Low-code development platforms are on the cusp of becoming an extremely important part of organizations' strategy to empower non-IT employees to build their own applications. It's a crucial development at a time when digital transformation is advancing and there's a shortage of IT developer talent.
According to research from Gartner, implementation of low-code software development is growing at more than 20 percent per year. In 2021, the worldwide market for low-code development platforms was $13.8 billion. Gartner estimates that low-code revenue will rise to $16.8 billion in 2022 and reach $20.4 billion by 2023.
Gartner also forecasts low-code development to be adopted by more than 50 percent of medium to large companies.
"Low-code is a massive trend across all technology," said Josh Bersin, an HR industry analyst and founder of the Josh Bersin Academy for professional development in HR.
A low-code development platform requires users to have little or no coding experience. When used at the workplace, the platform allows non-IT employees to build custom applications through the use of a graphical user interface. Employees who have little understanding of coding can build modern websites and mobile apps while also applying business logic.
Bersin said HR leaders will now have the tools they need to build websites, mobile apps and online portals that manage payroll, recruiting, onboarding, hiring, training and other areas of the HR portfolio.
"What low-code means is that you don't have to hire a software engineer to change something," Bersin said. "If I am the learning and development manager or a recruiter and I have a platform and it does not do quite what I want, with a low-code platform I can reconfigure and change it to do what I want it to do, and that is a massive disruptive trend in HR technology."
Ask Diogo Ayres Moraes, who is in charge of human resource operations across Latin America for CNH Industrial, a global capital goods company specializing in equipment and services for agriculture and construction.
Moraes recalls that before the company embarked on its digital transformation journey in 2019, its HR department ran 15 separate IT systems that used legacy technology to run everything from recruiting, onboarding and hiring to training, payroll, and compensation and benefits systems.
Because HR systems were not integrated, there was a lack of transparency between departments. Additionally, the HR systems relied heavily on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, e-mails and legacy systems that slowed down HR functions. Moraes said it took weeks to process requests for vacation time, a salary increase, a change in benefits or a request to promote an employee.
To integrate its HR operations, the company established the Talent Flow program using a cloud-based low-code business process management platform from Pipefy Inc., a San Francisco-based company that helps organizations use low-code to automate their workflows.
In the case of CNH Industrial, Pipefy's platform has helped Moraes and his HR team build more applications in less time than traditional coding without the aid of the company's IT team.
For example, CNH Industrial's internship program, which accepts students on a six-month basis, mainly relied on e-mails and Excel spreadsheets to manage correspondence with colleges, exchange of documentation, approvals, enrollment, evaluations and reviews of interns.
According to Moraes, one of the interns, with the approval of her manager, built an app that automates the operations of the internship program.
Additionally, the company has used Pipefy's low-code platforms to automate processes in recruiting, employee onboarding, hiring, labor contracts, reimbursement requests and payroll.
"We are trying to empower our HR teams so that they can be the protagonist and create their own digital road map. With the low-code platform they have the tools to automate processes and implement the changes they want to make," Moraes said. "That is why we chose a low-code platform: to be more integrated across departments and to be able to easily make changes to our business processes."
Low-code platforms are part of the shift toward extending opportunities to "citizen" developers, nonprogrammers or non-IT employees to create new applications and services, said Cristina Goldt, general manager of talent optimization at Workday Inc.
"Most companies today would say that whatever industry they are in, they are a technology company. Technology is definitely changing to be a lot easier to adapt and we are seeing more of that," Goldt said. "Bringing in low-code technology is part of a strategy to make things easier."
This is a growing trend that software companies are eager to tap.
In late May, Microsoft Power Pages was launched, and the company introduced a low-code development platform that it says is an easy-to-use tool to build websites and Web apps that companies can utilize without an extensive understanding of software development.
In December, Amazon Web Services launched Amplify Studio, a low-code and no-code service that allows developers to easily build and ship complete Web and mobile apps in hours.
Last year, Salesforce introduced its next-generation Salesforce Platform, which includes a low-code development tool that gives employees the opportunity to create apps on a single platform.
Oracle also added low-code capabilities to its Oracle Cloud Human Capital Management solution to help Oracle HR users build templates to customize their software applications that manage their business processes.
Bersin said if you buy a low-code tool and integrate it with Workday or another HR vendor's software, you can build a portal, an onboarding program, a new training program or a well-being program without hiring engineers and getting involved in the underlying infrastructure.
"This low-code model is really useful for HR leaders because most companies have all sorts of things they want to do for their employees that are unique to them," he said.
Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.