From project management to orchestrating a supply chain, businesses can use low code for big and small projects alike.
By 2024, low code will power more than 65% of application development, according to a Gartner prediction. Digital automation platforms, which use low-code techniques, can potentially save 50%-90% more time in development versus coding language, according to analysis from 451 Research.
John Bratincevic, senior analyst at Forrester, compared the evolution of low code to personal computers. At one point, only individuals with considerable technical knowledge owned a personal computer, but laptops have now become standard practice. While software development is frequently pushed to those with technical knowledge, low code opens up the process to anyone across the business.
The audience for low code can vary depending on the platform, but its drag-and-drop appeal caters to individuals with little-to-no coding experience. HR or financial departments, for example, looking to digitize manual processes might use low code to streamline the process.
CIOs and IT leadership manage the guardrails around no code/low code as business units embrace the technology to digitize processes. Low code brings benefits to experienced developers, too.
"As a developer, you don't have to worry about the plumbing," said Kyle Tuberson, CTO, public sector, at ICF. Low code provides the infrastructure to redirect technical knowledge toward more challenging problems because they no longer have to worry about the coding.
Increased speed, accessibility and adaptability prevail as benefits of low code software development. Application development from scratch takes a much longer time than a low code approach, according to Nagarajan Chakravarthy, chief digital officer at iOPEX Technologies said.
"Low code/no code has become a default candidate for the IT team to select and start quickly developing the application," said Chakravarthy.
While some businesses may be wary of not building from scratch, it's largely good for organizations and their IT departments alike, according to Bratincevic.
On some complex software projects, lack of customization, a limited application programming interface and other limitations of low code could hinder success. The downfalls of low code are mostly "theoretical," according to Bratincevic. Low code "covers a lot of what we consider application development."
Low code across business units
Departments can begin implementing low code by applying the technology to manual efforts, such as spreadsheets, to free up employees for high-value work. Low-code development allows employees from all business units to engage in the software development process, enabling transformation across departments.
"You accelerate your service delivery and when you accelerate your service delivery, you are also transforming your business faster," Chakravarthy said.
Employees across business units are able to do "hardcore developer work," Bratincevic said. Low code changes the working pattern, expectations and culture around technical work to shape what the future of work will look like as businesses seek out employees willing to take that on.
To take full advantage of low code, Bratincevic recommends a formal citizen developer program as the first step. Citizen development programs empower those with little-to-no technical experience to learn how to build using the low-code platforms.
IT leaders step in to vet the process through governance and guardrails.
When selecting a low-code platform, the IT department should verify security and governance are built into the tool itself, according to Deb Gildersleeve, CIO at Quickbase. To manage the platform throughout the business, Gildersleeve recommends a center of excellence.
"Pair your IT folks and your business folks together within a group where you work on those guardrails together," Gildersleeve said. "You provide training out of that organization, you help do some of the design work for the more complex applications a business user might be building."
Because many low-code platforms require less technical expertise for software development, the tech can also help businesses overcome IT skills gaps. Workers at all levels of tech knowledge can create new digital experiences as long as they have an understanding of the processes.
"That opens up a whole new talent pool where we're not required to have computer science majors to do this work," Tuberson said.
Members of business leadership, including the CIO, are also responsible for change management efforts to help employees understand why the company is embracing low code, according to Tuberson.
The state of low code
Generally, low code vendors have been growing and some are doing "remarkably well" amid the pandemic, according to Bratincevic. It signals that more businesses are embracing the platforms.
The low-code platform market is expected to generate $187 billion by 2030 — a 1,715.53% change from 2019's $10.3 billion, according to an analysis from Research and Markets. The growth reflects a 31.1% compound annual growth rate from 2020 to 2030.
Low-code automation platform Appian reported its total subscriptions revenue up 33% year over year for Q4 2020 in its Q4 and 2020 earnings report last month. Mendix, a low-code app development platform, made over $100 million in annual revenue by September 2020 — exceeding its growth over the prior three years combined, according to an announcement.
Power Platform, Microsoft's low-code/no-code endeavor, supports more than 11 million users, growing 95% year over year, according to CEO Satya Nadella on the FY2021 earnings call. IBM and Palantir partnered on a no-code/low-code environment to build applications using AI set to be released this month.
Businesses accelerated transformation to keep up with the digital shift sparked by COVID-19, and low-code platforms were a tool to help many get there.
"To be able to even keep up … you want the data and the technology to be more accessible and integrated than ever before," Gildersleeve said. "That's really where low code can play a role."