The rise of low-code and hyper-automation

  • eir evo’s Paul Gilbride explains what low-code can do for your business and his advice as Microsoft partner of the year

    Q. As Head of Emerging Technologies at eir evo, what do you believe is the most significant technology trend or development that will have a profound impact on businesses in the next 3-5 years? 

    Generative AI is the most obvious trend that immediately springs to mind. This is certainly a foundational technology which others will be built upon. In the broader view, AI is another way to manage Intelligent Automation and from what we have seen in the real world and of our customers’ experiences, it’s not a simple case of what you can automate but actually, the speed at which you can automate.

     So for me, Hyper automation is the next big emerging technology and it's all about how fast we can innovate and with what technologies. AI such as Chat GPT, low-code composable applications and RPA are all part of that hyper-automation strategy within emerging technology.  This will have the biggest impact on businesses in the near future, assisting them to quickly identify, evaluate and automate as many processes and tasks as possible, across the organisation as a whole.

    Q. As Microsoft Partner of the Year, can you explain what Power Apps is and how it fits into the overall landscape of hyper-automation and digital transformation?

    Power Apps is a form of low-code technology and in simple terms, the code has already been built, it’s essentially available in modules and you can pull in different things at different points to build an application, where previously you would have had to fully code it. What that actually means is that basically, people have gone before you and have created elements of an application or process and you're reusing that to speed up development time by about 70%. It’s a Microsoft Office 365-based solution and completely integrates with a number of applications such as Teams and Outlook.

    Q. What are the common use cases you’ve seen for Power Apps in businesses today and how have they helped improve productivity and efficiency?

    The most common Power App applications would typically be approvals and requests. These days, everybody has to get a process approved and through automation, we can speed up these processes. So for example, if the finance department needs to approve something and your line manager needs to approve it before that, then low-code technologies can build it and get all that automation done really quickly for you. The same applies to requests processes such as the need to request a new piece of machinery or something like leave or a travel request, and these are very common areas where the technology is deployed successfully.

    Another good example would be in the healthcare sector where low-code technologies really help with the referrals process because it effectively automates a lot of those processes that dramatically improve patient times to care. This also applies to compliance and audit applications. People get audited on a regular basis so when multiple stakeholders need to be involved in an audit process, we can build an application that comes back with all the correct information in a timely and efficient manner.

    Q. Low-code platforms are often perceived to suit the development of simple or small-scale applications. What would you say to those who may underestimate the potential of low-code and how can organisations leverage platforms such as Power Apps to build complex and mission-critical applications?

    For example, Enterprise full-code stack development has been the established method of building applications however, in the past two to three years this has changed significantly as the technology has evolved so much. Today, low-code technology such as power apps has advanced so much that eir evo have deployed critical business applications into large-scale enterprise organisations, not just on the Island of Ireland but globally.

    We've deployed mission-critical low-code applications into some of the largest organisations in the world. The logic and the theory is that you already have one of the most secure application platforms available in the Microsoft Office 365 stack so once you go through the rigors of full-code security with your low-code application, you actually solve a significant number of the challenges that were traditionally faced by low-code.

    Q. Security and privacy are top concerns for organisations today. How do Microsoft Power Apps ensure that data is secure and protected from potential threats?

    Microsoft spend over a billion euros a year on security and privacy within their Cloud ecosystem, named as one of Gartner’s top cloud security vendors. So basically if anybody uses Outlook, SharePoint, MS Teams or any of those technologies that exist, you can be sure that Microsoft has invested significant levels of time, effort and expertise into securing that. They have multiple white papers on security, the protection of IP and the protection of data from a GDPR perspective across many different elements. Basically, you're building inside that platform and you get the peace of mind to know that Microsoft has invested massive amounts of money into security and it all sits inside the Office 365 platform guaranteeing it's secure from that perspective as well.

    Q. With the growth in low-code/no-code app dev, how do you see the role of traditional software development evolving in the future?

    I would say Full-Stack Developers are potentially going to become some of the most important people in the low-code revolution. It won't just be low-code into the future, it will be a bimodal approach to development which means that we have applications that could be 60% low-code but 40% traditional development model. That's the model that exists, they are symbiotic and work in a bimodal way with development. So when looking at delivering a particular low-code solution, you need to do constant development for specific reasons such as within a pharmaceutical production environment and we still need to do that. For full-stack developers, low-code is actually making it easier for them to apply their expertise.

    Q. What advice do you have for organisations who are just starting to explore the possibilities of Power Apps and Automation and how can they get started with these technologies?

    My advice comes straight from Einstein and might seem a bit outlandish but I use it everywhere, only because I believe in it so much! Einstein said if he had 60 minutes to save the world, he'd spend 50 minutes figuring out what the problem was. With low-code power apps, it’s important to have a really intense session on all the questions around licensing, governance, delivery, security and everything that goes with that. It's important so that you don't take a year to figure out what low-code is when you can literally figure it out in a week.

    From our side, we actually offer master classes specifically in figuring out what low-code is and how to use it. We explore the restrictions and what back ends to use from a data perspective, so over two days we can answer all your questions and then you will know what your strategy is. For most companies, it can actually accelerate and hyper-automate their whole advancement into low-code technologies by up to 18 months. It speeds up people's time to actually start to automate because they understand the technology quicker. It’s the fastest way to empower change in your organisation.

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