The business world is increasingly powered by apps. And while companies are continuing to use prefabricated third-party software, they’re now looking more often to adapt existing applications to their specific needs, or to create individual applications for specific purposes.
The problem is, this process is time-consuming and cost-intensive – and it also requires a sufficient supply of IT specialists with time and the right know-how.
Unfortunately, that’s what many IT businesses today don’t have. One study from the end of last year shows that 67% of senior technology decision-makers say that a skills shortage is preventing their companies from keeping up with the pace of change.
That means companies that want to go digital and develop their own apps need other solutions. Low-code is the way forward.
Programming without Python, Java or C#
Low-code platforms are unique in that they’re untrained developers – so-called citizen developers – as well as professionals.
These citizen developers require little experience or know-how to use platforms, as these offer visual modules and automatic code generation that allow users to quickly and easily develop apps to represent, optimize and automate everyday processes – requiring minimal or no manual coding. For employees with programming experience and other ‘real pro-coders’, they develop "by hand" on low-code platforms, creating more complex apps or coding on interfaces as needed.
The beauty of this is that it means low-code is for everyone. Employees from all departments – from HR to sales – can create applications without writing a line of code or even ever having heard of Python, Java or C#, while IT specialists can use the tech to create complex applications more quickly.
It’s worth noting that IT remains in control of the process at all times: advanced low-code platforms with a central management console allow constant oversight, and IT teams can also determine exactly which users are allowed to develop or deploy apps, what capabilities are available, and which developers collaborate.
Achieve more with less
These benefits can have a really tangible impact on businesses. In short, with low-code, fewer employees can achieve more.
With low-code, software development can be carried out in a fraction of the time, not only because anyone can do it, but because the platforms offer simple, fast and intuitive handling due to the standard modules offered and the elimination of complex coding.
The knock-on effect is that existing IT specialists can use their capacities elsewhere, meaning far less demand for professional programmers that are difficult to get hold of. In short, with low-code, fewer employees can achieve more. That, in turn, means significant cost savings.
For individual business functions, low-code also means that they can get hold of solutions that exactly match their workflows and their needs, rather than an ill-fitting generalized solution, as, ideally, it’s the end users of the apps themselves who are designing them, which also leads to faster process optimization and implementation.
With all these benefits in mind, the promise of low-code is huge. In fact, Gartner assumes that by 2024, 80% of technology products worldwide will be created by Citizen Developers outside the IT department.
How to get low-code development right
Of course, there are a few ground-rules to be aware of to get the most out of low code. To be successful, low-code platforms should offer the following features:
- A mobile user experience: Low-code platforms designed for mobile devices provide a better user experience, because this prevents downsizing issues with design and functionality; what’s more, many users are intuitively comfortable on mobile devices.
- Development Tools: A complete set of app development tools helps create really effective apps quickly and on a large scale. The bigger the tool suite, the greater the possibilities.
- Integrated Applications: Pre-built integrations should be present to allow common business applications to easily connect the platform to any other systems and data sources.
- Integrated notification services: These ensure that any significant changes or issues are flagged with supervisors who can react accordingly.
- Intelligent Orchestration: Advanced low-code platforms can predict problems before they arise and facilitate decision making with built-in AI and intelligent orchestration.
- Security: Business applications often contain potentially sensitive data – both corporate and personal – and so security is a crucial factor in development. Automated code scanning can guarantee predefined security standards by default. This reduces risks related to data, operational impact, business continuity, operational performance and more.
Preparing teams for a low-code world
That covers the technical needs for low-code. But how should teams prepare themselves?
Companies can actually train interested employees to become Citizen Developers relatively quickly. All that’s needed is a healthy level of enthusiasm for technology, and an interest in implementing workflows digitally.
The ultimate goal is for employees to play a leading role not only in the initial development of the app, but also in its maintenance and further development. They should accompany the project from the beginning and be experts for the respective application; meanwhile, managers have the task of explaining the importance of the new skills to these employees and encouraging them to build a close relationship with IT right from the start.
The next step is training. Low-code training programs and workbooks should be an integral part of every larger company, teaching Citizen Developers the necessary skills and, above all, the logic behind low-code. After initial training, the focus should then shift to the actual application and implementation, allowing Citizen Developers to put their theoretical knowledge into practice.
Finally, cooperation with the IT department is crucial for the success of a Citizen Developer. Good and transparent communication between both parties is essential to prevent so-called ‘Shadow IT’ and ensure optimal development.
That makes one central collaboration platform essential to good citizen development, as it allows all departments to work together on a solution, guarantees easy visibility for all stakeholders, and ensures IT can jump in at any time to address challenges or complex questions.
One business getting low-code right
Multinational life sciences company Bayer is one example of a business that’s harnessing the benefits of low-code.
The company used low-code technology to build a self-service platform for its legal and compliance department. The platform aimed to standardize and centralize a system that previously covered over 1000 legal and compliance experts covering 100+ countries.
Bayer worked with ServiceNow and partner smartvokat GmbH to build the ‘LPC Express’ platform architecture and service applications with low-code, using ServiceNow’s App Engine product. This low-code approach was critical to an effective development process – enabling enhanced customization and bringing truly agile development to Bayer’s legal function.
The result? Close to 30,000 requests were handled via the LPC platform since it was rolled out in the last year, with an automation rate as high as 80% for some processes. By freeing legal and compliance professionals from mundane, repetitive manual processes, there’s more space to focus on other value-add tasks – which has seen cost savings rise to as high as 30%.
Low-code – the future of digital transformation
Low code has shown us that development isn’t rocket science – and that, increasingly, we all have the tools to advance digital transformation. We just need to step up and start using them.
To learn about how your business can reap the rewards of low-code technology, find out more here.