Summary: Anyone paying attention to the enterprise technology world has noticed the buzz around low-code software. The low-code market is growing by leaps and bounds, and shows no signs of slowing down. What’s driving this growth? Why has low-code adoption picked up so rapidly? In this article, we explore a few forces driving the growth of low-code.
The “Low-Code Development” term was coined by Forrester Research back in 2014 to describe a growing class of software tools. These tools allow for the creation of business applications through graphical user interfaces instead of traditional programming.
Since that time, low-code software has picked up steam. According to Forrester Research, the low-code development platform market is growing by 50% year-over-year. They estimate that spending on low-code tools will exceed $20 billion in 2022.
The big question: Why is it growing so fast all of a sudden? Over the last few years, low-code adoption has exploded. What trends are driving the growth of low-code? In this article, we explore 7 factors that contribute to low-code’s rapid expansion.
1. The talent gap
The talent gap is a growing problem in the tech world. Technology is advancing, yet skills aren’t keeping up. It’s harder and harder to find employees with modern technical skills. Plus, they’re quite expensive.
The problem: Most organizations can’t just hire a bunch of employees with modern skills to bridge the talent gap.
This is where low-code software comes into play. Low-code tools deliver application development skills to your existing team. This helps in a couple of ways:
1. It brings modern skills to your development team: Rather than hire and train a bunch of new developers, you can turn your existing IT team into web developers. The best part: Low-code tools often have a short learning curve, so you’re up and running quickly.
2. It lets end users create their own solutions: How much time does your IT team spend creating solutions for your end-users? How much time do users spend waiting for solutions? Low-code tools turn end-users into citizen developers, helping them create their own reports, dashboards, business applications, etc…, all without bothering IT.
“There’s a growing talent gap when it comes to the technical skills needed by modern infrastructures, i.e. cloud, mobile, AI, etc…,” says Guy Nadivi, Host of Intelligent Automation Radio. “Low-code platforms help bridge that chasm by empowering less-technical personnel to be far more productive and effective than they otherwise might be, especially in environments requiring a fuller portfolio of traditional coding skills.”
2. The push to “do more with less”How many of you would say that you have just enough (or too many) employees in your IT department? How many would say that your department budget is perfect for your needs?
If you said “yes” to either question, congratulations. But, you’re in the minority.
In my conversations with CIOs and IT managers, I hear a common theme: A lack of resources. They don’t have the staff or budget to keep up with the business.
This issue has only grown as businesses depend more and more on technology. While technology needs have increased, IT department size is largely unchanged in many businesses. Technical employees are expected to meet growing business demands with their existing team and skills.
If you face growing demands but can’t bring on more team members…what can you do? That’s the question facing IT leaders across the globe.
One answer: Find ways to make your existing team more efficient. As explained below, this is one huge benefit of low-code tools–and a driving force behind its growth.
“The value of low-code is grounded in what they make possible for the already-technical,” says Sagi Eliyahu, CEO & Co-Founder of Tonkean. “Low-code platforms enable more dynamic levels of customization. Most make developers’ jobs easier, because they reduce the amount of totally original code developers often need to write. It’s helpful to think of it this way: low-code platforms enable already-technical people to do more with less.”
3. The rise of “citizen developers”
Driven in part by the previous point, we’re seeing a rise of citizen developers. What does that mean? As defined by Gartner, “A citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.”
Basically, the IT department provides some business users with no-code/low-code development tools. These users can then create the applications they need, without bothering the IT department. Meanwhile, the IT department can still control data and user access.
Why is the concept of ‘citizen developers’ growing so quickly? It provides the best of both worlds. First, it greatly reduces the development bottleneck on the technical team. Rather than spend their time on user requests, developers can focus on mission-critical tasks.
Secondly, it lets users create their own applications immediately. They don’t have to wait around until a developer gets to their request. They can go from idea to working application in hours.
“In a lot of cases, the ‘idea guy’ is stuck relying on an engineer to build an app or website,” says Paul Burke, VP of SimpleSlides.co. “Low-code tools empower most everybody to be the builder. That makes creating any product much more accessible to the common person.”
4. The need for agility
As technology advances at breakneck speeds, agility becomes more important than ever. Your company’s ability to adapt and change on the fly can be a competitive advantage.
How important is agility to modern business? According to a recent report from McKinsey, companies that underwent successful agile transformations saw improvements in customer satisfaction, employee engagement, operational efficiency, and financial performance.
McKinsey sums it up with this: “Enterprise agility was desirable and is now becoming essential.”
This drive for improved agility is a contributing factor in the growth of low-code platforms. Low-code tools improve agility in a couple of ways.
First, they take you from idea to solution in hours/days. What if you could recognize an opportunity, and have a solution by the end of the week? That’s a huge competitive advantage of low-code development platforms.
Second, they let you change and adapt on the fly. Once you recognize an area that needs changing, you can tweak and redeploy your applications in just minutes. Low-code gives you the tools necessary to constantly evolve.
“As Tony Robbins once said “Complexity is the enemy of execution,” says Nadivi. “Organizations today need to execute faster and on a larger scale than ever before. Low-code platforms enable the agility necessary to deploy new initiatives, as well as respond to rapidly shifting market conditions.”
5. The need for automation and digital transformation
Digital transformation and workflow automation go hand in hand, but neither trend is anything new. They’ve been business priorities for years now. The problem was, many businesses weren’t approaching digital transformation or automation with any sort of urgency.
Then, COVID-19 hit. All of a sudden, businesses were forced to rely on digital technologies that reduce face-to-face interactions. They were forced to adapt to a remote workforce…and do it quickly.
This new reality left a lot of business leaders scrambling. How can they automate business processes and deploy digital solutions quickly using their current team…working remotely? The answer for many: Low-code tools. With a short learning curve and rapid development, low-code helps businesses create digital solutions quickly…using their current team and skills.
“The benefits of automation, combined with the focus on digital transformation and expansions, are the driving forces in the growth of low-code,” says Michael Miller, CEO and Security Evangelist, VPN Online Multimedia Inc. “People are starting to see the benefits of automation outweigh the cost. Since low-code has really made the price affordable, people are now beginning to use it to complete the digital transformation. The focus towards expansion has also made low-code a necessity. Without automation, entrepreneurs are hard-pressed to hire more people. But with low-code, you just need to hire a multi-talented individual to maintain and look at the program. This will lessen the payroll and yet increase efficiency tenfold.”
6. It’s the “glue” between multiple systems
Do you remember back when cloud computing emerged? Adoption was slow. Concerned about security, many businesses avoided the cloud. It just didn’t grow as fast as the experts predicted.
Fast forward to the present, and it feels like the sentiment has completely changed. Cloud computing has largely shed its vulnerable image. These days, businesses are rushing to the cloud and SaaS offerings.
The rise of the cloud has fundamentally changed how businesses use software. They are moving away from monolithic software applications and towards a la carte offerings. Rather than purchasing a single solution for everything, they’re opting for SaaS offerings that serve specific functions.
As a result, the focus is shifting more towards integration. IT leaders must find ways to integrate disparate software applications across the business into one cohesive system. They need an easy way to tie these systems together and create applications that “fill the gaps.”
“With the cost of cloud based systems continuing to drop, IT departments are able to utilize hosted apps and systems to help solve their business problems by providing the scaffolding of frameworks and other “basic” application needs,” says Ryan Neuharth, CIO of King Solutions. “Thus, their low-code application becomes the glue between these other systems.”
7. Low-code lowers the barrier for custom solutions
In the past, choosing an enterprise software solution boiled down to two options:
1. Purchase an off-the-shelf solution and customize it to fit your needs. While often the cheapest option, off-the-shelf software rarely offers a perfect fit. Since it’s not built specifically for your business, you’re stuck with manual workarounds.
2. Build a custom solution. While this is the most expensive and time-consuming option, it does deliver a solution that perfectly fits your business needs. The problem is, the cost and time barrier for custom solutions often drove businesses to off-the-shelf options.
With the rise of low-code platforms, you now have a third option that offers the best of both worlds. You can now build custom solutions faster than it takes to deploy and customize off-the-shelf software. Low-code effectively lets any business create solutions that perfectly fit their needs, at a fraction of the time/cost required for hand coding.
“Coding offers great flexibility in creating customised software solutions but also constitutes a significant barrier of entry for many professionals,” says Michael Sena, the founder of Senacea. “Small & medium size companies often have no choice, but to compromise on customisation and choose ready-made solutions, because they can’t afford in-house programmers. What’s more, quite often that customisation could be provided together with the software in the form of low-code or no-code environment or on a marketplace allowing to expand the possibilities of the basic tool.
As the use of the software is ubiquitous in virtually all industries and across all job functions, making it more accessible for non-coders is inevitable. Many firms realise that and want to capitalise on it. Instead of making their software available only for programmers, they shift to self-service platforms or marketplaces to democratise access to their tools. That allows them to increase customer base and have some control over the quality of the end solutions. It’s a triple win for software companies, developers and users.”
These are just few trends driving low-code growth, but I’m sure the list could be longer. Would you add anything to this list? Feel free to comment below!