Every journey begins with a first step. Click here to read the first installment of The Low-Code Journey: From App to Digital Transformation by Jason Bloomberg.

Solving the Bimodal IT Problem

The transition from traditional, paperwork-laden portfolio management to a more agile, end-to-end approach that supports rather than impedes the rapid delivery of software is merely one facet of the broad-based transformation challenging most enterprise IT shops today.

In reality, IT transformation initiatives are driving a disconnect in enterprise IT organizations between fast and slow, digital and legacy, iterative and waterfall.

This “bimodal IT” pattern threatens the success of many digital initiatives, as organizations struggle to maintain a focus on the customer as they transform their IT organizations. IT leaders quickly realize that such transformation impacts not only technology, but people and processes as well. Purchasing all the latest gear won’t lead to successful transformations unless these “softer” targets change as well.

As such organizations progress on their low-code journeys, they are able to leverage such platforms to “bring IT to the digital table” by empowering the IT organization to support LoB digital priorities with the speed and flexibility they require.

One organization that has successfully implemented OutSystems to bring its IT organization and its LoBs together is the Worcestershire County Council in the UK. The council executed a program (“programme” as they call it) to implement a citizen-centric eGovernment initiative, with a goal of delivering all of its services online.

Building web and mobile apps were only part of the challenge. The council also had to integrate them with a variety of back-office applications. “Citizens want to conduct their business with the council at a time that suits them,” explained Neill Crump, head of technology development and customer services for the Worcestershire County Council. “Take the copies of certificates. The application is so simple to use that people don’t ring us anymore. And 99 percent of our library renewals are now taken by a simple online option.”

This eGovernment initiative required numerous back-office integrations, as this graphic illustrates.

Low-Code Integration Architecture (Source: Worcestershire County Council)

For the council, the benefits of implementing an end-to-end low-code platform extended beyond the value to citizens of the county. “We need to get a lot closer to our partners such as the NHS, the police, the schools, the Department for Work and Pensions, for example,” Crump continued.

This example of Worcestershire County Council illustrates the importance of connecting existing applications to modern ones in order to support customer-driven digital demands. Yet, for other organizations, the challenges involve transformation of the existing IT environment itself.

Few if any no-code platforms are up to this task. Even some low-code platforms cannot support the proper transformation of the legacy IT environment. Royal Vopak – a tank storage company based in the Netherlands – overcame this challenge as part of their terminal management system initiative. “The development of this terminal management system is part of a larger IT transformation program within Vopak,” according to Leo Brand, Vopak’s CIO. “In parallel, we are phasing out our old ERP system and will only support our business with PaaS and SaaS applications going forward.”

Vopak decided to implement the OutSystems low-code platform. “OutSystems enables us to build our own custom applications, bringing them to the business as a PaaS and implementing changes extremely fast,” according to Vopak CEO Leo Brand. “This provides Vopak with the ability to innovate the company’s core processes, really making a difference in comparison to our competition.”

The Ongoing Digital Journey

The Kent State, Worcestershire County Council and Vopak stories underscore the diversity of digital transformation efforts taking place today. This diversity is a fundamental characteristic of such transformation, as enterprises must effect end-to-end change to meet changing customer demands.

Low-code platforms like OutSystems are important enablers of such end-to-end transformation. It supports rapid iterations of customer-facing apps, while simultaneously supporting the even more challenging transformation of existing IT – not just the technology, but the processes and roles people play as well.

The fact that low-code involves a journey, from one or two apps to multiple apps to ongoing strategic transformation, also emphasizes the fundamental reality that change is constant, chaotic and accelerating. The apps themselves are never the endpoint, as they will continue to evolve and proliferate over time.

Change, therefore, is not a temporary state between the status quo and some future nirvana. Instead, change itself is the reality of business – and this context of change as a core competency both drives and leverages the power of low-code platforms like OutSystems that recognize and empower ongoing transformation.

What, then, does the end of the low-code journey look like? If you believe that you’ll ever be finished – that you’ll achieve some digitally transformed state in which you’ve built every app you need – you’ve missed the point. The journey is never-ending, as our ability to deal with change and to leverage change for competitive advantage continues to improve over time.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. OutSystems is an Intellyx client. At the time of writing, none of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx clients. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper.