Guest Column | January 4, 2021

Essential Business Strategy For 2021: Shift Towards Low-Code/No-Code And Open Marketplaces

Bill Galusha, ABBYY

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Even before COVID-19, companies had been experiencing huge shifts in how exactly their work is accomplished. Where and how employees are working and what tools are being used to ensure operations are as efficient and errorless as possible have been subject to change as companies undergo digital transformation and seek to become more digitized and automated.

If this shift has taught U.S. companies anything, it's the importance of enabling employees to manage their own environments and experiences—and to interact in a meaningful way with the workflows they manage. This includes the ability to create, enhance, or extend the use of workplace apps by themselves, without knowing how to code software and without relying on support from their help desks. The emergence of low-code/no-code and online platforms make this possible and have become a promising technology to reach digital transformation goals and should be part of your business strategy during 2021.

Digital Transformation Finally Has A Sense Of Urgency

Digital transformation was a strategic initiative for most businesses before 2020. But in this new socially distant and virtual environment, organizations faced challenges to maintain business continuity and meet customers’ needs as they pivot operations.

The pandemic made the urgency to deploy digital solutions a necessity, rather than a luxury. As we got further into the crisis, we saw some companies doing better than others. Those companies doing well realized in advance that if they didn’t, they would fail and be left behind. They had already initiated digitally transforming many manual processes to improve operational efficiency and maximize human capital. These companies were able to quickly adopt and leverage digitalization to minimize disruptions as they transitioned to remote operations. For example, some companies used staff from their physical stores to help fulfill online orders. Banks began offering more digital-friendly capabilities, like automated loan application processes. And the healthcare industry harnessed digital technologies to support the public health response, including population surveillance, case identification, contact tracing, and evaluation of interventions based on mobility data and communication with the public.

It’s even more important now for organizations to accelerate intelligent automation initiatives to thrive in the new digital-first era.

The Shift Towards Low-Code/No-Code Platforms

Low-code/no-code software development environments are booming. Two results of the pandemic—the remote work boom and new requirements for customers to interact with vendors digitally instead of in-person—require precisely the advantages that low-code and no-code platforms offer. The growing importance and popularity of these platforms were emphasized in a recent survey by Lawless Research: 57% of respondents said that their companies use low-code/no-code.

Forrester suggests that the increased interest in low-code platforms alone is driving approximately 50% annual growth, with the market anticipated to rise to over $15 billion in 2021. Low-code/no-code platforms nearly eliminate the need for manual coding and speed up deployment, making it a popular option for organizations increasing their investment in digital transformation and becoming agile organizations. And because there’s very minimal knowledge required for these platforms, staff members most knowledgeable of their business processes and requirements can develop and update applications and software; this ultimately assists enterprises in cutting unwanted costs by eliminating the need to hire specially trained programmers or developers.

Benefits Of Low-Code/No-Code Platforms

The role of citizen developers (non-programmers) is growing within organizations. They’re knowledge workers and business analysts able to use these low-code or no-code applications without a deep understanding of coding or advanced technologies – such as analytics, intelligent document processing, robotic process automation (RPA), or process mining. For example, in financial services, by using low-code mobile capture apps for onboarding, credit, and loan processes, customers can easily and remotely capture required identification and documentation, extract and validate the data, and send it to applications and systems. This means that application forms (including those with hand-printed data), along with their required complementary documents such as ID cards, proofs of residency, employment, and revenue certification, can be captured from any device, wherever the customer is.

New no code/low code solutions are entering the market that enable organizations to add cognitive skills to RPA robots like reading, understanding, and deriving meaning from data contained in documents, replacing the human workers who would otherwise spend unnecessary time performing the work. Depending on the type of work a user performs or content they work with, knowledge workers can incorporate the skillsets their digital worker needs from open marketplaces (a kind of online shop) that offer a variety of cognitive skills available, such as skills that understand and extract data from invoices, tax documents, receipts and other documents that are highly unstructured. These pre-trained document understanding models that are packaged up and delivered as easy to consume cognitive skills can be incorporated into digital workers for specific industry business requirements. Where traditional solution app development may take several months, it can instead be built within a few days or weeks using low-code/no-code platforms. This results in the ability to release products to the market quicker and more frequently.

Emergence Of Online Digital Marketplaces

Many online enterprise marketplaces are surfacing where business users and the citizen developer can find a catalog of cognitive skills that are pre-trained and ready to go for a variety of document types. Marketplaces are ideal for users who are looking for a “try-and-buy” option and don’t necessarily have nor need a technical background or in-depth understanding of the AI technology – OCR, machine learning, and NLP – that drives the processing and understanding of documents.

In a marketplace, business users can access advanced automation capabilities on-demand and easily design, train, and publish the skills that are most relevant for their business functions. With these no-code / low-code solutions, business analysts can easily create and build skills and then make these skills discoverable by an intelligent automation platform, such as RPA, business process management (BPM), electronic content management (ECM), chatbots, and other systems of engagement, and mobile applications.

Marketplaces are offered by a variety of intelligent automation platform providers and typically provide solution frameworks, connectors, custom process activities, and business rule code snippets that can be combined to make skills readily consumable solutions by enterprises. 

Digital Transformation Is Driven By Low-Code/No-Code Platforms

The benefits cited above—particularly the democratization of coding by making it simpler both for professional and citizen developers—enable transformation to proceed more rapidly and with broader participation from the workforce.

Another recent survey from spring 2020 showed the essential role of no-code and low-code platforms. It found that “best of the best” companies in its survey had reached either a mature stage of digital transformation or a state of high IT efficiency were those who reported much higher use of low-code and no-code platforms than those reporting a less-evolved approach to digital transformation and lower IT efficiency. 79% of companies that reported a high level of digital maturity used low-code/no-code, compared to 49% of those that were less advanced. 78% of companies that reported a high level of IT efficiency used low-code/no-code compared with 42% of those with a lower level of IT efficiency.

Businesses must be flexible and adaptable in how they implement new intelligent automation solutions. Low-code/no-code tools ensure that organizations can implement digital initiatives quickly and effectively. And they empower employees to complete work smarter and more accurately and quickly.

Whether it’s for replacing stalled projects or starting new initiatives, integrating low-code solutions is a smart strategy.

As enterprises continue to see the shift in employee and customer expectations to more digital and mobile experiences, businesses must begin transforming their operations using industry-leading digital platforms to become increasingly agile and maintain a competitive advantage.

What will happen to companies that decide against adopting a low-code or no-code platform? Based on current trends, it looks like the odds are heavily against them. No-code and low-code platforms have become a matter of survival and have proven their importance in meeting the changes in business requirements. By the time the pandemic settles, few resisters will likely be left standing. No-code/low-code platforms and online marketplaces with digital skills are here to stay.

About The Author

Bill Galusha is Senior Director of Product Marketing at ABBYY, a Digital Intelligence company. He works with global organizations to advance the understanding of their content with AI-enabling digital skills to achieve better operational outcomes.