How IT Gets Back at the Helm of Digital Transformation

Should citizen developers use low-code at will?

IT’s job is to enable innovation in the organization. To do that, there are a lot of apps to be developed. The problem is that it is hard to recruit the right developers for all the work that needs to be done. And without the talent, it is almost impossible to stay ahead of the game. So, what can be done?

IT needs to adopt Agile and DevOps. Low-code can help, and so can “citizen developers.” But you have to be careful when you add citizen developers to the mix.

The Developer “Skills Drought”

According to reported projections from the U.S. Department of Labor, there will be an estimated one million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020. Our recent State of Application Development survey suggests this is a worldwide problem. Eighty percent of respondents describe app dev talent as scarce, and they say hiring is taking longer and costing more.

Views on the Developer Recruitment Market

According to the same research, the level of demand for application development seems higher than ever. Focusing on organizations with 500 or more employees, we found 42 percent have 10 or more apps planned for delivery in 2018. Twenty-one percent have 25 or more apps planned in 2018.

Applications Planned for Development

If organizations are to escape the double-whammy of unprecedented demand and scarcity of talent, they need to take a

multi-faceted resourcing approach. Just hiring more developers may prove impossible and could break the bank.

A Citizen Development Reality Check

Just because IT is having a hard time hiring developers, it does not mean it is time to hand the reins to so-called citizen developers on low-code platforms, as you can hear some analysts and vendors say.

Low-code is often characterized as a benign virus that will simply spread across an organization and magically equip non-techies to build what they want. But “citizen developers” are not likely to significantly move the dial when it comes to digital transformation.

Unless IT is in the game from the start, citizen development will lack the guide rails and governance needed for scalable, sustainable success. The result will likely be yet more complexity that has IT chasing its tail, especially when the citizen developers concerned have moved-on to pastures new, or want to hand-off their creation to someone who has the time to update it.

Low-Code to the Rescue

So IT should always be at the helm. Only then appropriate governance can be put into place. But still, low-code can help organizations overcome the developer skills shortage. Here’s how.

It increases productivity. It is reasonable to expect low-code to be between four to ten times faster than hand-coding. For the projects to which low-code is suited, achieving just a fourfold productivity increase will be faster with low-code than hiring or training more developers.

You can retrain legacy developers. In many large IT departments, there are multiple experienced developers who are supporting legacy systems, and as these systems retire, the associated staff will either need retraining or redeploying. Instead of

losing such valuable business knowledge from the organization, such developers can quickly be retrained to build web and mobile applications with low-code. This case study from Wealth Management company IOOF tells this story.

You can expand your developer pool. Low-code lowers the bar, meaning a wide array of roles can be cross-trained to build secure and scalable web and mobile apps, under the supervision of IT. Business analysts, process professionals, QA and test engineers, and business super users are great candidates; they can quickly and cost-effectively be trained to use a low-code development platform.

It shortens the ramp-up time. Multiple case studies describe how graduate junior-developers can be hired and quickly made productive with the built-in guide rails and development standards provided by a low-code development platform. Here’s a FinTech case study that illustrates how two newly hired computer science graduates built a loan origination system in just five months.

Low-Code in the Hands of IT

Returning to the State of Application Development Survey mentioned earlier: 34 percent of the 3,500 respondents said they were using a low-code platform already. And, according to the opinions provided by those respondents, low-code is making a significant difference to their digital transformation efforts. But that certainly does not mean business units can develop their apps on their own. Always keep IT in the lead of IT!