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2020 and the rise in use of low-code development tools

By Chris McLaughlin, chief product and marketing officer at nuxeo.

Pic: Jan Howells

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The impact of events in 2020 has already been huge and the full repercussions will probably not be clear for a year or so yet. Businesses have been sent into a tailspin, having to realign how they work with most employees working from home and having to respond in double-quick time to market conditions that have been changing on an almost daily basis at times.

Some companies have already lost a great deal - revenue, customers, market position - because they were not ready or did not have a plan B when circumstances called for it. That new digital service, channel, or app they were devising: if it wasn’t primed to go live, it is likely to have been put on pause as businesses redirected energy and resources to fire-fighting and trying to survive the immediate crisis.

COVID-19 has disrupted entire markets and normal business practices and continues to do so still. Agility has been the key to business survival in 2020. Organisations have needed to respond quicker than they have ever done before, reinventing their established practices and client services.

A key part of businesses doing so has been in their use of low-code development tools, which makes software development much quicker and easier, and allows new applications to be brought to market faster and better meet customer expectations.

The pandemic and low-code development

Low-code tooling makes developers more efficient, by allowing them to re-use existing components and templates to speed up application delivery. In the context of content-based applications, it introduces the ability to create a new digital customer or supply-chain experience with a very rapid turnaround.

So it’s no surprise that the use of low-code development tools has increased sharply in 2020. Nuxeo recently released new research with 200 UK software developers to understand the growing prominence of low-code environments. 45% of respondents said they already used low-code development tools occasionally (once a week or less), and almost two-thirds reported that their use of low-code tools had increased in 2020 (since the initial global lockdown).

Employers have been driving this demand too. 55% of developers said they were being encouraged by the business to use low-code development tools, while 60% reported that they use low-code tools specifically to create content-based applications.

However, nearly one half of developers said they lacked the tools to build applications and products quickly enough to meet deadlines. A similar proportion (43%) said it took more than three months to complete a typical content-based application in their organisation, and 44% admitted that their employer had abandoned application projects because they were taking or were going to take too long.

Turning to low-code

There are benefits to both the business and the developer from using low-code tools. In the Nuxeo research, developers listed the benefits of low-code development tools to the business and they included: simplifying the development process (cited by 35%); accelerating digital transformation (by 25%) and boosting innovation (also cited by 25%).

Tools that speed the development process are hugely impactful in terms of helping companies transform and innovate, which has a knock-on effect in improving the customer experience. This all

helps make a business more competitive - always important but especially so in this current period of uncertainty.

There were also many benefits for the developers themselves cited in the research as a result of using low-code development tools. 40% pointed to the importance of harnessing and keeping pace with the latest development tools, while 35% said it made more effective use of their time.

Low-code and digital transformation

Arguably the biggest impact that low-code tools have had however, is that they have enabled a rapid increase in the pace of digital transformation. Digital transformation is not a new concept that emerged in 2020 of course. The need for digital transformation existed before this year and will continue long after COVID-19 has passed.

But that’s not to say that the pandemic has not had an enormous impact on the digital transformation plans of organisations in different industries all over the world. The Nuxeo research revealed that for 70% of companies, digital transformation has become more of a priority since the pandemic first emerged.

The digital transformation imperative has intensified and accelerated in 2020, as the pandemic has disrupted entire markets and normal business practices. COVID-19 didn't create the need for businesses to digitally transform, but if it was necessary to be agile, create new services and experiences to respond to the market demand quickly before, then it has now become much more urgent.

Low-code tools can help hugely in addressing this urgency. Their use is all about being ready for tomorrow and what could happen in an always evolving environment. Whatever the specifics of an organisation’s renewed digital transformation agenda, making content work harder and accelerating service innovation requires that two fundamental conditions be fulfilled.

2020 has taught us many lessons, not least of which is the importance of adaptability and agility and low-code tools can play a major role in this.

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