An industrial cycle rarely acts like a cyclone, but rather as a continuous stream of ‘improvement ripples’ of different sizes caused by major breakthroughs in technology and energy access.
If you are a ProcureTech geek like we are, I am sure you will enjoy this excellent and timely article by Matthew Deem, Mondelez’s Digital Transformation Lead, written a couple of months ago. It highlights an important technology ‘ripple’ that is occurring right now in the software world and how it is changing the traditional ways of looking at technology investments.
In short, Matthew’s article highlights that alternatives have emerged to challenge the classic Make / Buy considerations that many organisations have regarding their software investments.
Alternatives to Make / Buy
One is software customisation, which has been around for some time, and typically involves writing new code for a purchased software application, in order to make it better fit your need and environment.
But this approach is often expensive and can lead to high technical debts, which often lock the customer in for the long term in order to pay this debt off.
And in today’s rapid digital innovation environment, a significant risk factor is also that the market develops new and better solutions faster than your custom solution can keep up, leaving you with a competitive disadvantage.
The emerging ‘ripple’ that Matthew is referring to in his article is low code. This emerging trend is delivering enterprise-class applications with little or no hard-coding required, and with the principal benefits of this approach being unmatched configurability and flexibility when compared to standard hard-coded enterprise software applications.
Low code is “extraordinarily disruptive”
Although low code is emerging below the awareness of most folks, it “has become an extraordinarily disruptive page in the enterprise digital story” according to Jason Bloomberg, a renowned expert and author on disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation.
Gartner and Forrester already have magic quadrants for low code players, but they show little presence in the ProcureTech space. This space is still dominated by hard-coded applications that require the customer to align themselves with how the software is engineered vs the software aligning to how the customer needs it to work to maximise the desired benefits.
Don’t get me wrong, hard-coded applications can be a blessing. For instance, for very transactional processes it is desirable with standard solutions. Lots of companies also feel that something very ‘out of the box’ can help them to simplify their processes and ‘sort out their mess’, and they don’t even want the option to tailor things too much.
But for a fast-growing segment of large to very large enterprises, configurability is becoming a key factor in vendor selection (followed by user experience and integration capabilities). We at HICX – being a low code platform ourselves – started feeling this strongly back in 2018, which accelerated further into 2019 where we experienced a significant hike in demand with $10bn+ manufacturing organisations.
Business complexity, de-centralised data and a messy ProcureTech landscape
Common traits among the very large enterprises are high levels of business complexity, global manufacturing and customer footprints, often a messy ERP and ProcureTech landscape and de-centralised data.
As with smaller and less complex companies, the very large enterprises also want to achieve global governance and process harmonisation, such as in supplier master data and information management, and it is in this context that low code is rapidly becoming a favoured choice. This is a natural cycle driven by large organisations having tried to fit into hard-coded applications but failing, often multiple times over, which results in a lot of frustration, time and money wasted.
For the growing number of millennials and younger generations taking up work in large corporations, their first experience with enterprise software and business processes is a shock, and a far cry from the B2C applications they are used to using in their personal lives.
Low code promises not only to enable enterprises to operate more as aligned, flexible and connected entities, but to make work itself more efficient and fun. This latter point will be particularly important in times where big businesses have to compete harder than ever before against cooler, smaller and more agile technology companies and start-ups.