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Managers – especially those with an entrepreneurial spirit – often encounter numerous issues when trying to get software projects off the ground. At Triggre, we regularly meet such managers, and we understand their frustration which stems from the fact that they want to accomplish their IT goals at a pace that their IT department can’t keep up with. But why is that? Why are IT projects a hassle?

A lack of understanding

Suppose you’re a forward-thinking manager with innovative ideas, and you ask your IT experts to adjust or develop something you consider to be minor. Their response? “That will take three weeks – at least.” You don’t get it. This should be simple, so why are they making it difficult? The long wait doesn’t help either; it only widens the gap between you and your IT people. The result: a mutual lack of understanding.

Other interests

If you’re depending on an external IT supplier, their interests differ strongly from yours. They don’t want to empower you to a level where you don’t need them anymore. Their business benefits from returning customers – which is why they want you to come back and ask them for solutions. At Triggre, this is not an issue, as you can realize your ideas independently. This means our success depends on our customers’ success – a very different approach than most software companies opt for!

New insights

As a manager, you gain new insights every day. Your IT experts, however, don’t offer room for these. They dive into an idea for six months, and once they present you with the result, your vision may already have changed fundamentally. At times, this can be very frustrating and cost-ineffective!

Insufficient involvement

IT people tend to respond to fresh requests in a very bureaucratic manner. A variety of forms need to be filled out and several meetings are organized, often restraining a manager’s innovative thinking process. As a manager, you can see the urgency or benefits of your idea, but you quickly find yourself bending over backwards to break through a bureaucratic, abstract wall.

Do you recognize these issues that make the realization of innovative software ideas a hassle? And are you tired of them? Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your opportunities. At Triggre, you can create your own software. It’s fun and hassle-free!

Together with our customers we have made quite some interesting process changes over the years. I wanted to share some of the most important insights we have gained and give a few examples that might help you rethink your processes.

#1 Simplification

It may seem superfluous to say, but many processes can be simplified. Many companies are doing things the way they do just because they have always done them this way. A good way to start, is at the data that is used in the process. Look at every field of data used in the process such as for example employee number, customer social security number, etc. For each of these fields find out why you need it. If you can’t find out why, simply cross it out.

We have noticed that many times data is used in a process that is needed by law. However, laws change and it is easy to then forget that the data in a process is linked to it. One of our customers was once still storing customer’s identity information while that was no longer needed by law. We changed the process to a much simpler one, which got rid of everything related to the customer’s identity information.

#2 Automation and exceptions

One of the most interesting changes to make in a process is to automate it so that it becomes manageable by exception. This means that most of the times the process is executed, it can be handled completely automatically. Only if there is an exceptional case should a human employee intervene. This may sound a little bit abstract so let me give you a real world example.

A customer had a process where they hired external people on a regular basis to supervise exams. Those supervisors would declare their travel costs and time they spent. All this information was sent by regular mail. The information was then typed into SAP after being checked. Before paying the amount the entire declaration was checked again. This took a lot of time obviously and was seriously error-prone.

What we designed together with our customer is a process that is almost fully automated. From their online exam booking system we get all the information needed to determine the declaration; home address of the supervisor, address of the exam location, the duration of the exam and whether the supervisor was present and the financial information to transfer the money to the supervisor. With this information we use an internet service to automatically calculate the travel expenses. The duration of the exam is used to calculate the declaration for the exam.

All declarations for a month are combined for the supervisor, who can then simply download the declaration for his administration. The declaration is automatically transferred to the supervisor, who has an option to file a complaint if he thinks something is wrong (which is an exception, because most information is provided by the supervisor in the first place through the online exam booking software).

In this example the success rate is higher than 95% which is a good rule of thumb to aim for when designing such processes. You want to be able to achieve as close to 100% automation as you can, but certainly not lower than 90%. The process in this example eliminates a lot of copying of data manually, almost fully automates the process and provides time saving for both the company and the supervisor. Win-win.

#3 – Responsibility and self-service

A final tip on automating and rethinking processes is to take responsibility into account. Some processes require some input from a customer, supplier or employee. It helps enormously if you can design it in such a way that the person who has most to gain, is the one responsible for supplying the information. This creates a natural pressure to perform, which can then be further helped by sending a reminder if the data is not yet supplied after a certain amount of time.

One example of such responsibility is when we designed a process for an educational institute where the participant could indicate his company would pay. In this case, we would send an email to the company asking them to sign off on paying for the education, which would expire after 7 days. This places the responsibility to make sure the employer will sign off right where it is best put: at the participant who wants to take the course.

This step greatly reduced the amount of time spent handling requests, both because the educational institute no longer had to call after the employer, but also because there were far less issues with people trying to get a course paid by their employer without permission.

In many companies, organizational departments are separated. As a result, marketing employees, for example, never come anywhere near the ICT division, and vice versa. In such organizations, it is generally assumed that software development is too difficult to engage with, anyway.

However, this gap is unnecessary and it’s a shame that it still exists so widely. Because if companies manage to bridge it, they unlock a wealth of opportunities, making software creation easier, more accessible, and more fun.

Outside the box, into a broader realm

A little outside-the-box thinking can go a long way. First and foremost, companies should stop pigeonholing. Considering the inquisitive, exploratory mindset of millennials, restricting employees to a rigidly defined task list is outdated.

Most people possess a skillset that stretches beyond it, and although they don’t necessarily need to put it to use, it’s important to allow them to think and act broadly. In terms of software development, creating a company culture that encourages non-IT employees to delve into the subject makes it less scary and therefore more accessible.

Once you involve people in IT-related matters, they will have the courage to take subsequent steps. Don’t throw them into complex coding languages. Simply show them that there are more possibilities than they think – for those without a technical background as well.

Building bridges (and applications) with the right tool

Of course, bridging the gap between departments requires the right tool. Although creating software is often presented or referred to as an arduous endeavor, it doesn’t have to be.

Triggre, for example, gives you the opportunity to make software without the hassle: you can build your own application quickly and easily, experimenting with new ideas along the way – regardless of whether you’re a marketing employee or a business manager. If you want to make an adjustment later on, you don’t have to call the IT department, as you can conveniently do it yourself.

In other words, the right tool can work wonders: it makes the traditionally complex field of software development approachable and fun to virtually everyone!

A new movement is gaining ground in the business community, and it is based on one simple question: How can I make software without IT? People who understand processes should be able to roll up their sleeves and implement their ideas without having to walk the beaten IT path before getting tangible results. Their creativity should not be limited, so they will be more willing to innovate. In short, businesses want to be in control when it comes to software creation; and rightly so.

Today, virtually every company needs IT to provide a way to disclose core systems. For example, communicating with the ERP system used should be a breeze. To achieve this in a hassle-free way, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and managers alike should ask three key questions.

1. How can I take the hassle out of IT?

Cloud solutions ensure that you are completely unburdened, as they eliminate the well-known hardware and software hassles. If you want to be a part of the digital revolution, you need a solid cloud solution. Triggre will provide you with the entire cloud stack, which includes everything you require to run a web application in the cloud: from a server all the way down to the database software. This means that you can stop worrying about essential IT concerns such as security and data traffic, which are included. Instead, you can immediately start with the fun part: creating your own software, hassle free!

2. Which conditions should I set?

If you opt for a cloud solution, you should first assess what you need. In-house knowledge is not required – you can ‘outsource’ that part to your cloud solution provider – but it is important to have an ability to adjust where necessary. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try to learn from every initiative, so you can improve over time. This often requires a shift in your company culture, but it is definitely worth it.

3. What kind of talent do I need?

 Business creatives who have a firm grasp of processes are indispensable. They are the ones who will take initiative, experiment, and come up with fresh ideas without having a fear of failure. In doing so, they will bring your employees closer together and provide what you need to survive as a business. It is important to realize that tomorrow’s team does not consist of all the people you work with today. If you want to innovate through software creation, you need to sketch a picture of what your business should look like in the (near) future and attract the right talent!

We meet with a lot of CIO’s and IT managers when companies are interested in using Triggre. Usually, a business unit will be interested to make software themselves. This can be caused by understaffing on the IT department (a huge issue these days), the need to hire external IT consultants (which can have a major negative impact) or simply because of budgeting issues.

IT departments and CIOs however, can be scared of letting business units make software themselves. This fear has led to such phrasing as ‘shadow IT’. And I fully understand this issue. IT departments have a hard time doing things right in the eyes of others. Because if they do things right, everything works and hardly anyone thinks to thank them for everything working. Only when things go awry, people tend to talk to the IT department. Complaining that ‘nothing is working’…

Therefore, it is nothing less than completely understandable that the department that is responsible to keep everything up and running, is not very happy when business units want to make software without their support. So why then, should IT departments be happy with platforms such as Triggre, that allow business units to make their own software?

A brief history of programming

In my previous post I discussed the evolution of programming. From the 1950s, when computers and programming were introduced, to today, there is a clear trend. Using computers has become ever easier, allowing more and more people to use them. The same is true for making software. Where the first programming languages were hard to understand and use, the languages we use today have become more accessible. While still hard, at least it doesn’t take a genius mathematician anymore to program a computer.

But what is more interesting is what happens if we connect those dots forward. It would mean that making software becomes accessible to more people, because it will be easier. This simply means that it is inevitable that more people will be able to make software. There is no stopping it. And while IT departments can frantically try to keep things the way they are, the visionary IT managers and CIOs actually see this evolution as a huge chance.

Problems IT departments face

All CIOs and IT departments must find solutions to some major problems they are facing. And if they don’t face them today, certainly in the next 3 years. These problems are, first and foremost, the huge shortage of qualified IT staff, leading to an increase in cost. Either because hiring externally becomes more expensive or simply because the salaries in the IT market have been increasing dramatically and will continue to do so. Second, there is an increasing need for software that automates and supports business processes. This software must also be quickly adapted to change, if the market circumstances so demand.

These problems obviously influence each other. The increasing need for software, combined with the decreased availability of qualified professionals, leads to a grinding halt. Big multinational companies can likely still afford to hire expensive IT consultants, but most companies will face a deadlock.

The IT department of tomorrow

Visionary IT departments recognize this problem and act accordingly. The solution lies in letting business units make their own software. While the challenge is to do so in a safe manner, taking into account data integrity and core processes. What this means is that the IT department must take on a support role, in which it offers services instead of complete solutions. The IT department guards the core data and its integrity, as well as the core processes, and offers simple APIs and other services to allow business units to make software themselves on top of that.

In one of my previous posts on this topic, I explained how this is very similar to how we currently work with email, file access and communication for example. Companies used to provide employees with completely configured machines, where everything was controlled by the IT department. There was no choice in how to access email, files or how to communicate. You just used the company issued machine.

These days however, employees want to use their own phone to access email and corporate communications and they want access to files from their home PC. Thus, IT departments have started offering this access as services. You can now install any email client you want, use any brand of smartphone you like and you can still access your email and use the corporate communications software (e.g. Skype, Hangouts, Slack). File access can be provided over VPN, which in some cases even allows employees to access files from their phones.

This service-oriented way of working can also be adopted on the software inside the company. In this case, the core systems are all maintained by the IT department, as well as a layer that supplies access to those systems (e.g. an Enterprise Service Bus like Bizztalk, WebMethods or Mule). In the core systems, the company can keep track of the most important information such as customer names and contact information and product information. It can offer a way to invoice a customer, making sure that the invoicing is done correctly at all time. But apart from that, departments can make their own software applications to support customers. When these applications need customer or product data, it can be gotten from the core systems. Any additional information and processes can be kept in the department specific systems, which they can develop themselves, using the right tools.

How Triggre helps the IT department

In my next post I will talk about how Triggre helps IT departments get the much needed ease of mind that is required when business units develop their own software.