Learning To Use IT Strategic Planning Templates Versus Learning To Use Software Tools

As time is a precious commodity among business leaders and executives, a question they constantly face is how to best make use of it. We are of the opinion that their time should be spent learning to use an IT strategic planning template, rather than becoming citizen developers by learning to use software tools. An example of an IT strategic planning template is our invention called the Workflow Canvas, which allows the reimagination of the enterprise software development process. Examples of software tools which business leaders might spend time learning instead are Google App Maker and Microsoft PowerApps.

It is imperative for modern business leaders to know about IT strategy. One reason for this is business requirements and organizations’ IT needs change over time. Hence, a business leader who is adapt at IT strategy can seize opportunities related to the use of IT and make IT deployed at her organization evolve with new business needs. Each time faced with a problem, business leaders need to know whether can this problem be solved using software. IT strategy involves understanding how their organization is using technology in all key areas of business, and aligning IT projects with their organization’s business objectives. For example, in an electronics manufacturing company, a question that might arise is - is there room for improvement in using technology to make the supply chain more efficient? Business leaders should seek to strengthen their skills in IT strategy so that they can answer questions like this.

The question is then, does learning to use multiple software tools strengthen business leaders’ skills in IT strategy? We think the answer is no. Each software tool has its own nuances and quirks specific to that tool. For example, a specific way in which drag and drop works is specific to a particular company’s product. Getting familiar with one tool is good because it gives business leaders insight into how things work, but learning to use more than one tool is not the best use of time. Just like business leaders might benefit from learning a programming language, but the value of learning additional programming languages to solve the same problem diminishes quickly.

Learning to use one software tool is inadequate to meet all the organization’s IT needs. This is because almost all organizations rely on software from more than one IT vendor. If a business leader really wants to be a citizen developer, she will need to learn to use multiple software tools. We argue that more time spent on this means less time spent on the more essential education, which is to gain a better understanding about technology and how to apply it.

Citizen development is an approach to software development that allows people to create software without needing to know how to write code. It is a rising trend, partly due to problems in the requirements gathering process as mentioned in my previous article Among the advantages of citizen development are: 1. It is faster because the citizen developer can respond faster to the business’ needs compared to the IT department or an external IT vendor; 2. It saves costs as it eliminates the costly process of requirements gathering by business analysts; 3. It is more agile as the software can be updated more rapidly.

We intend to be part of this citizen developer movement. We want to make citizen development even more beneficial to all organizations and stakeholders than the current status quo. We want to enable more people to become citizen developers by reducing the barriers for them to become citizen developers. More specifically, we want to reduce the difficulty and workload that citizen developers need to bear. Parallel to the rise of the citizen developer trend is the rise of low code development platforms, which allow the creation of software through graphical user interfaces and configuration instead of traditional procedural computer programming. We aim to take the low code mantra to the next level, by eliminating the need for business leaders and executives to learn to use multiple software tools.

With optical character recognition (OCR) technology, it is not too far-fetched to imagine that info from a piece of paper can be converted into usable software. The question is then, why do business leaders still need to learn to use multiple software tools? If working with a graphical user interface or doing configuration is needed as part of the process to create usable enterprise software, shouldn’t this work be done by IT consultants or business analysts instead?

We advocate the use of the Workflow Canvas, which only requires pen and paper, over the use of a software tool. There was an analysis comparing paper with software for a Scrum task board which came to the conclusion that paper offers more advantages than software-based solutions. Trends related to user interface patterns, like drag and drop, change over time. In contrast, being able to use an IT strategic planning template is a timeless skill. Hence, we believe it is a skill worth learning for all business leaders and executives.