Application development, professionals in a meeting

Application Development brings a needs-based approach to operations and IT

By Nicole Blohm, Director of Portfolio Architecture, Ricoh USA, Inc. 


A “needs-based” approach brings new perspectives into application development and process automation.

Read time: 4 minutes

Gone are the days when IT departments were the sole gatekeepers to technology decisions within an organization.

Sometimes, we just need to get work done. And, thanks to low code/no code applications, technology solutions can be built incredibly efficiently based on the needs of workers. This “needs-based” approach brings new perspectives into application development.

Many will talk about the role of “citizen developers” in low code/no code development. According to Gartner, a citizen developer is an employee outside of an IT department “who creates application capabilities for consumption by themselves or others.” They build these tools because they are needed to perform a function efficiently and productively.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that colleagues in marketing or finance, for example, should develop applications – they have day jobs after all! But their perspective and knowledge can inform the needs that IT solves.

As business professionals, we all know that needs across businesses change incredibly frequently. What better way to demonstrate agility than to build solutions that solve the challenges colleagues say they’re experiencing?

While not new, a needs-based approach can be a shift for some within the organization. With that shift, comes new decision-making priorities. Historically, many technology decisions have been based on internal IT expertise with legacy tools.

But now, other priorities come into play such as:

  • Consumer-grade user experiences 

  • Individual/team needs

  • Business goals and longer-term value

A study from Boston Consulting Group that found 70 percent of digital transformation projects fail. Why? It could be because the needs were not the drivers of the decision.

The shift

These priorities empower others, outside of IT, to drive business technology decision-making. Digital transformations – once mainly projects managed by technologists – are now led by finance teams, operations teams, or others.

According to an EY survey of 570 C-suite and senior business leaders, almost half (49%) of corporate companies are planning for executive-level governance of emerging technology, but only 8% already have a well-established and active technology governance model. It’s no secret that digital transformation initiatives have accelerated in the last 20 months – both those that follow a traditional route and those that are adopting an as-a-service approach to it.

While it’s easy to understand the high-level benefits of a digital transformation, success can only be achieved if day-to-day users are educated on how to put the new tools to work and if they are built to solve problems that these users are experiencing in their workflows.

Consider the study from Boston Consulting Group that found 70 percent of digital transformation projects fail. Why? It could be because the needs were not the drivers of the decision.

Those outside of IT, such as citizen developers, take a fresh perspective. They look at needs and then find a solution for them. It’s an approach that is almost as reversed as the purchase drivers of business and IT leaders.

These variances – collaboration and innovation for business and applying existing technical expertise to lower cost and reduce the time for IT – are no surprises. They also no longer need to be diametrically opposed, allowing for an elegant shift of focus to business drivers without overburdening IT.

Enter Low code/No Code

While low code/no code are generally bundled together, they do require different levels of expertise to build.

Most low code development is done by someone who has a “101” level knowledge of coding, while no code building can be done by almost anyone. Regardless of the variances, the goal is a common one: to solve efficiency problems.

While low-code platforms have been around for decades, they’re much more popular among digital leaders thanks to their role within cloud-based digital transformations and their need for less software development time and resources. This allows the business to focus on its needs and experience results faster than ever.

Determining the most urgent needs

When determining priorities, ask yourself these questions:

  • What, if anything, is bottlenecking our teams’ workflows? 

  • What is the end-user experience like? Will it make their lives easier?

  • What value would this technology bring to my organization? 

  • How long will that value last?

Digital Transformation-as-a-Service

How to find the answers

Ask the questions! If you’re taking a needs-based approach to application development, it’s useful to ask those who will be using the technology what their individual needs are. They might not always be what you think they are.

Frontline workers or those at the execution level have valuable perspectives on inefficient or manual practices in current processes that can be valuable to the organization’s longer-term goals. So don’t be afraid to ask non-manager level team members their thoughts on business value as well-in fact, it’s critical to your success.

How to find the right application development team 

Perhaps your organization does not have citizen developers, or your IT department is overloaded with other priorities. Don’t be afraid to work with a partner who has the expertise and the portfolio to address your specific and unique business needs. 

External partners can also provide support for your IT department on a large-scale rollout. This can free them up to manage the myriad of responsibilities IT department staff face today such as the ever-expanding resources needed to focus on cybersecurity

Achieving digital success

It’s important to remember that a true transformation doesn’t have an end date. It is an ongoing journey where employee and customer experiences must continually be evaluated to evolve and take advantage of new technology advancements. 

This year you may start with low-code implementations, and next year your plan could include integrating AI and machine learning to create an Intelligent Assistant chatbot or enhancing a workflow through the application of Augmented or Virtual Reality. 

However, while technological advancement will always be an ongoing initiative, don’t forget to create and communicate specific goals and milestones throughout the journey. Keep cross-functional teams of technology and business stakeholders up-to-speed on when milestones are met, ask for their feedback and adjust your future strategy based on their input. 

Collaborating with your leadership team to re-iterate milestones and future goals will also gain team support and ultimately, long-term success.

At the end of the day, the success of needs-based application development can be realized if the business decision-making priorities – especially collaboration and innovation – remain at the heart of the initiative. 

Did the idea of application development pique your interest? Read this article on the benefits of digital transformation-as-a-service.

Nicole Blohm

As the Director of Portfolio Architecture Nicole is responsible for developing a future roadmap of services offerings that enable Ricoh’s customers to digitally transform their end-to-end workflows while providing business insight and delightful customer experiences. She holds several patents on behalf of her work with Ricoh for inbound communication management and digital services practices.

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