Low-code 101 #4 – Spotlight on the business case
In this fourth instalment, host Laura Ritchie from the Netcall Marketing Team looks at building an effective business performance case for low-code with Mike Woodgate, a Netcall Business Solutions Consultant.
You can find this webinar, and the other episodes in the Low-code 101 series, here. A transcript of episode four, spotlight on building a business case, is laid out below.
Click the video below to start watching the webinar:
Laura: Hi there, I’m delighted to welcome you to this “Low-code 101” webinar. I’m Laura Ritchie, a Marketing Communications Manager working on low-code. Today, it’s a pleasure to be joined by Mike Woodgate, one of our Business Solutions Consultants. Hello Mike…
Mike: Hi Laura and hello everyone listening…
Laura: Inefficient processes must be the number one cause of enterprise waste. With Liberty Create, our low-code solution, companies can streamline processes, fix bottlenecks, improve customer experience and, basically, save man-years of time.
So, today, we’re going to give you an overview on the benefits low-code could offer to your organisation.
- We’ll begin by explaining the key benefits of low-code
- Then we’ll talk about the impact it can have on end-to-end processes
- And we’ll give you examples of the benefits that can be achieved.
- We’re expecting to take up about 15-minutes of your time, leaving you in a great position to make a successful business performance case for low-code!
What are the headline advantages of low-code?
- Build apps and processes in days instead of months…
- Create is a breeze to use…
- You don’t need coding skills… just a vision of how to do things better, the ability to define the process and associated.
- You can fix the CX gaps, straight away…with effective process and use of your preferred channel – email, SMS, portal or voice.
All of these capabilities have a big impact by reducing costs, generating revenue and on the overall ability to deliver the business strategy.
Laura: OK, excellent, let’s break that down a little then. Can you tell us a bit more about the key factors that are likely to drive digital transformation in organisations, leading them to low-code?
Mike: Well, while low-code is a great idea, it can’t simply be that. There is always a specific problem to solve which steers the interest in low-code.
Competitive differentiator, operational effectiveness, cost savings, efficiencies, regulatory compliance, a green agenda (so for example enabling home working) – I could go on and on. In reality, unless they can be monetised, they are likely to fall in to the ‘nice to have’ category.
The initial “acid tests” to apply are:
What difference will it make? (so what)
And: Who cares?
The answers to these can become very compelling arguments for investment.
Laura: Yes, OK. So can you give some specific examples of the pain points that drive this decision? And who is it that typically feels this pain?
Mike: Customer demand. Now, introducing a customer portal isn’t necessarily a benefit that the customer perceives themselves. A portal might only achieve a reduction in the data entry for a customer service agent, which does benefit the organisation. By simply transferring that data entry effort onto the customer, there’s a risk of customers seeing through this ploy.
So, the real benefit is enabling customers to access a service at any time and place they choose. Then, the organisation seems easy to do business with. This impact can be measured in increased customer spend per transaction, plus, the organisation benefits from an efficiency saving as a by-product.
Long term, this might lead to increased market share, influencing share price and shareholder value.
Laura: So seemingly small process changes can really have a much larger impact. Can you explain a scenario which makes a process more efficient?
Mike: Efficiency can dramatically reduce the time taken to bring a new product to market, so this creates a competitive differentiator.
Or, if we look at Housing Associations, reducing void time by coordinating inspections, repairs and gas certification can result in properties being empty for shorter periods of time after a tenant has vacated. If they’re occupied, they are earning rental income. So, imagine the cumulative effect if every property that is vacated, was re-let 1 week quicker.
On an estate of 2,000 properties and a tenant turnover of 5% per year, each property accruing £400 per month… this equates to an annual financial benefit of £10,000 – simply by deploying an application to manage voids. And this is exactly what low-code can be used for. There would be other financial gains as well due to increased productivity of Housing Officers, reduced failure rate to gain access to properties, cost of revisits, etc.
Laura: Yes – very quickly it’s creating really lucrative improvements. I know that another way Low-code is often applied is in Health & Safety management. How does low-code reduce the risk of accidents?
Mike: No one wants accidents in the work place, of course. Apart from the human aspect – accidents cost money, in actual compensation and also the time and effort required to investigate and put right the issue. So, implementing an effective training programme as part of the CAPA process can help to massively reduce this risk, which allows for continuous improvement and sharing best practice. You can build this in low-code.
Laura: There are so many touchpoints for benefit accrual… Reputation is surely another important one…
Mike: Yes, good reputations are hard to develop, for both an organisation and an individual person. But, a good reputation can be lost in an instant, with consequential loss of business. And remember, it costs 5 times as much to get a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. So, timely and effective communications through the right channel can reap significant rewards.
But also, think about the person in an organisation who is exposed if something goes seriously wrong, beyond the customer relationship – i.e., a failed audit, loss of fire certification or a major failure leading to personal injury. The Senior Responsible Officer will have even more to think about – fines or even imprisonment for very serious failures; an impact on profits may cost them their job. Therefore, their view on the benefits of a solution may be different to those we normally focus on.
Laura: But what makes a project or idea viable? More than just “it will go fast” or “it will look great”…
Mike: There has to be a business-driven opportunity. That opportunity will require monetised benefits to be identified – and ones which may need to be scrutinised by the Head of Finance, using NPV or IRR, to compare it to other investment opportunities being considered by the organisation.
While benefit identification may require some investigation, other situations may be straightforward. A client I worked with recently, identified that, by deploying Create low-code, it could enable an office move out of central London. This alone was worth upwards of £3 million per year and enough to justify investment.
Laura: Ok – we know that low-code has proven benefits associated with the ability to develop solutions more quickly (Forrester suggests it’s 5 – 10 times quicker to develop and release an application using low-code compared to more traditional development methods) so this means shorter return on investment cycles and high levels of flexibility to changes.
Mike: Yes exactly. We also know that the skill profile to develop a solution in low-code does not necessarily require the scarce and expensive technical resources of an IT department. So, this helps to reduce the cost of development, which, in turn, may enable the organisation to differentiate themselves from their competitors. There is a win for the business unit, and also the IT department which will reduce the backlog of change requests to manage, allowing focus on the core priorities.
Laura: And of course, slow and difficult processes within the sales cycle, create the danger of losing existing and prospective customers. So, why use low-code for CX?
Mike: First and foremost it’s the ability to directly influence the customer experience. Enabling all authorised customer facing staff, to get an up-to-date view of the customer and recent interactions, helps to build relationships and give confidence that the organisation actually recognises the person as a known customer. If an agent has the full version of the truth then they can engage the customer whilst referring to previous conversations or purchases.
Of course, no matter how good their interpersonal skills are, the IT needs to deliver information to the agent. And, therein lies the rub. If the IT Team has a full calendar of planned work, an application will not be developed using traditional methods.
But, the business unit has the opportunity, by using low-code, to work with the stakeholders to identify the business problem, agree the solution and support process before developing it. This allows better end-to-end process integration, as expert end users identify different touch points. IT support might only be required for integration. Once deployed, if business demand evolves or changes, the business unit can amend the solution, ensuring it remains relevant to customers.
So, why use low-code for CX? It’s this ability to rationalise IT systems and integrate with line of business applications, ensuring there is one master data set, reducing IT support effort and software maintenance charges. Surely that’s a CIO’s dream!
Laura: Absolutely! Are many companies coming to low-code from the perspective of pulling ahead of their competitors and disrupting the market, by innovating and creating new, better ways to interact with their customers? And how important is this to include within the business case?
Mike: Where a new business performance improvement opportunity presents itself, the business unit can respond with agile reactions to changing needs. This can mean survival, or indeed, stealing a march on competitors by being ahead of the curve. It may even be possible to drive the market with a new initiative. This disruption, sees new players very quickly unseat established businesses. Take the home video market, and how rapidly Netflix toppled the market leader, Blockbuster.
But, to be dynamic an organisation must not be averse to risk – within reason. Good ideas, once qualified, deserve to be tested, and there’s no better method than our low-code. New ideas can be developed, tested and early results analysed. Ideas that aren’t working, can be halted. Better to try and fail fast, than not try at all. And viable ideas can be scaled up.
This is a real disrupter, enabling organisations to deploy change plans fast. You can open up cash streams with new ideas sooner, react faster to market changes, remain friends with the IT Team, serve customers better on mobile channels, empower staff to work where and how they need to.
Also think about idea management – or Ideation. How many good ideas from employees and stakeholders are overlooked because people can’t register them before they’re validated by a business transformation function. An ideation solution can be developed using low-code, and the payback can be significant. And, coming back to influencing customer experience, who better to know what works and doesn’t, than front-line staff.
Laura: Compliance is a growing burden on organisations. What role can low-code play in getting consistent processes in place and making sure people stick with them?
Mike: Manual systems, spreadsheets and checklists aren’t fit for purpose within compliance – they don’t scale to other parts of the organisation, they’re inefficient and they could be a regulatory risk in their own right.
Leaving aside GDPR, where you have siloed systems you have data duplication – taking up space to store and time to manage. But you also inhibit the ability to get a proper perspective on the actual business position through dynamic reporting using data aggregation.
For example, how do you understand how many cases each team member is completing, and their quality level or failure rate. This carries cost in rectification and customer satisfaction. All decision-makers can get the business position at that very moment, not a historical view of last month. This more agile organisation can balance workloads, backlogs and dips in demand more easily. And they have the ability to recognise where SLAs are about to be breached and target specific work to prevent this, escaping penalty charges or attention and sanctions from the Regulator.
Laura: Why would you build a skills matrix – an internal HR driver for L&D and resource planning. What are the benefits – or actually, what are the risks of not having one?
Mike: So… a warehouse usually needs a qualified fork lift truck driver to be available. No driver: nothing gets moved around. Or, another example: what’s the implication of not having a qualified first aid resource on a shift? It may mean that a business cannot operate, or open. Therefore, staff are being paid, but the business cannot fully function. It means lost revenue and reputation suffers.
Here, we aren’t considering how much it will cost to purchase a solution to help managers and HR to understand the skills matrix of a particular shift, but to ensure that skills are re-certified in a timely manner. This is an area where low-code can help.
Creating an application to monitor which members of staff have a particular accreditation and flag the forthcoming date for renewal, helps to avoid unfortunate expiries and also identifies where money is being spent on training.
The skills matrix also has a significant bearing on understanding the degree of risk in losing key members of staff. Without the right skills in place tasks will take longer to complete, errors will result and the Quality Control overhead will increase. The skills matrix can help evaluate how much this would cost, in terms of resource time or reduced efficiency, plus take into account the impact on customer experience.
Getting the skills matrix correctly organised, along with an insight into historical demand for services, allows the organisation to build resources to meet that demand and avoid backlogs in the future. So, rather than temporarily increasing headcount, or sanctioning overtime, you can ensure resources meet peaks in demand, without necessarily increasing headcount. The organisation doesn’t have to encounter repeated bouts of overtime, temporary staff etc, several times before they can explain and justify the return on investment of a solution.
Laura: What background information needs to be pulled by the business to evaluate their needs, in terms of infrastructure and processes in the current status quo and why the problem (or opportunity) exists?
Mike: The value engineering exercise requires access to people who understand the business process. These need to be a cross-section of roles from managers, team leaders and front-line staff. The important thing is that they understand the process, its key drivers and measures of success. During the fact-find phase, I ask questions about the process and activities undertaken, but will also ask ‘who cares’ and ‘so what’ as well as asking how long something takes to complete, but it is also important to identify the implication of the action, or not performing it.
So, to answer your question, when building the initial business case, there should not be an overhead in terms of preparation.
Once the process is understood, a data request can be formulated to fill the gaps in understanding before findings are documented, qualitative benefits described and quantitative benefits calculated – efficiency, revenue generation, cost savings, and importantly, impact upon business performance goals. This is a collaborative activity, not just Create, so the findings will be shared with the customer to be validated before finalised.
Once we understand the size of the prize, the value exercise should be extended to the impact on supporting infrastructure over and above basic replacement of spreadsheets. But, because we have a team of consultants with different skillsets, Create can call upon the right people to explore the tech, to allow a complete picture to be established for the business impact, cost and benefits.
Laura: There’s always going to be the question “How much?” Are we able to give a specific answer to this whilst the project is still being scoped out?
Mike: No! But we must be realistic. If a business process is meaningful to an organisation, then there must be an expectation that an investment will be required which is supported by project resources, training and eventually UAT – in fact everything good governance would demand.
However, one goal of the value engineering exercise is to see what the return on investment might be – and hopefully this will be greater than the investment required.
Laura: How much do we get involved in defining the project? This is where most of the “how” and “why” questions about the project exist for the decision makers, so presumably this is a key area we can help with?
Mike: As part of the business case, it’s essential to understand the project shape at a high level, including major phases and attribute benefits.
Netcall, as a mature organisation, will help to shape the project. While some customers might want to purchase platform licences along with training, others may require us to develop the application. This is where our Professional Services team become involved. They use an Agile methodology for development which requires effective governance roles to be included over and above the Developer function. So, testing is a component part along with a Project Manager and Project Owner.
Explaining how these roles fit together to make a project team is a topic for another conversation, but our customers must be prepared to invest the time of their Subject Matter Experts and Senior Decision-makers to ensure questions are managed effectively and the project is not delayed, which ultimately delays the start of ROI achievement.
Laura: Thanks for that Mike, I’m sure that’s given loads of constructive advice for our listeners on building an effective business case for low-code.
Our next “Low-code 101” will put one of our customers into the spotlight and seeing how they use low-code to engage their customers.
You’ll find loads more information on our LinkedIn and Twitter pages and of course netcall.com. We also have a couple of Podcast series, Life in Low-code and CX Appeal, which you may want to download for all sorts of interesting interviews.
But that’s all for today, so goodbye from me and Mike…!
Watch the webinar, including demos, in full.
Our next episode of “Low-code 101” will put the spotlight on engaging your customers. This will be available in the next few weeks.
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