the shifting competitive landscapes, business models, and customer expectations.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, making the business challenges brought on by digital disruption seem tame by comparison. The extreme circumstances we're faced with today necessitate what I call "extreme agility." Extreme agile requires businesses to adapt faster than ever before, and the only way they can do that successfully is to embrace even faster cycles of experimentation, testing, and iteration.
What's novel about what's happening now – and the thing that scares people the most – is that so many things are changing simultaneously including where we work, how we work, how we live, how we invest, and how we relate to other people.
Just a few weeks ago, there was a familiar, albeit accelerating, cadence to the business world, which was comparably predictable. Sure, digital disrupters were already changing things, but it took a couple or quite a few years before the total impact of the disruption was apparent.
The pandemic has left organizational leaders, their employees, customers, partners, and suppliers in a state of shock. As we've seen, businesses have had to adapt very quickly to the changing circumstances in ways they never anticipated, employees are working from home full-time or otherwise change their business models as necessary to continue operating. In fact, the impact of the current crisis is both global and systemic, meaning entire value chains are being impacted in ways that seemed inconceivable just a few weeks ago.
As companies navigate their way through the crisis and begin to recover from it, they'll find that rigid software designs and commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) are working against them. As a result, more IT organizations and development teams are likely to adopt or standardize on low-code.
Hypothesis-Driven Approaches Are Essential
In times of great uncertainty, assumptions can be dangerous. Creating products and hoping they will meet customers' requirements isn't just risky anymore—it's downright inadvisable. Instead, businesses must replace guesswork with a scientific approach which is to form a hypothesis. Proving or disproving that hypothesis means creating more MVPs, prototypes, and POCs than before and turning them out faster than ever. As we've recently witnessed, the course of history can change dramatically from one week to another.
The level of continuous innovation that companies will have to embrace involves continuous testing because the current state of everything is very fluid right now. With low-code, ideas can be tested and iterated very quickly. Businesses need that kind of flexibility and speed as we move through and out of the current crisis.
Aging Mission-Critical Systems Aren't Going Anywhere
Legacy systems are a fact of life, regardless of what's happening in the world. Many companies have decades-old technology that remains mission-critical. However, those systems must become more flexible to deliver value in the rapidly changing business environment.
COBOL and FORTRAN are not the way to manage change. A wiser path is to use an enterprise-grade low-code platform to build innovative applications around and on top of legacy systems. That way, businesses can combine the stability of their mission-critical legacy systems with the flexibility and modern user experiences that a low-code platform can deliver.
As businesses rethink their places in the world, that kind of balance is essential. Companies tend to invest less in technology in bear markets than they do in bull markets. Low-code is a wise choice either way. Assuming the platform is technology agnostic because in times of contraction it can be used to drive value from aging assets and in times of expansion, low-code can provide a seamless path to the future.
Uncertain Economic Conditions Necessitate a Different Approach to Technology
Because the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic are systemic, organizational leaders are pondering the potential changing nature of everything. If current suppliers and partners can't deliver, they know they will have to find replacements quickly. As customer demands for products and services rise and fall, they need to adapt or reimagine the business. As the world changes around us, they will need to acclimate.
Arguably, companies have been facing those same challenges throughout history. What's new is the simultaneous impact of the current crisis on every entity that exists today. For some, that's meant operating above normal capacity. For others, it's an existential crisis. “If we can’t sell in brick and mortar stores, what can we do?” Yet, the fighters, regardless of resources, are innovating. They're coming up with new products, new services, and new business models because what worked well a few weeks ago may not be working as well, or at all, right now.
Success in this time of rapid and dramatic change requires businesses to decouple their futures from specific technologies. That way, if they need to leverage old assets longer than they'd hoped to, they can. Conversely, if they need to adopt new technologies, they can do so without rewriting their existing applications. A solid low-code platform abstracts out the underlying technologies.
Focus on What Matters
Current circumstances require businesses to be nimbler than they've been previously. While no one knows how long the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak will persist, industry observers are quick to say that the old normal is but a memory and that everyone must learn how to adapt to "the new normal." Our world has fundamentally changed in ways that cannot be comprehended completely yet.
The only way to cope with rapid, dynamic change well is to adapt swiftly and gracefully. Low-code can help foster the kinds of business continuity and innovation businesses will need in 2020 and beyond.
Interested in learning about how organizations are addressing uncertainty? Sign up for the webinar, “Ready or Not: The Sudden Urgency of Digital,” that OutSystems is hosting May 14, 2020.