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The market for low-code tools, a software development approach that requires little to no coding to build apps, has grown substantially. Predicted to generate $187 billion in revenue by 2030, low-code development tools have entered into the mainstream as enterprises seek to keep pace with digital transformation trends. IDC predicts the worldwide population of low-code developers will see a compound annual growth rate of 40.4% from 2021 to 2025, approximately 3.2 times the 12.5% rate for developers generally worldwide. And the pandemic has accelerated the interest in low-code, as organizations have had to move their activities online while responding to changing customer demands.

In a survey commissioned by Mendix, 64% of IT professionals at enterprise organizations said they’ve had to rely on non-technical staff to relieve pressure on the IT department during the pandemic. The respondents see low-code tools empowering people to break down barriers to entery — a quarter report that their employer is now more likely to hire developers with no formal IT qualifications. This could become critical as companies face a global shortage of developer talent. There’s an estimated 223,000 job openings for developers in the U.S. alone, and colleges and universities are graduating just 30,000 new computer science majors per year.

“Low-code enables companies to improve customer engagement through innovative solutions and experiences,” Derek Roos, cofounder and CEO of app development platform Mendix, said in a statement. “Low-code is the future of software development … It’s agile by design. It dramatically expands the pool of development talent. It’s built for collaboration, and it’s built for rapid development. Low-code, and specifically low-code with Mendix, is fast becoming a core technology enterprises need to succeed in a digital-first world.”

The benefits and challenges of low-code

Low-code technology is being used in customer-facing, middle, and back-office processes, primarily for app development inside of separate business units. According to Creatio, enterprises are most likely to cite the benefits of accelerated time to market and reduced development costs. But the advantages of low-code tools extend beyond those advantages — 80% of respondents to an Appian survey say the technology can free developers up to work on higher-level projects. That’s perhaps why Gartner predicts 80% of technology products and services will be built by non-IT professionals by 2024.

However, challenges stand in the way of successful implementation. The same Appian survey found that 31% of enterprises using low-code haven’t leveraged it to build any of their highest-value apps. And despite low-code’s potential to democratize development, only 6% of low-code development is currently done by business users without any IT involvement, Creatio reports.

Organizations say a lack of experience with low-code platforms remains one of the biggest hurdles to adoption. A study by Outsystems, meanwhile, found that 37% of organizations are concerned about “lock-in” with a low-code vendor and that 32% of organizations don’t believe they could build the types of app they need with low-code tools.

But if these blockers are overcome, the realized benefits of low-code tools could be enormous. An IDC report found customers achieved a five-year ROI of 59% with low-code and intelligent process automation. According to Mendix, the average company avoids hiring two IT developers by using low-code tools — reaping about $4.4 million in increased business value over three years from the apps designed.

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