Why and how to apply lean startup to digital innovation

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Nigel Warren

Digital aspects

Digital innovation – with less coding

We live in an increasingly digital world, and businesses and government bodies all want to invest in digital systems and modernized processes to transform how they serve customers. The end-goal - faster and more convenient services—while at the same time reducing costs through process improvement.

Yet digital skills are in short supply. Forrester reports that 84% of firms globally complain of a shortage of skilled resources to deliver digital transformation.

Essential digital skills are lacking, and at the same time the competition is heating up, with trendy startups, digital agencies and massive software companies ‘hoovering-up" the latest digital development talent. When the likes of Facebook are offering £70,000+ and stock options for new hires, how can ordinary businesses compete?

Lower the technology bar

Unless you can magically create a legion of digitally skilled graduates—and somehow get to them before the competition does—an alternative answer would be to lower the technology bar. But would doing so mean inferior tech, that leaves you unable to compete?

That needn’t be the case, because a new breed of Low-code development platform enables less technical staff to build elegant, robust and scalable systems, without programming. Instead they configure custom business apps via an intuitive, visual drag-and-drop interface, using standard "widgets" where all the heavy lifting has already been taken care of.

Low-code in action

Low-code platforms help you get less experienced staff developing new digital services rapidly—with training taking days rather than months. A great example of this can be found at Adur and Worthing Councils ("AWC"). As anyone in the UK knows, the current austerity climate has made it extremely difficult for councils to attract and retain modern application development skills. But AWC are not letting this hold them back.

Paul Brewer, Director for Digital & Resources at a AWC, introduced a Low-code development platform to the council in early in 2015. By October the council had won the Society of IT Managers (SOCITM) digital innovation award, in recognition of the rapid progress that the council has achieved.

Paul recently presented AWC’s digital transformation story to an audience of central and local government change managers, at a lunch event hosted by Methods Digital, the consulting partner that helped AWC define their digital transformation strategy; and MatsSoft, who provide the MATS Low-code development platform that AWC have adopted.

In his talk Paul discussed:

• The imperative for radical change in local government
• Why empowering everyone to innovate yields immediate results
• How AWC’s Citizen Platform could replace 400 legacy IT systems
• Why Low-code platforms are essential for rapid digital delivery

You can read a summary of Paul’s talk and find out more about Low-code here.

Should you be thinking of Low-code instead of traditional development for digital innovation?

A Low-code approach to software development isn’t for everything. Sometimes only a 100% bespoke approach will do. And of course for some of your requirements there are standard commercial off the shelf ("COTS") applications that do precisely what you require at an acceptable price point.

But for medium or larger enterprises, the trouble comes when you license dozens or even hundreds of COTS, which fragment data across multiple systems, require integration or require customization to meet your exact business requirements. Then costs quickly escalate, and the complexity creates a huge degree of inertia when you need to change the way things work.

In relation to digital innovation specifically, a Low-code approach should be part of your thinking, for some or all of the following reasons:

Differentiation: Innovative ideas break new ground. A COTS solution is unlikely to be available yet that precisely fits the requirement you have in mind.

Speed: A Low-code approach is dramatically faster than hand coding. (Up to five to ten times faster.) Launching your digital innovation ahead of competitors will give you a significant advantage, making your innovation far more worthwhile.

Experimentation: It is wise to adopt "Lean startup" principles. Market test a minimum viable product (MVP) as early as possible, before ploughing huge investment into perfecting the "all singing all dancing" solution. A Low-code platform makes that possible – not just because of speed, but because of simplicity. There’s no upfront investment needed in infrastructure. You can start with a minimal commitment thanks to Cloud provisioning.

Iterative Development: Turning an MVP into a fully working system is easier if you don’t have to pick through and revise thousands of lines of programming code. Low-code development platforms provide a visual configuration environment, enabling you to revise process, data and user interface without coding.

What AWC’s digital transformation story demonstrates is that a Low-code development platform like MATS can empower a much wider cross section of employees to get involved in digital innovation, without the need to learn programming languages. Their SOCITM digital innovation award suggests that they’re succeeding despite the extreme competition for digital talent.


MATS is sponsoring PEXWeek (Orlando 18-20 Jan 2016) and Operational Excellence and Process Transformation Week Europe (London 25-27 April 2016) – two great opportunities to learn more from our customer case studies and see MATS in action.

Alternatively, to learn more about MATS and how it might suit your digital innovation objectives, check out the short demo videos here http://www.matssoft.com/product/