Application Development, Automation, and Business Innovation: A Low-Code-Enabled Future!

Application Development, Automation, and Business Innovation: A Low-Code-Enabled Future!

Sally Eaves 11/01/2022
Application Development, Automation, and Business Innovation: A Low-Code-Enabled Future!

Empowering your organization’s capacity and agility to continuously innovate. 

In today’s digital-first era, this ethos lies at the core of the future of application development and automation—one that is increasingly catalyzed by low-code.

In this piece, I explore the drivers of change, including key challenges in enterprises today, alongside the opportunities that low-code can foster, from speed and scale to the democratization of the capability to create. And this all infused by insights from brand new research by Zoho, who surveyed over 800 IT and business leaders from various industries and regions, and is available in full here

Rate of Change and Growing Enterprise Adoption of Low-Code Platforms 

 Organizations in their digital transformation journey across industries are focused mainly on enterprise data digitalization (43.1%), followed by workflow automation (31.8%), and consumer-facing apps (25.1%).

Zoho's Low-Code Research 

The expression tipping point can be overstated, but in respect to the myriad of change vectors that have come together over the last year, it feels apt and justified to apply it in relation to the rise of low-code. From the rapid advance of digital transformation globally, especially inward-facing application development as highlighted in the finding above, to the demand-supply gap for developer talent, to evolving behaviours and heightened consumer and employee expectations on experience, the only constant is change! And it can be hard to keep pace—as an example, in the research only 25% of respondents claimed that their businesses were building more than 10 apps every month.

Clearly, to support the agility and "active" intelligence necessary today, enterprises must navigate the increasing challenges that have resulted around complexity, costs, lack of IT bandwidth, change management, integration, communication, efficiency and, of course, moving from data volume to data value with speed, scale, and sustainability embedded by design, too. Set in this context, the rise in prominence of low-code moves understandably center stage, which over time, I believe, will move towards more externally orientated applications, such as improving the consumer-facing apps space. 

 Approximately 60% of respondents mentioned that their organizations are planning to invest in low-code technology in the near future.’

Zoho's Low-Code Research  

This new research insight also aligns with recent findings by KPMG, which reflect a continued acceleration in investment in low-code development and automation at levels almost triple 2020, strengthening my view that low-code platforms are the future of application development and automation more broadly. Indeed, Gartner’s 2021 impact radar predicted low-code as the only emerging technology product to afford both an immediate and very high impact within enterprises, predicting that by 2025, 70% of new applications developed will use low-code (or no-code)—that compares to less than 25% in 2020.

Let’s now explore the key reasons why in more detail. 

The Problem of Technical Debt in Enterprises

The term technical debt can cover a range of dimensions of legacy and siloes—from unpatched software and unfixed bugs, to ineffective integrations and outdated or redundant code, and business logic that was not deprecated or decommissioned appropriately. This steadily accumulates with time. And the end result? The erosion of enterprise productivity and ultimately value, caused by the hampering of software development and time to market, plus "lost in translation" communication issues across business and IT, alongside the impact on customer churn, talent gaps, and overall financial strain.

Indeed, this is very much a "whole organization" challenge, not one confined to IT, with additional research suggesting costs to businesses of $6,000 per second, reaching an estimated (and eyewatering!) $5 trillion over ten years. 

 "65% of respondents say that the major IT challenge for their business is a combination of communication gaps, lack of priority for departmental needs, and slow app development process turnaround."  - Zoho's Low-Code Research 

It's clear, then, that a strategic approach, and not just an IT-centric focus on technical debt, is an imperative, akin to the way in which an organization approaches a digital transformation endeavour. And as a core pillar of this, thanks to low-code technology, businesses are now often able to speed up their development process by an impressive 10x. Supporting this, access to low-code tools across IT and business roles is key, with nearly 50% of survey respondents perceiving that the key benefit of low-code platforms is their ability to facilitate accelerated application development. 

Embracing an Inclusive (Citizen Development) IT Strategy

We're seeing the emergence of a stack approach to low-code, ranging from developer tools to simple workflow builders—a third wave if you will in the low-code evolution journey. And this can enable a new wave of citizen developers—everyday business users—to build digital workflows that solve key business problems. Alongside their implicit understanding to appreciate the business problem in hand better than anyone else, I also personally see this trajectory as a natural intersection with the problem-solving project management principals of approaches such as Disciplined Agile. Complementary strengths personified!

And from the new Zoho's low-code research, when we drill down into the 53% of IT teams that focus on enterprise application development, we also see a high level of involvement from line of business (LOB) teams—with over 40% engaged in this process. And beyond this, additional insights make clear that moving into a more abstracted or no-code development ecosystem is something that most users are looking for today. So as a vital next step, investing in LOB user accessibility to, and proficiency in, low-code is key. 

"59% of IT respondents answered that they were proficient with low-code platforms, compared to just 29% of LOB participants. Also, 57% of LOB respondents have never used low-code platforms."   Zoho's Low-code research 

Final Thoughts

The time is clearly now to democratize the process of application development, by providing easier avenues for business users to develop their own business applications, whilst also enabling professional developers to go further faster, becoming full-stack developers, unleashing both the capacity to focus on enterprise-critical requirements and to accelerate new innovation, too! This is the very essence of business and IT alignment and human-technology partnership combined. And to find out more about how Zoho Creator supports this journey, with capabilities right across the development, deployment, UX/personalization, security, maintenance, planning/design, data management, collaboration and integration priorities identified in the research, more information is available here.

About the Author

Dr. Sally Eaves is a highly experienced chief technology officer, professor in advanced technologies, and a Global Strategic Advisor on digital transformation specializing in the application of emergent technologies, notably AI, 5G, cloud, security, and IoT disciplines, for business and IT transformation, alongside social impact at scale.

An international keynote speaker and author, Sally was an inaugural recipient of the Frontier Technology and Social Impact award, presented at the United Nations, and has been described as the "torchbearer for ethical tech", founding Aspirational Futures to enhance inclusion, diversity, and belonging in the technology space and beyond. Sally is also the chair for the Global Cyber Trust at GFCYBER.

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Sally Eaves

Tech Expert

Dr. Sally Eaves is a highly experienced Chief Technology Officer, Professor in Advanced Technologies and a Global Strategic Advisor on Digital Transformation specialising in the application of emergent technologies, notably AI, FinTech, Blockchain & 5G disciplines, for business transformation and social impact at scale. An international Keynote Speaker and Author, Sally was an inaugural recipient of the Frontier Technology and Social Impact award, presented at the United Nations in 2018 and has been described as the ‘torchbearer for ethical tech’ founding Aspirational Futures to enhance inclusion, diversity and belonging in the technology space and beyond.

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