Blog 27 May 2022

Powering digital business – Democratisation of software development

by Richard Farrell

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democratisation of software development

I hosted a webinar recently with John Bratincevic, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, where we discussed how ‘The Democratisation of Development is Accelerating and Why this Matters’.

I wanted to develop a few of the ideas we discussed in this blog and answer some of the questions that we didn’t have time to during the session. This is vital to your organisation because of the impact on building out your software capability. If you don’t digitise, you will get left behind.


Automation at scale


At Netcall, we advocate automation techniques being applied at scale right across an organisation and John summed that up very succinctly using the phrase:

Software is an expression of the business.

It means that all the processes, policies, procedures and knowhow that make up a business or organisation need to be turned into software. That software itself will need to change as the organisational changes in real or near real-time. So, the approach to software acquisition itself changes, with a move away from pre-built or off-the-shelf software applications towards platforms which let you build the software required to facilitate the way that your organisation needs to function.

Building this ‘software-first’ organisation means that much more development is must be done. And more of that development is going to need to be bespoke. How is that possible when there aren’t enough developers to build the software applications we need today? Traditional development approaches aren’t fit to address this need (which is why we see so many spreadsheet-type applications out there today). That’s where low-code and automation platforms comes in, to accelerate the delivery of software.

There are different types of low-code platform. Some focus on the needs of pro developers. Others are for people in the business with an understanding of the process, the tools to automate it in software. The Liberty Platform delivers for both types of users. It makes automation tasks which are traditionally complex and difficult, providing the tools that make it easy to automate at scale. Right across the organisation.


The democratisation of software development


That ability to take what’s been the realm of a few pro developers sitting in IT Departments in the past and making it available to all in the business, is what we refer to as the democratisation of software development. And it’s not just building new software to automate the organisation, it’s constantly iterating that software as the organisation itself continues to evolve.

The scale of the task can’t be underestimated. The democratisation of development will be the only model that enables this to be achieved.

Buying off-the-shelf applications may be the preferred method for some organisations today, but customisation requirements and the need for further bespoke work means that this approach is breaking down. It’s becoming clear that we’re seeing a greater shift to multi-purpose platforms which address the digitisation needs of the organisation as a whole.


Demand outstrips supply for developers


The demand for software developers far outstrips supply. While that continues, the move to low-code platforms is necessary to address this move to the digital business. Low-code platforms provide the ability to build at a much faster pace (3-10x faster), giving the ability to build to a wider range of people (citizen development) and the scale to reach every part of the organisation.

What are the wider implications of this change?

  • Just as most people in business roles today use email and spreadsheets, over the next five to ten years, they will be expected to add automation skills to their job roles, building automations as a standard part of their job.
  • The lines between technologists and non-technologists (business people) will increasingly become blurred.
  • Competitive pressures will mean organisational and operational structures and models will need to change to adapt. The old ways of working wont ‘cut it’ in future.
  • Platforms will evolve to include more adjacent and valuable technologies in the fields of AI and automation.

The role of the IT team will evolve to decide how this is best going to be achieved. To assemble the tools and technologies and make them available to the organisation to use in the most effective way. And of course, they’ll still fulfil the operation availability roles they provide today. However, as John made clear:

When it comes to the business content of applications, that will most logically be done by business experts.

Competitive advantages


Competitive pressures will be at the heart of this change. The advantages won’t only centre on additional capacity. These changes will deliver hugely transformational effects for the organisation that are likely to include:

  • Dramatic spikes in innovation and experimentation across the organisation
  • Better identification of where technology can make possible new business opportunities
  • Improved integration and cross-functional working
  • Breaking down the barriers and improving the culture and collaboration between the business and IT
  • Significant reductions in third-party software licensing costs

The move to digital business


To sum up, the move to greater democratisation of software development is happening. It’s part of a much bigger change – the move to the digital business.

  • Existing software acquisition approaches will change
  • Low-code and similar platforms will be deployed
  • Business people will add the skills to build software themselves to drive the organisation forward.

It’s going to be a really interesting few years to come and, I for one, am really excited to be on the journey.


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