So What Is Going On? The Future of the Low-Code/No-Code Market Is in the Business

Perspectives
Sep 21, 2021
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8 Min Read
Woman at computer

Business agility is not a new concept—at this point it is almost a cliché. The past 18 months have accelerated digital transformation in every industry, showing more success for some than others.  

Over the past 20 years we have seen the low-code/no-code market change consistently. What has not changed is that the Quickbase users, and community, have always been ‘different.’ Some of our most proficient creators are analysts, administrators, engineers, project managers and some are also software developers. These folks are finding new and creative ways to get more out of existing resources in service to workflow and process efficiency, eliminating the friction and frustration business professionals face in carrying out their jobs, and making life better for an organization’s customers. This is where the market is splitting—showing there are fundamentally different groups of people building digital solutions in an enterprise.  

A partnership between business and IT

At the forefront, we’re seeing a closer partnership between IT and line-of-business leaders to enable more people in the business to innovate. There is latent potential in business technologists, those that have a propensity for process and technology, to build digital solutions.  

According to recent Gartner® research, “Dependent on industry, business technologists make up between 28% and 55% of the workforce.”¹ Moreover, 41% of Business Technologists and 49% of Technology “End Users” report outside of IT.¹ With the rising need for digital solutions, the demand is far outweighing what central IT can manage, and companies are realizing that there are many other experts in the business that can build technology solutions.  

This shows not that there are more people reporting to different parts of the organization, but that there are simply more people capable of building digital solutions to their specific unique processes in the business. These people are taking ownership over the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes and workflows in their organizations.  

Expert innovators in the business

At Quickbase, we are seeing progressive organizations recognize that citizen developers, citizen automators, and business technologists are vital to driving visibility, connectedness, and agility. The key is, these people look for different capabilities in technologies than central IT historically would. They are looking for platforms that can combine and analyze all the data they need in real-time no matter where it lives, that are simple and easy to adopt for lots of different levels of digital proficiency—ultimately, getting the right data to the right people at the right time. On the flip side, professional developers are looking for platforms that support more structured SDLC, have extensive customization capabilities, allow for adding custom code, and support a formal, multi-stage deployment process.  

We are also seeing the business driving the purchasing choices for these platforms, with the support of their IT partners reviewing for governance, regulatory, and compliance standards. This doesn’t mean that IT is no longer solving complex needs and problems for the organization—actually the opposite. As organizations get more complex IT has a greater responsibility to support new and different capabilities, as well as oversee and govern all digital solutions that are built outside of core IT.  

Embedding more ownership over workflow automation and integrations into the business and equipping subject matter experts with technologies they can use, allows for IT to continue to focus on the large-scale transformation projects they are best equipped to lead.  

The bifurcation of a market

We have always seen organizations that take a dual-track approach, both large-scale IT led transformation projects and rapid-cycle innovation across workflows in the business, come out the other side more innovative and better than ever before. But what does this mean for the market? Who is buying software and innovating in the business? 

You are seeing the effects of this shift result in a bifurcation of the low-code/no-code market. The market is breaking off into two fundamentally different categories: application platforms that make professional developers faster (low-code), and platforms that equip more people throughout the business to automate processes and work flows (citizen development and automation platforms). We see ourselves as the longest running leader in that second category.  

These two groups need fundamentally different capabilities in technology platforms. Citizen developers and business technologists need a platform tuned for rapid solution development and iteration, that still supports the security and governance for an enterprise grade platform. Professional software developers require a platform that supports traditional SDLC for application development, has controllable and customizable UI, has specific requirements for the technology that forms the application, just to name a few. The former is not a simple subset of the latter. The difference is critical to successful adoption of citizen development in an organization. Gartner® states, “By 2025, 75% of large enterprises will be using at least four low-code development tools for both IT application development and citizen development initiatives.”²

This isn’t about how to make software development faster, more efficient, less error prone. It is about solving the thousands of workflow problems understood best by the business and that never seem to go away. These problems consistently change over time and new ones come to light faster than outdated ones die. The only way to keep up is by enlisting the hearts and minds of those who know those problems best as the digital needs of organizations continue to grow. Building business agility is now a requirement and what is separating the leaders from the laggards is how they equip more people in the business with tools to innovate to do just that.  

  1. Source: Gartner, Presentation: Democratized Technology Delivery: The CIO’s New Opportunity to Boost the Value of IT”, By CIO Research Team, 24 June 2021 
  2. Source: Gartner, Forecast Analysis: Low-Code Development Technologies, Fabrizio Biscotti, Paul Vincent, Jason Wong, Laurie Wurster, 22 January 2021  

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. 

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