18 Aug Powering innovation and inclusion: the democratic effect of the Power Platform
Growing their very own crop of citizen developers might seem like a huge threat to many organisational stakeholders – from IT leaders through to business unit managers. Here at Eighty20, we think the remarkable benefits to business outcomes as well as culture and engagement make it well worth getting over this mindset. Done right, it’s one of the biggest opportunities workplaces have to create a skills pool and a culture that will be the envy of every competitor.
Putting new technology in the hands of less tech-savvy workers has long been seen by IT teams as a recipe for disaster. And some suspicion around the promised magic wand of low-code app platforms (LCAPs) is to be expected. In their brochure spruiking LCAPs for the public sector in 2021, PwC touted the amazing potential of the citizen developer model. “Passionate, creative and innovative people will spot new opportunities to simplify how they work and to serve citizens in smarter ways,” they say.
But this appealing vision comes with a big red flag for IT teams who’ve always been wary of unleashing the power of coding among the rank and file. In their words “giving people more freedom over how they use technology can create entirely new burdens for the IT department.”
Opening the floodgates
In our view, this sort of scare campaign just isn’t warranted. Firstly, this is because the Power Platform comes with comprehensive out-of-the-box controls for securing your low code sandpit so that it’s a safe space for citizen developers to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. That’s not to say you can just plug in the platform and ring the bell for playtime. You can certainly save your IT team a lot of headaches by following some best-practice guidelines for standing up your very own Power Platform Digital Factory.
The barrier to adoption that’s harder to overcome is getting the whole concept over the line with operational teams and their leaders. While there might be literally thousands of use cases for Power Platforms hidden in plain sight, it’s hard for decision makers to spot these themselves, let alone create the conditions for their team members to do so. There can also be prejudices at play here. When employees are concerned that AI is coming for their jobs, the idea of replacing their routine tasks with lines of code can seem like a pretty big threat to their job security.
If low-code and no-code platforms have such immense potential for company culture, why are they not more widely adopted? An overwhelming majority of BDMs and users (71 percent and 76 percent, respectively) point to a lack of awareness around potential use cases for Microsoft Power Platform or other programs.
Low-Code Trend Report 2022 | Richard Riley, Senior Director Product Marketing, Power Platform, 24 May 2022
Topping up the talent pool
Before buying into this story, both leaders and their direct reports might want to consider the findings of a recent Microsoft report from the LCAP frontlines. They found that employers offering training on low-code or no-code platforms see high rates of participation and not just in low-code training. LCAP users are more likely to take advantage of relevant training opportunities within their organization (78%), compared with other employees (41%).
Not only does the report bust the myth that employees aren’t ready to take on more tech in their day-to-day work, it also highlights the value of LCAP in enhancing engagement. The same survey conducted by Edelman on behalf of Microsoft found that more than 80% of employees surveyed said they would be more willing to work for a company that invests in their technical upskilling.
This makes the Power Platform a win all round for any organisation with concerns about running low on talent, particularly in the digital realm. By empowering your workforce to think and act like a coder, you’re investing in their problem-solving skills as well as their technical abilities. As well as making your organisation an employer of choice and boosting retention as a result, you’re also building digital capabilities outside of your IT team. And with new graduates coming into the workforce as digital natives, organisations will soon have no option but to offer these candidates opportunities to enhance their digital know-how if they’re to attract them.
To keep the playing field level when it comes to digital upskilling, it’s worth considering how ideas for using Power Apps are gathered and prioritised in your organisation. Giving citizen developers a large degree of freedom to innovate is a good start. But to take democratisation of creativity a few steps further, an innovation hub that follows a process to vet each idea can limit the bias that sometimes exist when it’s a person or function calling the shots.
When all ideas are genuinely welcome and there is an objective way of reviewing and assessing Power Platform projects and sprints, there’s a transparency and equal opportunity to innovation. Strong governance can still come into play around which ideas will become a developed concept and then proceed to app development stage. But this visibility of the fact that anyone can innovate can really boost participation and the rewards that brings to your workforce, even when it’s not your idea that makes the cut.
Boosting the flow of ideas and productivity
As employees start to see that innovation improves process and reduces administration overhead, this insight can be a springboard for the next idea. In the short-term this is great for productivity and cost-saving and in the long-term it’s a culture changer. If the innovation hub closes the loop and sends out a clear message about the results these ideas are delivering as they’re executed, this is a boost to morale as well as the business bottom line.
Leaders can take this a step further and show how cost savings are being reinvested for the benefit of customers and employees. That’s an equally powerful message to broadcast about the value of innovation and the fact that all employees are in a position to make a difference just by taking the opportunity to put forward an idea.