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What's Behind the Explosion of Low-Code and No-Code Applications

November 24, 2021 Information Management
David Roe
By David Roe

Low-code and no-code applications are quickly becoming the technology of choice for many people in the digital workplace.

According to recent research from Gartner, 70% of new applications developed by organizations will use low-code or no-code technologies by 2025, up from less than 25% in 2020.

The corresponding rise of low-code application platforms, or LCAPs, is driving the increase of citizen development, and the growth of business technologists who report outside of IT departments and create technology or analytics capabilities for internal or external business use.

This is shifting the way applications are built. Application development will shift to assembly and integration, with the teams that use them assembling and composing them. In fact, it's likely the percentage of new applications developed in LCAP environments will go way beyond the 70% predicted by Gartner.

Low Code Helps Solve the Skill Shortage

None of this should be surprising. Skill shortages in the technology industry have been well documented and, in terms of application and platform development, the problem has become urgent.

Recent research from Boston-based Mendix indicated the demand for developers has reached a fever pitch among IT professionals. Nearly six in 10 (57%) say the number of staff needed for software development is increasing while the cost of software development is rising (61%). For many enterprises, the solution is an LCAP.

According to Mendix’s State of Low-Code 2021 report, based on a survey of 2,025 IT professionals across six countries, 77% of enterprises have already adopted low code to meet this shortage, and 75% of IT leaders say it's a trend they can't afford to miss.

The research underscores that the trend toward low-code adoption is helping enterprises accelerate the pace of development by democratizing how software is being built to include business users. Low code, the report said, has the potential to bring major software projects back on track while keeping costs down and using the hidden technical talent already in an organization.

Some of the report’s other significant findings include:

  • In organizations that use low code, more than half (56%) of employees are now using apps built on low-code platforms.
  • Two out of five low-code users reported more collaboration, faster development and lower costs – and that low-code projects reduce costs by 53% and happen 56% faster.
  • Low-code solutions are becoming central to business operations. Among those using low code, 33% have used it to build mission-critical apps.
  • Software developers acknowledge and welcome its flexibility, saying that half of their everyday development work (51%) could be done on a low-code platform.

Related Article: How Low-Code and No-Code Development Accelerates Digital Transformation

Low-Code Development Enables Flexibility, Agility

There are other drivers to adoption. Isaac Gould, research analyst at Nucleus Research, said that with businesses prioritizing the digital transformation of daily operations and processes, many turn to low-code/no-code tools because of the lower cost and decreased technical barriers to entry.

He also pointed out that businesses that require flexibility and agility in their tech stacks can use a low-code enabled business process management (BPM) or robotic process automation (RPA) solution to automate and digitize business processes, or an LCAP to develop enterprise applications internally.

Nucleus Research interviewed LCAP and BPM users and found that professional developers can use these tools to complete tasks two to three times faster than with traditional developer tools. Low-code tools also enable business users and citizen developers to lend their expertise to reduce friction between IT and end users and create standardized processes or applications that require less IT intervention and better match the use case.

Related Article: How Low-Code Development Is Transforming Organizations' Approach to Tech

Every Business Is a Software Business

The bottom line is that every business has become a software business in the push towards digital transformation, said Daniel Kirsch, co-founder of Cambridge, Mass.-based Techstrong Research.

“It doesn't matter if you're a farmer, a car dealership, or an HVAC installer, software runs your businesses,” he said. “For example, the farmer might need to create a website for online ordering, wholesale orders and farm shares, likely. The car dealer may want a zero-friction buying experience and the HVAC installer will need a mobile app for providing estimates.”

Kirsch added that while software might be taking over the workplace, there isn't an endless supply of developers. Even the largest financial services organizations can't hire enough developers. At the same time, it is critically important that software development closely aligns with business teams. Software is being created to solve business challenges and to satisfy the increasing expectations of customers.

In many ways, LCAP is like other parts of the business technology landscape – the power is shifting from internal IT teams and towards business teams. Teams no longer need to wait months to provision a server. They just use a credit card and go to the cloud. Likewise, they are using SaaS options to try new software on their own, sometimes without IT's blessing. With a low-code/no-code approach, business teams have the power to create their own applications.

Related Article: Low Code Finds Its Place in the Digital Workplace

Investing in Mission Critical Services

The demand for LCAP offerings is so intense it is pushing companies that don’t have access to them to invest.

Recent deals such as Goldman Sachs’ $90 million investment into low-code software maker WSO2 highlighted the trend toward cloud-based applications with easy adoption models which simplify deployment for unprecedented speed and scale, said Sanjay Brahmawar, CEO of Reston, Va.-based Software AG. It’s a project that many organizations will be keen to monitor, especially those that are affected most by tech skills shortages but must nonetheless deliver services to customers.

Recent investments into low-code/no-code tools can serve as models for how the platforms can enable organizations to quickly ramp up mission-critical services.  Brahmawar said one state government in Europe, for example, has rolled out over 800 apps in the last four years through a Lego-like low-code/no-code modeling tool for business teams.

“With the ongoing IT talent crunch, low-code solutions offer enterprise organizations the ability to increase productivity, consistency and quality, enabling organizations to stay in control of much larger projects than they could previously manage,” he said.

Software democratization does not obviate the need for IT teams, he added. It is essential that IT provides best practices and blueprints on how to use these tools to avoid security vulnerabilities or situations in which applications can’t integrate or stop working altogether, which causes technical debt and structural flaws.

Other Low-Code/No-Code Advantages

With evolving customer expectations and changing market needs after the pandemic, enterprises across industries have accelerated their digital transformation initiatives.

They've realized the need to be faster than their competition, build and offer new digital applications, and improve existing applications with speed and agility, said Arvind Jha, senior vice president of software development at McLean, Va.-based Newgen Software.

There are a number of other reasons why enterprises should consider an LCAP:

1. Faster Go-to-Market

Low code helps reduce enterprise application development time considerably. An LCAP's web-based drag-and-drop features and reusable application components help speed up the application design process. This ensures that organizations can bring their applications to market faster and incorporate changes on short notice.

2. Increased Customer Satisfaction

Today's digital native customers expect organizations to offer experiences they are used to while using consumer apps. Low code enables organizations to integrate faster with multiple services, thereby ensuring a consistent omnichannel experience.

3. Lower IT Infrastructure Cost

Low-code application supports cloud and hybrid deployments, offering on-demand scalability and reducing upfront CapEx significantly. Low code guarantees faster innovation in lesser time without adding to IT headcount.

4. More Efficient Application Governance

Many IT teams spend significant time in application and data governance activities, including security certifications, continuous upgrades, performance measurements and compliance checks. A low-code platform enables IT and DevOps teams to manage a portfolio of applications more efficiently with full capability for compliance and governance.

5. Better IT Governance

Low code reduces dependency on quick-fix third-party applications and enables a collaboration-driven work environment. This reduces shadow IT and promotes a standard modeling environment by doing away with data, process and security vulnerabilities.

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