The Rise of Democratized Innovation

7 minute read | 28 Sep 2023

By Barry Gerdsen

Let’s take a little trip back in time.

The year is 1985. Miami Vice is totally tubular, parachute pants are bodacious, and a little-known company named Aldus (which would later be acquired by Adobe) releases “PageMaker.” It revolutionizes graphic design and publishing by empowering ordinary home computer users to complete projects themselves.

Fast-forward to the grunge-inspired ’90s, when software products like Avid, Adobe Premiere, and Apple’s Final Cut Pro enabled video editing on personal computers. They make non-linear digital editing accessible to independent filmmakers, allowing more voices and stories to be told through film.

Now consider the 2000s and that frosted-tip, spiky haircut you probably hope no one remembers. Unfortunately, someone has a video of it, and thanks to the introduction of YouTube in 2005, a complete ecosystem of content creators and viewers emerged, challenging the traditional methods of video distribution and consumption that also makes your boy-band-inspired hairdo available for all the world to see. (Sorry.)

These are all examples of easy-to-use technology playing a pivotal role in making traditionally specialized or exclusive fields more accessible to the broader population. These innovations broke down high barriers to entry, providing access to tasks once reserved for experts and allowing non-technical users the ability to express their creativity. The result was a more diverse and inclusive landscape for harvesting productive contributions.

This is the democratization of innovation — and in the present day, the desire for it spans all industry sectors. Every organization is eagerly looking for ways to unlock the talents of business users with brilliant ideas who have been held back by a lack of technical skill or expertise.

At Boomi, we envision a world where non-technical individuals are not passive users of technology, but instead are active contributors to enabling integration and innovation. Whether the goal is streamlining processes, improving customer experiences, or optimizing data-driven decision-making, our goal is to empower everyday users to make a meaningful impact on their organization’s digital transformation journey.

The Perils of Restricting Innovation

Innovation shouldn’t be the sole purview of engineers or specialists. IT folks are scarce and expensive. Relying on them exclusively to drive digital growth initiatives can incur significant challenges that will ultimately have a negative impact on the business. Here are just a few examples:

Time Constraints and IT Bottlenecks

IT departments frequently grapple with a backlog of integration projects and the complexities of the software development lifecycle. This can lead to prioritization challenges and time-budgeting issues, making it difficult to meet the fast-paced demands of a modern dynamic business.

Communication Challenges

The gap in communication between the lines of business and IT often results in misinterpreted objectives and goals or requirements that are not included in what the technical team would think of as “scope”, but then surface later in projects. This can lead to inefficient and time-consuming redesigns. Even worse, these updated goals may still not be communicated in an attempt to avoid conflict or protect professional reputations. As a result, the solution gets built, but no one uses it because it doesn’t actually do what’s really needed.

Resource Availability and Costs

Developing projects from scratch has traditionally required teams well-versed in specific platforms and technologies. These specialized resources come at a cost and are always in high demand. Managing the availability, coordination, and expense of these team members can be a real challenge.

Brain Drain and Code Maintenance

Technical people leave companies all the time. The departure of experienced team members who develop critical code can result in a loss of institutional knowledge. New team members inherit code they may not fully understand, increasing stress, frustration, and delays. Maintaining this code becomes a significant challenge and impacts morale, leading to a downward spiral of even more talent evacuating.

Shadow IT and Its Consequences

Frustrated with IT bottlenecks, business teams may resort to hiring external consultants, leading to the phenomenon of “shadow IT.” These point-in-time solutions are often hard to maintain and lack integration, stability, and adequate security. This decentralized approach creates additional complexity and frustration for IT departments, which are then called upon to manage and secure these disparate solutions.

Organizations are actively exploring alternatives to traditional IT-led development in response to these impediments. They seek ways to expedite development and empower the lines of business while retaining the flexibility and control associated with DIY IT approaches.

So, what’s the solution?

Democratizing Digital Solution Delivery With Better Tooling

Addressing these challenges requires organizations to empower their business users with accessible tooling. This approach allows users to actively participate in designing and developing digital solutions while IT maintains control, oversight, and governance. In doing so, organizations can foster a larger marketplace of ideas and develop solutions that are more scalable and applicable to the objectives of the business.

Key Requirements:

1. Intelligent Guidance for Business Empowerment

The cornerstone of this solution is the introduction of simple tooling that enables business users to design and develop digital solutions with ease, regardless of their technical knowledge. Recent advancements in composability and natural language processing have made it much easier to provide these users with step-by-step guidance, visual interfaces, pre-built components, and real-time, helpful suggestions to simplify the development process. By introducing a guided iPaaS experience, organizations can empower business users to streamline development, reduce errors, and create efficient and innovative solutions.

2. Innovation With IT Oversight

While business users gain greater autonomy in designing and developing digital solutions, IT must still maintain a crucial role in providing oversight and governance. This ensures that the developed artifacts align with the organization’s IT strategy, security standards, and compliance requirements. Collaboration between business and IT teams becomes essential for successful integration into the broader IT estate.

3. Parallel Development and Delivery

It’s essential the solution promotes parallel development, enabling collaboration between users to accelerate the pace of innovation. Tooling that allows users to share environments and assets – without stepping on each other’s efforts – enables the rapid creation of applications and features, reducing time to market.

4. Security, Stability, and Scalability

These are non-negotiable aspects of the solution. The chosen platform must offer robust security to protect sensitive data and ensure compliance with industry regulations. Here, you’ll want to look for solutions that are HIPAA, PCI, ISO, & FedRAMP certified. You’ll also want to review the solution’s SLA, covering uptime guarantees, system availability, and response times for support inquiries. Lastly, you’ll want to consider how well the solution scales to accommodate growth in your evolving business requirements. Does the solution you’re considering address only your immediate business problem? Or can you reasonably see other potential areas of use over the medium-to-long term? This is where choosing an enterprise-grade, multi-functional platform can save you a lot of work in the future.

Looking Ahead

Our next entry in this series will address how Boomi specifically enables the democratization of innovation. We’ll introduce the Boomi platform and how it can unlock growth opportunities while at the same time providing greater visibility and control over your digital estate. We’ll explore how Boomi Spaces enables business users to configure and run integrations at scale and how Boomi uses AI to accelerate the effort. Finally, we’ll discuss how Boomi can help your organization become AI-ready by offering the governance and integration capabilities needed to weave AI into user experiences and business processes.

As technology continues to evolve, we’ll one day look back on this current period as another pivotal moment in the democratization of innovation. Just as the inventions of the past had a profound impact on how we live, work, and learn, so too will today’s emerging solutions unlock the next groundswell of human ingenuity. With proper guidance and oversight, these business innovators will accelerate their organization’s digital transformation and usher in an era of unprecedented productivity and progress.