Low-code development platforms have major implications for the digital workplace. The platforms are seeing an uptick in interest driven by an increased demand for software solutions, a shortage of skilled developers and by the restrictions forced by the last year of working from home. 

Low-code takes a visual approach to software development, abstracting and automating every step of the application lifecycle to allow employees with little to no software developing experience to rapidly create a variety of software solutions.

Analyst Firms Are Bullish on Low-Code Outlook

In a recent advisory paper, KPMG stated it sees low-code as the future of application development and automation. Low-code platforms, the paper reads, can dramatically speed creation of sophisticated enterprise-class applications that incorporate complex business logic, automate workflow and case management activities as well as integrate with existing information systems. Moving forward it also sees low code filling in gaps in the enterprise stack that will:

  • Accelerate legacy modernization and customer-centricity.
  • Bridge gaps in existing SaaS and ERP applications.
  • Empower the workforce to build with confidence and push automation across the workplace.

With low-code, organizations build once and deploy everywhere so web and mobile users get the same experience no matter what kind of device they are using. "This multichannel consistency helps boost productivity, enhance collaboration, and deliver the ideal user experience that businesses and their employees and customers crave. With demonstrated agility and a diverse range of uses, low-code applications have the potential to function as the unifying fabric of a digital enterprise," the report adds.

Gartner is also bullish on low code, projecting a major increase in investment over the coming months and into next year. Driven in part by remote working, it projects the low-code market to total $13.8 billion in 2021, an increase of 22.6% from 2020.

“While low-code application development is not new, a confluence of digital disruptions, hyper-automation and the rise of composable business has led to an influx of tools and rising demand,” said Fabrizio Biscotti, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.

There are other forces at work too. Digital transformation and the ensuing digital business acceleration is putting pressure on IT leaders to dramatically increase application delivery speed and time to value.

Gartner research finds, on average, 41% of employees outside of IT — or business technologists — customize or build data or technology solutions. Gartner is also predicting that half of all new low-code clients will come from business buyers who are outside the IT organization by the end of 2025.

Related Article: The Risks and Rewards of the Citizen Developer Approach

Digital Transformation Efforts Fuel Low-Code Adoption

Low code and no code offer non-developers and developers the ability to create complex products and/or services using a graphical user interface platform that alleviates the users' need to know or understand any programming language, said Ryo Chikazawa, CEO and co-founder of Tokyo-based Autify, an AI-powered test automation platform that allows you to record test scenarios without writing code.

This dramatically lowers the barrier for entry and helps solve some of the shortages in skilled developers. “Low/No code has been disruptive to many industries and will continue to pave the way for digital transformation for many companies,” he said.

Brian Platz, co-CEO and co-founder of  Salem, NC-based Fluree, a blockchain-based graph database platform, echoed Chikazawa's assessment. Crises like the current pandemic introduce disruption to business operations, he said, a challenge that smarter organizations take as an opportunity to move on the various items 'stuck' on their digital transformation roadmap. Given the task of consistently delivering custom digital solutions under the stay-at-home work environment, it makes sense then for CIOs and CTOs to explore low-code SaaS, he continued.

"Low code as a concept is powerful — it frees up IT resources, provides business departments with highly-custom software, and ultimately supports ongoing digital transformation," he said. "However, it is important that it is built on scalable data platforms and strict governance models, otherwise the plethora of custom apps can turn into a data silo nightmare."

Learning Opportunities

Low code can help ease bottlenecks in the design process, argues Jason Beres, SVP of Developer Tools at Cranberry, NJ-based Infragistics

“We're also seeing some low-code platforms addressing the complete design-to-code issue, as well, solving the designer-to-developer handoff that many enterprises struggle with. These platforms enable managers, designers and developers to work in an integrated environment, so they are not forced to use multiple tools to manage the single source of truth during the design process,”  he said.

Related Article: Balance the Need for Speed and Security With Low-Code Solution Guardrails

How to Move From a Reactive to Proactive Low-Code Strategy

Organizations can go from using low-code for one-off projects to turning it into a strategic, sustainable operation, said Tejas Gadhia who is responsible for product management with Chennai, India-based Zoho Creator. Businesses will need to organize and scale low-code tools to really harness their power. "Businesses must move from a reactionary position on low-code, to one that makes their businesses more resilient and better equipped to innovate at speed," he said. There are several ways businesses can leverage low-code as a long term solution.

1. Incorporate low-code/no-code from the start

As your organization looks to maximize speed to market, consider factors like privacy or security, and see how low-code can support the needs.

2. Turn low-code into a formal, self-sustaining function within the organization

That means crafting a vision, setting clear goals, and putting a team in place to methodically execute that vision. One big issue is low-code solutions need to earn the trust of organizations. To do this, it's good to start small. Roll out the platform to a few teams to build simple applications first.

Generally, these are called long-tail apps, or situational apps. For example, an app for managing event registration, or scheduling, or resource allocation. These apps then earn trust across stakeholders: when business users build apps, when IT teams provide oversight, and when business users access the apps. Over time, as more micro-apps are built, apps grow in scope and complexity.

3. Consider creating 'fusion developer teams'

Fusion developer teams are made up of code-first developers, low or no-code developers, and IT pros focused on delivering apps. Think of them like any “pod” in an agile framework, only in this model, they strictly work on bringing more apps online and making sure the apps are integrated as necessary. The fusion developer team acts as a self-sustaining organism within the broader organization. It drives the priorities and development of all the apps, and is the difference between scattershot, one-off uses of low-code, and turning it into a sustainable growth engine for the organization.