Low-code: The jet fuel of agile adoption

Low-code capabilities circumvent lengthy development cycles and rigid legacy systems to rapidly produce new applications that meet immediate business needs.
Monique Williams, South Africa Country Manager, Hyland.

What is low-code? In a nutshell, it can be defined as an approach to application development that leverages platform-based visual design elements – such as drop-down menus and checkboxes − to quickly and easily develop, change and deliver business applications with minimal to no hand-coding.

While there are many definitions on the internet, many, including Wikipedia, note that low-code development platforms reduce the amount of traditional hand-coding and enable accelerated delivery of business applications. This definition brings in one of the most important benefits of low-code: speed.

Low-code capabilities are identified as the most valuable player in the digital transformation stakes, as they circumvent lengthy development cycles and rigid legacy systems to rapidly produce new applications that meet immediate business needs.

What is driving low-code adoption?

The hunt for agile is the answer to this question. Today, organisations need to be extremely agile and ready to deal with unforeseen scenarios – such as COVID – on virtually a moment’s notice.

Digital transformation was well under way prior to the events of early 2020, but the pandemic served to push the accelerator to the floor and created a whole new pace of business.

But it is important to put this into perspective – companies were already cognisant of the business imperative of implementing digital strategies. What COVID highlighted was the new challenge of needing to meet unexpected hurdles more rapidly than ever before.

It also served to expose a lack of digital agility for many organisations, with countless legacy ERPs being found not to be flexible enough to respond quickly to significant changes in business needs.

Low-code application building brings a new form of digital agility that is a critical component of keeping pace with the evolving business landscape in the new normal because of its ability to stand up a new application rapidly.

It puts a solution in place that not only allows companies to quickly meet new challenges, as and when they arise, but that serves employees and customers more efficiently.

Agile enabling the pace of change

A report by Frost & Sullivan notes that in this environment, low-code applications are the predominant business enablement tools as they offer services to customers, bring new products to life, enable collaboration among employees and turn content into business insights.

To prepare for a software-fuelled future, it is reported that many organisations are seeking to modernise their application development processes. Frost & Sullivan’s survey results significantly record that the organisations most satisfied with the effectiveness of their business applications have implemented a low-code development platform. This is quite a revelation, but even more importantly, it is disclosed that said organisations reported higher revenue growth than their counterparts.

Organisations devote a lot of energy and resources to solution/application development.

The research shows that 61% of all industries cite digital transformation as their top goal. However, a significant 73% of the hard-hit healthcare industry rates it even higher. Prioritisation of other goals also reflects industry-specific challenges, many accelerated by the pandemic.

For example, 49% of manufacturing firms are said to be particularly focused on business efficiency, 41% on innovation and 37% on revenue growth; this at a time when factories are being quickly retooled or ramped up to address supply chain disruptions and product shortages.

Additionally, 45% of higher education institutions are more interested in innovation and data centricity (39%) than business efficiency (29%) or revenue growth (13%) – at a time when most universities are confined to remote learning or implementing hybrid education models.

According to Frost & Sullivan, as a whole, the strategic goals reflect organisations’ requirements to build and run digital businesses, and the foundation of a digital business is effective business applications.

The modernisation of application development

Organisations devote a lot of energy and resources to solution/application development. On average, survey respondents reported that over half (54%) of their business applications are developed or customised in-house, with the remaining applications representing licensed software or software-as-a-service subscriptions with little customisation or integration.

As such, organisations understand that their development processes play a major role in the achievement of their goals.

So, what is most important to businesses in the post-pandemic era? Perhaps not surprisingly, the goals are similar to years past, but the urgency, and in some cases, the priority, have shifted.

This is endorsed by the Frost & Sullivan survey, which reveals that the vast majority (nearly 80%) believe a modern development approach is essential to success and highlights the top five goals of organisations, in order of importance, as:

  • Integration of new apps – with existing systems and content for easier search and business insight generation.
  • Security.
  • Ease of collaboration among employees or stakeholders from different departments in app development processes.
  • Speed at which apps are developed or updated.
  • Alignment of app features with needs of users.

The IDC reports that legacy application modernisation requires a multivalent and highly strategic approach to ensure enterprises achieve their goals. It advises that buyers should take the time to carefully conduct modernisation assessments of their fleet of legacy applications to determine the return on investment and optimal path forward with respect to the modernisation of select digital assets.

This is where one of the biggest and most exciting aspects of low-code comes to the fore – speed.

Low-code application development brings the element of speed that organisations today desperately need if they are to succeed at the new pace of business.

* In my next article, I will explore and expand on low-code capabilities.

Read more