Digital Transformation
Image Source: Dominic Smith

Member Article

Coming out of lockdown: harnessing Britons’ newfound digital mindset

Nick Ford, VP Product Marketing and Community, Mendix

The world has changed faster in the past few months than in the years prior – the lockdown has forced all office workers to adapt to a working from home environment, underpinned by technologies that fuel digital transformation. And even though offices are starting to reopen, the reality is that the world of work will never be the same as it was prior to COVID-19.

Lessons from the lockdown

Prior to the lockdown, the quality of experience for employees working from home varied tremendously depending on how much their company believed in flexible, remote working. While some would have access to the same tools in and out of the offices through the cloud, others were limited to the basics – an email address, a working phone and documents they would have to save on their laptop to ensure they could access them.

Those that already had sophisticated systems in place to enable their employees to work from any location found the transition from an office-based workforce to a remote one fairly smooth. But for the bulk of British workers, the changes were tremendous – something that IT teams felt acutely across the country. From having to drop long-term innovative projects to focus their effort on fixing immediate issues, such as allowing a member of staff to access a centralised server; to solving cybersecurity issues due to members of staff using unauthorised apps or devices, the work of the IT team became more complex overnight.

In addition to having to shift priorities, dedicating up to 50% of the IT team’s time simply to solve challenges linked to remote working , many businesses faced two more headaches: coping with fewer members of the technical team as companies had to use the furlough scheme; and working on smaller budgets to deliver the same level of innovation.

Solutions to the digital transformation conundrum

With less time and fewer resources to innovate, businesses have started to explore new technologies to deliver the applications that they require. For many, this starts with a quest for elusive software developers who can create new services and implement digital transformation projects. While this approach worked well in the past, in today’s climate, it is doomed to fail: there are simply not enough developers to fill all open positions around the country, and the rate of innovation is increasing so fast even the most experienced developers can no longer cope with it. Continuing to rely solely on developers to drive all innovation adds to the workload of an already busy team, leading to a pile of unfinished or delayed projects as new priorities come in – and eventually burnout across the IT team.

Instead, business must empower non-technical staff to actively participate in the creation, development and implementation of digital transformation projects in collaboration with IT. Capitalising on the knowledge and eagerness of entrepreneurial, digitally-savvy spirits across the organisation, organisations can create a powerful team of citizen developers who work hand-in-hand with IT to turn any business idea into an application that supports the company and helps it continue to grow.

One way to harness this untapped potential is through low-code. Based on a visual development approach with drag-and-drop components, low-code enables developers of varied experience levels to create applications for web and mobile. This enables non-technical developers to participate in the creation of the app, while relieving professional developers of tedious plumbing and infrastructure tasks, giving them greater opportunity to focus on innovation.

This approach also brings an additional benefit: by getting non-technical staff involved in the development of apps, companies can improve dialogue between developers and the rest of the workforce. That open line of communication means that business-focused staff can better understand the challenges of the IT team and become more tech-savvy, while IT professionals can improve their knowledge of the wider business and take a more strategic approach to the challenges they are tasked with solving. This more collaborative stance leads to more engaged employees who will work together to deliver on the company’s vision – both in the short term as we come out of the current crisis, and for the longer-term as the economy recovers.

Management theory has talked about harnessing the power of intrapreneurs for years – it’s time to tap into the potential of tech-minded intrapreneurs to drive digital transformation across the country.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Mendix .

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