By Tom Paquin
We have a pretty good idea now that, especially among some change-resistant businesses, Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated digital transformation. There are questions about how quickly it’s accelerated it, but the general consensus is that we’re probably about five years further along than we would have been had things remained on their pre-Covid track. We’re seeing this play out as retail stores like Best Buy take their brick and mortar footprints and turn them into fulfillment centers. The shift to hybrid commerce has taken a huge leap in six months, and that’s true of service as well, with more companies approaching truck rolls with hesitation and building service models around augmented reality and connected assets.
So the drive to digitize is upon us, but often the means to do that effectively, and more importantly quickly, sometimes fall short of our expectations. Lengthy and complex implementations is often unavoidable, but customization of that software to fit your specific set of business rules doesn’t necessary need to be lengthy and complex.
We’ve talked about low-code before with respect to DevOps, and it’s something I talked about quite lot in my previous role at Aberdeen. There’s really no substitute to involving practitioners in the actual development of tools: It not only gives them a sense of agency, but it also allows you to conform the tools more closely to the day-to-day of your staff. We know what actually getting your technicians to push the buttons is often the biggest challenge of successfully implementing new service tools, and employing low-code solutions to set up elements of your software can go a long way to mitigate that.
On top of simply increasing the demand for technology across the board, Covid also acts as a bludgeon for implementing low-code platforms as well. Business rules have been changing quickly, restrictions pop up, staff levels fluctuate, and order volume takes a hit as well. Having the ability to adjust systematic rules quickly and without coding experience is a net gain for businesses across the spectrum, even more in service where fast resolution and appointment-making are the keys to success.
In order to think about low-code functionality, it’s key to get the concept of customization out of your vocabulary. Your service software should not be custom. Custom software draws a direct line to integration problems. Service software excels when, rather than custom, it’s configurable. Configuration is a fundamentally different concept, but as we move forward, we should be thinking about low-code along that axis instead. We’re not writing programs in low-code for service, they would be far too primitive. We’re configuring programs to the external factors of your business.
I do want to preface that configurations are not something that a novice will simply be able to pick up and excel at immediately. Even low-code engagements require a complex understand of the if-then framework at the heart of coding languages, and because of this, you are going to need a certain aptitude to get through the door. For that reason (and this is not a particularly revolutionary concept) it’s useful to have a technical Sherpa there to guide any new explorers up the mountain of development.