Low Code CRM – Top Tips for Success

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As local authority revenue budgets continue to feel the squeeze and councils find it harder to retain technical staff, lower code solutions are increasingly seen as a logical option for many – and with multiple solutions available to local authorities now, there are plenty to choose from.

But is the promise of ‘easy to implement’ as straightforward as it seems?  And what are the pitfalls to avoid?

At Change Network we support councils to select, design and implement low code solutions – here are our top tips to help you lay foundations for success from the start.

Involve the right people early

Ultimately it will be people who need to configure, and then use, the solution.  Yet too often we still come across organisations buying technology based on what they’ve seen at a conference or a demo without involving the people who will need to use it day to day.  Getting the right solution means being clear about your needs upfront and especially what the ‘must haves’ are – and that means involving real users from the very beginning.  We usually recommend carrying out a focused ‘Discovery’ to understand your starting point and to map user needs.  This information then feeds into a set of requirements that you can assess different solutions against and will also help you better plan changes later.

Think big before zooming in to the detail

Councils are complicated and typically have lots of different systems in place to meet service and customer needs.  It’s possible that you just want a low code solution that can ‘talk to’ the other systems you already have, so you can make things easier for customers and to bring data about customer contact together; or you might want to replace some of your existing systems with the new one.  Either way, the wider landscape needs to be understood before you buy another new solution. During the procurement process you need to find out what the integration capabilities are of the new solution – and how that fits with your existing systems, so you know how your end-to-end processes will ultimately work.

Know your red lines

When we talk about ‘red lines’ we mean those things that are non-negotiable or that would form ‘must haves’ in your overall list of requirements. Things like security requirements would fall into this category – and there may be others.  Some organisations for example, see real time reporting as a ‘must have’ whereas others are happy with near real time.  Some specify that solutions must be able to keep employee and customer data separate and others don’t             require this. Some need solutions to include detailed analytics so they can see where customer drop offs are happening and make incremental improvements over time.  If you’re not sure what is ‘standard’ to ask for, it pays to get expert advice early, to avoid costly decisions that require workarounds at later stages or that constrain your longer-term ambitions.  You should also be aware that where systems don’t meet your needs (for example some don’t allow multiple process stages to run in parallel), you will need to adapt how you work rather than the system.  Test the must haves during procurement to avoid disappointment later!

Remember lowest cost tech doesn’t mean lowest cost to implement…

While it’s reasonable to assume that lower code solutions typically cost less overall than enterprise level solutions, not all low code solutions are equal and the cost to implement for any system will typically be higher than the cost of the software itself.   The effort required to design, build, implement and manage the solution needs to be factored in as part of the overall cost considerations, along with any costs that might come from 3rd parties (for example where other software providers might charge you to integrate with their product (we don’t like this, but it does happen!).  If you’re not sure what to include in your cost assumptions, we’re happy to offer some no obligation free advice upfront.

…and it doesn’t mean ‘no code’

Council technical eco-systems are complex, so unless you want your solution to live in its own bubble and not talk to anything else, you’ll need to think about integration – which means some development skill will be needed.  Where this comes from is something to consider as part of the support model – and needs to be considered upfront.

So consider the support model

Some suppliers want to just sell you the software and let you do everything yourself, which is great if you have a competent team with capacity to lead the work.  Others offer some initial support to get started and there are some that have a wider partner network in place so you can lean on external support from more than one supplier when you need it.  When you’re buying your new solution it’s worth thinking about the type of support you might need and factoring this into the decision-making process upfront so you can ensure resilience later.

Design is critical

We won’t name the council that proudly told us their teams across different services had created 700 different forms on their low code solution – yet all of the forms looked a little bit different and most of them were then landing in an inbox and being re-keyed to back office systems.  Unsurprisingly lots of the forms were hardly being used and the customer experience was less than optimal!

Design matters.  Making things simple is hard to achieve, but worth it – and where design is properly thought about, there’s evidence of increased online take up and greater benefit realisation as a result.  In our experience, there are four essential foundations that we recommend every council puts in place before it designs any services:

  1. Set design standards.  These should be simple enough for anyone to understand but detailed and prescriptive enough for the standards to have impact.  This will include things like how you capture certain types of data through to how long any forms should be – and always with a focus on designing end-to-end.  We can give you examples if you’re not sure.
  2. Think about data. Where possible you should aim for data going into the system to be validated first from a master source (using the LLPG for address data is a good example of this) and to re-use standard components to save time and make things consistent for customers.  By getting data right up front it will save a world of pain if you then decide you want to bring data and ‘single views’ together later.
  3. Consider skillsets and mindsets. Select the people who will be designing your processes carefully.  Are your technical team sufficiently customer focused?  Are your services objective enough to challenge themselves rather than digitising their ‘as is’ processes? In our experience the best design happens where there’s input from multiple angles and a quality assurance check and balance to make sure standards are being met too.
  4. Involve and iterate.  We can’t stress this point enough – you’ll already have data about your services – who’s using them, how many people are online, what the pain points are, where people are dropping out of processes – so use it!  There’s no point designing a 5-page form if on your current one most people abandon it at page 3. Ideally you should involve real people who will use the form in the Discovery and design stages and not wait until testing to get their input.  It’s also important to really listen (back to the point about selecting staff carefully!) – designing with people rather than for them is a skill – and pays dividends when it works well.

And finally…the boring stuff matters

Governance is one of the critical success factors in any project – and implementing low code is no different.  The approach to governance we recommend depends on what you’re trying to achieve, how quickly you want to go and the types of risks you might need to think about, as well as your usual ways of working, but there are few projects that succeed without it (and many that have stumbled by not having effective governance in place upfront). Being clear on roles and responsibilities upfront will save confusion during the delivery stages and is likely to lead to a more successful outcome.

About us: Change Network helps councils and other organisations to deliver smarter transformation that sticks. We work with essential service providers to support end-to-end change from diagnosis to delivery and are always happy to chat, without obligation.

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