Software development success has always been a function of getting the right people in the right roles with a viable design and investment. That certainly seems a recipe for effective collaboration!
Still, even with the rise of agile approaches, the collaboration mostly happened (and still happens) in silos. You often find a group of developers and architects working together, and across the room sit the product and business stakeholders. Sometimes these business teams are in full understanding, but often they are in total confusion as to the status and the viability of the finished product.
When organizations use a low-code platform, also known as Application Platforms as a Service (aPaaS), to accelerate the development of business specific solutions, they have a new mandate for cross-functional collaboration. It's easy to invite business teams to be more hands-on in the development of new applications when you can show their ideas coming to life quickly. This opportunity for rapid development also means IT teams must relax their control over the process and, where appropriate, include non- developers in the development cycle.
Is this level of collaboration even possible?
There can be a lack of appreciation on both the tech and business teams.
- Business teams want to solve a problem, and they may see an opportunity without appreciating the scaleability or data mapping involved.
- Tech teams must ensure the viability of the code and the integrations, which requires following standard processes and development protocols.
While it may seem to some traditionalist coders that the citizen developer using low code platforms are something of a distraction, they actually could be a real boon to save developers time and let them focus on other priorities. At the least, tapping citizen developers as part of the broader effort is an opportunity ignored at the peril of business growth. Executives will continue to demand faster time to market, and the citizen developer route must be explored.
"We've long had to close the language gap between architects and business teams," says co-founder and Head of Nebu consultancy Liselott Alnestig. "Business people with big dreams sometimes buy software and then can't understand why it won't work the way they anticipated. IT teams are called in after the fact to clean up. Now, we are asking to include business teams - citizen developers- in the core work of development. There is bound to be some tension."
This new level of collaboration is not always easy. Software developers have been facing threats to their traditional work for years from outsourcing plans and Agile methods. Now, they hear that so-called citizen developers will be creating apps that will need design and maintenance from the IT team. Resistance, as the Borg once said, is futile.
" The business, any company big or small, now realize that they don't have to go to the IT department to have new systems developed, but they realize they can do it quickly and easily by themselves using low code platforms," Alnestig says. Change is continuous inevitable.
All are invited to be part of the solution.
Both the IT and business teams will need to work differently. "IT won't have control over all the systems that business people use," Alnestig says. "They will need different kinds of people employed in the IT department to support citizen developers and help them connect to legacy systems.
"At the same time, the imagination of business people can flourish. They can rapidly look at the market, see what demands there are, follow market trends or even lead them by rapidly developing new applications," she says.
At the same time, business people will want to bring in the help of the technical team. They will need this experience in design, integration and scalability. Business teams will need help understanding what a good solution looks like. Just because something is possible to build, it may not be the right thing to build, or the most efficient way to solve a problem. Technical teams have unique perspective and experience to resolve those questions.
Both sides will need to listen, respect and actively participate in the collaboration. The organizational culture must be in place to reward and celebrate this teamwork, where traditional silos exist, walls must be removed. Some technical team members may even be citizen developers themselves, in order to germinate a richer understanding of the marketplace and employee needs into the larger IT ecosystem and planning.
"It can be very satisfying for an architect or requirements manager to use low code solutions," Alnestig says. "To bring ideas forward quickly in ways that people can actually touch and feel - that is rewarding collaboration.
How is collaboration growing in your own organization? Could a low-code platform help you and your colleagues bring ideas to life faster and more efficiently?
Download our free whitepaper about Low-code in Swedish. A guide to technology that can dramatically increases the speed of application development and at the same time enables harmonization of the application portfolio.