Low-code and business agility
COVID-19 accelerated what many CEOs and CTOs have struggled to do for the past decade: It forced organizations to be agile and adjust quickly to change. For all the talk about digital transformation over the past decade, when push came to shove, many organizations realized they had made far less progress than they thought.
Now with the genie of rapid change out of the bottle, we will never go back to accepting slow and steady progress from our organizations. To survive and thrive in times of disruption, you need to build a resilient, adaptable business with systems and processes that will keep you nimble for years to come. An essential part of business agility is responding to change by quickly developing new applications and adapting old ones. IT faces an unprecedented demand for new applications. According to IDC, by 2023, more than 500 million digital applications and services will be developed and deployed — the same number of apps that were developed in the last 40 years.
Businesses need applications faster than ever before, and they need them to solve increasingly complex, sophisticated problems. This means IT teams need a more efficient way to quickly deliver powerful software and a better way to partner with their business counterparts.
That’s where low-code comes in.
What is low-code?
Low-code is the fastest way to develop applications. Instead of writing lines of code, you build software by drawing a flowchart, and the platform then handles the code for you. Low-code is a much more intuitive and human way of interacting with a machine than coding. This simple approach is attuned to our time, because low-code equals high speed. But speed is only one point of value. Low-code offers three key benefits:
1. Low-code is fast: It’s up to 10 times faster to develop applications, which means your organization can quickly adapt and respond to change.
2. Low-code is unified: Robust low-code platforms can bring everything together in a single workflow, including human workers, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA)—plus external tools, legacy systems and data, regardless of where it lives.
3. Low-code is easier to maintain: Since the low-code platform handles much of the upkeep that usually falls to IT, it cuts the overhead costs of running an application in half.
The low-code market today is evolving rapidly with the convergence of categories. It’s bringing together process mining, workflow and automation, which are the capabilities organizations use to discover, design and automate business processes. The synergies across these capabilities are so strong that they cannot remain as distinct parts in the future, but instead as one new market delivering even more value than before.
Workflow is the backbone of businesses worldwide. It is the definer and enforcer of how work gets done across the enterprise. Workflow is an ideal orchestrator for efficiency, and it serves as the bridge between process mining and automation.
Automation includes all the digital workers to whom work can be delegated. Today that includes RPA bots, AI systems, intelligent document processing (IDP), business rules and Smart Services. These digital workers are more efficient when they work in harmony with each other under the direction of human workers. Workflow orchestrates tasks between digital and human workers, helping businesses massively increase scale, efficiency and quality.
Process mining is a technology that reads activity logs to discover patterns of behavior inside an organization. Using process mining, you can unearth business processes to optimize and automate. In combination with workflow and automation, process mining insights enable fast action and continuous process improvement.
Why do we need low-code?
The demand for skilled developers far outpaces supply. We can’t hire our way out of this problem, which means we need to think of new ways to address the demand for more — and more powerful — applications. Sophisticated low-code platforms automatically take care of factors like security, scalability, quality assurance, collaboration and reliability. With the right platform, a developer with two years of experience can perform like they have decades of experience. You can release software 10 times faster than before, and trust that it’s secure, scalable, reliable, bug-free and able to drive impactful business outcomes.
Business leaders need innovative solutions. But IT teams spend most of their time keeping the lights on — managing technical debt and taking care of tasks like constant upgrades, security certifications, regulatory compliance checks and performance considerations. In fact, IDG estimates that IT teams spend 40% of their application development time addressing problems caused by technical debt. That’s two full days per employee each week. No wonder there’s no time left to evaluate new or existing use cases, find applications that deliver business value or focus on improving user and customer experiences.
This isn’t IT’s fault. Some technical debt is inevitable. But to build a resilient business, you need solutions that reduce technical burden in the long term instead of adding to it. Applications built on leading low-code platforms eliminate entire categories of technical debt. Done right, low-code will handle tasks that eat up so much of developers’ time: DevOps, governance, compliance, backwards compatibility, device compatibility, cloud scalability, data optimization and security, to name a few. By adopting a platform that takes much of this burden away, IT teams can focus their energy on improving applications and delivering higher business value, instead of just keeping the lights on.
In the past, the quality of your applications was a direct result of developer skills and time spent on the project — both of which are expensive and scarce. With low-code, software quality depends on the sophistication of your low-code platform. Low-code is faster, more powerful and easier to maintain. Applications are automatically mobile across all devices, always up to date with the latest available security and foundational to agile development because they’re easy to revise over time.
 IDC, FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry 2020 Predictions, DOC #US45599219, October 28, 2019.
 IDG “The Future of Work” Report, 2018. appian.com/future-of-work-part-2/.