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When is a low-code platform right for your business?

In June 2014, ‘low-code’ went mainstream. Forrester researchers formally announced the arrival of ‘low-code’ platforms in their paper ‘New Development Platforms Emerge For Customer-Facing Applications’. While the idea of visual development and configuration instead of hand-coding existed since long before, Forrester’s report marked the time when global enterprises began taking low-code as a serious alternative to their current methods. And it has grown significantly since. 

Gartner predicts that by 2024, over 75% of large enterprises will use low-code development tools, and over 65% of all application development will be done with low-code tools and methods. Confirming these hard stats, low-code proves to be worthwhile because: 

  • It can make development up to 10x faster, as Forrester’s John Rymer argues.
  • It can help your application deployments achieve first-time-right. 
  • It can enable generalists to perform specialized coding tasks, optimizing investment in people.
  • It can improve your governance initiatives and security posture, and prevent shadow IT, through a unified platform.

The real question about adopting a low-code platform is: When is a low-code platform right for your business?

In order to help you gauge if low-code is right for you, in the present, we’ve identified specific situations in which enterprises see great benefits from low-code, across three dimensions — your business landscape, preparedness for low-code and technology position.

Business landscape

When you need to ease your digital transformation journey

Enterprises on a digital transformation journey realize soon enough that their business landscape is evolving faster than their transformation initiative is moving. They need greater speed in their application modernization endeavor without sinking more investments in additional resources/tools. Low-code can enable this.

When you need to close the business-IT gap 

The visual approach of low-code simplifies the application development process — it abstracts complexities of integration and configuration, somewhat reducing the intimidating aspects of hand-coding. This allows business users and professional developers to collaborate more meaningfully. With visual prototyping, business users can play with the feature, facilitating earlier validation, reducing rework and cost overruns significantly.

When you need to deliver fast with limited resources

Be it market pressures, compliance needs or competition, businesses from time to time come under pressure to deliver fast. And hardly ever has an IT leader said, “we have all the people and budgets we need to accelerate”. More often than not, IT teams are left to find innovative, yet cost-effective ways to deliver fast. And low-code is exactly that.

Low-code platforms enable enterprises to use their existing teams to perform complex development tasks with minimal upskilling. With visual prototyping, they provide a common ground for business users and developers to collaborate, without yet involving IT or DevOps. They automate coding, saving time and energy for engineers, which they can then leverage to innovate at scale. It ensures that you have standardized and consistent code, in spite of different developers working on it, eliminating shadow IT and facilitating better governance.

Preparedness for low-code

When you know exactly what you want from your low-code platform

As you identify and explore low-code alternatives to traditional development, you will develop an organizational know-how about how it works, how it fits into your existing systems etc. In such a situation, you might be in a great position to identify the perfect use-cases for adopting low-code — say, while modernizing legacy applications. 

In such a case, where you’re already up the learning curve, low-code can generate incremental benefits for you.

When you have identified the right people who will maximize the benefits using low-code tools

We’ve seen that early adopters and power users of low-code tools tend to be technically-inclined business users. For example, a business analyst who has a clear understanding of data organization / logical flows and a strong product point of view can leverage low-code for configuring and setting up the reporting software themselves. Or generalist developers who need to perform specialist roles as part of their job — say a backend developer needing to do UI design. 

When you have identified the specific person who can leverage low-code because it fills a specific gap, it can work wonders.

Technology position

When your app requirements are varied 

Enterprise applications can sometimes be labyrinths of layers, held together by loosely defined integrations. When different teams within an enterprise come to the developer with different business requirements, a working reconciliation of them all can be daunting. With low-code, you can build custom apps specific to the requirements of each business team, without wrecking the foundations of your application. 

When you have high expectations of tech innovation 

In a world where every business is a tech business, every enterprise faces pressure to innovate. This can be even more demanding in a tech-heavy industry.. Low-code helps developers build features faster — with the visual interface — and also gets feedback quicker from business users. 

When you already have IT support for application integration 

Existing development teams often have a conceptual understanding of the application architecture and underlying infrastructure, which enables them to integrate and deploy their code. Adding a low-code platform to accelerate development brings an additional layer, which also needs to be integrated. On the other hand, enterprises might still need IT support to integrate the code written using the low-code tool into the larger application codebase. Often, enterprises shy away from adopting new tools for fear of this integration.

If you have an existing IT support team that can facilitate a low-code platform’s integration into the application landscape, you are in a better position to adopt low-code and reap its benefits.

Low-code as a practice and low-code platforms as tools can help application development teams across a wide range of functions. Whether you’re just considering modernizing your legacy systems or are at the cutting edge of tech innovation, low-code can help accelerate your digital transformation journey.

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How Low-code Helps CIOs Accelerate Digital Transformation

CIOs need to embrace low-code as it can help accelerate digital transformation and application development demands

TGI Fridays recently introduced Flanagan, an AI mixologist. It is an app and chatbot that creates personalized drinks based on customer flavor preferences and moods. In another side of the marketplace, Nissan integrated Microsoft Office 365 to bridge silos, unify business units, make them “mobile-enabled”, and to create a “digital workplace”. This is the age of the “future-forward experience”. As many companies and brands are working towards delivering experience, the key enablers are emerging technology and modern software applications.

Technology plays an important role in this age of the experience economy. The workplace is transforming, aiming to become more optimized. The workforce is evolving, where employees are now working beyond boundaries and using technology to collaborate and communicate in productive ways. Customers are becoming more demanding, expecting exceptional experiences. Reflecting these changes, enterprises and businesses are modernizing their processes and systems.

Along with the evolving workplace, workforce, and marketplace, the role of IT leaders and CIOs is also transforming. With the demanding need to adapt to a highly-optimised and hyper-connected world, CIOs are nudged into taking a strategic role. They are now expected to be change agents, responsible not only for managing IT budgets but also to identify revenue streams and create business value.

As digital transformation has become the main agenda, CIOs are using technology strategically and leveraging digital opportunities. The fact that in 2019, 40% of technology spending (more than $2 trillion) is estimated to have been assigned to digital transformation initiatives, adoption of emerging technology has become the biggest objective for enterprises. The app economy plays a crucial in driving digital transformation and business innovation. CIOs have to consider the people, platforms, and processes that will cater to the increasing demand for modern applications.

The increasing demand for enterprise applications has led to the increasing adoption of low-code platforms in the Application Development & Delivery (AD&D) market. Enterprises are working towards leveraging agile practices and incorporating development techniques to create a minimum viable product (MVP).

CIOs and IT leaders have to determine what practices, what type of technology and the skills required to achieve modernization. Here’s how emerging technologies such as low-code platforms help CIOs drive digital transformation ROI.

How CIOs can leverage the potential of low-code platforms to drive digital transformation ROI

● Align goals with people, processes, and platforms — Digital transformation goals need to be aligned with the business strategy and the culture. Senior IT leaders and CIOs need to communicate the goals and ensure that their workforce is tech-savvy to deliver digital transformation objectives. Alignment of strategies with business needs and expectations will provide CIOs with a better opportunity to succeed in implementation.

Emerging technology such as low-code platforms provides IT leaders with the potential to bridge silos, streamline processes and enable teams to collaborate and focus on core innovation. Using rapid application development tools, CIOs have been able to accelerate their revenue-generation and digital transformation initiatives.

● Get equipped with a modern technology stack — Before beginning the journey of digital transformation, CIOs need to identify legacy systems that need to be modernized. Incrementally modernizing traditional systems can allow stakeholders to witness the benefits and ensure wider adoption in the enterprise. By introducing a modern technology stack, enterprises can also involve and engage employees to upskill and learn about new technologies.

What low-code platforms provide is the potential to modernize applications without rebuilding older applications from scratch. The agility and speed to develop enterprise applications make low-code platforms a preferred choice.

● Accelerate time-to-market delivery of applications — The hyper-demands of the marketplace put much pressure on enterprises to deliver more with less. Accelerating time to market of product delivery needs to one of the main objectives of transformation and modernization.

Time being of the essence, IT leaders are widely adopting low-code platforms because they enable developing applications faster. Rapid application development reduces time spent on design and coding while improving developer productivity. By advancing the ‘speed to market’ metrics, CIOs using low-code platforms can achieve a higher return on platform investment.

● Develop custom applications to deliver user experience (UX) — While time is of the essence so is the experience. When introducing new technology and applications, user experience (UX) has become the core objective. IT leaders need to focus on the purpose of developing new applications. The objective must revolve around the needs of the users and how emerging technology can help them improve collaboration, communication, productivity, and performance. Ideally, application development strategies need to revolve around the ethos of users.

With low-code platforms, custom-built applications can be developed based on user preferences with agility and speed. They enable IT leaders to create enterprise apps that are designed to adapt to experiences instead of devices. By improving the usability metrics, emerging technology like low-code platforms has higher adoption rates and better opportunities to deliver business value.

● Choose the right platform and technology — Given the increasing demands of the digital marketplace, modernization and digital transformation initiatives require IT infrastructure to be agile, flexible, scalable and cost-effective. By supporting the development and delivery of custom applications on-time, low-code platforms ensure enterprise agility efficiently and cost-effectively. With many players in the AD&D market, CIOs need to wisely choose the right low-code platform.

Platforms offer ready-made application infrastructure, improve usability with rich user interfaces, enable full-stack development, give access to the best-of-breed technology stack, enable API-driven integration and encourage business user participation. Ideally, the chosen low-code platform should firstly serve a particular business need. It should allow for code reusability, improve agility, ensure faster time to market, and make integration and deployment easier without vendor lock-in.

Now is the time for CIOs to consider digital transformation

Enterprise-wide digital transformation is all-encompassing. It affects all stakeholders and requires revamping processes, upskilling people, integrating modern technology and changing the culture. As change agents, IT modernization and digital transformation can be a challenging feat for CIOs and IT leaders. Emerging technology such as low-code platforms acts as a catalyst to change, providing CIOs with a great opportunity to accelerate modernization and support digital transformation initiatives.

As the hyper demands of the enterprise continues to increase, the technology that delivers innovative solutions needs to be identified. The strategy, approach, and technology that CIOs and IT leaders choose will be the factors that determine the rate of returns on platform investment. The faster the informed decision is made, the sooner the benefits will be evident because the market waits for no one.

Originally published in Information Age by Vijay Pullur, CEO, WaveMaker.

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Why the Shortage of Tech Talent is the Single Biggest Driver for App Modernization

The time has come. Experienced professional developers of yesteryears are hanging up their hats and opting to retire. While these seasoned programmers gear up for the sun and sands, the companies that depend on them are bracing for a technical and IT skills shortage. 

 Every year of every decade that has passed, legacy systems have been updated. The majority of these complex applications do not have documentation and there are a very small number of developers left who have an understanding of the business rules. There is heavy dependence on core mainframe programmers and IT leaders are concerned. Keeping in line with industry views, there is an urgent need for the IT workforce to develop their competencies to use emerging technology and support digital initiatives. 

 As technology becomes outdated so does the skill set of professionals who use it. Finding professionals with specialized skill sets to maintain legacy systems is another challenge that companies are facing. The tech talent shortage goes beyond a particular role. There is an overall shortfall of knowledgeable professionals who know how to code, be it developing back-end mobile applications to cloud-computing platforms. Paying top dollar to outsource support for legacy IT systems is no longer a viable option.

In a time of Digital Darwinism, technology is changing at a pace faster than users can grasp. In the Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum, by 2022 more than half of the employees (54%) will require reskilling or the skill gap to adopt digital technologies will only grow beyond a point resolution. Given that the speed of change in technology adoption is inevitable, IT professionals have no choice but to shape up or ship out. 

 Is the tech talent shortage driving application modernization?

Given that modernization has become imperative in the IT-powered business world, there is an increasing pressure to adopt emerging technology and modernize legacy systems. Several industry reports mention how the access to better development tools, technologies and services, make developers more productive. By modernizing existing legacy systems engineering teams can become more efficient and the time-to-market can be improved.

There are many reasons why companies choose to modernize, from reducing the cost of maintaining legacy systems to responding to pressure that the competition presents. An interesting factor driving application modernization is the shortage of tech talent. With the lack of specialized resources, emerging technology such as low-code platforms are helping enterprises deliver more with less, here’s how:  

  • Enables upskilling of existing teams – Rapid application development platforms provide exposure to professional development teams. By encouraging them to work on different types of technologies, frameworks, tools, and languages, programmers can upskill to become full-stack developers using low-code platforms.
  • Reduces dependencies on specialist roles – An application development which normally requires at least ten different types of developers can now be done by using just four developers. Traditional software and application development requires developers with specific skills such as UI designers and developers, UX experts, backend, database, and mobile developers, DevOps and quality analysts. In contrast, low-code application development does not depend on specialist roles. Working towards building smaller and agile teams, low-code development requires fewer resources such as a UI expert, a full-stack developer, DevOps and quality analyst.
  • Provides a self-service solution for more innovation – The 2019 Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO Survey speaks of how technical professionals above everything else (job security and salary), prefer learning new skills and the challenge of innovative projects. Low-code development platforms give application development and IT teams more control and ownership over development projects. As the platform does all the heavy lifting by managing time-consuming tasks, developers can get the bandwidth to focus on innovation.

The hard fact of the matter is that regardless of the problem the solution seems to include technology. By democratizing technology, low-code platforms are nurturing agile teams and transforming the IT workforce from “doers to enablers”. Given the paucity of tech talent, low-code platforms help to close the gap between the increasing demand for enterprise applications and the technical resources to develop them. 

With digital transformation becoming mainstream, application modernization is gaining speed. Whether the objective of application development and modernization is to make money (line-of-business users), or it is to save money (C-level executives), or whether the shortage of tech talent is driving modernization, it has become a critical necessity, and low-code platforms have become an integral solution.  

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2020 Predictions: Shifting Dynamics of Evolving Ecosystems

2019 was the year we witnessed business leaders intensify their efforts to embrace digital transformation initiatives and build an adaptive, technical and operational foundation. The challenges were plenty, many of which still need to be addressed.

Companies have had to deal with technical debt and organizational silos, which has increased resource allocation to their core tech stacks. Several digital transformation initiatives fell short on delivering desired returns. Many companies have eagerly adopted new technologies. While all of this was intended to achieve operational efficiency and viability, it has led to dealing with technical challenges.

With 2020 around the corner, the predictions are optimistic and radical. As the challenges continue to be actively addressed, let’s take a look at some of the aspects that will gain momentum in 2020.

CIOs and business leaders will embody transformative rolesbecoming ‘chief enablers.’

These executives will chase tech-driven innovation with grit and break silos of teams to build ecosystems. The focus will revolve around people management, tech-driven innovation and ecosystem-building skills. In 2020, CIOs will be looking to automate their IT tasks and upskill everyone in order to address the increasing pressure to improve efficiency and control costs. This will not translate to layoffs; instead, Forrester Analytics data predicts agile DevOps teams will be created by training teams to manage more complex tasks.

Businesses will leverage the potential of emerging technologies to address challenges.

From decentralized autonomous organizations to immersive workplaces and digital ecosystems, companies will consider emerging technologies to reduce costs and invest in growth. In discussions about the outlook for the global IT market at the Gartner IT Symposium, analysts predicted that in 2020, enterprise software spending will reach $507 billion, a 10.9% growth from 2019.

Companies will adopt an immersive and adaptive IT approach.

Following shape-shifting characteristics of organizations, “fluid IT capability” will be nurtured, where the boundaries between IT and business will fade. Enterprises will embrace agile development practices to ensure better collaboration between business and IT. To achieve agility, businesses will work toward connecting people, applications and devices seamlessly.

With the increasing need to bridge silos, I believe developing enterprise applications with faster release cycles will result in the increasing adoption of low-code platforms. The fact that the low-code development platform market is growing at a rate of 40% and is expected to reach $21.2 billion by 2022 confirms the potential of modernization using emerging technologies.

Initiatives to upskill the workforce will be significant.

I believe this will come to fruition as IT leaders will have to address the challenge of cost control in an economically volatile environment. Cross-domain knowledge workers will be given importance, where employees with higher skills will be paid more and retained. Companies will invest in prepping employees to work together with automation tools and technologies. Employee development and improving the learning agility of teams will become the main priorities.

Companies will design their business applications experience around employees.

As the digital workplace evolves, employees will expect business applications they use and develop to deliver more. This prediction is based on the notion that the “one size fits all” approach offered by some companies will need to change. Low-code platforms will enable application development in alignment with job requirements, and self-service DevOps will democratize the way enterprise applications are deployed and used.

Employee digital dexterity will be the essence of future digital workplaces.

How work gets done will be transformed by employee-facing technologies. Collaborative, cloud-based work management tools will be adopted to create a digital dexterous workforce. Given that the competitive advantage of most companies is derived from how employees use technology, emerging technologies will be adopted widely to make employees and teams more agile, inclusive and engaged.

I foresee 2020 being a year that will witness far-reaching, fast-paced changes. Tech-driven innovation will drive changes in the digital workplace and the ecosystem. Emerging technologies and software platforms will revolutionize how enterprises develop, deliver and manage applications used by their employees and customers. Driven to achieve embedded connectivity, improve business agility and foster innovation, companies will evolve based on the shape-shifting dynamics of the workforce, workspace and marketplace. The best way forward is to plan ahead.

Originally published in Forbes by Vijay Pullur, CEO WaveMaker.