Internal low-code development platforms empower collaboration at scale, accelerate software delivery, and establish an enterprise-wide culture of innovation.
Change is the only constant in the fast-paced world of enterprise technology. Businesses face growing pressure to innovate and adapt as customer expectations evolve and disruptive new solutions enter the market. Thus, agility has become a necessity in everything from software development to digital transformation.
Most IT and business stakeholders are well aware of this fact. 95% of business leaders believe that technological innovation in strategic business initiatives add value. They realize that IT is no longer a mere cost center, but a key driver of revenue and growth. They understand that being able to respond quickly to change is vital for staying relevant in today’s market.
Unfortunately, there remains a serious misalignment between perception and reality. Almost two-thirds of business stakeholders claim that their IT departments implement fewer than half of their proposed solutions. Solutions that are implemented tend to go over budget and over time which, in turn, has led to a significant rise in uncontrolled shadow IT.
This begs the question of how many potentially value-adding innovations never saw the light of day because software teams lacked the technical skills and budgets to develop them. After all, traditional software development is costly and time-consuming and requires technical expertise across a broad range of domains from coding to user experience design.
Business processes need to be regularly modified and customized to best respond to change, which means that software teams need to be flexible and agile. They must be able to work quickly to keep up. But rather than face the constant risk of burnout and rising technical debt, they must be empowered by agile leadership, the right tools, and a collaborative company culture.
Closing the skills gap with low code
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers, is projected to grow by almost a quarter over the next decade. There are almost 200,000 openings for these positions each year on average. With the skills gap widening, the case for bringing non-developers into the mix has never been greater. Low code is vital to making that happen since it brings to life the agile mindset — not just in software teams, but across all business-critical departments.
However, there is far more to low code than empowering citizen developers to get involved in creating business solutions. Neither is low code just about freeing up professional developers from having to invest all of their time in creating basic applications. Low-code development platforms (LCDPs) are also directly beneficial to professional developers as well since they can augment their abilities to tackle more complex development tasks that would otherwise take longer and require more people.
Although low code has traditionally been some pushback from professional developers, many are now starting to recognize how low code can help close the skills gap: They can do more with less, they can adapt faster, and they can focus on more complex work. In the end, it comes down to leveraging automation and accessibility to tackle the challenges of scale and the constant need to adapt to change.
Empowering collaboration at scale
An agile business is one in which every department operates under a shared vision. While this might sound obvious, the reality is, once again, quite different to the perception. In few cases is this the divide greater than it is between software development and business strategy. Furthermore, there is often also a divide between software teams and the expectations of end-users. Too often does innovation happen in a bubble, where stakeholders have little control or visibility over the process.
One of the goals of low code is to help close the divide by empowering collaboration at scale. The idea is that, when everyone can get involved in software development, there is much less likely to be friction between different departments. In other words, non-technical people will no longer view software development as a thoroughly inaccessible discipline, while professional developers will no longer view laypeople as not having any valuable input in the development process.
Low-code enables collaboration at scale by giving everyone with basic technical skills a role in software development, and this applies throughout the entire software lifecycle. For example, user experience (UX) designers traditionally rely on wireframes, which they then pass on to software developers to build the actual product. Needless to say, such collaborations have long been fraught with misaligned expectations and consequent delays and rework. However, low code can enable seamless collaboration between UX and development by using a single design library that aligns with industry best practices. In fact, more often than not, one person can both design and develop the software. All the while, the automated quality control checks of many LCDPs help maintain alignment with industry standards and company policy.
Collaboration is one of the key principles of low-code development. By standardizing the whole process with a model-driven approach and a set of predesigned building blocks, everyone on the team can see what everybody else is doing. That way, they can share information easily, make decisions based on actionable insights, and respond quicker for better results. To that end, low code fosters collaborative development across different teams. By contrast, traditional development requires specialized skills, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for team members of different skill levels to effectively collaborate and communicate about projects.
Accelerating software delivery
Speed is the operative word when it comes to software delivery lifecycles, and enterprises are always looking to adopt new techniques to expedite development. Low code has proven vital for meeting the demands of this growing trend. Speed is easily one of the biggest benefits of adopting low-code solutions, which have been found to reduce development time by as much as 90%.
Low-code solutions are designed with rapid application development in mind by minimizing and, in many cases, eliminating, the need for coding manually. Instead, they depend on drag-and-drop interfaces and workflows that align with common business logic. However, when it comes to software delivery, low code does not stop at initial development. In addition to rapid creation, low code facilitates faster application deployment and faster update cycles.
With many software applications, maintenance accounts for the majority of the total cost of ownership. By using a standardized set of building blocks that align with business rules and logic, low code solutions make it quicker and easier to implement change requests and add new functionalities.
Visual development environments also save time for professional developers, since they can implement common application functions in minutes rather than days. Naturally, this is much faster than writing code from scratch or manually adding snippets of code from previous projects — which often still involves significant manual changes anyway.
Democratizing software development
The demand for business-related software applications is around five times high than internal IT teams’ ability to deliver them. This means that the talent gap is one of the biggest barriers to innovation. However, one of the overarching benefits of low code is that it enables citizen developers to get involved as well, including those who have minimal technical knowledge.
Democratizing software development helps bridge the skills gap and meet the growing need for rapid application development and deployment. Professional developers can focus on the tasks that explicitly still require coding and other advanced skills, while citizen developers can create and maintain everyday business applications to better meet the unique needs of their departments. That means fewer tasks being handed over to professional software teams, who are often overburdened as it is.
Another way that low code accelerates digital transformation is by making it easier to integrate data sources and third-party applications. Many LCDPs have large communities supporting them by developing APIs for popular third-party apps and platforms. With a widely supported and, ideally, fully open-source solution, developers can connect practically any data source and integrate their applications with existing business systems with little or no programming required. The highly customizable and scalable nature of low code means that integration with existing systems, such as industry-standard ERP and CRM solutions, takes a fraction of the time compared to coding new software from scratch.
Breaking down barriers to innovation
Experimentation drives innovation, but it can also be fraught with uncertainties, and the risks are often greater than the potential opportunities. This is why the majority of digital transformation projects are still failing to achieve an adequate return on investment.
However, without experimentation, there can be no innovation, hence enterprise software teams need a way to experiment without fear or compromise. That means their tools need to be agile and accessible, and that is exactly where low code comes in.
Traditional methods of experimentation in software development are cumbersome and time-consuming and often lead to significant technical debt. Low code platforms, on the other hand, are perfect environments not just for actual development, but also for wireframing, prototyping, and testing. With visual workflows and predesigned building blocks, developers can actually see how their proof of concepts work in real-world scenarios. Some platforms go even further by allowing them to connect practically any structured data source, automate quality control checks, and even enable one-click deployment to major cloud-enabled platforms like Docker.
Low code solutions serve as sandboxes for professional and citizen developers alike. Citizen developers, who might only have basic technical skills and no experience with programming, might, for example, have a clear picture in their minds of how they would like their software applications to function. Before the era of low code, they would have to communicate these ideas to professional UX designers and developers, and that has never been easy. Thanks to low code, they can turn their own ideas into functioning solutions with little or no involvement from professional developers.
In most enterprises, the biggest barrier to innovation is often the cultural divide between the software team and the rest of the organization. For example, customer-facing departments like sales and marketing are usually the ones who come up with innovative ideas for engaging their customers. However, all too often do those ideas fail to translate into actual innovation, due to the divide between their teams and software teams. Instead, and thanks to low code, those in sales and marketing and other departments can put their own ideas to the test and quickly deploy solutions that meet their exact needs
Innovating without adding risk
Encouraging organization-wide innovation and experimentation often makes IT leaders worry, and for good reason. The common fear is that, having non-developers try to create software solutions to match their own needs will lead to myriad technical problems, such as compliance and security issues and bugs that hinder the end user experience. When it comes to traditional software development, there is some truth in that. However, it is also important to remember that innovation must also come from the business side, not just the technical side.
Today’s LCDPs have come a long way from the visual software development tools of old. By incorporating security by design and robust foundations that align with industry best practices, low code solutions also establish the protections needed to keep everyone on the right path. Leading low-code solutions achieve this thanks to a combination of standardization, robust governance and traceability, and ensuring complete visibility into what everyone is doing. This allows teams to innovate without fear, no matter how far they try to blaze the trail.
In the end, agility is not just about speed, but also adaptability and collaboration. By enforcing best practices in the software development workflow, low-code solutions enable enterprises to accelerate their digital transformations while still managing risk effectively.
For independent software vendors, the same applies — low code makes it easier for them to build upon their past successes to better meet the growing demands for user-friendly software solutions that make no compromise when it comes to performance, and functionality.
Planet Crust is the creator and driving force behind Corteza, a 100% open-source low-code software development platform that lets you import data from any source and use intuitive drag-and-drop tools to create custom applications for your unique business needs. Get started for free today.