Formula 1 pit stops took over one minute in 1950 when only two support team members were allowed to refuel cars and change tires. This time has been reduced to only a few seconds nowadays. Technology plays a crucial role in regulation changes, and specialisation brought perfection. Expectations are now higher than ever. The F1 modernisation approach presents many lessons for businesses.
There were two alternatives for organisations that previously needed new information systems. Use their workforce to build or buy a new system from a third party. The “build” approach offers a close fit to business requirements but means higher costs and more development time. Systems from vendors don’t fit as well but are typically cheaper and are ready to start. In this second alternative, organisations are often willing to adapt their business to suit the system.
A third alternative appeared, and it is becoming popular. Low-code or no-code (LC/NC) applications provide excellent levels of customisation with less cost, especially if we consider the development and implementation time needed. The context is a model-driven development with point-and-click programming, pull-down menu interfaces, drag-and-drop composability, and wizard-based workflows. Users can usually design and implement their individual or departmental systems within a few hours. As the name implies, few programming skills are required depending on the complexity, reducing the IT burden.
VMR - Low-Code Development Platform Market
“Citizen” development tends to create applications that don’t work or scale well and then are turned over to the IT department. The “developer” may leave the company, with no one knowing how to change or support the system they developed. Organisations must control system development, including selecting which LC/NC tools the organisation will support. LC/NC oversight can handle this “shadow IT” phenomenon, which is not a new problem.
Like the pit stop, transformation in digital will be inevitable, moving away from excel sheets and over-engineered products, opening the possibility that allows people within businesses who have no programming skills to leverage their knowledge and context in a custom solution that fits the needs. This alternative brings even more value to companies with a substantial weight of management and strategy roles; simultaneously, it allows current engineers and programmers to work in what will now be more added valued activities. It is a very consistent solution for companies that, for their fast-paced growth or other reason, privilege client-facing products or projects and lack tech resources for internal products or projects.
Votiva Insights – Low Code Trend Report 2022: Building a learning culture on a low-code Platform
To those with experience in development using LC/NC and involved in innovation processes, these platforms are a better tool for building Minimum Viable Products (MVP). These can collect feedback, iterate, and produce a more meaningful outcome or process for external or internal clients.
While Google acquired AppSheet recently, other big tech companies such as Salesforce, with Salesforce Lightning, are also taking no-code seriously. Some robust start-up examples are Snapboard, a Y Combinator-supported company that started when the founder decided to manage all his apps and tools from a single dashboard, and OutSystems in Portugal.
For instance, Outsystems shares with Mendix, acquired by Siemens, and Microsoft the leading position on the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms. On the Gartner Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms, Microsoft again takes the lead with salesforce and Qlik not too far behind.
Magic quadrant for enterprise low-code application platforms
Source: Gartner (August 2021)
Magic quadrant for analytics and business intelligence platforms
Source: Gartner (March 2022)
Right before the pandemic, Gartner predicted that “Low code application building, which included no code as well, would constitute more than 65% of all app development functions by 2024, with about 66% of big companies using a minimum of four low code tools and platforms.”
For example, one of our team members developed an automated process in which everyone in the office receives an email notification containing the weather report (temperatures, wind, and other information for several hours each day) and all available meals for the day (lunch and dinner) on campus. Also, during the day, in our office, we no longer need to send an email to schedule a meeting room - We do it through an interactive app (developed in ten minutes).
Instead of developing a business model that starts with ERP and CRM (systems of record and engagement), software and cloud providers pivot their modern business models to methods of observation and intelligence. Microsoft Vice President of Business Applications James Phillips said at the beginning of 2019, “There's a fundamental change. That fundamental change is that data is now coming first.”
While Systems of Record don’t deliver sustainable competitive differentiation, they provide functionality upon which Systems of Intelligence can build. Systems of Intelligence don’t replace the applications that came before but instead build upon them.
Phillips continued: “So the systems you need, the business applications that one needs to enable that very proactive versus extremely reactive model of business are fundamentally different. You don't start from a screen somebody types into; you start from data arriving. That is a complete flip which sort of turns it all on its head."
The example of Microsoft is paradigmatic. Many companies use their operating system and work tools, so adopting a new Microsoft tool or platform becomes marginally less expensive and can accelerate the digital transformation, or as we call it here, the transformation in Digital.
Top benefits of adopting a digital model
Microsoft approach – Power platform
Power Platform, as a suite of software applications, focuses on app connectivity, business intelligence and application development. It also addresses its entire solution to merge and fill the gap between “citizen” developers and “pro” developers. It enables the ability to build straightforward solutions with no or low code, allowing the possibility to develop fully customised top-of-the-range applications with the help of pro developers.
By providing a wide range of tools, from applications to reporting, business users and developers can work together in the same ecosystem leveraging the already known suite of office 365 and MS Dynamics:
A set of tools that allows users to automate business processes through Robotic Process Automation (RPA), templates, alerts, and triggers. Even someone who is not an expert can work with Automate with ease.
It allows for developing mobile-friendly applications without coding expertise. This range of applications is incorporated in other business applications such as Microsoft Teams+ and connects to numerous popular third-party systems.
“It is easy to use PowerApps within Teams to build custom workflows and MS Teams apps without any expertise or skills in coding.” – Antares Solutions.
Connects to and visualises any data using the unified, scalable platform for self-service and enterprise business intelligence (BI) that’s easy to use and helps you gain deeper insight.
Power Virtual Agents allows you to create powerful AI-powered chatbots for various requests
From simple answers to common questions to resolving issues requiring complex conversations. It lets you engage with customers and employees in multiple languages across websites, mobile apps, Facebook, Microsoft Teams, or any channel supported by the Azure Bot Framework.
Source: Microsoft Corp, 2022
One of the significant benefits of the Microsoft Power Platform is that it does not require any form of special certification or any particular technical skill set to use. However, there are other benefits:
Provides Considerable Cost Savings
Power Automate and PowerApps are two services that can drastically reduce costs associated with application development. A primary reason is that no coding skills or expertise are required to develop apps. An Office 365 E3 licence allows you to use it, and most companies have already acquired it. “Microsoft Office 365 suite closes 2018 with more than 85% market share in productivity suites” – Gartner, 2019.
Ability to create analysis which attends to business needs and, thereby, provides the end user with a new capability for connecting data and a faster way to create new reports or dashboards. In addition, dashboards can easily be adapted with drag and drop, so the self-service features provide greater flexibility and interactivity when creating and analysing reports.
Supports Remote Working with Security
Another benefit is that the suite supports remote working. Due to the pandemic, most organisations had to adapt to functioning with their employees working from home. The ability to enable remote working has now become a necessity. The platform allows teams to connect via desktop or cloud-based solutions using whatever device they may have to maintain contact with the security management of Azure Active Directory.
In 2021, Forrester conducted total economic impact research on Power Platform that approached the benefits, costs, flexibility, and risks. He concluded: "Adopting Power Platform is part of a digital transformation initiative to improve business processes and analytics" and "solutions built with Power Platform made users of all types more efficient". The study found that democratising development and analytics made organisations more agile and enabled people with the best understanding of the business to directly contribute to the solutions with the assumption of having a three-year operating income improvement of 1.5% reducing development costs by 40%, and improved business outcomes.
The Total Economic Impact of Microsoft Power Platform, Forrester 2021
It is relevant to clarify that this article is not focused on the specified tool or use case. Here Microsoft Power Platform was an example of one of multiple similar systems and software that enable identical functions and features and have the same goal of digitalising data & processes in organisations powered by BI low-code/no-code toolsets.
“Customer expectations are far exceeding what you can do. That means a fundamental rethinking about what we do with technology in organisations.” - George Westerman, MIT Principal Research Scientist and Author
As a technology-driven company, we should have the ability to be flexible, proficient, and efficient as time-to-market solutions become shorter and shorter. We need to develop and deliver data-driven solutions that create business value and maximise the impact of our partnerships.
About the authors behind the article
Ricardo Teixeira is a Director at our Porto office. He has experience leading product development teams and a computer engineering background. David Pedro is a Manager at our Faro office. He has extensive experience in business management, having been with the company for more than seven years. Mauro Viegas is an Associate at our Faro Office with a background in management and information systems.