You’ve heard it many times by now. Global disruption in 2020 accelerated digital transformation initiatives by five to ten years. But this sudden, dramatic digital business acceleration doesn’t come without an entirely new set of challenges.
The rapid advancement of innovative technologies and their implementation across the entire organization is happening in parallel with managing legacy systems, apps, and workforces. Since many organizations have jumped years ahead in their needs to compete in this all-digital world today, priorities, workloads, skill sets, and new opportunities are over-taxing resources, increasing backlogs, risking stagnation, and inhibiting the ability to innovate in this new world.
Pandemic acceleration raised the digital stakes for business and IT
The need to go faster with digital initiatives is compromising the ability to compete in this new world.
Supporting entire organizations to work from home and rolling out digital-first customer experiences such as e-commerce, BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store), delivery, and more was just the beginning. After months of digital-first behaviors resulting from stay-at-home safety precautions, expectations for employee and customer experience innovation soared. This has impacted workloads and schedules, causing IT leaders to experience overwhelming demands of their work.
Recently, Salesforce conducted a survey of IT decision makers with responsibility for application development in the United States. The study made clear that technology professionals feel the impact of digital acceleration.
In the past 12 months, 88% say workloads have increased, with 60% of those revealing workloads have risen by more than half. Additionally, 96% of IT leaders report an increased demand from business users for new apps and processes. This has quickly created a logjam of critical work in addition to the everyday support that keeps the lights on. Over time, this pileup will hinder organizational performance and growth. More so, 70% of IT leaders are concerned that these increased workloads will diminish their ability to innovate in a time when innovation is critical.
The rise of low-code and citizen business developers outside of IT
Digital business acceleration is squeezing IT leaders to radically increase application delivery schedules and also speed up time to value.
In light of increasing pressure, the good news for IT leaders is that the role they play is also viewed as increasingly strategic. According to Salesforce research, 92% of IT leaders say their work impacts the business. As a result, IT and business units are forging partnerships that pave the way for productive collaboration.
Now, a new wave of low-code and no-code solutions are empowering business users to augment IT development capabilities, creating a new genre of “citizen developers.” What makes this so profound is that citizen developers are usually non-technical users outside of the IT department, with little or no formal coding experience. According to Gartner, almost half of business users outside of IT are already building or customizing technology solutions for their organization.
Low-code development platforms allow business users to create applications through graphical user interfaces (GUIs), rather than the traditional, complex task of manual programming.
“While low-code application development is not new, a confluence of digital disruptions, hyperautomation and the rise of composable business has led to an influx of tools and rising demand,” said Fabrizio Biscotti, research vice president at Gartner.
According to Salesforce, IT already perceives many technology and operational benefits of business-led development with new low-code tools. With the right protocols in place, IT leaders view business-led app development as prudent and scalable with 83% stating that they plan to increase their use of low-code development tools.
The rise of “creators” to build and deliver business apps quickly and efficiently
Accelerated digital business initiatives are driven by the quickening of customer (and employee) expectations that stems from becoming digital-first in every aspect of their life.
Rapid app development, automation, and integration is now expected to move at the speed of the market. This is why app redeployment and low-code development are viewed as the way forward. To that end, 83% of IT leaders believe responsibility for certain app and process development will increasingly shift to business users. And 92% are comfortable with the use of low-code tools by business users, assuming proper training, governance, and processes are in place.
This sets the stage for the next generation of citizen developers. To unlock creativity and innovation within organizations at the speed of the customer, everyone, not just developers, needs access to tools that empower them to become digital creators.
In the social media world, digital natives who develop content on Youtube, Tiktok, and Instagram, among others, with the intent of engaging and growing their audiences rapidly, are referred to as “creators.” They learn how to use low-code tools to create and work at the speed of the market. In the business world, creators are those digital-first business users who are motivated (and empowered) to create solutions in their work much like they do in social media.
It’s a means to a series of desired outcomes where learning how to develop solutions is just part of the workflow. They adapt and learn to create apps that automate processes, improve experiences, and drive growth at scale.
IT leaders see several benefits from the use of low-code application development tools by this largely untapped crop of new creators. For example, 91% believe creators would bridge business requirements with technical execution. Additionally, 89% believe it would allow IT staff to focus on more complex initiatives, and 82% believe it would reduce IT’s project backlog.
Digital business creators are the way forward for businesses to compete in an all-digital world
IT teams were resource-constrained prior to the pandemic. Building apps and experiences in technology silos was already viewed as antiquated and unsustainable, and this is even truer in our evolving, all-digital world.
“Globally, most large organizations will have adopted multiple low-code tools in some form by year-end 2021. In the longer term, as companies embrace the tenets of a composable enterprise, they will turn to low-code technologies that support application innovation and integration,” said Gartner’s Biscotti.
As it’s said, necessity is the mother of invention. The future of rapid app development is low-code, where business users become digital creators who drive business outcomes, regardless of technical skill level.
By breaking down these barriers, digital creators can collaborate with developers to add custom and reusable capabilities when needed. New tools for elastic computing, automation, AI-driven data protection, identity management, release management, data integration, and more, will only continue to empower entire teams to become digital creators.
Together, creators will complement IT to develop, deploy, and integrate apps to solve business challenges faster, accelerate time to value, and free up critical resources to focus on innovation and customer success.
Brian Solis is Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. He is also a world-renowned digital anthropologist, 8x best-selling author and keynote speaker. Brian studies Digital Darwinism, how disruption impacts markets and how businesses and ecosystems evolve.
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