During VentureBeat’s latest Low-Code/No-Code Summit, ServiceNow CDIO Chris Bedi and GM/VP of ServiceNow App Engine, Marcus Torres, discussed how organizations can successfully build, scale and govern low-code programs, while also keeping them straightforward for everyday employees. One thing is certain: low-code/no-code isn’t going anywhere, and companies need to be prepared.

Gartner predicts that by 2024, 65% of all app development will be done via low code. That’s because the demand for digital transformation is accelerating, and organizations need to find a way to keep pace, and keep competitive.

“IDC has a stat out there that says 750 million new apps need to be built by 2025,” Bedi said. “Centralized tech organizations are not going to be able to manage it. The dev capacity of software engineers — that is a constraint on digital transformation. And low-code and no-code development is an unlock for that constraint because the demand to automate more, drive efficiency, drive productivity, create experiences to serve your customers and talent — the demand has never been higher.”

In the new age of digital transformation and the new age of work, development is a team sport, bringing together the citizen developer and the traditional developers, Torres said.

“When you get that, what do you create? You actually create teamwork,” he said. “You create context across different lines of business, and that helps your business scale as well. The only way we’re able to do that is to provide an amazing experience that allows people to easily learn, easily use, easily innovate, and then keep scaling, but scale in a way that’s really a benefit for the whole business.”

For instance, companies like Bayer are streamlining the complexity of compliance and legal to give employees and business teams a single seamless experience, Torres said. The app they developed using ServiceNow’s technology, the Now platform and App Engine, produced over 30,000 requests to the compliance and legal teams that could be handled with automation at a rate of about 80%.

“Out of those 30,000, there are 24,000 that require no intervention, and it just happens,” he explained. “That’s the way the world works, and that’s how we really want to see all of our customers going forward.”

Another customer, Novant Health, set a team of citizen developers loose to go innovate, creating more than 80 apps, increasing their overall dev capacity by 40%.

Launching a citizen developer initiative

A formal citizen developer initiative is crucial, Bedi added, for a number of reasons. First, talent today in the workforce doesn’t want to wait in line for a centralized tech org to fix nagging issues, and companies need to empower talent to digitize their own work. Secondly, the citizen developer-traditional developer partnership is critical to drive modern business outcomes and accelerate their digital transformation.

And third, if left unchecked and in the hands of any employee who learned about low-code and no-code citizen development apps, individual apps for individual teams will proliferate madly, slowing the speed of innovation and impeding growth. In other words, shadow IT, which breaks down a company’s ability to scale.

“That’s the really the risk of not doing anything in regard to a low-code initiative because people don’t want to wait in line. People have options,” Torres agreed. “They can go to a website, swipe a credit card, and be off to the races, but at the end of the day, the biggest cost to developing applications isn’t the development. It’s the maintenance. It’s the support over time.”

“You can try to block it and say, no, it’s too risky for us,” Bedi added. “That’s a losing strategy because employees will find a way to get stuff done because they have to get stuff done.”

They urge organizations to partner with citizen developers, create the right development and innovation framework and put guardrails and governance in place, so that these developers are building the right way with the right visibility and the right model to scale and support over time.

“That’s how you get the capacity to scale and, most importantly, the agility the business needs,” Torres said. “Nobody wants to wait in line because as a business owner, as a manager, as a worker, I just need to get certain things done, and I can’t wait in line because that’s how I support our customer and they can’t wait either.”

“Organizations have to embrace it, and those that do will start to see their digital transformation accelerate and their employees be happier,” he added.