Low Code Development Platforms and Continuous Delivery

23 November 2018 Consultancy.uk

Low Code Development Platforms can compliment Agile Methodology delivery, supporting collaboration and transparency throughout the application development lifecycle. First Consulting has worked with a range of organisations in the UK on the implementation and application of Low Code Development Platforms. 

Low Code Development Platforms (LCDPs) provide an environment that individuals can use to create application software through graphical user interfaces and configuration, instead of traditional computer programming.

First Consulting, a consulting firm that specialises in business and technlogy, is an expert in implementing LCDPs and building associated applications to deliver benefits for their clients, in partnership with Mendix, a leader in the field. These platforms enable the business to engage a wider range of stakeholders in the application’s development, including those without formal programming skills or experience. This facilitates collaboration and sharing of information between business users, as well as improving the transparency of the process. Ultimately this enables the accelerated delivery of an optimal business application which realises benefits faster.

DevOps

DevOps, on the other hand, is a fundamental value-adding delivery methodology for LCDP solutions and underpins modern Agile development; it promotes closer collaboration between lines of business, development and IT operations to improve agility and reduces the response time to customer feedback. The term DevOps has emerged from the combination of ‘development’ and ‘operations’ engineers, working together throughout the development process and into production support. 

One of the main benefits of DevOps, and the origin of its speed to market, is the use of Continuous Delivery. Continuous Delivery is a software development practice championed by First Consulting in the use of LCDPs: any changes that are made are tested, pushed to a non-production testing environment and are then ready to be released for production at any time.Continuous Delivery - the eight principles

Continuous Delivery: the eight principles

Based on the firm's experience in the field, experts at First Consulting provide eight principles for roll-out:

1. Repeatable and reliable process for deploying software
In order to ensure easy deployment of the software, it is important that the same release process is used in all environments to help maintain consistency in a highly fragmented deployment process.

2. Automate everything
Manual processes are commonly time consuming, prone to human error and less efficient. It makes sense for organisations to create automated processes that can perform repeatable processes faster, with greater reliability, accuracy and consistency.

3. Keep everything in version control
A key aspect of continuous delivery is to store all development, deployment and testing aspects of the application in versioned storage. The use of strict version-control ensures a stable foundation for creating processes, with each iteration used to focus on performance and efficiency.

4. If it hurts, do it more frequently, and bring the pain forward
It is important to deal with the time-consuming or error prone tasks first; the repeated application of these problematic procedures will enable faster detection and repair of the underlying issue.

5. Build in quality
The underlying feature of continuous delivery is to identify and eradicate errors within the code as quickly as possible. Short feedback loops to developers ensure bugs are detected as soon as they appear, enabling faster production of quality code.

6. Done means released
It is vital for continuous delivery that there is always a clear definition of what the final version of the software should be for production. This removes any ambiguity and improves communication, helping everyone to reach and deliver the agreed upon final version.

7. Everybody is responsible
One of the greatest changes in recent times to software development is the mitigation of the conventional ‘silo’ way of working. The boundaries between the processes and development departments are no longer visible, with everyone working alongside one another. The old common saying of “it worked in my area” need no longer be relevant, with everyone involved taking full responsibility and accountability throughout the whole process.

8. Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is the most important principle that prevents you from falling behind with the ever-evolving advancements and changes in technology. Continuous improvement ensures that you constantly monitor change and improve your processes to match it.

Realising the full potential

"At First Consulting we help our clients achieve the full potential of Low Code Development Platforms by working with them to build their own ‘Continuous Delivery’ capability. We ensure that there is alignment across the goals of the project and the business strategy, and that the solution is solving the ‘right’ problems," explained Jon Nelmes, Managing Director of First Consulting UK.

He continued, "We look at process design and optimisation to ensure that there are no barriers to communication and that everyone is clear on their responsibilities, which helps to maintain the most effective ways of working throughout the project. Utilising our Low Code certified consultants, we are able to build and test applications in an exceptionally collaborative way, and then provide the training to help clients become autonomous in running their own sustainable capability. These services help us to lower the initial cost of setup, improve training and accelerate delivery of applications for our clients."

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First Consulting helps BDO to build new RPA capability with UiPath

22 March 2019 Consultancy.uk

Global accounting and consulting firm BDO is working on its own digital transformation, as it looks to pioneer the use of Robotic Process Automation in its work. Business consultancy First Consulting is helping BDO with designing the RPA journey and building its internal RPA capability.

Robotic Process Automation describes a process that utilises software programmed to autonomously carry out basic tasks across applications, reducing the burden of repetitive, simple tasks on employees.  Able to be developed and deployed in a matter of weeks, RPA is highly cost-effective and can typically demonstrate returns on investment within a few months. It has been known to dramatically improve the speed and accuracy of processing, resulting in a quicker and higher quality of service to customers.

Last year, BDO explored the value of Robotic Process Automation, concluding the technology has the capacity to bolster the firm’s service offerings as well as internal operations. On the back of this analysis, the professional services firm incorporated RPA into its ICT strategy for the coming years. This has already seen the first robot delivered at BDO, which has since been taken into use by the business.

First Consulting helps BDO to build new RPA capability with UiPath

First Consulting is advising BDO on all aspects of deploying and scaling up the technology across the organisation – from capability building, governance structure and processes to architecture and IT infrastructure. The joint team of BDO and First Consulting have, meanwhile, also taken the first steps to set up an internal RPA capability.

BDO faces a key year for its operations, particularly in the UK where it has recently become the fifth largest provider of audit and advisory services in the country. As the firm looks to further grow its junior auditing market lead over the Big Four, the effective deployment of innovations such as RPA could prove key in the coming period.

With RPA on board, BDO’s ICT department aims at increasing the satisfaction of employees by removing a range of often boring (repetitive, administrative) tasks. By automating such tasks, productivity can also be increased at the professional services firm, as its staff will be freed up to spend more time performing value-adding activities. On top of this, RPA can execute tasks and processes with a lower margin of error compared to humans, enhancing BDO’s internal operations.

Working with RPA vendor UiPath, during the project at BDO, First Consulting has sought to apply its best practice RPA growth model methodology. The approach differentiates between three different growth phases, starting with RPA, structuring RPA, and scaling RPA.

Project results are delivered through an agile approach. According to the engagement partners, the following results were achieved in a period of six weeks:

  • Developed a first robot process that directly creates value for the business and contributes to the 360 degree customer view by migrating information from two systems to another system;
  • Advice and implementation plan on the technical design in relation to RPA, ICT guidelines, a security questionnaire and a basic infrastructure;
  • A roadmap for setting up an internal RPA capability, including the following components: processes & governance, change management and capability building & training;
  • Plan for setting up benefits tracking / monitoring as well as reusability of robot process components.

So far, First Consulting and BDO have enjoyed a pleasant and productive cooperation, achieving “tangible results” along the way. According to First Consulting’s team engaged by the project, the close match between the firms’ norms and values proved a key success factor. In the coming period, First Consulting and BDO are investigating opportunities to develop a digital capability in other areas of BDO’s business.

Roel van Overdam, Head of RPA at First Consulting, said of the collaboration, “Our pragmatic, no-nonsense approach has clearly paid off.”

Related: First Consulting: Is RPA implementation going in the right direction?