6 ways low-code technology can improve business agility

From the pandemic to increased shipping regulations, the world of maritime bulk shipping is experiencing change faster than ever before. Bulk shippers can no longer rely on a tried and true way of thinking. McKinsey states that organizations that exhibit business agility outperform competitors in an ever changing environment. Low code is the one technology that can best help you improve your business agility.

What will you find in this article:

  1. How can I use low code technology to improve my Business Agility?
  2. The benefits of using low code applications;
  3. How does using a low code system improve my business agility?
  4. 5 things to look for on a low code application;
  5. 5 steps to prepare for a low code system deployment.


How can I use low code technology to improve my Business Agility?

Low code applications empower your team members who identify as business technologists, meaning they report outside of IT departments and create technology or analytics capabilities for internal or external business use. Low code allows them to rapidly design, build and deploy digital twins of the organization’s business processes. There is no need to transfer business knowledge to software engineers to perform abstract coding. This allows the business technologist, who works with the business processes every day, to iterate and improve tools that make his team more efficient.

The benefits of using low code applications:

  • Near-real cycle time for data analysis
  • Scalable and Flexible —  Low code systems will support projects not yet considered within your business
  • Faster iteration cycles
  • Substantial reduction in implementation time and costs.

There are many internal and and external stakeholders in the process of finding and contracting a vessel for a bulk cargo–called a prefixture process. Above is one example of a low code workflow that tasks the necessary checks and collection of documents to the correct stakeholders at the right moment within the process.


IT consulting powerhouse Gartner expects
use of low code systems will nearly triple by 2025Companies not transitioning to low code for business process management run the risk of falling behind their competitors.

Here are some characteristics of a business-agile company that low code supports:

Empowered teams — Your teams have been empowered to collaborate and provide knowledge that informs company decision-making, instead of just processing information. Gartner research shows that 41% of current employees identify as business technologists. Companies that successfully enable business technologists are 2.6 times more likely to accelerate digital business outcomes than companies that do not empower business technologists.

Bulk and break-bulk maritime operations are notably dependent on multi-stakeholder collaboration. Building a system that provides a single source of truth and end-to-end operational visibility can be the key to create more efficiencies.

Rapid decision and learning cycles — Your teams work to continually reduce business process cycle time and measure progress. (Business processes are any set of activities performed by more than one person collaborating to achieve a particular business goal.)

Mastering these business agility characteristics is impossible in a world of emails and spreadsheets. Tools are required to simplify the documentation, execution and revision of business processes. Low code is the enabling technology that is specifically designed to help you increase your business agility.

How does using a low code system improve my business agility?

Above is an example of a breakbulk carrier performance dashboard that provides the Operations Manager a snapshot of how each carrier vis-a-vis the competition. Demurrage is the single largest unplanned cost of any ocean shipment, some of which can be mitigated with proper planning.

Although low code systems are not magic bullets that automatically deliver improved agility, they are the foundation of any process improvement journey.  

Low code systems can help with:

  1. Agile Business Planning Process – Help your organization to adjust and deploy process change rapidly and provide the confidence to try, fail and try again.
  2. Increase Team Collaboration — Business process changes are more effective when all stakeholders have an opportunity to contribute.  Use low code to facilitate this collaboration.
  3. Documentation by default – Lead your team through process change design while automatically documenting any changes.
  4. Connect and Visualize your Data — Siloed datasets that are difficult to merge or compare reduce the power of that data.  Low code systems multiply that power by using it comprehensively.  Create the visualizations necessary to improve understanding of where your business must go to succeed.
  5. Use historical data to focus on forward looking insights — Use insights to embrace change.  Make rapid process improvements to keep you ready for what is next.
  6. Automate the routine — Free up your team to dig deeper and provide knowledge instead of just collating data from emails and spreadsheets.


5 Things to look for in a low code application

 

Harnessing the power of low-code technologies starts with going beyond the hype and marketing of vendors’ low-code versus no-code claims. There is a difference between these approaches which comes down to the extensibility of the platforms. There are also myriad product segments in the overall low-code development space.

All low code applications are not built the same. Here are some things to look for in this type of system:

1.Evaluate systems which are tailored to your industry.

Minimize the upfront work necessary with systems that understand your business.  Configuring a plain vanilla system to support processes that are unique to the bulk shipping industry can be time consuming and may not grow to meet the unique needs of maritime shipping. 

2. Pick an application that can support you with a team of experts.

In order to be agile, your citizen developers must have a conduit to rapidly learn techniques and suggest improvements that will make the system run its best.

3. Become aware of all security requirements your IT department requires.  

Work with an application that understands the unique challenges of your industry and how to navigate through any IT security evaluation successfully.

4. Ensure the application can start small and grow with you.

The definition of business agility is to continually change with an eye towards staying ahead of the competition.  Make sure the low code application you select is flexible enough to keep up with your agility.  

5. Confirm seamless data flows capability

Quick access to centralized data is a key to business agility.  Look for a system with an easy way to make this happen and the experience with systems similar to yours.

5 Steps to prepare for a low code system deployment

  • Begin with an inclusive business strategy. 

Ensure it considers durability, reusability, scalability and agility.

  •  Be prepared to change some long standing perspectives.  

Empowering your business teams to build their own solutions is a new concept in many businesses.  IT leaders will no longer be responsible for translating the business requirements into a system that your team uses.  Their time will be consumed in managing what tools are being used and how they will impact the system infrastructure and data security.  The IT department will be more involved at the front end of any lowcode system evaluation.  They are interested in keeping the company’s IT tool portfolio manageable with little or no redundancy.  It is their responsibility to explore how your business agility objectives could be met with your existing application portfolio.  Be aware that cobbling together existing applications to meet the objective of improving business agility is typically suboptimal.  If your objective is to constantly adapt and improve it is unlikely that a grouping of legacy systems can meet your objective.

  • Low code is not a panacea for improving the time to value.

For any process change, planning, change management and training are still required.  One technique used by successful companies is to deploy less than perfect processes and iterate them continuously with an eye on improvement.   

  • Your business technologists must be trained.

Some foundational development philosophy such as consistency, reuse, and the building of intuitive processes is required.  This will improve time to acceptance and successful adoption.   Think of the police sketch artist.  He doesn’t draw a perfect rendition of the suspect immediately, he collaborates with the witness(es).  He helps his collaborators recall details incrementally.  Proficient sketch artists use a lot of erasers while citizen developers use a lot of process iterations.

  • Collaborate outside of your organization.

Find someone who has experience in the journey to business agility.  Outside collaboration will bring in new ideas and perspectives. Launch ahead of your competition.

Low code is here.  It is accepted.  One day soon you will find that all of your competitors have adopted a low code solution to help them become more agile.  Getting there first provides a competitive advantage.

Voyager is a maritime operations low-code system. Click here to find out more about how we’re applying low-code technology to connect the bulk shipping industry.

About the Author

Bob Kessler is a long time business technologist that has worked with companies to digitize and improve business processes for over 30 years.  From digitizing shipboard procurement processes to improving visibility around offshore oil platforms, he is always looking for a better way.  In his current role as Manager of Customer Success at Voyager Portal, Bob is responsible for his customers getting the most value and finding ways to improve their business processes.  Voyager Portal is designed specifically to improve bulk marine shipping processes through collaboration, data consolidation and visibility.

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