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IT professionals struggle to deploy, manage, update, and secure the additional software enterprises require without substantially increasing the size of their team. This challenge is driving many enterprises to modernize software delivery processes using low-code platforms that automate tasks normally done manually.

A survey of IT and business professionals published today by Mendix, a subsidiary of Siemens, suggests low-code platforms are a dominant framework for building applications in the enterprise. More than three-quarters of organizations (77%) are now building applications using low-code programming tools, the survey finds.

As more organizations rely on software to reduce costs and digitally engage customers, the number of end users building applications alongside professional developers should steadily increase. Most new employees have had some exposure to software development during their academic careers and pick up on the easy-to-use low-code or no-code tools.

Based on a survey of 2,025 individuals that included 1,209 IT professionals and 816 software developers in the U.S., China, the U.K., Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, the survey finds nearly three-quarters of organizations (76%) say demand for developers has reached a fever pitch, with 57% noting that the need to increase staff to develop software is increasing. Much of that shift is being driven by the need to build applications faster as digital business transformation initiatives accelerated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Growing enterprise demand for low-code platforms

None of this means the need for professional developers will diminish anytime soon, but it does mean the number of routine applications professional developers might have once worked on will be sharply reduced. The survey also reports the cost of software development is rising for many organizations (61%), with two-thirds (66%) reporting they are behind schedule. In fact, 62% of respondents said application development backlogs continue to increase.

It’s not clear to what degree professional developers are now employing low-code tools rather than writing procedural code to build applications faster. The survey finds half of developers surveyed (51%) believe some of their everyday development work could be done on a low-code platform. The survey also finds that a third of respondents (33%) report their organization has built a mission-critical application using low-code tools, with more than half (56%) noting employees are now using applications built on low-code platforms. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (64%) said low-code is their go-to work-around development solution.

End users are also becoming more involved in application development. As many as 59% of projects using low-code are a collaboration between business and IT groups, the survey finds. Almost two-thirds of respondents (64%) report they have also relied on non-technical staff to some degree to relieve pressure on the IT department during COVID-19.

The why behind low-code/no-code tools

There are many instances of “citizen developers” using the low-code Mendix platform to build applications on their own, global product marketing head Sheryl Koenigsberg said.

However, there are concerns that many of those applications are not designed well, don’t scale easily, and contain many security vulnerabilities. Most citizen developers have not received any extensive application development training. Low-code platforms such as the one provided by Mendix are making up for that deficiency by including guardrails that guide end users through the software development process, Koenigsberg noted. “It’s built into the platform,” she said.

One way or another, the volume of software being built and deployed is increasing at a rapid rate. More than half of the IT survey respondents (58%) said they are excited by that acceleration, with 45% noting it has added a sense of urgency for faster and more collaborative application development. Meanwhile, three-quarters of IT respondents (75%) identified low-code as trend they can’t afford to miss.

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