The Low-Code Movement: Accelerating Digital Transformation With Low-Code

The Low-Code Movement: Accelerating Digital Transformation With Low-Code

Cantemir Mihu
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9764-4.ch025
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Low-code is one of many topics that have been brought up to address two perennial problems: the growing shortage of software developers and the methodological gap between business requirements and implementation. With low-code, you give business users and process owners the tools they need to build systems and make process improvements on their own, with minimal technical support. To be successful, digital strategy initiatives today and in the future will need to think of and include tools that empower their business users and help accelerate process automation. This chapter provides a general understanding of low-code platforms, explores the current research on the topic through a bibliometric analysis, and analyses the impact of low-code on digital transformation.
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Transformation can mean different things for different companies. Depending on each digital transformation journey, it could simply mean digitization of paper-based documents and processes, or it could mean introducing easy, remote access to on-site resources, or automating customer-facing applications. According to (McKinsey, 2018), 8 out of 10 respondents from different enterprises mentioned that they've undertaken such efforts in the last five years and only less than 30% have succeeded. It is therefore necessary to carefully understand how to approach digital transformation projects and to understand what the building blocks and obstacles of such initiatives are.

In enterprises, information is stored everywhere, from file systems, to emails, to social data, to structured and unstructured information. Employees and customers expect a seamless, integrated experience that leverages all this information. One thing that is very consistent and common across organisations around the world is communication, content, and processes. To enable successful digital transformation, businesses need to manage end-to-end processes, ensuring that communication, content, and processes are glued together, which means ensuring a consistent flow of information across all departments. This is possible when there is technology embedded in processes that connects processes and systems, and when the content flowing through all systems is consistently anchored in an appropriate and permanent context, making less and less reliance on human intervention and participation necessary.

A highly favourable approach to digital transformation is the use of low-code application development platforms. These platforms now go by different names, the most used ones being low-code platform (LCP), low-code application platform (LCAP), and low-code development platform (LCDP). Low-code application development and low-code platforms (referred to interchangeably as low-code throughout this article) provide a tipping point for organizations to really start taking advantage of digital transformation and process automation in ways that were not available to them before. Low-code is a new class of software development environments that has emerged in recent years, prospected as offering a substantial increase in software development productivity and to yield new ways of promoting business IT alignment and user empowerment.

Low-code, as a philosophy and methodology, has its roots in business process management and business automation. It is increasingly becoming a mainstream movement, rooted in a paradigm closely related to the DevOps set of practices, which combines software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops), anchored in the mantra “you build it, you run it”. Equivalently, in terms of business processes, the business users, who are the actual owners of business processes, should be empowered so that they can also control the processes: “you own it, you control it”. By controlling a business process, business users should be able to configure and adapt each step of a business flow, without having to rely on developers or IT staff to do so. Low-code attempts to achieve exactly that: to empower the business user to an extent that they can model the business processes (workflows, data flows, parameters, behaviours, event management, etc.) themselves. As an effect, low-code helps to embrace digital transformation faster, digitizing and automating workflows and building scalable process-centric applications.

According to (PMI, 2020), 86% of IT decision makers consider the biggest hurdle to digitally transforming their business to be the lack of software developers. Gartner coined the term ‘citizen development’ in 2009, meaning you don’t need to be a professional developer to build applications. Low-code platforms are targeting this goal, and mainly address business users. Some low-code application development platforms address professional developers too. For professional developers, the benefit of using such a platform is that they manage to get more done in less time, often with better and more reliable results and arguably more consistent results.

Key Terms in this Chapter

VOSviewer: A software tool for constructing and visualizing bibliometric networks. These can be constructed based on citation, bibliographic coupling, co-citation, or co-authorship relations.

Software Development Environment: An environment that automates or augments the routines involved in a software development cycle.

Citizen Developers: Citizen developers are business users with little to no coding experience that build applications with IT-approved technology.

Clarivate Web of Science: World's largest publisher-neutral citation index and research platform.

Digital Transformation: A major change promoted by digital technologies in an organization's strategy and work systems, generating a reformulation of pre-established business models, creating better interactions with customers, and optimizing processes to produce favourable and sustainable financial outcomes.

Visual Development: Visual development is the usage of a visual interface to create applications. The visual interface includes simple logic and drag-and-drop features, which makes the development process visual and more natural compared to traditional development via coding.

Business Process Management: Business process management is a sum of activities related to business processes, including discovery, modelling, analysis, measurement, improvement, and optimization.

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