In the age of digital transformation, it seems developers can never develop fast enough. That’s where low-code development platforms can step in, according to OutSystems’ fifth annual research report on the state of application development.
As enterprises face application development backlogs ranging from weeks to months, proponents of low-code platforms argue they are a viable way to crush the backlog. Whereas traditional development depends on deep knowledge of programming languages to hand code every function and feature, low-code platforms open up software creation to a broader audience through more accessible graphical user interfaces.
“Low-code development is a way to create applications much faster with minimum programming skills,” says Michael Dubakov, founder of Targetprocess, a visualization agile project management tool provider. “There were similar attempts in the past, but technology has only now advanced to a level where low-code development starts making sense and adding benefits.”
The OutSystems report–based on responses from 3,500 IT professionals, including IT managers, enterprise architects, and developers–identified a number of interesting low-code adoption trends in the enterprise:
- Demand for application development is at an all-time high: The number of applications that were slated for delivery in 2018 was higher than ever, with 42% of IT professionals who said they planned to deliver 10 or more apps and 21% who planned to deliver 25 or more apps.
- Development time is excessive: Forty-seven percent of respondents said the average time to deliver a Web or mobile application is five months or more.
- Backlogs remain stubbornly high: Sixty-five percent of IT professionals said they have an app dev backlog, and only 32% said their app dev backlog improved in the past year.
- Skilled developers are hard to hire: Eighty percent of respondents described app dev talent as scarce, with hiring taking longer and costing more.
- Agile and DevOps practices are slow to mature: Sixty percent of organizations have invested in agile tools and services in the past year. However, the average agile-maturity score was a lackluster 2.6 out of 5. Of the 40% of organizations that said they invested in DevOps tools and services during the past year, their level of DevOps maturity was described as somewhere between “just starting” and “fundamental.”
- Customer-centricity is on the rise: Fifty-two percent of organizations have invested in customer-centric practices in the past year, including customer journey mapping, design thinking, and lean UX. Indeed, of the new apps that were slated for development in 2018, those used directly by customers or business partners were identified as most important, outscoring internal business applications by 14%.
According to Antony Edwards, CTO at Eggplant, the primary drivers of low-code development platforms are cost reduction and the acceleration of development.
“There’s a developer shortage in the world, and low-code reduces the barrier to entry.”
“There’s a developer shortage in the world, and low-code reduces the barrier to entry. Low-code also enables non-tech teams to create digital engagements,” he says. “It’s no coincidence that the major adopters of low-code platforms are not high-tech companies or tech startups. They are traditional, nontech organizations like insurers, banks, and utilities.”
The OutSystems report also found that low-code development is poised to move from being used by early adopters to the typical enterprise. Thirty-four percent of respondents said their organizations were already using a low-code platform, and an additional 9% reported they were about to start. Compared with organizations that don’t use low-code platforms, those that do are:
- 21% more likely to describe their organizations as happy or happy with the speed of application development
- 15% more likely to deliver applications in four months or less
- 3x more likely to say they have no app dev backlog
- 3x more likely to describe citizen development as tightly governed
While low-code platforms are not new, they have finally matured to become considered usable to more organizations. “Low-code platforms have really existed forever. Twenty years ago we called them ‘rapid application development.’ But the old RAD products produced applications that weren’t fit-for-purpose, developers didn’t like, and users just didn’t use,” Edwards says. “But apps built today using Appian, Mendix, and so forth are pretty good, widely used, fulfill their purpose, and generally reduce the costs of the developers.”
As enterprises move forward with their digital transformation initiatives, expect even more low-code adoption. “In a world that is changing at breakneck speed, it is crucial to identify and respond to digital innovation opportunities more quickly than your competitors,” said Steve Rotter, CMO at OutSystems.