(this article originally appeared in ZDNet and was written by Vala Afshar)

IT leaders view business-led low-code/no-code application development as prudent and inevitable – given the right training, tools and governance. 


A survey of 100 U.S. information technology (IT) leaders with application development responsibilities, sponsored by Salesforce, revealed trends in application and process development trends in the past 12 months, pain points for developers as demand for services increased, interest in low-code development tools and shifting responsibilities for development to business users. There survey also highlighted the perceived benefits of the use of low-code tools by business users.  Process automation and greater demand for business application development will continue to serve as a necessary capability to accelerate digital business transformation. 

Here are some of the key findings of the IT leadership 2021 survey: 

IT workloads have increased during the pandemic.

88% of IT leaders say workloads have increased in the past 12 months. 60% of IT leaders who said their workload increased have noted an increase of more than half. I believe the pandemic served as a 5-10 year accelerant for digital business transformation. The adoption of e-commerce is an example of 10 years of acceleration. The demand for IT to accelerate innovation is greater now than perhaps ever before. The CIO’s 2025 technology roadmap suddenly became a priority in 2020 and the present day. The only viable method of scaling application development and process reinvention is by the adoption of more frictionless processes and tools. The need for IT innovation takes on new urgency in the post-pandemic world. The pandemic created a tipping point for IT. Business demands on IT increased as remote work replaced office norms, and the majority of IT teams failed to deliver on all project commitments. Today, IT is under tremendous pressure to transform in order to move faster. Just 37% of organizations say IT completed all the projects asked of them last year.

Innovation is at risk as IT demand rise.

92% of IT leaders say their work increasingly impacts the business. Another 96% of IT leaders say there is increased demand from the business for new apps and processes. 70% of IT leaders are concerned that increased workloads will curb their ability to innovate. Most customers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives due to COVID-19. Digital-first behavior is here to stay as customers develop new habits that will last for the long term. As digital engagement grows, customers expect companies to digitize their operations for multichannel, high-touch interactions. This relies in no small part on the use of personal information, and customers are calling for enhanced transparency and stewardship. According to recent 2021 research, 88% of customers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives due to COVID-19. Customers expect companies to accelerate their digital transformation. An important 2020 lesson: every company must become a digital company. 78% of customers said that this year’s crises should be a catalyst for business improvement.

Tool proliferation and disconnected data make development more difficult. 

72% of IT leaders say the number of tools needed to build apps/processes slow down production. The median number of tools/programs used to build a single app or process was five in 2021. More than eight out of 10 IT leaders said that disconnected data and apps make their jobs more difficult. Data silos and legacy IT complicate integration. Data silos and existing IT infrastructure, including point-to-point integrations, make it difficult for organizations to become more agile. But, those who can transform see increased customer engagement and innovation and improved project-delivery speed. Only 18% of organizations say they can integrate end-user experiences. 

Also: What is low-code and no-code? A guide to development platforms

Application redeployment and low-code development are viewed as the way forward. 

95% of IT leaders are interested in tech that helps build apps/processes that can be reused multiple times. Another 83% of IT leaders plan to increase their use of low-code development tools. More organizations are deploying self-service tools to empower their business teams to integrate apps and data sources. Data scientists and projects focused on big data and analytics are a significant focus for the year ahead. Some 36% of organizations have a mature approach to API-led integration for non-technical business users, and 44% are developing a strategy.  

With the right protocols, IT leaders view business-led application development as prudent and inevitable. 

81% of IT leaders believe business users at their organization would build their own apps and processes if permitted. Further, 83% of IT leaders believe responsibility for some app and process development will increasingly shift to business users. And 92% of IT leaders are comfortable with the use of low-code tools by business users, assuming proper training, governance, and processes. 

IT perceived many benefits of business-led development with low code tools. 

Here is the list of benefits (percentage of IT leaders that agree on benefits): 

  • Provide new ways for IT to partner with the business (92%).
  • Increase process automation (92%).
  • Bridge business requirements and technical execution (91%).
  • Increase development speed (92%).
  • Increase IT staff productivity (89%).
  • Allow technical staff to concentrate on complex tasks (89%).
  • Increase ability to redeploy apps (87%).
  • Reduce the backlog of IT projects (82%).
  • Reduce shadow IT (79%).

Previous Salesforce research highlighted the 8 digital transformation trends in 2021, strongly emphasizing the need for organizations to adopt a digital-first culture. Organizations are under greater pressure to digitize services quickly at scale to meet rising customer demands, scale innovation, and create new revenue channels.

The pandemic has served as a significant accelerant for digital business transformation and the demand for advanced applications across all lines-of-business, in every industry. Unfortunately, the demand for application development far exceeds the delivery capabilities of most IT organizations. Technology leaders must embrace business-led development of low-code/no-code applications with stronger partnerships and support in order to be able to deliver value at the speed of stakeholder — employees, customers, partners and communities — need. 

You can learn more about the survey results here