Principles of Low-Code First Innovation Management Recap

Norton Rose Fulbright has been a Betty Blocks customer for years, and during that time, the law firm’s use of low-code has evolved to fit its growing innovation needs. When it comes to the adoption of new technologies, the common trend is a temporary dip in productivity. People need to get acclimated to using the newly developed solutions before they feel comfortable using them in their day-to-day. Unfortunately, some employees cannot push past the momentary decrease in productivity, which results in them reverting back to the old systems that they are familiar with.

Approaching technological innovation

This is where innovation management with low-code comes in. Approaching innovation from a broader perspective makes it much clearer to the organization where they want to use low-code versus traditional code as they roll out innovative solutions. This rings especially true within the professional services industry, which is the most prone to augmentation and disruption through technological innovation. Here, there is more of a focus on providing holistic advice to clients. An example of this is when an organization actively seeks input on how technological solutions can be incorporated into its existing business framework rather than just receiving generic advice on which innovative steps to take. Another big trend is the impact of large consumer-facing tech companies on the user experience and design of solutions. People have come to expect the standard that applications are extremely user-friendly, and there is far less willingness from the public to climb a learning curve. This creates a huge opportunity for professional services to deliver tools that fit these new criteria. 

With the rise of generative AI and large language models, organizations are really on the cusp of disruptive innovation. The sheer quantity of new companies and products popping up to fill a specific niche is almost dizzying, and it is starting to become impossible to keep up with the pace. Newly developed solutions can become obsolete in just a matter of months. So, how do manage innovation when change is happening so quickly? 

According to Al Hounsell, the Innovation Director at NRF, the best way to manage is not to look at what is happening here and now but to look further ahead and observe the broad changes that are being made. The focus needs to be on the destination ahead rather than directly observing the road that you’re on.

What is innovation?

The three pillars crucial to fostering innovation are creativity, implementation, and value capture. However, innovation is much more than thinking outside the box and coming up with new ideas. It is the broader discipline of taking the output of creativity and following a systematic approach to deal with creative ideas in order to capture value. True innovation cannot happen without capturing value first. 

What exactly are we being creative about when we want to achieve innovation? First, we break down the underlying processes of the business to identify the dimensions of innovation. This can be done by carefully examining an organization's end product for which a customer is willing to pay. The next step is considering the processes in place that factor into creating the end product. This is where the most opportunities for innovation are based on new products, manufacturing, services, or business models. Driving innovation across multiple dimensions is very powerful for building a competitive advantage.

According to Al Hounsell, 70% of his innovation efforts are focused on incremental innovation. This type of innovation covers optimizing existing products, processes, and customers. Aside from incremental innovation, a portion of the percentage is dedicated to creating breakthrough innovations. Breakthrough innovations create new value propositions for existing customers and clients. As a rule of thumb, the deeper you delve into the degree of innovation, the greater the risk. The safest approach is to have a balance between incremental innovation and breakthrough innovation. 

How to manage innovation

Innovation can be seen as a funnel: It starts out with broad concepts and then narrows down to the point where you can extract value through innovation. The first phase is idea generation, which is the most expansive way of thinking about innovation. The second phase is the assessment of the ideas. The third is the implementation of these ideas and how this can be achieved in relation to low-code.

When generating ideas, they have to be in line with the organization. Creativity tends to thrive when you put guidelines around it rather than taking a shotgun approach to it. Innovation is sometimes bred by having these constraints and making sure that the generation of ideas aligns with the organization. Having targeted challenges allows people to think along the guidelines of innovation. This can be done through workshops, for example. It is important to note that you cannot just tell people to think outside of the box on command. People have to be led through exercises in order to look at a problem in a new way that generates ideas.  

How do you assess ideas in a way that leads to your organization's strategic aims? Part of this involves buy-in and investment from the rest of the organization to move forward. Factoring in the values of the outcome through innovation is a good way to get buy-in. Customer value and internal efficiency are examples of values that are part of the innovation process and can be assessed through a panel of stakeholders. Experiments then need to be planned in order to determine the innovation strategy. When using low-code to experiment with innovation, it is much easier to assess the risk of the innovation strategy in the assessment phase. People tend not to wrap their minds around an idea until you have a prototype for them to interact with. Low-code does very well in providing this. Another way low-code benefits the assessment phase is that you don’t have to build a full-scale solution to gain buy-in. This is a great way to quickly get feedback on how people are interacting with the solution and gauge whether it hits the organization’s target or not. This iterative assessment approach is very important to de-risk the ideas before moving on to full implementation. 


Use low-code to support innovation

Lastly, when it comes to the implementation of technology-based ideas, there are the options to build or buy the solution. A market assessment will follow to determine if similar solutions are already out there. It sometimes happens that off-the-shelf buying is the right way instead of having the organization build it themselves. By asking yourself who will ultimately be able to build the best solution on the market, and the answer is not your organization, it is best to buy off-the-shelf. If there is a niche that a big vendor will not fill, it is best for an organization to build their own solution. With low-code technology, it becomes easier to piece together a solution with the existing technology that a business has at its disposal. This rings especially true for solving a problem that is unique to the organization. 

Low-code has the potential to encourage more people to participate in the experimentation process to get a useful prototype up and running. The majority of people who utilize low-code are skilled developers because developers are often bogged down with maintaining the supporting tools to foster innovation rather than participating in the development process of creating new innovative solutions. Low-code is a great way to speed up the maintenance of supporting tools, rather than manually managing the servers and code base. Skilled developers then also have the option to build custom code on top of low-code solutions. Nowadays, no-code and low-code platforms have become the go-to approach for NRF when it comes to scaling, maintaining, and supporting innovation solutions within the professional service industry. 



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