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Demand proliferates for low-code app development platforms

ServiceNow's Gregg Aldana discusses the explosive demand for business apps, the pressures on enterprises to keep pace and the benefits low-code application platforms provide.

Video brought to you by ServiceNow.

Low-code app development platforms are profoundly changing the way business applications are created, built and modified. Among the forces behind this explosion in app development are the familiar four horsemen of today's technology: AI, big data, IoT and the cloud.

"What we saw coming out of the pandemic last year is that digital transformation and having automated business processes is no longer a nice to have. Companies just need this as table stakes just to stay in business," said Gregg Aldana, senior director, Creator Workflows Global Solution Consulting at ServiceNow, during an interview with TechTarget's Jamison Cush. "Companies cannot keep up with the volume here. They have to develop more processes and automate them that much more faster."

Forrester Research estimated that 75% of app development will use low-code platforms by the end of 2021, a 44% increase from last year. "Accelerated adoption of low-code platforms will change how teams organize," wrote Forrester principal analyst Jeffrey Hammond in an October 2020 blog post. "Expect to see new hybrid teams emerge, with business users and professional developers building apps together with low-code tools built on cloud-native platforms."

Pointing to artificial intelligence, Aldana said "some of that process of building applications is going to become automated with the introduction of RPA, robotics process automation, as well as hyper automation, where you're going to have people developing applications to automate business processes. You're also going to have programs, bots, if you will, also helping out those low-coders to help them build applications and automate processes much faster."

By 2023, Gartner predicted, more than half of medium to large enterprises will adopt low-code as one of their strategic application platforms. And by 2025, the global low-code development platform market will surpass $45 billion, at a 28% compound annual growth rate, according to MarketsandMarkets, which cited the "increasing need of digitalization and maturity of agile DevOps practices" as contributing factors.

In this video, Aldana and Cush discuss the changing landscape of application development, empowerment of business and citizen developers, integration of low-code applications into existing systems and processes, and best use cases for low-code app development platforms.

Transcript

Jamison Cush: Hi, I'm Jamison Cush with TechTarget, and I'm talking with Gregg Aldana with ServiceNow, about low-code platforms. And if you'd like to learn more about enterprise low-code app development, please click the link above or in the description below. Gregg, what are the factors driving the demand for low-code platforms today? And how would those factors change over time?

Gregg Aldana: Well, Jamison, what I think is really driving demand today is speed. What we saw coming out of the pandemic last year is that digital transformation and having automated business processes is no longer a nice to have. Companies just need this as table stakes just to stay in business. So we're seeing this demand, as people start to come back to work, that they're expecting all of these processes to be digital. So companies cannot keep up with the volume here. They have to develop more processes and automate them that much more faster. And so there is a backlog of applications that need to be built. They need to be built faster than before, so enter in low-code platforms that address both of those problems. One, they introduce tools and components and platforms that allow businesses to automate faster, but it also provides tools and technologies that allow you to empower more developers. So you're not just relying on your expensive integrators or your elite developers in IT. But now you can empower business developers and citizen developers in all the different business units. And I think how that's going to change over time is I think it's going to get even faster. I think low-code platforms today is, as we've seen probably over the last two or three years, they keep getting more and more productive and more and more out of the box capabilities so that people can build applications faster. And really where I see those changing over time is that some of that process of building applications is going to become automated with the introduction of RPA, robotics process automation, as well as hyper automation, where you're going to have people developing applications to automate business processes. You're also going to have programs, bots, if you will, also helping out those low-coders to help them build applications and automate processes much faster.

Cush: So I keep hearing you say 'faster, faster, faster.' How fast are we talking? So compared to traditional development, like from idea to application, how fast can these low-code platforms initiate and push out an application?

Aldana: We're talking hours, hours and days. I've seen customers literally go from idea into production in three hours with ServiceNow's low-code App Engine. I think some more typical is anywhere from a few days [to] a few weeks. The city of Los Angeles was able to use the ServiceNow low-code App Engine to automate a process to have citizens of Los Angeles register for COVID testing. They went from idea into production within 72 hours. St. Jude Research Hospital, they had a problem last year where they were trying to automate the signing of digital signatures on contracts. And they were able to build a low-code application and roll it out to 5,000 employees, and they went from idea into production in three weeks. So I think that's a pretty typical timeframe.

Cush: So how would you decide then what type of application or use case might be a good fit for low-code app development? Let's say if you're just trying to get your feet wet in it.

Aldana: Well, you know, I get this question a lot. And, you know, it's, it's the typical answer: It kind of depends. It depends on the tolerance for risk that your company or your business or your industry have. And it also depends on the mission criticality of it. But I would say what might be a good use case for a first low-code project, if you're just trying to get your feet wet: I'll quote a CIO of an automotive company that there was a customer of ours, 'I looked around my office at all of the things that we hated doing, that were manual, that were time consuming. And we decided to use low-code to just automate them. And so a good example would be capital investments and all of the tracking and project status updates. So this one CIO in particular was like, 'this is just such a time-consuming exercise. We use spreadsheets, we use email. It's such a very inconsistent and time-consuming experience that no one likes; let's make it better with low-code.' And they were able to build an application within two weeks to automate all of this. Everybody loved it, they celebrated the success and then it kind of started from there. So kind of start small, but you want to be very visible in that and you want it to show people very quickly the impact that low-code can have.

Cush: So what about integration or integrating low-code apps into existing systems? I can imagine that's a challenge that a lot of companies will be facing,

Aldana: I would say with certain platforms that it is a challenge. I would say with a lot of low-code platforms in the industry today, they start off as low-code and they're advertised as low-code. And then once you kind of get into that integration category, they become very pro-code and [involve] sophisticated coding very quickly. I just have to share that the difference with the ServiceNow platform is that ServiceNow takes a no-code and low-code approach to integrations. There's a native integration hub built into the low-code App Engine solution, the platform overall, that allows users and citizen developers to basically do no-code integrations; they can drag and drop spokes. And there's over 400 spokes already available out of the box with ServiceNow low-code App Engine, so that you can provide these spokes. And you can just drag and drop and all the action's already automated. So it makes integrations almost look pedestrian.

Cush: And how about scale? I mean, how do you scale apps that are built on these low-code platforms?

Aldana: What we're seeing is that when people are building low-code apps with enterprise technologies, they're automatically tapping into that trusted and tried scalability. So what we see with a lot of ServiceNow customers, they've already been using the IT service management and the human resource service delivery solutions on this enterprise platform for so many years. Now, they want to tap into that same low-code App Engine to build their own specific App Engine or their own specific enterprise applications. So we're seeing that when you're selecting these technologies, and you want to standardize on the different low-code platforms here that scalability is a very critical factor because not all low-code platforms are created alike.

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