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Low Code's on Fire. Skeptics Get Smoked, Part 1 of 3

Roland Alston, Appian
July 29, 2019

(This story is the first installment of a three-part series onthe business value of low-code developmentand how to turn innovative ideas into unique software 20x faster than your competitors.)

In the on-demand world of digital transformation, organizations are far more software-driven than ever before. And the most successful companies? They light up the competition when it comes to turning an innovative idea into unique software and scaling it.

Not that your developers have to hand code everything for your company to be a badass, software-driven organization? It's cool if they have the time and technical chops to do that.

But in the pressure cooker of digital transformation, agility is king. Disruption won't wait. And low-code development has caught fire with the enterprise CIO looking to inject Agile development processes into her IT organization.Here's the math:

An overwhelming 84% of companies have embraced low-code development to reduce strain on IT resources, increase speed-to-market, and get business leaders involved in digital asset development, according toForrester.

Time Is Money: The Business Value of Low-Code Speed

Low-Code platforms make it easy to build powerful enterprise applications fast and re-engineer any business process without writing a GAZILLION lines of code. The user-friendly drag-and-drop interface of a modern low-code platform allows developers and non-tech users alike to unify data across the organization into a simple contextual view that's just a click away from business impact. Pre-built connectors and easy-to-configure APIs mean faster integration which saves a ton of time, money and frustration.On top of that, low-code empowers users to instantly deploy enterprise-grade applications everywhere via web, mobile and more.

"Before," says Eric Bloom, Executive Director of the IT Management Institute, "the business analysts would collect the requirements. Those requirements would be converted into a document that would be used as the basis to build the software.Today, the business analyst, sitting with the user, can effectively build the application on the fly. So, it (low-code) dramatically reduces costs by speeding up development and implementation."

"Seventy-five percent of digital transformation is about usingdigital technologies to enhance performance, reduce costs and improve competitiveness," says Bloom."We've been doing that forever....

"But where I really see it (low-code) is in process re-engineering. Because you can do rapid development to enhance internal processes. And that's a really good thing for companies looking to transform their internal operations in a way that fits under the digital transformation umbrella."

Eric Bloom

More data points on the business value of low-code development, based on a recent study by IDC:

    • 509% ROI over five years

    • 7-month payback period

    • Up to 72% faster development cycles

    • 25% productivity boost for business users

    • 42% boost in user adoption of new applications

    • 123% increase in productivity for business process teams

    • $14.8 million boost in revenue per year

Proving the Low-Code Skeptics Wrong

"It's just a remix of old-school rapid application development...It won't last... It's only for non-developers...It lacks the power of custom coding." Yada, yada. Skeptics will be skeptical. That's what skeptics do. But perhaps the best argument for proving the skeptics wrong are the numerous customers out there spreading the word that low-code is faster, more agile and far more powerful than yesterday's RAD ever was.

There's also a myth that low-code development is only good for small departmental applications and small-scale development.Yet the massive data integration challenges faced by companies today are, in many ways, far more complex than the capabilities of vintage RAD and low-code plays an essential role in solving them.

In the go-go age of on-demand everything, it's hard to compete and win with a crock pot approach to application development.

In fact, for companies that haven't made the low-code shift, the question isn't when or if they will get disrupted. It will happen and it could be happening right now.

Will it be a challenger startup, long-standing market leader or a tech giant blindsiding incumbents in your market? Digital disruption is shaking up even low-tech industries and creating new opportunities to transform how customers interact with brands.So, how can you take advantage of this volatile environment? And if you can do that, how can you thrive in a world where innovation happens at digital speed?

It's easy to think that being a market leader is safe but we now have a situation where the lifespan of a top brand on the S&P 500 has dropped from 60 years in the 1950s to less than 20 years today, according to Credit Suisse. Much better to fortify your value chain with unique applications that help customers get to happy faster and this is where low-code development comes in.

Breaking Down the Low-Code Value Prop

In short, low-code is a new way to turn ideas into business applications 20x faster than writing code. That's because with a low-code platform, you don't code an application. You draw it like a flow chart.You draw your intention what you want your new application to do.

You drag and drop interfaces, rules, and integrations and the low-code platform does the rest. Low-code is intuitive, simple and fast so you don't need a degree in computer science to use it. As a result, many large companies have turned to low-code to alleviate pressure on IT resources and get business users involved in digital asset development.

It's also worth noting that when you build an application with a low-code platform, it updates automatically. Which means it can evolve to run on future devices that haven't been invented yet.

This eliminates the problem of technical debt which gobbles up as much as 38% of software development cycles, according to a recent survey by IDG. This is not a problem you want to have considering the hundreds, if not thousands, of disjointed applications, systems, and processes running in your organization.

Something else to consider:Applications running on a modern low-code platform inherit the underlying reliability and security features of that platform.

In other words, the best low-code vendors take cloud availability and security seriously, so the highest levels of security are baked right in.

This includes SLAs for uptime, high availability features, superior levels of security, and highly scalable architecture. You also get the benefits of FedRamp, PCI-DSS, SOC 2, SOC 3, HIPAA, and more. It's also worth mentioning that additional work by application developers isn't needed to take advantage of these benefits:

It also really doesn't matter what protocols your organization is using standards-based integrations like HTTP, OAuth, SOAP, or new wave stuff like OpenAPI or Swagger low-code reduces the time it takes to make that killer application on the latest version of your product roadmap.

Low-code sounds simple but don't mistake simplicity for lack of power. Low-code is industrial-strength stuff with the speed and power to support the most demanding business applications and overcome the toughest barriers to successful digital transformation, according to a recent study by Forrester.

Chip Speed Can Double Every Two Years. So, Why Not Software Development?

Back in 2014, Forrester started tracking a rapidly-growing software category called low-code development platforms which they defined as:

"Platforms that enable rapid delivery of business applications with a minimum of hand-coding and minimal upfront investment in setup, training, and deployment."

Today, every company needs to think like a software company and every organizationcompetes on the basis of unique software applications. Software has become the new battleground. And whether you win or lose depends more than ever on your ability to build unique enterprise applications faster with fewer resources and with speedier, iterative delivery than your competitors.

Appian CEO Matt Calkins said it best in a recent interview in Computerworld UK. (By the way, Appian is the first publicly-traded low-code company):

"Our goal is every two years we want to cut in half the work it takes to build an application. Two years from now it will take half as much work, two years after that, a fourth as much work. It's like Moore's law except instead of the size of the transistor it will be the amount of work it takes to build your application."

(Tune in next week for the next episode of this timely three-part series on how low-code development is helping companies build and maintain unique applications faster than ever before.)