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Navigating six risks of pandemic era digital transformations with low-code

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock)

The Covid-19 crisis is shifting profit pools – according to McKinsey1, the gap in economic profit between the top corporate performers and everyone else has widened dramatically. And the numbers are staggering – the top quintile of companies grew its market-implied annual economic profit by $335 billion, while the bottom quintile companies lost $303 billion, over a period from December 2018 to May 2020. Clearly, this is becoming somewhat of a winners-take-all scenario.

With acceleration of trends (e-commerce, remote work, digital) driven by the pandemic, specifically for companies with middling performance, this is a call to action to build resilient, future-ready business and operating models. And many of them are doing exactly that. During a recent quarterly earnings call, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” 

By now, almost every corporation gets all this.

But how do they ensure a successful climb out to a digital paradigm without running the gauntlet of costly delays and embarrassing failures that plagued many earlier corporate digital plans in fairer weather?

Beyond an array of best practices (reducing silos, no-BS decision-making, talent redeployment, shifting operations and multiplying productivity), low-code based software development has the broad capability to mitigate potential risks associated with wholesale digital transformations in these uncertain times.

First, a quick primer on low-code/no-code. Simply put, it is a visual development approach to automating software development that involves little to no hand-coding, significantly speeding up applications coming to life. With growing demand for new applications, modernizing existing/legacy applications and new platform development – and not as many software developers to go around, low-code development has gained steam over the last few years. Gartner predicts that low-code application development platforms will be responsible for more than 65 percent of all app dev activity by 2024, while Forrester expects the low-code market to represent $21B in spending by 2022. Major technology players including Salesforce, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, Amazon, Pega and ServiceNow have joined the low-code/no-code bandwagon, with deployed platforms and tools as part of their larger product portfolios.

What are the risks?

But what specific risks does low-code development help navigate and mitigate?

Here are 6 clear examples:

Complexity risk – With a visual, low-code paradigm, enterprises and software providers can take quick, bite-sized chunks out of the business complexity due to Covid-19. Low-code simplifies and democratizes collaborative application development to support new workflows, increased tracking, additional procedures, shifting ways of doing business and increased overall administration – to tackle needs of remote workforces, supply chains and customers.

Schedule risk – The stakes for hitting a schedule target have never been so high. Burdening your IT with demands for critical applications, and gathering a full stack team to hand-code applications that may take weeks to deploy no longer remains a sustainable approach. Companies can instead use low-code acceleration to minimize impact from the invariable bumps (scope creep as an example) in any project, besides pandemic induced inefficiencies (lumpy productivity of 100 percent remote teams).

Budget risk – The mantra of doing more with less – specifically, more applications with less budget – is what low-code development delivers at its core. According to Gartner2, worldwide IT spending will decline by 7.3 percent this year, compared with a rise of 1 percent it calculated for 2019. Against this backdrop, low-code is exactly what the doctor ordered for companies that are making do with fractional budgets and increased oversight on spending during these times when budget overruns may be considered heresy.

Technical risk – Enterprise architecture teams no longer have the luxury of doing a double take with technology choices if their initial choices do not scale, are not secure, or simply don’t offer a solid runway from the current to the proposed future. When it comes to building enterprise applications, creating extensible frameworks goes a long way in coping with changing business needs, adding new capabilities and re-using frameworks for future initiatives. Best-in-class low-code platforms are built around modern web architectural choices and enterprise best practices, are based on open standards, generate real code that can be exported and extended, offer enterprise-class security options, and seamlessly blend-in with testing and deployment practices. Corporations using such low-code platforms have the peace of mind that they will get it right – the first time.

Talent risk – While the pandemic has disrupted the livelihoods of millions of working professionals and increased talent pools, hiring the right tech and software development talent at the right time, at an affordable price and ensuring they are productive – remains a monumental challenge. Bridging skill gaps of existing talent to scale to modern web and mobile development is not trivial either. Low-code platforms do the heavy-lifting of software development, mitigating the need for learning coding skills in a language and eliminating the need for multiple specialist roles (UI, database, backend, deployment). Low-code powered teams are inherently lean, modern-skilled, agile, full-stack development teams.

Market risk – The ultimate test of organizations wanting to climb steeply during Covid-19 is how they weather unanticipated market risks at different altitudes. With order of magnitude productivity gains, low-code powered business and software development teams quickly and nimbly dodge external risks, prototyping and producing critical-to-business applications at a pace that is near-impossible with traditional development.  What it brings to the table is a quick, flexible, scalable and cost-effective approach, to accelerate development of business-critical applications and to modernize existing applications and legacy systems.

Going mainstream

In a way, enterprise grade low-code platforms were built for this moment – helping professional developers effortlessly switch to a low-code way of churning out applications in high-rate-of-climb digital projects. And helping them succeed without compromising logical granularity, pixel-perfect UI or enterprise scale and security standards.

Covid-19 may well be a temporary phase in our collective history books a few decades down the line, but this may go down as the era in which low-code development became mainstream – and a basic checkbox for corporations in a high digital attitude climb out to navigate a plethora of risks and join the winners circle.

Vikram Srivats, Vice President, WaveMaker