Democratising Innovation: Welcome to the Era of No-Code


Published on
31/05/2022 09:48 AM

Article contributed by Mark Mader, CEO at Smartsheet

One business truism: an organisation’s most important asset is its people. I’m sure 99% of business leaders would tell you the same. But are these leaders practising what they preach?

In my experience, many businesses today underestimate the value of their workforces and under-equip them with tools that could help them deliver on their potential value. You’ll often find managers looking at employees as little more than “do-ers,” measuring their performance by their ability to complete clearly defined tasks in a given timeframe.

That is, of course, a measure of productivity, but employees have much more to offer than this status quo. Businesses should be looking beyond productivity and figuring out how to tap into their employees’ capacity and creativity to innovate and grow. 

Ideas should not be siloed

Today, the word innovation has become something of a business buzzword. As a result, enterprises are spending vast sums of money trying to drive innovation with elite, tech-savvy teams. The result? The valuable observations, ideas, and recommendations that come from the heart of the workforce never make it past the idea stage. I would argue these businesses are placing the weight and expectation on the shoulders of only a few and are the real time, business-specific expertise that exists in their workforce.

For any business, it’s critical that those very people—who build the products, manage processes, collaborate with partners, and act as the first line of engagement for an organisation—are active participants in driving the business forward. However, to achieve this, businesses must break down the silos that stifle innovation and equip employees, regardless of their technical ability, to drive change through technology.

This approach, one that unlocks innovation across any employee and enables them to improve processes and outcomes without the need to develop complex software is the “no-code” approach.

Democratising innovation 

So, what is no-code? In the simplest terms, it refers to tools or platforms that empower employees to create applications without having the need (or even the ability) to write code.

By using quick to learn, intuitive tools, no-code creates a foundation that enables anyone to easily configure business systems or even build powerful solutions. This opens up innovation to all by lowering the technological barriers of entry previously accessible only by coders or IT teams, giving potentially 25%, 50%, or even an entire workforce the opportunity to create new systems and applications that could positively impact the bottom line. 

While a major benefit of no-code solutions is empowering employees, it is also vital to maintaining a competitive advantage. When team members are positioned to rapidly apply what is learned on the job and translate it into better, more efficient processes and experiences for customers, everyone wins.

With such benefits to employees and their organisations, it begs the question: why haven’t more organisations already adopted a no-code mindset and technologies? 

A win-win-win scenario

The democratisation of new technology can often be a messy process. It may even cause tension between management who want to give their teams a tool to more effectively do their job and the IT team responsible for maintaining the security and governance of the technology stack. This is especially true with hybrid work, which widened the cyber threat attack-surface from a web of offices to hundreds or thousands of individuals’ homes.

Implementing a no-code platform should not compromise what IT is tasked to do though. IT teams should continue to maintain high standards by working with business teams to ensure that no-code platforms meet the high bar of internal security and governance frameworks. Once approved and deployed, no-code tools actually benefit thinly stretched IT teams. Time spent building and maintaining business team applications can instead be used to focus on other priorities. 

No-code creates an environment where employees are more engaged because they’re empowered to make improvements to their systems, businesses unlock an untapped wealth of ideas and experience from their business teams, and IT teams are less resource constrained and more at ease knowing that security and governance requirements are being upheld. It’s a triple win.

No-code in the real world

Discussing the benefits of no-code is one thing, but seeing it in action is another. Thankfully, many organisations are already creating positive change from a no-code approach. For instance, we recently worked with Uber and its performance marketing team to drive efficiencies using our WorkApps solution. 

With WorkApps, Uber easily created role-specific workspaces to host the documents, dashboards, and reports for a diverse set of teams to collaborate on—all within a single, easy-to-access location. With an almost non-existent learning curve, their team quickly designed and built the apps needed to solve key problems. Since adopting Smartsheet’s no-code platform, Uber has decreased its process inefficiencies and increased visibility into key information across the performance marketing team leading to increased productivity and ultimately greater innovation. 

So, what does the future hold?

For businesses looking to adopt no-code solutions, the future is bright. No-code offers employers a competitive advantage, enabling their existing staff to translate their knowledge into solutions and break down the silos that have traditionally acted as bottlenecks to innovation, all while helping them feel more engaged and empowered. 

The psychological effect of a no-code mindset on workforces should not be underestimated. Many businesses have been impacted by the effects of the Great Reshuffle, seeing a higher than usual turnover in staff. McKinsey found that 70 percent of employees said that their sense of purpose is defined by their work, so today’s jobs need to offer more than clocking in and out. Offering employees the opportunity to take on impactful work that matters to the picture and purpose of their organisation can make all the difference when it comes to employee engagement and retention–while also positively creating consistent and tangible business impact.

But perhaps what will be most impactful for those who do embrace such solutions is their ability to harness arguably the most powerful force in business: human ingenuity. 

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