Making No-code Your Strategy

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”
Michael Porter

You have started down your no-code journey with plans to build just one or two initial applications, and you used the No-code Lifecycle to deliver the project successfully. Congratulations! However, once you move further into building no-code apps, you may find that you are suddenly a “victim of your success,” with additional requests springing up across different parts of the business function. This is a great problem to have, of course, but it also means you now need an overall no-code strategy to govern how you will prioritize the organization’s efforts and manage the ongoing expansion of your no-code development projects. Trying to handle one no-code project after the next may not yield the best results.

So, let’s step back. The No-code Lifecycle that we have discussed so far began with the definition of the business use case. In this chapter, we present what activities may need to precede this to help provide a strategy for ensuring that your no-code projects target the areas with the largest return on investment.

Step #1 Educate and engage

Think of this first step as an internal evangelism and marketing program that promotes the potential of no-code across your organization. Many business groups will not yet understand the concepts of no-code or the benefits of this approach, so you’ll want to engage across the organization to educate them on the no-code vision and start to propose ideas for new areas of innovation. This may include the following:

Internal no-code roadshow

Plan to spend time taking your first no-code app around to other teams and showing them the power of no-code tools. They will most likely be amazed at how much was built in so little time. Taking a demo-led approach can be highly effective as groups often need to see the impact of no-code to fully grasp the power of what has been accomplished. Meeting internally with key business and technology leaders is important to gain buy-in and generate excitement. Then you can start collecting their ideas on possible no-code apps.

No-code showcase

It may not be practical to meet with the entire organization team-by-team, so you should consider other “viral” approaches to getting the word out. Putting together a simple “showcase” of case studies that link the no-code app with key metrics (e.g., how quickly it was built, benefits realized) can be an effective strategy that scales efficiently. Publish the showcase on one of your internal portals and promote it when it’s shared across different teams. Developing strong word-of-mouth about the apps will create buzz!

Internal no-code hackathon

A powerful (and fun) approach is to be creative and experiential by staging a hackathon to encourage different teams to try no-code for themselves. No-code hackathons are facilitated events where you encourage small teams (or individuals) to learn new no-code skills around a facilitated one- or two-day project. Training is an important part of a hackathon to give participants a base set of skills. It is also important to pair them with mentors who can help design simple apps (typically, mentors are part of the CoE).

Note that an internal hackathon requires a fair amount of internal preparation and a clear sponsor to plan and manage the event, typically coming from the No-code CoE. Planning a hackathon is beyond the scope of this Playbook but there are good resources (like this guide11. Hackathon Guide) that cover tips and guidance in more detail.

Best practice tip:

You’ll want an easy way to capture ideas that get submitted across any of the above channels, so why not create a no-code app for conducting an innovation survey? Having a no-code app for surveying ideas is a fun and visible way to showcase no-code development as part of the strategy and process for engaging the entire organization. You can likely find an app already in the no-code vendor’s marketplace (like this22. Conducting surveys for Creatio, Creatio Marketplace) that allows you to easily conduct the survey.

At the end of this first step, the key success criteria are that you’ve generated a lot of internal excitement and collected many ideas for possible no-code app innovation. However, the ideas will likely be somewhat raw and unstructured, of different sizes and types, and may duplicate and overlap. You need to structure them before moving forward — which is the point of this next step.

Step #2 Group and expand

This next step will begin to apply some structure across the portfolio of app innovation types. We propose grouping and aligning the apps into three distinct strategic categories, which help cluster applications based on their strategic impact on the business function.

Systems of Record

These apps will typically use no-code to extend or augment established packaged software or homegrown systems that support core business processes and data. The strategic focus of these types of apps is typically on efficiencies, often by eliminating unnecessary data reentry in multiple systems. They may be rolled out broadly to large numbers of users across the organization as they are part of core business processes. They may also handle sensitive data and be subject to different governance requirements.

Systems of Differentiation

These apps will use no-code to enable unique company processes or industry-specific capabilities. These apps need to be updated more frequently to accommodate changing business practices or customer requirements.

Systems of Innovation

These are new no-code applications built rapidly to address new business requirements or opportunities. These can sometimes have shorter lifecycles and be more focused because they may address areas that are being explored (often at a departmental level) and have not yet been addressed by more traditional packaged applications.

This is modeled after principles of Gartner’s Pace Layered Application Strategy33. Accelerating Innovation by Adopting a Pace-Layered Application Strategy, Gartner but applied to the no-code approach. Recognize that all three of these application types are important and represent different no-code opportunities and benefits. By grouping your app ideas into these strategic categories, you realize a balanced approach to your no-code strategy.

As you group items by innovation type, you will likely find that the ideas are unevenly fleshed out. Some will have more detail, others will have less, and some may even have parts of the business vision that are unclear. At this stage, you would work with each group to review their submission and flesh out more detail as needed. Work to add more insights to the idea and specificity about expected outcomes.

Step #3 Qualify and prioritize

Most sales organizations use the concept of a “sales funnel” to describe the customer journey through the sales process, stretching from early-stage brand discovery to final purchase. Visualizing the process as a funnel helps represent that sales opportunities are more qualified as they pass through the stages in the process. Opportunities are fewer the further you move down the funnel, but they become more highly qualified. This concept of a prioritization funnel should also apply to your pipeline of no-code apps as they flow through the strategic framework. The number of ideas will get smaller as you progress, but this is actually OK — the ideas that are making it into later stages are more highly qualified and represent higher-impact innovation opportunities for your organization.

By the time your no-code ideas have progressed through the pipeline, you will have identified a set of highly-qualified and impactful ideas! Take this list and prioritize it so that you end up with a stack-ranked list of the top ideas. An important factor for your prioritization should be how well the ideas align with and support the key elements of your business strategy and goals. You should also assess the ability of the no-code ideas to improve your competitive position, which can help you outpace other competitors in the market, such as by being able to launch new products or services faster to help attain more market share.

Now, you are ready to take each of these and review it with your executive leadership that has sponsored no-code at your enterprise. Have them review the list and get explicit approval to move forward with the top ideas and develop the business use cases.

Final Takeaways

Preparing an overall strategy for your no-code app portfolio is a more advanced concept after you have successfully built the momentum of different groups using no-code. But investing in a strategic framework that enables the continued inception and collection of ideas helps you group and align your portfolio and, ultimately, prioritize and approve the best ideas to move forward, which is important as your portfolio scales.