For many companies today, the traditional IT-based software development process has become an intractable bottleneck that impedes their ability to quickly react to changing conditions in their marketplace. That reality is reflected in Gartner's declaration that through 2021 the corporate demand for application development will grow at least five times faster than IT's capacity to deliver it.
That's why low-code software development is swiftly gathering momentum. Its ability to increase business agility and productivity while also significantly lowering costs is becoming well known, and companies of all sizes are increasingly adopting this approach to meeting their software development needs. In fact, Gartner projects that by 2024, 65% of all application development will be done using low-code platforms.
But what, exactly, can you do with a low-code approach? Would it be a good fit for the types of applications your company needs to produce?
In this article we want to take a look at the most common and best low-code use cases.
What is low-code development?
The distinguishing feature of low-code development is that it allows ordinary workers, who may have few coding skills but typically have a deep understanding of the business processes they use every day, to create highly useful apps with minimal assistance from software professionals. Users can design low-code applications to automate their business process workflows simply by dragging and dropping pre-built components into an appropriate arrangement on a user-friendly Graphical User Interface (GUI).
This approach can reduce the amount of code that must be written by 90% or more. That means needed apps can be created and updated very quickly, providing substantial boosts in agility and productivity.
Low-code use cases
Companies are employing low-code methods in many areas. Let's take a look at some of the most common use cases.
1. Business Process Management
Digital transformation is a critical, ongoing process in most corporations today, requiring that business processes be adapted quickly as marketplace conditions or the company's goals change. Low-code development provides the ability to rapidly customize workflows, views, forms, reports, and other aspects of a company's operating processes.
2. Enterprise Resource Planning
ERP is one of the most widely used business applications. Yet, in today's environment of constant, rapid change, ERP systems can also be a major drag on a company's agility. Ivan Kot, a Senior Manager at Itransition, puts it this way:
"Despite its many virtues, traditional ERP software, rigid and costly, is proving less and less capable of supporting the modern enterprise."
The problem is that traditional ERP systems are simply not built for easy customization. Even small changes can require coding by software experts. If the ERP system is later upgraded to a new version, those manual changes often must be reimplemented. Companies that add customizations to their ERP installation may find themselves stuck at a down-level because the process of upgrading to a new version is so expensive and disruptive.
But low-code is changing all that. Workers use it to design their own, often more intuitive, user interfaces that don't rely on the pre-defined labels and fields of the ERP system. When the ERP application is updated, the low-code app can quickly be adapted to accommodate changes on the ERP side while keeping the user-side interface stable.
3. Human Resources
HR is a key function in almost any corporation. Yet, until recently much of its work was still done manually. In a 2017 survey commissioned by CareerBuilder, HR managers admitted that of twelve major HR functions in their companies, including applicant tracking, benefits administration, and regulatory compliance, the only one that was even 50% automated was payroll. The survey report notes that,
HR managers who do not fully automate say they lose an average of 14 hours a week manually completing tasks that could be automated; more than a quarter (28 percent) waste 20 hours or more, and 1 in 10 (11 percent) spend 30 hours or more.
But that's changing rapidly. HR professionals are now replacing their spreadsheets and paper records with low-code apps. As John Bratincevic, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, says:
"Someone who's already competent with spreadsheets can use one of these platforms and start creating applications very quickly… People are just making apps on their own, even if it's for a temporary need."
HR users are increasingly using low-code platforms to automate a wide range of processes, ranging from payroll and benefits to recruitment management and employee surveys.
Organizations in the finance sector have traditionally depended to an extraordinary degree on paper records, along with semi-manual tools such as spreadsheets. Now there's an accelerating trend toward automating finance processes with low-code apps.
Financial service companies typically need user-friendly customer-facing apps that connect customers with functions, such as account management or payments processing, that are housed on complex back-end systems. Changes to customer interface requirements or system operations must be quickly accommodated, and the same functionality must be provided across a wide range of platforms and devices.
Such requirements put a premium on having a flexible, agile, timely, reliable, and cost-effective software development process. Low-code development fits the bill because it substantially reduces the time, complexity, risk, and costs of delivering new software. For that reason, financial organizations are increasingly turning to low-code, rather than traditional IT-based software development projects, to create apps that are precisely targeted to their specific needs.
5. Customer engagement
A recent report from Microsoft says that the expectations of "digitally empowered customers" for outstanding customer service are "soaring."
Today's customer is more technically savvy and more demanding in terms of the level of service they receive than ever before. Companies can literally rise or fall on the basis of the customer experience they provide. That's why the use of low-code app development to meet ever-changing customer expectations is growing rapidly.
Applications developed with the OutSystems low-code platform (an eSystems Nordic partner) provide great examples in many of these fields, especially a solution recently implemented for a digital banking firm. The company's previous process, which it describes as "slow and unscalable," required potential customers to wait up to five days before their account was successfully opened. The low-code solution now allows customers to be onboarded either through a website or by using a mobile app. This significant customer experience improvement has resulted in a 30% increase in the number of applicants who complete the enrollment process and become customers.
What use case does your company have?
As we've seen, low-code development has many uses today, and only the sky is the limit for how it can be used in the future. What about your company—what use cases do you have? We at eSystems Nordic would love to work with you to identify how low-code development can help drive your company toward achieving both its present and future business goals. Please contact us, and together we'll make low-code's benefits come to life for you!
WRITTEN BY: Mika Walli | Head of Engagement Management