Low code development platforms have rapidly became a major strategic investment for organizations. These tools were initially intended for developing basic departmental applications, but they are now playing a major role in achieving complete digital transformation. In fact, low code citizen development platforms have changed the method of interaction between users and organizations as well as between organizations and information.
The low-code development platform has given birth to a new genre of technology warriors – ‘Citizen Developers’. Using drag & drop functionality and visual wizards included in a low code development platform, these citizen developers with almost zero coding knowledge are rapidly building new business apps, workflows and modifying existing business processes to improve efficiency, productivity, and functionality.
What is a Low-Code Development Platform?
According to Forrester, low-code development platforms are defined as:
Products and/or cloud services for application development that employ visual, declarative techniques instead of programming and are available to customers at low- or no-cost in money and training time to begin, with costs rising in the proportion of the business value of the platforms.
The Emergence of Low Code Platforms
James Martin in his book “Application Development Without Programmers” published in 1982 wrote, “The number of programmers available per computer is shrinking so fast that most computers in the future must be put to work at least in part without programmers”. The idea seems to be catching on.
Forrester coined the term “Low Code” in 2014 for classifying development platforms focusing on development simplicity and ease of use. These platforms allow business professionals including those having limited or no coding knowledge to create business application software using a graphical user interface instead of computer programming. In a low-code development platform, you can automatically generate all the components, front-end and back-end code and configuration files complying with standard coding practices.
In a typical low-code development platform you get a comprehensive set of functionality including,
- Visual modeling of business logic and workflows that can be extended with custom code
- Visual definition of data and models integration components
- Drag-and-drop implementation of a modern user interface for multiple devices
- Application change and lifecycle management
In “The Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Development Platforms for AD&D Pros – Q4 2017” Report, there is an interesting comparison showing the challenges faced by organizations when building apps using traditional coding methods and the impact of low-code development platforms in addressing these issues.
IT Recruitment/Skill Gaps a Major Challenge
According to a 2016 indeed.com survey, 83% of organizations feel that their business has been hurt by the tech talent shortage, And a Salesforce.com report reveals that four of the top seven pain points that IT leaders face are related to the skills gap. One-third of IT teams struggle to keep skills current.
Modern IT organizations also face a different kind of challenge – the ‘Speed of Change’. Technology is changing faster than the user can learn it. Four out of ten companies, face moderate to major IT skill gaps leading to almost 20% productivity loss resulting in a $1.3 trillion cost to U.S. businesses. These organizations would love a Captain America to come to their rescue. Low-code development platforms just may be the Captain America of the future.
Over the next five years, the IT skills gap is expected to grow further. According to the Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISW) 2017 Report, as many as 1.8 Million IT jobs will remain unfulfilled by the end of 2022. There are two major factors contributing to the widening skill gap,
- The rapid pace of technology change &
- Impact of IT as core function on modern businesses
Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute report “The Digital Talent Gap” states: ‘Many organizations out there face a shortage of skilled IT people and confess that it hampers their competitiveness and performance’
Organizations are tackling IT skill gap challenges in different ways. One of the best places to start is your own employees by deploying a low-code workflow platform and instituting training programs for employees who aren’t professional coders-by-trade so that they can start contributing where appropriate and reduce the burden on traditional IT.
Shortage of tech talent has become a critical factor
- According to The App Association report, in the USA alone, there are almost 223,054 unfilled job openings for software developers but not enough qualified people to fill them.
- A simple search on indeed.com returns 104,748 jobs under the title ‘Software Developer’ and about 234,824 jobs under the title ‘Software Engineer’.
- Every year only 35,329 ‘Computer Science’ and 20,864 ‘Information Technology’ degrees are awarded across the entire USA.
- According to Bloomberg report, demand for software technologists is at full boil. Companies are spending more but they are also investing more in training, internships and considering more candidates with “transferable skills”.
- By 2020 employment opportunities for everyone related to computer technologies will see strong growth of 22%, but specific IT fields will see comparatively higher growth. According to Gartner: Insights from the 2016 Gartner CIO Agenda Report 1 million computer programming jobs in the US are expected to go unfilled by 2020.
There’s no question that a lack of expert tech talent is a leading obstacle for global CIO’s in achieving their objectives.
It’s Time to Play the Low-code Game
According to Forrester Research “Every company is a software company”. The world of technology is changing at breakneck speed. Therefore, there is an increased need for rapid business application development, which is incredibly challenging when you can’t attract the necessary talent.
Your ability to identify, analyze, and respond to changing digital innovation requirements, earlier than your competitors will now determine whether your organization will sink or swim.
Low-code can make a dramatic difference. Instead of huge investments to maintain large business applications, low-code development platforms provide a flexible, drag-&-drop approach to develop smaller fragments of big business applications that are updated, managed, and deployed piecemeal to meet a specific business need.
Without large amounts of code to write and maintain, it’s easier than ever before for people with limited or no coding knowledge to readily build functional, innovative applications.
Why Enterprises Switched to Low-Code Platforms?
OutSystems “The State of Application Development | How IT is responding to Digital Disruption and Innovation – 2018” has many insights.
In the survey report, OutSystems asked participants why they decided to use low-code development platforms. The three answers that stood out were 1) accelerating digital innovation and transformation (69%), 2) reducing current IT backlog and increasing responsiveness to the business (55%), and 3) reducing dependency on hard-to-hire technical skills (38%).
Common Myths Related to Low Code Development Platform
Lack of knowledge is the main barrier, and concerns regarding capability, vendor lock-in, security, and scalability cluster close behind.
Low-Code Development Platforms are a viable option
The right low-code development platform empowers you to build versatile business apps. However, in a crowded market (offering lightweight business-user tools, citizen developer tools, specialty mobile application development tools and platforms available for software application development & delivery) with many vendors calling themselves low-code, it can be challenging to identify the right platform.
Here are few things to consider:
- Amazing User Experience: Remember that your users are also consumers who use mobile apps every day. They’re used to a slick user experience, 24×7 access on any device. This should be the #1 thing you look at.
- Security: Any successful platform today is already dealing with security. Still, it’s important to ensure that your platform has the necessary certifications, especially for Cloud deployment. Ensure that apps built by citizen developers are secure throughout the development lifecycle.
- Scalability: Make sure that architecture you will be choosing supports numerous options including vertical/horizontal scalability that can be adjusted to a business specific requirement. Who knows? Someday, a simple in-house business application may emerge as a globally deployed solution supporting millions of users. Again, a viable platform today likely pays close attention to scalability.
- Proven Track Record: The platform has a proven history of developing and delivering solutions.
Rising competition has confirmed that faster iterative delivery of high-quality software is the new game. Now it’s your call … are you going to play the game or watch from the bleachers?