Low-Code Automation: The Key for Productive Data Management

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Click to learn more about author Param Kahlon.

With the pandemic upsetting the ways in which professionals across nearly every industry work, many organizations have recognized the need for technologies that facilitate productivity amid disruption. With many individuals working from home and removed from the structure afforded in an office environment, solutions that can make workers more agile — and their to-do lists more efficient — have become critical. After all, if staff don’t have support in their roles, they’re likely to become overwhelmed and make errors, which can jeopardize the management of and, consequently, the integrity of the information for which they’re responsible.

Even if the volume of data that employees are responsible for hasn’t changed since going remote, handling it under the various other pressures of the pandemic can prove to be challenging. Should employees become burnt out, companies risk them leaving the workforce, which in turn creates more work for remaining employees.

In the face of these challenges, automation technologies can help by offering that essential level of employee support. While automation in the workplace has been gaining traction for some time now, the coronavirus outbreak has underscored its vast organizational value, especially for when staff members aren’t in the office. With the power to streamline repetitive tasks like sourcing and aggregating data into designated locations — and complete them with increased accuracy — automation software can provide employees with hours back in their days to focus on more strategic work. This means they have more time to analyze and action the data they’re responsible for instead of simply collecting it. Additionally, providing employees with greater opportunity to exercise their creative and strategic muscles offers the benefit of job satisfaction, which in turn decreases the risk of burnout.

Despite this host of benefits, traditional automation programs still fall short in addressing workforces’ current realities, which is why organizations considering implementing automation programs (or scaling existing ones) must consider low-code technologies specifically.

Without Low-Code Capabilities, Automation Programs Won’t Reach Their Full Potential  

When a siloed IT team is responsible for rolling out entire automation programs, two issues arise: The speed at which these programs are deployed is slowed (as this team can only do so much at once), and the applications created may not be useful to everyone within the organization. Typically, when an organization deploys an automation program, business leaders choose to first automate tasks that will yield the highest ROI when expedited. Because software usage isn’t one-size-fits-all, this approach means that there will likely be a number of employees who do not benefit from these initial automation. Further, IT teams don’t always have insight into the broader business needs of individual employees across departments and job functions (a gap that can be exacerbated by the shift to remote work) and, therefore, may be developing applications based on assumptions of what will be useful.

For these reasons, employees need the opportunity to craft automation tailored to their individual needs, which will, in turn, maximize the value of the entire program. But for those who are not experts in automation themselves, it can be challenging to implement, tailor, and scale the software on their own, which can leave them excluded from the digital transformation initiative altogether. Here, low-code automation’s value excels.

Low-Code Automation in Action

As the name suggests, low-code automation requires little to no coding, thereby empowering users who are not proficient in scripting or coding the ability to easily automate certain tasks without relying on IT or customer development for assistance. Whether they want assistance filling out a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, creating an invoice, or even cleaning out an email junk folder, employees will be able to automate tedious day-to-day activities on their own. That said, low-code does not refer to the platform’s ability to create advanced applications. Rather, with organizational access to a low-code application builder, any employee — no matter their skill level — can build enterprise-grade applications that they can then share with others within the organization to promote productivity at scale, such as a contact center agent console that sources customer information from various systems while the employee is engaged.

Through a customizable interface, a low-code building platform uses visual modeling to create workflows, as opposed to manually scripting instructions line by line. By connecting an organization’s data systems to the builder, the platform enables users to aggregate whichever data they need to execute their roles, eliminating the need to repeatedly pull information from various locations. Employees can also decide whether their automation will be attended (ones working in tandem with them) or unattended (ones that don’t require human assistance to operate). Additionally, the builder can be programmed with aptitudes towards defined skills to encourage certain efficiencies (e.g., with a sophisticated document understanding model that can read unique documents, employees have the building blocks to design automation that can handle more document-based tasks).

Because the platform itself is a shared resource, employees use and build upon automation created by other employees, which promotes a quicker time to value for the program and accelerates digital transformation across the organization. Between applications employees input into the system and those that are pre-programmed, the potential of the program expands, and it becomes even easier for employees to develop automation over time.

To ensure all the data processed via these applications remains secured and organized, organizations can establish a Center of Excellence (CoE), a designated team of IT professionals, to approve employee-created automation. Once employees have the low-code tools and training to action them, they can submit their applications to the CoE to confirm whether they’re viable and compliant. The CoE can also assist in scaling automation across the business; since they review all applications before they go into use, they can identify those that could be valuable to other employees and alert others to their benefits.

Low-Code Automation Optimizes Workflows While Maximizing Resources — Enabling the Fully Automated Enterprise

When organizations approach automation as a core driver of enterprise-wide productivity — versus a tool restricted to select tasks or departments — they maximize the value of the program in which they invest and achieve what’s known as the fully automated enterprise. The ease of use of low-code programs democratizes automation, which not only empowers employees to excel in their specific roles but also accelerates business success at scale since staff are able to increase their output.

The global ad agency dentsu is one such organization working towards this goal, with aspirations of equipping each of its 6,000-plus employees with customizable robot support upon the realization that there were relatively few opportunities for large-scale automation applications. To achieve this, the company recently created an entire program for citizen developers or employees across the organization who possessed the insights for developing specialized applications. Upon launching the initiative, these developers were able to create automation that saved thousands of hours of work and were available for use by all other dentsu employees.

Additionally, with staff taking automation initiatives into their own hands, IT personnel regain more time in their days as well. Now, instead of ticking through a queue of inquiries, IT teams can focus on developing more mission-critical programs. They also will have increased availability to respond when there’s a technical issue that needs their attention. Even when staff are in the office, having individuals able to build automation on their own mitigates interruptions in productivity caused by needing to ask IT teams for assistance.

While automation technologies boast big promises, it’s low-code automation programs that will fuel success in today’s world of work. Without a dependence on IT teams to help establish applications, employees can design automation in ways that make the most sense to their unique style and subjects of work. The ease of use of low-code technologies allows staff to quickly action them when new business demands emerge, making their workloads more manageable so that the output of their efforts doesn’t suffer under stress. As a result, companies can evolve into fully automated enterprises — leveraging automation software to drive maximum impact, value, and productivity across the entire organization.

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