A new study finds 85% of engineer leads predict low-code and no-code will soon become common
New findings from an Internal-endorsed study suggest 2020’s software development challenges will undoubtedly carry into 2021. Many businesses are making immediate transitions to a digital-only economy, forcing a ton of new app development requirements. Yet, hiring top engineering talent is especially difficult, amid a developer drought and pandemic uncertainties.
One in three organizations has implemented a hiring freeze. Respondents also cited rising development challenges and insecure internal software, putting a strain on normal operations. To help address these challenges going forward, a whopping 85.1% believe implementing low-code and no-code will become more and more omnipresent within their company.
Below, we dive into the report’s major findings, which surveyed 500 IT and engineering workers at medium-to-large enterprises. Using this data, we’ll forecast hurdles software development teams may face in 2021, and gauge if low-code tooling adoption is the ultimate panacea or no more than a Band-Aid for a much larger ongoing problem.
Development Challenges Will Increase
In the thick of the pandemic, software is often the only touchpoint many traditional companies have with a user. Naturally, the number of digital experiences required to meet this new reality is skyrocketing. Experts and data show this trend has no signs of stopping.
In fact, 60.1% of surveyed saw app development increasing due to work-from-home policies. Only 9.7% reported a decrease in app development. One could easily attribute rising app development with growing software requirements brought on by the current digital-first climate.
In this new economy, finding bold ways to increase productivity is critical. Improving the efficiency of engineering teams was a priority for most respondents and a high priority for 40% of respondents. For small groups with lean margins, improving automation for software delivery could help compete with larger players.
Talent Will Become More Competitive
The biggest challenge employers face is finding talent—30.6% of respondents cited increased competition for talent as a top challenge in 2020 and 22.2% also recognized developer drought as a significant obstacle. If you had trouble finding skilled software engineers in 2020, good luck next year …
Looking to 2021, 45% see competition for talent remains a top challenge. Trailing problems include developer drought, immigration issues and a poor reaction to new work-from-home policies.
Hiring Practices Will Continue to Shift
With COVID–19 in full force and a developer scarcity, you’d think hiring would come to a freeze. Yet, the results of this study were mixed—hiring practices are pretty varied across teams.
According to the report, 34.5% of organizations surveyed had paused hiring new engineers. Conversely, 37.3% have hired more engineers, and 18.5% of organizations reported no change to hiring practices at all. About 10% had layoffs.
Whereas some tech companies are thriving in the new normal, others may pause hiring due to uncertainness around COVID-19. These companies could be turning to low-code technologies as a replacement. “If you pause hiring, you still need to build, and low-code is a great option for that,” said Arisa Amano, CEO of Internal.
Low-Code Will Become Commonplace
To address the above issues, companies are turning to low-code solutions. These platforms help relieve the development burden for internal business tools and open up citizen developer use. And, it’s more than a fad—the report was able to squarely demonstrate an uptick in low-code use.
Most companies (75.2%) have already implemented a combination of low-code and traditional engineering methods. It appears that low-code is complementing existing software engineering practices at a number of institutions.
In addition, 28.8% of respondents predict low-code and no-code will become a high priority in the coming months, and for 21.6%, it will become an essential focus. Impressively, 85.1% of developers foresee low-code and no-code as becoming more commonly implemented within their company.
Low-Code Will Open Doors for Non-Tech
The citizen developer concept has been gathering marketing steam, but it might not be just hype. Now, data suggests low-code tools are actually opening doors for such non-developers. Seventy percent of companies said non-developers in their company already build tools for internal business use, and nearly 80% predict to see more of this trend in 2021.
It should be noted that low-code and no-code do not seek to replace all engineering talent; instead, to free them up to engage in more complex tasks. “With low-code, you free up your engineers to work on harder problems, instead of having them work on basic things,” said Arisa Amano, CEO of Internal. She believes this could translate into more innovation companywide.
Surprisingly, bringing non-traditional engineers into the development fold is not being met with ambivalence—69.2% of respondents foresee that citizen developers positively affect engineering teams, with the rest primarily exhibiting a neutral reaction.
Improved Access Control Will Boost Internal Security
The costs of internal security threats are high. Breaches could decrease customer trust, harm brand reputation and lead to escalating legal fees. With cyberattacks a prevalent concern, cybersecurity must come back in style.
Not only are threats external, but internal too—46.8% of respondents were extremely concerned about employees having access to customer data. The cause for concern is duly noted, as the majority, 58.1%, have experienced internal data security breaches in the past.
The reasons for internal breaches vary across the board. Respondents attributed the top cause simply to a rise in the number of employees and contractors with access to sensitive information—a surge in employees means a greater chance of human error or leaked credentials. It also means an increase in the number of devices with access to sensitive data—this is particularly tricky, as CISOs face a dilemma on how to govern privileged access for housebound laptops and mobile devices.
Respondents also noted the increasing complexity of technology and the overabundance of new cloud applications. It’s hard to expect DevOps to secure modern infrastructure when they’re still trying to figure out how it works! As a knowledge gap could quickly introduce vulnerabilities, 62.7% of respondents are actively investing in increased employee security training.
Other security problems, such as a lack of granular access control or lack of logging and audit trails, seem like they could be mitigated with the right configurations and DevSecOps approach. In fact, 55.4% of respondents are in the process of baking in fine-grained access controls. “Having that at the forefront of internal tools is key,” said Bob Remeika, co-founder, Internal.
Shifting security left could correct an age-old trend of adding security after the fact, which only prolongs the problem. On the whole, companies require a combination of better access enforcement, multi-factor auth and increased monitoring to mitigate mounting threats.
Low-Code Becomes Mainstream in 2021
Software development teams face many challenges in the coming year. Demands for new software will increase and processes to increase efficiency will fall under the microscope. Rising engineer competitiveness and developer drought will also continue to shift hiring practices.
Companies that weren’t 100% digital will be forced to embrace the new norm and develop internal software and automation. Yet, building internal tools isn’t straightforward and will be especially difficult for companies less technical than their software-as-a-service counterparts. All this, paired with ongoing security threats, means internal app development in 2021 has its challenges.
Although conditions look dicey, the underlying issues are not unusual, Remeika said. They have just been amplified. “There’s always been a developer drought, companies have always been trying to find ways to do more with less, and competition for talent is never getting less fierce,” he said.
Though we’ve seen a spike since COVID-19, the desire to offload work has been everpresent. Remeika believes sophisticated low-code platforms will empower technical non-engineers and assist with things people typically tend to disregard when building internal applications, such as security, deployment, testing and review capabilities.
Nevertheless, development team output appears to be resilient throughout work-from-home policies. And as I recently covered, a low-code movement could also enable a democratization effect, helping SMEs who can’t afford the top talent to still compete at the same table as large tech companies. We expect low-code and no-code adoption to spill well into 2021, seemingly, as a panacea to these mounting concerns.