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Product Innovation

Digital Transformation Fueling Unquenchable Demand for Software Development

Software delivery speeding up, but enterprises still struggling with long software backlogs are turning to low-code development platforms for help

The growth in Agile and DevOps software delivery models has helped enterprises make appreciable gains in software delivery speeds over the last year, according to a new survey out this week. However, the findings also show that organizations still face major challenges in keeping up with the pace of business, particularly on the mobile front, where development speeds remain largely stagnant.

Based on a survey of more than 3,300 IT professionals, the 2019/2020 State of Application Development Report from OutSystems showed that the demand for custom application development within the enterprise has grown to a fever pitch.

Business requirements for new applications and features rose by 60% over the past year. A lot of the demand was driven by the strategic need to avoid disruption on a number of fronts. The study showed that 80% of respondents believed significant changes in customer preferences or behavior were likely to disrupt their businesses in the year ahead. Meanwhile, 69% believed they’d face digital disruption from an established competitor and 67% foresaw the same from new competitors in the next 12 months.

“Fueled by digital innovation and differentiation initiatives, demand for application development seems higher than ever,” the report explains.

In order to meet customer demands and beat competitors to the market, organizations are increasingly turning to Agile and DevOps to speed up release cadences. The report found that three in five organizations use Agile methodologies to increase delivery speed, and just shy of one in three organizations rely on DevOps to help them do the same.

These strategies are starting to pay off at many organizations. Whereas last year only about 54% of respondents said they could deliver web applications in four months or less, that proportion rose to 61% this year. The study showed that 42% of organizations report that application development speeds have generally gotten faster over the past year. Just shy of half of organizations are now up to at least a monthly release cadence, with just over one in five releasing software at least weekly.

Nevertheless, only 30% of organizations report full satisfaction from the business with their current release cadence. The study indicates a number of continuing pain points when it comes to application delivery speed.

For example, whereas web application development did speed up, mobile app development stayed put over the last year. The study showed that the proportion of organizations able to deliver mobile apps within four months remained at 55%. And the results indicate that mobile applications consistently remain in developer backlogs longer than web applications.

This is largely consistent with results from a report released by earlier this spring on behalf of NowSecure. That study showed that a greater percentage of web applications were released on a weekly or faster cadence when compared with mobile apps. Additionally it showed that only 10% of organizations were releasing mobile apps faster than web apps.

Overall, the recent OutSystems report showed that application development teams are generally struggling to keep the lights on when it comes to balancing application maintenance with innovative new features. Maintenance work ate up more developer time last year, as the percentage of time for innovation decreased by a couple of percentage points down to 35% this year.

The study showed that an increasing number of organizations are turning to low-code application development technology to help them make a dent on these problems. Compared to last year, the percentage of firms using low-code platforms rose from 34% up to 41%, with an additional 10% planning adoption soon. The top reasons for using low-code technology cited by those adopters was to accelerate digital innovation and to increase responsiveness to the business.

Those organizations using low-code technology reported that they were able to improve the balance of innovation to maintenance development by five percentage points. And whereas only about 34% of those organizations that weren’t using low-code reported an improvement in their development backlog last year, 46% of low-code adopters said the same.

Most tellingly, low-code technology seemed to make the biggest dent in mobile application development speeds, with a 15-point improvement in the proportion of organizations able to deliver mobile apps within four months.

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