The Power User – Power Tech or Power Business?
What drives a power user? Is it their interest or love in technology that drives them to push the limits of what’s available to non-programmers? Or, is it a drive to achieve business goals and outcomes that become hampered by the software solutions provided to them, so they seek out alternatives that they control? In my experience, having spent more than 10 years working with power users on platforms like Microsoft SharePoint, I’d say there is a spectrum. At one end there are those driven primarily by business interests, and the other those driven by technology interests, but I found the most successful power user lies somewhere in between.
More and more we’re seeing software platforms deliver a low-code/no-code approach of configuration versus programming. The key benefit is that you don’t need to be a coder to configure and tailor solutions, as many are highly intuitive and/or wizard-driven user experiences. The technology-driven power user who loves to “tinker” often spends too much time focused on how cool the software is, building in unnecessary complexities or capabilities that may be irrelevant to the tasks at hand (noise). The business-driven folks often don’t take the time to see the many ways the technology can actually streamline their processes, make things easier or more efficient, and optimize productivity – creating solutions that may be too simple and miss the productivity mark. So in short, whatever you do in software should be focused on the targeted business outcomes; however, do it the best way possible to get the most value. Sounds simple doesn’t it?
When it comes to business apps in the new no-code/low-code world of configuration, you can’t ignore the fundamental truths of sound software development, which includes considerations like performance, architecture, governance, and more. Not to mention the important skill sets of a business analyst who helps translate business requirements into software deliverables.
Many IT organizations have evaluated the impact of turning power users loose with Microsoft SharePoint over the years, and are realizing they created a “wild west” of power user development that had many negative impacts related to the very business objectives they were trying to achieve. For instance, I had one customer who was putting very large video files in SharePoint Libraries and trying to use the platform as a type of video streaming service for training. No wonder their performance was slow as molasses.
Subsequently, there is a movement to reign the power user back in, implementing strict governance, architectural reviews, and more when it comes to power user generated apps. Either that, or the pendulum is swinging entirely the other way and returning back to developer created apps that are buttoned down. At Coras we believe there is a middle ground. We create apps based on the best practices of software development, but still provide a low-code/no-code back end for quickly and easily configuring the app to address customer specific variations to the core solution. Then, we continue to deliver capabilities that empower the end users—and power users—at run-time to give them some of the flexibility they need, without creating a “wild-west” of unmanageable apps. If you give the power users what they need, they will be less inclined to go off on their own and try to build something.