CIOs and CTOs know that the impact of COVID-19 on how people work and the acceleration of digital transformation have served to push organizational flexibility to the top of the CxO agenda.

When CIOs/CTOs were asked which elements of their operating models require the most investment to position their organizations for post-pandemic growth, the three top areas they chose were tech platforms (61%), workforce agility (57%), and flexible organization structures (57%). In addition, 43% said that over the next three years they will also have to drive cultural change in their organizations if they are to grow.

Cloud & SaaS were just the start

The tech-driven organizational models and cultures that CxOs develop in the future will need to look very different from how they do today. That’s because the trend that started with SaaS and Cloud is just the beginning of a wave of change that’s going to democratize the use of technology throughout the entire organization.

In addition, IT has experienced waves of methods to improve productivity and quality of technology solutions. All of them are approaching their peak increment of value creation. Citizen Development is combining innovation, operating model changes, and productivity, resulting in an accelerated rate of adoption and value creation (Figure 1).

Concept to Prime Adoption Growth

So what’s behind this profound and decisive change? It’s the explosion of Low-Code/No-Code (LCNC) platforms and the new technology operating model that those platforms require. Thanks to these platforms, people who are closest to the customers and business users (typically called “Citizen developers”) are now able to deliver solutions and experiences, address opportunities themselves all with minimal involvement from the technology organization.

We believe that rather than CIOs continuing to be the guardians of technology, they must become stewards and co-innovators, guiding others, including citizen developers, to finally realize the promise of innovation at the edge, at scale.

A seat at the top table

LCNC not only means a whole new set of priorities for the CIO, but also a chance to consolidate their position at the top CxO table. This change requires a mindset shift that ushers in a new operating model designed to support co-innovation, enable personal productivity, and ensure that access to data by LCNC platforms is managed and backed by robust governance and security.

LCNC friend or foe for the CIO?

Our research shows that of the majority:

63%

of CIOs believe that LCNC is boosting their business agility and time to value

33%

of CIOs cite benefits like decreasing the strain on IT and reducing platform-related queries from business users

However:

22%

of CIOs believe LCNC is actually decreasing their business agility

Our hypothesis? These organizations haven’t adjusted their operating blueprint and capabilities to embrace and take advantage of the distributed innovation that LCNC enables.

Why do we believe this? Even as many companies struggle to adopt Agile and DevOps to accelerate software development lifecycles, LCNC offers a potential velocity of delivery that’s orders of magnitude faster than anything that’s gone before. This should be a wake-up call. For those who have not completed their transformation in response to Agile and DevOps.

Bridging the skills gap

LCNC is one of the key solutions for addressing the skills gap and the resulting backlog of projects that are a fact of life for CIOs today. And it’s not arrived a moment too soon.

Right now, the prognosis is that a lack of IT skills worldwide and resulting inability to solve pressing business problems will fuel a $390 billion loss each year by 2025.1 We believe that organizations who reinvent their operating blueprint to accommodate LCNC and maximize its benefits will avoid this loss.

Designing for Balance

The number one principle for LCNC operating model design is to be able to clearly define a boundary between standardization and agility, innovation and control, and digital capability evolution and efficiency.

Securing LCNC

While innovation at pace is great for customers, those same customers will be less enthusiastic if, in the process, their data privacy and security is compromised, breached or otherwise unintentionally exposed. That’s one reason why co-innovation between citizen developers and the CIO organization is so essential.

Security is the number one concern that CIOs point to in our research, with 40% citing the risk of data being hacked. Still, they need to find a way of protecting the business and its data while enabling the creativity, innovation, and speed to market that LCNC makes possible.

Embracing Multiple Operating Models

LCNC operating models must balance the needs of innovation, stabilization, and scaling – for the business and for technology – with all of these happening concurrently. Enabling self-service citizen development allows the CIO to win the hearts and minds of the business and its pro-code developer pool. The big difference from today? Rather than acting as the technology gatekeeper, the CIO and the IT organization become the enabler of crucial business change and innovation.

In this new environment, every enterprise and its technology team may have four distinct operating models:

1. Citizen developers will address the customer experience, while being part of the product scrum teams (mostly citizen developer-led delivery).

2. Business-user productivity improvement will be delivered by citizen developer-led scrum teams.

3. Enterprise controls and services will be delivered by pro-code scrum teams and innovation enablers (IT-led delivery).

4. Scrum master, SRE, and release engineer experiences will be enabled by self-service solutions (mostly IT-led).

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We think CIOs would be served by thinking of capabilities as falling into different categories, notably those that are customer-facing, enterprise-wide or departmental. That categorization will help determine the team compositions best suited to deliver each one, for example determining the right mix between newly empowered citizen developers and pro-code developers within the IT organization.

What’s more, CIOs also need to create new engagement models to enable optimal collaboration with CISOs and chief data officers for security and data governance, as well as the new breed of tech-savvy business users who are on the frontline of understanding – and increasingly meeting – customer needs.

Critical Next Steps

  1. Implement the Operating models we describe above: Include citizen developers in scrum teams, making sure those teams are clearly divided between those delivering user experiences and those enabling innovation (i.e., endpoint creation). Create a new group of solution architects/program managers (at the business/capability level) who focus on LCNC-based innovations.
  2. Segment and Rationalize the Technology Portfolio to work within the new model: Evaluate existing applications to be migrated to LCNC. Define a cloud-enabled portfolio – specifically around AI/ML and mobile experiences to create new solutions that do not require high investments and pro-code developers.
  3. Create a new pool of funding for innovation with LCNC: Current LCNC has several shortcomings resulting in a high churn rate in solution usage. The disconnect between the expectations of the enterprises and the platform providers needs to be bridged soon. It is in the best interest of the CIOs to take the charge and drive the LCNC platform providers to expose more of the innerworkings of the platform (e.g., understanding automated code generation, workflow restarts), create joint options for supporting the citizen developers, and simplifying the effort to address CISO’s concerns.

Over time, CIOs need to evolve the operating models to balance the mix of pro-code and citizen developers and collaborate with LCNC platform providers to drive maturity. This also means aggressively driving the growth of secure API end-points (edge, SaaS, enterprise-core); creating the dynamic golden-thread for outside-in experiences and inside-out process transactions; along with enhancing platforms' supportability.

Size of the prize

As we move into a world where the borders between “business” and “IT” are fading fast, there’s a massive opportunity for forward-thinking CIOs to rethink how they work with and lead their organizations. The prize? Accenture research reveals that there are significant rewards available to future-ready organizations that harness digital to operate smarter and faster— achieving breakthrough gains averaging a 2.8x boost in corporate profitability and 1.7x higher efficiency.2 LCNC is a key element of this. It's not only one of the top routes to higher productivity; it's also one of the ways to get there faster.

Sources:

1 Impact of Skills Shortage in IT and How No-Code Can Help

2 Future Ready – Intelligent Operations Study

Christian Kelly

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Software & Platforms


Sriram Sabesan

Senior Manager – Technology Strategy, Software & Platforms


Josh Matz

Associate Manager – Research, Software & Platforms

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