A low-code approach to unifying disparate things in an organization to create a new service is game-changing because, for the first time, a shared canvas or interactive whiteboard can translate the ideas humans conceive into live services in operations or the field in hours. So, how many of us have been in product design meetings where all of the stakeholders are present—sales, marketing, product, engineering, and others—and we agree on what we want to create and build except for the engineers who want to take this napkin of concepts and actually figure out how to bring this into production? Let’s dive deeper into this issue and look at how a low-code automation platform may be a potential solution.
Addressing the Cost & Resources for Digital Transformation
Let me give a random example.
During a health and safety conference in New York City with the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association (NYSPFFA) in attendance, a fire safety regulator for buildings in New York explained why there is a new compliance opportunity in the pipeline. With the onset of IoT, it now meant everything in a building needed to be automated and connected in real-time to emergency services. Meaning that the nature of firefighting, safety, and response would also need to change with the times.
Also in the audience were Bert Beaney, head of buildings for Empire, Inc., and his colleague Marty Spark, the president of Fire Safety Solutions, who were listening with a lump in their throats. Why? At that moment they realized that vendor solutions marketing has gone too far ahead on messaging. Bert and Marty knew there is no real automation of IoT workflow things between building and fire safety. Even worse, their BMS, fire control, and facilities management systems were all static island operations. Worse yet, the field service and emergency maintenance response was yet another platform and, all in all, the hyper nirvana of an end-to-end “event to response” control solution did not exist yet.
This example is fundamentally why the cost, time, and resource loss in digital transformation is monstrous because a methodology to automate things has been ignored, not to mention the impact on organizational confidence.
According to TechTarget, $1 trillion had been invested in digital transformation projects with the Boston Consulting Group estimating at least 70 percent of these initiatives fell far short of their original goals by March 2021. As mentioned in my recent blog on automation OS, “the problem has become so apparent that it is not unusual for a CEO to dodge analysts’ questions in earnings calls on digital transformation.” Even scarier, I spend a lot of time with investment analysts and they do not even know what questions to ask to find out what is really going on, making it especially tricky to pick winners because, in theory, an organization that succeeds in digital transformation will make stunning market share gains within five years.
Facing Digital Transformation Challenges
Anyway, let’s get back to Bert and Marty’s dilemma.
They arranged a conference call with their newly hired CTO originally from Belfast, Jim Finnegan. They explained to him what was coming down the tracks and asked Jim what they needed to do to finally fix the forthcoming digital transformation challenges.
Jim paused and said, “Well, for starters, we need people to make peace with each other, stop the tribalism of ‘ownership of things’ and introduce a genuinely collaborative approach to designing the easier ‘automation of things’ to deliver what is becoming mandatory for buildings and associated services like fire and safety.” He then exhaled, “Give up the ghost!”
He went on to say, “What we need is a kid internally fooling around with low-code tools to pick something that enables us to bring our SMEs together to design and build integrated workflow between IT-OT services fast.” Jim added, “Better still will be when we can focus on better customer outcomes by automating the underlying business logic.”
Jim provided an example. “FIRE” template: ! building A, zone 102: HVAC alert, tune carbon sensor to max, smoke detected, alert FDNY, fire electrical (sprinkler off/gas ready), people zone 102 SMS/Twilio evacuate, people occupancy in 102 negative, cancel cyber keys, fire doors shut, air vents closed, emergency lighting on, FDNY at 102, building BMS activates emergency maintenance alert out—human to human voice call confirmation executed.
In his mind, Jim had RPA (Uipath, AA, etc.) as a quick stitch approach to get going, but Marty started his career as an engineer in GE and countered. “Jim, what we also need is a rules engine at the heart of things that automates the underlying IoT workflows between the OT and IT world,” stated Marty, “and hides all the spaghetti from everyone because that is where things break down whenever organizations try to go digital.” He added, “We need to conceal the complexity of software to make this work.”
“That is sort of BPM like Tibco, Appian right or maybe even a BMS like switch automation?” said Jim in response.
Yes, it would be exciting to hear how Bert, Marty, and Jim came together to resolve their problem.
Solution: Low-Code Automation Platform
From my perspective, I would argue the nut will not be cracked by Empire with a kludge of things, e.g. RPA/BPM tools, which do not help avoid more big software and perpetuate a semi-frozen world in digital transformation. The answer is to find a low-code automation platform built for a formula one integration problem – one where all of your investments in software applications, even your legacy systems, are preserved. Such that digital transformation becomes a simpler and feasible integration of things capable of addressing the needs of very sophisticated use cases in operations across industrial, energy, telecoms, and financial services markets.
The upside for enterprises is going to be mega on many fronts. As the world braces for a very tough economic backdrop, the biggest win to focus on – going back to our example – is hitting new bars in safety and customer satisfaction. Let’s face it, enormous savings will be reaped from automation at a time of record software skill shortages globally. Other target metrics to look for from an automation OS are: 10x faster time to market, 100x less code, 15x less development time, and up to 20x operating expenses (OPEX) and capital expenditures (CAPEX) cost savings. And finally, a break-even ROI within nine months or less.
A Collaborative Approach
Facilitating a collaborative cross-functional teams service (product) development environment in low-code is great, but then abstracting everyone away from the underlying complexity with automation workflow management at work is even better again. A low-code automation platform will lead to a collaborative approach for product management and development teams.