What Games Like Minecraft Can Teach HR About No-Code Automation
If you’ve ever had an idea for a mobile or web app, you might now be able to sidestep the coding bootcamps, expensive computer science degrees and the long process of learning a programming language to create your own.
No-code platforms are tools that allow non-technical professionals to build and deploy their own applications without needing to learn or write any code whatsoever. Typically, these tools offer an easy-to-use interface with drag-and-drop features. Many have templates and tutorials to help users get started on their own no-code projects. Most are as simple as working with basic office productivity software like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.
Low-code platforms, on the other hand, may require some limited coding. Non-technical professionals can work with developers, either throughout the process or at certain critical junctures.
For HR, these platforms are becoming more useful and the skills to build no-code and low-code solutions are coming from an unexpected place: kids' games.
Gaming With Logic
Even though it’s relatively easy to use no-code and low-code solutions from a purely operational standpoint, they require some deductive logic that a developer will learn as part of their training.
As TechCrunch points out, a whole generation of gamers are learning the exact type of logic needed to use these platforms by playing immersive 3D games. Minecraft and Roblox, two examples TechCrunch cites, are not like adventure games like "The Legend of Zelda" or first-person shooters like "GoldenEye 007" that I played as a kid.
Instead of playing a part in a plot to save a princess, these games encourage building as much as playing. Gamers build their own tools, worlds and games within the games with built-in no-code software.
With 150 million playing Roblox games and 130 million on Minecraft, these are not niche experiences. And with the pandemic keeping millions of kids out of extracurricular activities, they are becoming even more popular.
No-Code as a Custom Automation Tool
Once you understand the basic building blocks of no-code solutions, it's easier to imagine more possibilities. After graduating from gaming, there are a number of consumer solutions that offer no-code platforms for automating personal tasks.
One of the earliest platforms for this basic automation is IFTTT — short for “if this, then that”, a simple web-based platform with built-in programming logic. I built and used one for a long time that told me "if" the weather forecast for the day had rain, "then" notify me to not forget a jacket.
As IFTTT added more integrations, it became more powerful. A Google Calendar integration helped me remember to reset my alarm for an early morning meeting, a frequent side effect of working on the West Coast with clients all over the country. An integration with Instagram and Google Drive automatically kept all of the photos and videos I shared in a folder.
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No-Code Goes Into HR
Of course, consumer no-code apps eventually moved into business usage. Some general use applications, like Zapier, connect across critical business solutions like Slack, Trello, Stripe, Asana and Google Drive. Apps like Zapier allow organizations to expand the functionality of those connections dramatically.
Existing tools like project management and collaboration solution Kissflow incorporated no-code into their platform. For project management, where processes can get heavy and bogged down, even light custom automation can save thousands of hours of work.
For HR, there are a number of potential solutions. General applications like Amazon’s Honeycode have a template to build an employee onboarding app. In a few minutes, I was able to create a simple onboarding application using the free version that I could share with a limited number of team members.
Like IFTTT, these tools become more powerful as you add integrations. Specialty no-code solutions for HR offer an advantage that generalist apps lack: connections with popular HR and recruiting software.
One example is Sora, which touts integrations with Workday, BambooHR, Lever, Greenhouse and UltiPro. Another specialty HR solution is Applaud, which connects with identity solutions like Okta and connects with Oracle, SAP, Cornerstone and ServiceNow, among many. Even companies like ServiceNow offer no-code solutions within their platform.
Automation Now, Experience Later
Most of the examples given by both Sora and Applaud are really HR-focused checklists and workflows on steroids. Assuming an organization has enough volume to invest in and build the automation, that alone can easily be enough to justify the push toward a no-code solution. Even simple things, like keeping data synchronized across multiple platforms or assigning tasks automatically based on employee status, like a new hire or someone going out on personal leave, is an easy use case.
Some of the more ambitious use cases, like creating one-stop employee portals and mobile apps, have incredible promise for both the employee and the HR experience. They also face additional hurdles that have little to do with the platforms, including passing a company’s data security protocols and driving adoption among employees.
No-code applications have exciting possibilities for HR leaders as a new way to integrate and drive automation. Even if you don’t dream of ever writing your own mobile app, they can be helpful tools to streamline the messy world of HR.
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About the Author
Lance Haun is a leadership and technology columnist for Reworked. He has spent nearly 20 years researching and writing about HR, work and technology.