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Automating Processes in the Age of Digitization

Automating Processes in the Age of Digitization

How do businesses keep up with customer expectations fueled by the constant accessibility and communication of the increasingly connected world? How can companies shift from triplicate forms, clipboards, and wads of paper receipts to more streamlined processes that save money and time?

Digital transformation requires organizations to reconsider how they conduct business.

Part of this mindset change involves letting citizen developers—those with no formal development experience—find and create digital solutions to current business processes that are causing problems. These processes were traditionally the responsibility of IT departments, but they are moving to the line of business, where those who best understand the problem are. And why do they know the problem best? Because they are the ones dealing with it.

Automate or Perish

Digitization represents a seismic shift in technology and processes within many companies. Organizations that successfully digitize will be driven by software based on highly customized yet flexible business processes. Decentralized workflow creation makes it all possible.

A company’s processes and workflows are, to a large extent, what determine how—and if—organizational goals are executed. Competition has been accelerated by digital disruption, demanding a quicker response. This means that manual processes are not sufficient to remain competitive.

Companies that have not embraced process automation are vulnerable. The impulse to specialize, centralize, and standardize continues to influence decision-making, even as the digital tsunami crests. Business processes have traditionally been highly manual and heavily siloed. Instead of putting brainpower and resources toward innovation and execution, companies that don’t automate remain bogged down in an increasingly arcane world of paper, spreadsheets, and legacy technology.

Non-Experts Needed

A key aspect of digital transformation is the switch from centralized development that caters to distributed teams’ needs to a decentralized app creation model. This empowers the workforce with the tools to create, modify, and manage processes as near as possible to where business issues occur. This agility is providing organizations an easier, faster way to advance their goals.

Companies are increasingly turning to custom app development to create greater business agility, work throughput, and innovation, according to a recent report by 451 Research and FileMaker, Inc. called Custom Apps: The Engine for Digital Transformation. And citizen developers are leading the way. Nearly 60 percent of all custom apps are being created outside the IT department.

Citizen developers, those with either limited or no technical development skills, are building 30 percent of those apps. In small companies, 47 percent of business owners are leading app development strategy. Eighty-two percent of all businesses report that citizen developers are going to become more important over the next two years.

Enabling those closest to the problem to solve the problem increases employee engagement. Citizen developers are spurred on by a greater sense of autonomy and a greater likelihood of influencing business process design and impact. Recognition of such contributions then becomes part of a new company culture.

As business stakeholders gain greater responsiveness to changing market conditions through more direct and immediate changes in process design and resource allocation, business agility increases. It becomes easier to achieve business outcomes.

Fast Toward the Future

As technology delivers a non-stop onslaught of new possibilities, companies can no longer rely on manual processes. Organizations cannot remain competitive without process automation. This is why so many are breaking down the siloes that divide IT and business units, and switching to a decentralized mode that puts problem-solving power into the hands of those who experience those problems on a daily basis. These citizen developers, empowered by today’s custom app platforms, are answering the challenge of digitization with speed, agility, and innovation to meet their companies’ specific needs.

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by Ann Monroe // Ann Monroe is vice president of worldwide marketing and customer success for FileMaker, Inc. and is responsible for marketing the company's software for creating custom apps for iPad, iPhone, Windows, Mac and the web. She holds an MBA degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BSE in Mechanical Engineering from Loyola Marymount University.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.