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Low- and no-code platforms allow developers and non-developers alike to create software through visual dashboards instead of traditional programming. Adoption is on the rise, with a recent OutSystems report showing that 41% of organizations were using a low- or no-code tool in 2019/2020, up from 34% in 2018/2019.

If the current trend holds, the market for low- and no-code could climb from between $13.3 billion and $17.7 billion in 2021 to between $58.8 billion and $125.4 billion in 2027. But the reasons that enterprises deploy solutions tend to vary from industry to industry.

During a panel at VentureBeat’s Low-Code/No-Code Summit, executives from HubSpot, Starbucks, and growth equity firm WestCap shared their organizations’ motivations for embracing low- and no-code. They ranged from simplifying app creation workflows and analyzing real-time data to automating monotonous, time-consuming workloads.

“[Low- and no-code has made my life and my team members’ lives easier,] giving my company a competitive advantage by simply being able to move faster using tools with standard models,” WestCap chief data scientist Erika Janowicz, a participant in the panel, said. “[W]e can all get out and try to build solutions ourselves [for] forecasting and predictive insights, [but] the reality is that a lot of these models have already been built, [are] readily available, [and are] able to connect to multiple systems that are generally not that expensive.”

Janowicz’s experiences are reflected in the broader market, where companies that have adopted low- and no-code tools are experiencing a proliferation of non-programmer app development. Forty-one percent of businesses have active “citizen development” initiatives, Gartner estimates, while 20% of those who don’t are either evaluating or planning to start citizen development initiatives.

HubSpot global VP of customer success Jonathan Corbin says that low- and no-code tools allowed his team to drill down into the history of customer interactions to understand where the pain points lie — and where new ones might arise. “[These platforms allow us to build] solutions and … service [customers] to [deliver] great customer experience. That’s something we’re working toward and excited to be able to do using this technology,” he said during the panel.

Retail applications

Starbucks is a massive operation, with close to 40,000 locations as of the first quarter of 2021. While retail might not be an obvious application of low- and no-code, brick-and-mortar businesses are increasingly embracing the technology to develop automations and apps that align with demands in their markets and workforces.

Starbucks chief digital and analytics officer Jonathan Francis says that his company realized efficiency gains from low- and no-code tools as the pandemic put a strain on the IT department. The tools allowed Starbucks to work through a backlog of development tasks that normally would have taken far longer to finish, he said.

“We need opportunities to [scale] quickly … You’ll never find enough data scientists,” Francis said. “We’re all competing for the same resources — we have limited budgets. So you [have to start] think[ing] about local solutions.”

In a blog post, cofounder and CTO Brian Sathianathan gives another example of how low- and no-code can bolster retail tech initiatives. A $60 billion retailer works with was advised by a consulting firm that its mobile app project would take an entire year to prototype using traditional application development methods, according to Sathianathan.

“The project involved a full ecommerce platform and very time-sensitive curbside pickup solution as COVID-19 restrictions took hold. However, with a low-code strategy, the retailer was able to build the complete solution in just 11 days,” he said.

Identifying goalposts

With upwards of 82% of firms saying that custom app development outside of IT is important, Gartner predicts that 65% of all apps will be created using low-code platforms by 2024. Another study reports that 85% of 500 engineering leads think that low-code will be commonplace within their organizations as soon as 2021.

But Corbin believes that low- and no-code is still in the early days. That’s why it’s important for stakeholders at companies to identify a goal and invest in capabilities that help achieve it, he asserts — rather than adopt the technology for its own sake.

“I think the important thing to remember [is that the technology is going to] get better over time. As you’re thinking about implementing a solution using [the tools], you need to commit to [a] goal and invest in the technology that helps you to get closer to that endpoint, and then … identify defects,” Corbin said.


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