The rapid rise and adoption of low-code application platforms is one of the most significant enterprise technology developments since the BYOD movement.
Just as BYOD unlocked new opportunities for productivity and cost reduction, the low-code movement promises to reshape employees’ relationships with their IT departments. In fact, the proliferation of the technology will mean that “BYOD” will grow to stand for not “bring your own device” but “be your own developer.”
However, not all IT departments have embraced low-code technology; indeed, for many, low code has historically been a no-go. Across the industry, there lingers a pervasive myth that low-code applications built by non-technical employees, or citizen developers, can’t meet enterprise-grade governance and compliance standards.
Not only is this view a false one, but it’s also incredibly damaging to the long-term innovation and productivity potential of the organizations that embrace it. Low-code application platforms are powerful because they empower citizen developers to rapidly build apps that solve organizational challenges they face every day. It’s powerful precisely because it enables an entirely new group of creators to come up with mission-critical software solutions.
In this article, I’ll take on this myth head-on and explain why, given the developments in low code over the past year, more teams should begin re-evaluating their outdated views on the low-code movement.
Low-code application platforms are accelerating digital transformation
If digital transformation wasn’t high on your list of strategic priorities prior to 2021, the last 12 months certainly changed that.
Almost overnight, organizations were forced to move their operations entirely online. Many struggled with this transition, particularly when it came to mission-critical analog processes that had no digital equivalents. Organizational agility, which is always a vital component of business success, suddenly became existential.
This, of course, is exactly why low-code application platforms are important right now. When citizen developers can build visual, modular, templated workflows to streamline mundane processes, they can unlock new ways to get things done more quickly. Moreover, because these citizen developers are the ones closest to the departmental problems they are solving, their solutions free up IT teams to focus on more strategic, high-priority projects.
Consider what this means for IT teams. Suddenly, instead of spending their time focused on relatively simple yet time-consuming tasks, they can dedicate their time to more complex projects that were previously out of reach. The overall innovation output of an organization therefore shifts upwards.
Low-code use cases continue to expand in this new era of work
While new technologies draw early attention through effusive proclamations from early adopters, their long-term longevity is driven by use cases developed by users on the ground. New use cases for low-code application platforms are springing up every day and, encouragingly, we’re seeing a wide diversity of them across teams, companies, and industries.
And organizations have been able to more successfully deploy citizen developer programs that spur new use cases by implementing training, automated code reviews, established checkpoints, and more – giving IT the peace of mind that low-code applications are being developed in the right, secure way.
Here are just a handful of the most exciting citizen developer programs I’ve seen:
- One university hospital tapped a small team of citizen developers to develop two low-code apps used to prioritize and schedule the vaccination of 14,000 healthcare workers.
- At a leading insurance company, low-code allowed citizen developers to create a worker reassignment portal that enabled 4,500 employees to find new projects to work on, saving them from COVID-19 furloughs.
- Another firm used low-code to digitize its paper-based signature process, helping to ensure business continuity at a time when much of the staff had to work remotely.
- Two citizen developers at a U.S-based university leveraged low-code to create a single self-service tool, allowing students to manage everything from parking their vehicles to identifying the location of campus washers and dryers.
These are just a few of the most compelling ways we’ve seen citizen developers unlock value via low-code application platforms. And note the significance here: Many of these solutions were developed quickly, at a time when speed could not have been more important.
Low-code development guardrails have never been easier to implement
Since the inception of low-code application platforms, IT departments have been rightfully concerned about the potential risks of giving untrained developers unfettered access to critical systems. Fortunately, modern low-code application platforms have been built with these concerns in mind.
Today, most have a robust set of security and compliance features that empower citizen developers without endangering their organizations. The result: low-code apps that offer enterprise-level scalability, performance, resilience, privacy, security, and compliance.
- Platform-level security – Low-code application platforms allow IT departments to establish safe and secure environments for citizen developers. Likewise, built-in tools support anti-virus scanning, HTML sanitization, logging, auditing, and enhanced security mechanisms such as two-factor authentication and virtual private networks.
- App developer access controls – Modern low-code application platforms make it easy to correctly provision and deprovision developer accounts and offer pre-built application components and integrations.
- Security and privacy compliance – Low-code platforms are compliant with various existing global and regional security standards and the privacy mandates that are emerging around the world.
These guardrails don’t just reduce risk by defining what citizen developers can and cannot do, they also offer citizen developers the alignment and independence they need to do their best work.
A new era for low-code application platforms
I believe we’ll see 2021 as a turning point for citizen development and low-code platforms. Last year, Gartner found that 50% of medium-sized and large organizations said they had plans to adopt low-code application platforms by 2023.
Given everything I’ve written about here, I have no doubts that that percentage will exceed 50%. Indeed, as we continue to see the technology’s benefits play out, low-code will increasingly become a no-brainer.