Taming digitization

An interview with Lukasz Wrobel,

Senior Vice President and Chief Business
Development at WEBCON

IT needs to be effective and efficient, so that at the end of the day no one thinks about digitizing on their own. Organizational culture and having a good tool base are equally important.

Łukasz Wróbel

A year has passed since the companies, along with hundreds of thousands of employees, switched to remote work. For many organizations, perhaps most, this has meant a tremendous overnight shift and reorganization of processes, hasn’t it?

LW: The transition to remote working has undoubtedly moved many companies into a higher gear and accelerated the pace of digital transformation. IT needed to implement solutions for employees to have remote, convenient, and at the same time secure access to company resources; to be able to communicate with each other and cooperate remotely. Another, even more important consequence was the need to correct existing business processes — and then enforce a new course of action among employees. Suddenly, it turned out that procedures that worked perfectly when they could physically meet with contractors or each other did not work in the new reality based on remote work – which included, a lack of constant access to the office and changes to customer behavior. That is why so many companies had to largely modify their procedures and methods of operation to develop new best practices.

Trying to reconfigure and optimize processes in geographically dispersed organizations and employees is no easy task. What risks are associated with this?

LW: The drastically increased need to support everyday tasks with IT tools tested IT teams’ ability to scale. Companies unable to keep up with the pace the business dictated risked seeing the Shadow IT phenomenon develop.

Many employees look for tools on their own to help them work more effectively. We’re talking about supporting remote meetings, file sharing, information gathering, or project management in a dispersed team. However, when individual teams choose their own tools, the lack of IT control, or at least IT involvement, often results in solutions emerging that fail to meet security and performance requirements. If business processes require the cooperation of many teams, the collection of one-off, ad-hoc tools result in a the technological tower of Babel, in which we speak different languages and find ourselves unable to communicate, or at least interoperate. Sanctioning that chaos can render staff unable to simplify work on a company-wide scale, making a long term mess which will be difficult to get out of later.

So if an organization wants to introduce coordinated actions to dispersed employees, it must manage it centrally?

LW: It should. We do not carry out accounting in the sales or logistics departments. We don’t carry out marketing campaigns in accounting or in the legal department. In both cases, however, we can and should involve users from external departments when creating and engaging in activ.

IT should work the same way. IT needs to be effective and efficient, so at the end of the day no one thinks of digitizaing on their own, because such actions don’t last long. From my experience, I know from personal experience that organizational culture is equally important; it creates the framework for cooperation between IT and business. Having a good tool base helps a lot, too; a uniform application platform helps you to build and run dozens or even hundreds of applications within a single environment, with one set of competences and without the need for coding. Thanks to low-code platform,s we can immediately launch business application development projects, bypassing complicated and time-consuming purchasing processes for an endless series of single-purpose software solutions. It also significantly reduces solution delivery time, makes flexible adaptation easy, and allows for expansion when necessary. Thanks to it, we can introduce digitization centrally and effectively implement automation projects and manage business processes, which allows us to competently and responsibly introduce and support operational changes.

So how do automation and business process management relate?

LW: Automation allows you to shorten the time needed to perform tasks; it reduces labor costs and optimizes operational efficiency. It also increases output quality, because it minimizes the risk of making mistakes, especially the so-called human errors that occur so readily among mundane, routine tasks. However, automation itself, especially in regard to new operating procedures in the company, is much less important than the effective business process management. The difference is simple: automation is the replacement of the shovel with an excavator. Business process management allows makes sure that they are dug in the right places at the right times. Therefore, when companies need to change the way they operate, automation alone is not enough – it is more important that everyone knows where and when to dig. Regardless of where the emphasis is placed, there are still questions: how do we digitize effectively? How do we deal with the increasing demand for business applications? How do we stimulate business user engagement?

But, how does IT build and leverage business engagement?

LW: Engagement comes naturally all by itself if we do the right things; if we collaborate with users and stakehokders, and if we can show that we truly can quickly deliver solutions they need. The challenge is to use the involvement of business users so that it is not wasted.

So it’s not about giving them application building tools and saying, “Do it yourself.” In the long run, citizen development projects inevitably get laid at the feet of IT to debug, maintain, improve, scale, and secure. It’s just a matter of time. We remember well what a problem (and operational risk) Excel spreadsheets saturated with macros – or applications developed in Microsoft Access — became for many organizations. Mind you, it’s very much worth it to get the business involved, but it should be in areas where they already know how to provide the biggest contribution, namely requirements and evaluation feedback. So rather than asking them to build entire applications for themselves, why not help them build prototypes that serve as walk-through examples of what they want? Help them become great analysts instead of mediocre developer. But have IT, however, remain in control of the entire process. We call this this overall concept citizen-assisted development.

How do companies implement this concept in practice?

LW: We provide our clients with tools that allow IT and business to cooperate better at the stage of collecting requirements. Business can create prototypes on their own with these tools, then test them to make sure they behave as desired. The whole thing is done with easy drag & drop mechanisms. Not just rapid creation, but rapid changes. This approach helps to better define the requirements and significantly reduce the amount of work on the IT side. The idea is to give the business a tool that will show the IT department what application it needs, especially how it should work and what functions are necessary. The role of the IT department is to continue working on that prototype and turn it into a ready-to-use application – delivered in accordance with the company’s requirements for security, performance, and ease of maintenance. That’s why our WEBCON BPS platform provides companies with paired tools for both the IT department and for business users. We can’t operate effectively with such an increased demand for business application development without engaging all hands. It’s important to do this wisely and to avoid future repercussions that come back to haunt us.

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