How to use low code to accelerate the digitization of business processes

Introduction

Schools are accused of not being far enough along in digitization. A survey by the IT service provider Rednet showed that 1 in every 5 schools have no WLAN available. One of the worst experiences many parents faced while home-schooling during the pandemic contributed to this as well.

Based on that survey, these accusations seem entirely justified. But schools are not the only culprits in this respect; progress is also slow in government offices and hospitals. At the same time, low-code applications have long been available to make life easier for employees and to digitize processes more quickly.

How digital are public offices?

Many public offices provide a lot of information about services such as passport applications, applications for certificates of good conduct and re-registrations online. However, according to a study by the Hans Böckler Foundation, only a percentage of these processes can be completed online. So public offices are significantly lagging.

Unfortunately, they are not the only service providers who have such problems. The situation is similar in other companies as well. For example, only 40 percent of the employees surveyed rate their company as “very digital,” according to a study by Bertelsmann Stiftung. Although this sounds positive initially, one should keep in mind that this figure means that around 60 percent do not perceive their company as being very digital. Furthermore, 22 percent even stated that their company was not digital at all.

What employees understand by the term “digitization”

First and foremost, the progress of digitization seems to fail because many employees do not have a deeper understanding of the term and thus lack the knowledge to implement it. The study by the Hans Böckler Foundation shows that official employees primarily understand “digitization” to mean optimized e-mail inboxes and online appointment scheduling. Although these are important aspects of digitization, they are only partial steps toward a completely digital bureaucracy.

Comparatively, the “complete digital handling of services” scored poorly. Only 44 percent of respondents felt that this conversion was an important part of digitization, partly because it seems so extensive, completely underestimating its true potential.

What digital processes could look like

Stepping away from traditional paperwork has several benefits. For one thing, it’s good for the environment. In offices, a lot of paper is consumed by printing and copying documents. According to a study by DocuScan.de, 195,000 pages are used annually in the office. A beech tree would have to grow for an average of 80 years to provide the amount of paper for one office.

If these paper guzzlers were digital, consumption would be significantly reduced:

  • Documents could be filled out and signed digitally.
  • Data could be stored in cloud storage, enabling location-independent work, which also provides security in states of emergency. Smartphones and tablets can also be used to access stored data in emergencies, providing increased convenience.
  •  Invoices and copies are sent digitally via e-mail.

But what exactly might such digital processes look like? To start, it makes sense to take a closer look at digital invoice management. This means using a program that automatically recognizes invoices attached to an e-mail and sorts them into folders defined by the user. Individual invoices are checked automatically for their core statements – i.e., amount, date, sender, etc. Key data is then highlighted next to the document and can be easily viewed by the user. This makes it easier to keep track of the documents.

From digital tools to digital processes – low-code, the “LEGO” for IT and business

Some programs are already available that allow users to digitally fill out and sign documents. However, errors often occur because they are not adapted to the individual documents. Low-code platforms make it easier for users to independently select which fields within the document need to be filled in, preventing such errors. In this way, they can create their own input mask without any prior programming knowledge.

The unique thing about low-code solutions is that they can be used by more than programmers and IT experts. Vendors provide “building blocks” so users can build an interface according to their needs. These building blocks are similar to LEGO building blocks; although there are pre-formed building blocks, the assembled results can be completely different.

This allows users to set their priorities, and the system remains flexible. The initial configuration is done from the desktop, but customers can still edit documents from their smartphones and tablets.

The input screens are easy to identify and fill out. For the key user, there are also monitoring tools to view the status of documents. Key users can also send out orders, i.e., requests to complete the documents. The completed data is not only stored on servers but also on the end devices themselves so that data can be viewed online and offline.

How low-code simplifies the digitization of offices

Once a low-code format is established, it does not have to be recompiled by the key user for every use and document. Of course, this option still exists. By allowing customization, low-code vendors provide a generic tool that can be used by various departments, regardless of experience level. Thus, not only the tool becomes digital, but the entire process. Low-code has the potential to transform companies and institutions obscured by mountains of paper into app factories.

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