Corporate investment in digital tools and technologies has been on the rise for years. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many organizations’ digital failure points and drove increased interest in developing new ways to connect and conduct business online. McKinsey’s Global Survey of executives revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated organizations’ adoption of digital technologies by about seven years (Laura LaBerge, Clayton O’Toole, Jeremy Schneider, and Kate Smaje, “How COVID-19 Has Pushed Companies over the Technology Tipping Point—and Transformed Business Forever,” McKinsey & Company, published October 2020.)
A strong digital transformation strategy requires significant time and financial investments in IT and upgrades to existing systems. It’s also essential to have buy-in from all teams as business priorities and processes shift. The depth and breadth of digital transformation can make it challenging to execute, but there’s a solution that can help organizations tackle multiple challenges at once: a low-code development platform.
What is digital transformation?
True digital transformation is more than just digitizing existing processes. It requires a coordinated, complete change in how a business operates and strategizes long-term. Digital transformation technologies typically include a combination of cloud solutions, AI, automation, and mobile apps. Successful digital transformations also include a new focus on digital-first and customer-centric solutions, optimized processes, and reimagined business models.
Common digital transformation challenges
The past few years have made it clear that digital transformation is essential for businesses that want to stay competitive. So why haven’t more organizations completed the transformation? The process of implementing a new digital transformation strategy comes with challenges that make digital transformation harder to achieve:
- Overworked IT departments. A shortage of software development talent has reduced IT productivity for years. At the same time, these teams have taken on more and more responsibilities as technology has evolved, including managing IT systems, data security, tech support, and suppliers and vendors.
- Failure to change with the times. Some overburdened IT teams are so far behind, they’re still focused on traditional application development. If these developers haven’t been able to spend time on nimbler mobile app development, they’re missing out on one of the most important digital transformation technologies.
- Shadow IT. When business teams need solutions faster than IT can deliver, they buy and use IT systems without the IT team’s knowledge or supervision. This creates security concerns and long-term maintenance issues. Executing a digital transformation strategy in an environment with unsupported technologies is difficult, as understanding an organization’s entire technological landscape is the first step to making changes.
- Outdated legacy systems. Old software and hardware can serve critical business functions past their prime, but they can also be unfixable, vulnerable to data breaches and attacks, and impossible to integrate with more advanced systems. A reliance on antiquated systems can prevent the successful introduction of transformation technologies.
- Resistance to organizational change. Digital transformation requires systemic change. For some organizations, the biggest obstacle to overcome isn’t the adoption of transformational technologies, but rather the fact that employees don’t want to participate in the required changes.
How low-code platforms can help you overcome digital transformation challenges
Low-code platforms make use of drag-and-drop functionality to simplify development and reduce the need for traditional coding. With some training, business teams and others with little to no software development experience can learn to build business apps using these platforms. That means organizations can be more productive, efficient, and nimble when it comes to addressing market needs with technology—all of which are key to successful digital transformations. Low-code platforms can help you:
- Reduce reliance on IT teams. Since low-code platforms abstract most coding behind a visual interface, they can be used by people with very little development training. Low-code projects can be completed faster than traditionally coded projects, which helps IT teams work through their backlog faster.
- Eliminate time-consuming manual work. One of the most impactful low-code trends is building apps that automate workflows. IT can use this functionality to streamline their own processes and make way for more digital transformation work.
- Focus on the most impactful technologies. Low-code platforms are mobile-first and usually include cross-platform build capabilities. That means that a single app created with a low-code tool will work on every device with no additional versioning, which saves time and caters to the technology preferences of today’s consumers and employees.
- Reduce shadow IT. A cloud-based low-code platform can be set up with approval workflows and user permissions that adhere to corporate security requirements to ensure that all projects have the appropriate level of IT oversight. Designating a low-code software platform as the central location from which all new apps are created streamlines the tech stack, making it easier to manage.
- Replace existing systems. A common barrier to replacing outdated software and hardware is the time and specialized development expertise it would take to build an updated substitute. Low-code development methods speed up and simplify this process. Plus, low-code platforms are designed to securely connect and ingest data from other systems. For most organizations, this is a major improvement in functionality compared to existing systems. That makes it more motivating to make a change.
- Foster collaboration between different teams. Low-code software development opens up the process of devising, building, testing, and deploying business applications to people outside of the traditional software building process. Low-code projects offer non-developers the opportunity to work closely with IT teams in a positive way. These new collaborations can improve the relationship between IT and other employees. A reinvigorated working relationship and positive experiences with a new, easy-to-use technology can result in more optimism about the overall digital transformation roadmap and other digital transformation technologies.
The benefits of low-code platforms
Low-code tools are useful for addressing organizations’ growing needs for specialized apps. These platforms have significant benefits over traditional development methods and thus an important role in digital transformation efforts. Some of these benefits include:
- Ease of use. Low-code platforms don’t require any special coding skills to use. With more people using low-code tools to solve business problems, organizations can expect greater innovation and impact from their workforce.
- Cross-platform build functionality. Most low-code platforms allow users to build apps that work on all platforms and devices from the start, saving time and creating positive experiences for app users no matter what device they use.
- Extensibility. Low-code tools are designed to easily integrate with existing software. The addition of a low-code platform to your tech stack multiplies the value of your software by improving its utility.
- Collaboration tools. Hand-coded app building processes usually keep business and IT teams in separate siloes. Business teams identify and communicate their needs while IT teams build and test the solution. This process often results in miscommunications, long timelines, and solutions that don’t quite solve the problem. Low-code platforms encourage collaboration between IT and business teams at every step of the process, resulting in better solutions and a shared sense of ownership.
- Agility. A key reason that businesses embark upon digital transformations is to improve their responsiveness to a rapidly changing market. Since low-code platforms can be used by more people, build apps quickly, and connect and make use of existing data, they’re important tools when it comes to addressing time-sensitive needs.
With these benefits, low-code platforms are an excellent addition to organizations’ digital transformation technologies. Low-code tools can help companies become more competitive by responding to customer needs and changing markets faster and more easily.
Low-code trends that accelerate digital transformation
As low-code tools have become more popular, organizations have found ways to maximize their value. Four of the current low-code trends in app development have the potential to accelerate digital transformation.
Low-code trend #1: Workflow automations
Repetitive manual processes—like requesting support, entering data manually, and verifying identities—can be replaced with automated process flows to save time and free up your workforce for more innovative and business-critical work.
Low-code trend #2: Adding AI to apps
When you add intelligence to your apps, workflow automations save your workforce even more time. Imagine that you’ve built an app that captures business card data. With the addition of AI, your app can understand and process text, then automatically enter that text in the right fields in your sales tool, eliminating several steps that used to be managed by humans. AI can also analyze data to make predictions, which can have significant positive impacts on business operations.
Low-code trend #3: Extending low-code apps with custom code
Low-code platforms usually come with plenty of pre-built apps and workflows that can be deployed right away or after just a few code-less tweaks. Adding custom code to these templates results in truly powerful apps that are built in a fraction of the time that a fully hand-coded solution would take. IT teams can use low-code platforms to gain a significant head start on custom solutions that are part of their organization’s digital transformation strategy.
Low-code trend #4: Improving existing solutions
If the apps or systems you currently use can’t be fully replaced at the beginning stage of your digital transformation, there’s a way to improve their functionality—or even simplify a complicated replacement plan. Low-code APIs are a fast and simple way to connect devices, data, and other apps with existing apps and platforms.
Frequently asked questions
What is low-code digital transformation?
Low-code platforms are the foundation for digital transformation. Low-code tools are used to build workflow automations and apps, improve legacy software, and connect data sources, all of which are critical to organizations that need to expand their digital capabilities. Compared to traditionally developed applications, projects built using a low-code platform are faster, cheaper, and more scalable.
How do you accelerate a digital transformation?
Corporate leaders can speed up their digital transformation efforts by building upon existing digital solutions, encouraging a shift in mindset among employees, and choosing flexible digital transformation technologies that can adapt as the business changes. Low-code platforms can help. They integrate easily with existing software, promote collaboration and new ways of thinking among the workforce, and be used to achieve many different goals as a business becomes more digitally savvy.
How much faster is low-code development?
Low-code development is significantly faster than traditional software development. Using low-code platforms requires only basic coding experience, so more people can build apps and workflows. Modular templates make it possible to add, remove, and change features quickly and easily. Low-code platforms include cross-platform build functionality so that you only have to develop one app that will work on all devices. Version control and collaboration tools simplify the build and approval process.
Does digital transformation require coding?
Digital transformation strategies usually include new technologies, including workflow automations, AI, and apps, that require development. However, low-code tools can be used to reduce or eliminate coding.
What are low-code tools?
Low-code tools use drag-and-drop visual interfaces to reduce coding and simplify the development of technical projects. These platforms make it faster and easier to create new apps and workflows. Low-code tools are designed to integrate well with existing software solutions and can connect different systems together to use data in new ways.