Low-code software development has proven instrumental in facilitating innovation at scale in today’s constantly evolving and unpredictable business environment.
Until the widespread adoption of modern software systems, most routine business processes remained largely unchanged and, indeed, unchangeable over short timespans. In those times, innovations often took many years to enter the mainstream, and organizations could afford to rely largely on traditional processes and monolithic technology architectures.
Today, however, change is the only constant in the business world, which faces unprecedented disruption as it tries to tackle rising instability and unpredictability across global supply chains and constantly evolving customer demands.
In light of these growing uncertainties, business leaders face enormous pressure to adapt with the times in order to stay relevant. Continuous improvement is essential for keeping customers happy, employees motivated, and for satisfying the need for operational resilience. Thus, the ability to accommodate rapid change has become a universal business imperative.
More than ever, these factors rely on software. A few years ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella claimed that every company is a software company. Technology is increasingly embedded in everything we do, both at home and in the workplace. Back-office teams have become reliant on tailor-made customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions to handle increasingly vast amounts of digital information at scale. Customers expect a responsive service and a persistent presence from the companies they do business with. Furthermore, these demands change and evolve all the time, thus necessitating an agile approach to software development and maintenance.
It is for these reasons that low-code software development has been gaining more and more ground over the years.
A look back at traditional software development lifecycles
Traditional software development is time-consuming and complex, partly because it involves manually recreating individual features and functions multiple times over, and partly because it requires skills that take years to learn. Consequently, developing bespoke business applications can take many months or even years, depending on their scope and complexity.
The first stage of the software development lifecycle is scoping the requirements and aligning them with business needs. This alone can take a month or more in the case of larger projects, since it requires high-level meetings with key stakeholders in order to clearly define the project requirements and allocate an appropriate budget.
The next stage, and arguably the most important, is designing the user interface in accordance with the desired user experience. This process may involve wireframing or even creating hand-drawn designs. These often need extensive testing and refinement, which can easily take upwards of two months.
The third stage involves actually developing the software. This is a complex and multifaceted process that typically takes place over multiple milestones and extensive alpha testing. For a large project, the development stage can take six or more months.
The fourth stage involves beta testing and deployment in a production environment. For larger projects, it can take many more months before the software is ready to deploy company-wide.
Finally, all software requires maintenance and updates throughout the duration of their support lifecycles. These lifecycles are defined by software vendors when they release their products and, although internally developed software can be supported indefinitely, doing so eventually becomes a major cost burden. In fact, one of the biggest barriers to innovation in established organizations is the fact that they have made themselves heavily reliant on legacy proprietary software that was developed long ago and at great cost.
This whole process is woefully inefficient in today’s rapidly changing environments. When it takes so long to build and release mission-critical software products, there is even a high chance of those products being practically obsolete before they are even fully deployed. When that happens, business growth ends up being hampered by outdated technology and, in the worst-case scenario, a brand can entirely lose its relevance for failing to innovate quickly enough.
Accelerating software development with low code
Depending on the complexity of the project, low code slashes software development times by 50 to 90% compared to custom coding. It can also reduce spending by as much as 20%, and that is before taking into account the related long-term savings associated with easier software maintenance and a reduced need for in-house professional developers. These figures clearly define the core value of low code in helping businesses facilitate rapid change.
By greatly reducing the software development lifecycle (SDLC), organizations can respond to market changes in less time and, in doing so, establish a competitive edge. This also applies in cases where businesses use low code to develop back-office solutions like CRM software, since it means employee productivity can improve faster. And more productive employees ultimately mean more satisfied customers.
For professional developers, low code makes it easy to quickly implement everyday business functions using a drag-and-drop interface. Even for skilled coders, this saves a great deal of time and mitigates the risk of human error associated with writing and testing code manually. For citizen developers and business technologists in departments beyond IT, it means creating solutions that align with department-specific needs requires less time and effort, since there is rarely any need to wait on IT.
With increased scalability and smaller project backlogs, professional developers can use their expertise to advance innovation, while citizen developers and business technologists can role out timely solutions to meet current needs. By making low code an integral part of business strategy, businesses can deploy and iterate new applications faster and replace existing legacy systems with more agile, cloud-based components.
Overcoming software development skills gaps
The need for professional software developers is soaring and, as a direct consequence, the skills gap continues to widen. However, by reducing the barriers to entry, low-code enables a wider range of people to get involved in software development.
Younger workers, for example, already tend to be sufficiently tech-savvy for hopping straight into low-code development environments, even if they have no experience in programming or software-testing. Having grown up around technology, they are also likelier to have a closer understanding of the modern digital experiences that customers and other end users expect.
Since low-code allows a larger range of people to work on software development projects, it is often possible to further reduce development times. For example, if the sales department is looking to implement a new customer engagement app, a low-code platform might allow them to create one in a matter of days without having to wait on the IT department. In other words, low-code democratizes software development by letting individual business functions uniquely address their own needs and collaborate seamlessly across larger, organization-wide projects.
Ultimately, changing needs demand faster development speeds, speeds which are impossible to achieve when relying solely on traditional software development, at least not without great expense. By bringing more employees into the software development process and reducing project complexity, businesses can respond faster and achieve greater resilience.
Planet Crust is the creator and driving force behind Corteza, a 100% open-source low-code software development platform that lets you import data from any source and use intuitive drag-and-drop tools to create custom applications for your unique business needs. Get started for free today.