(this article originally appeared in Forbes and was written by Sarah Franklin, EVP & GM, Platform, Trailhead, & AppExchange at Salesforce)

Many companies had a multiyear plan in place for digital transformation, but due to Covid-19, lengthy timelines with phased approaches no longer work. Ideas you conceptualize now to transform your business may not be relevant in one or two years.

Development cycles have been compressed down to days, and slow innovation isn’t an option in today’s environment. Companies may need to build solutions immediately and scale with confidence, all without sacrificing quality.

Digital transformation has become an immediate digital imperative, and at Salesforce, we’ve found that our low-code development tools can help our clients meet the rapidly changing needs of their customers fast so they can stay ahead of the competition.

The Rise Of Low Code 

Low-code development — a “drag and drop” approach to building applications using prewritten building blocks of code — has grown in prominence for years. Traditional development relies on experts versed in complex computing languages who build everything from scratch. Low-code development, on the other hand, empowers employees to use a combination of clicks and code to innovate fast and quickly build modern applications by using simple visual tools. Combining prewritten building blocks of code with custom code saves time and resources. It’s like using Lego blocks — it’s easy and fast, and you know the pieces will work together.

Gartner, Inc. predicts that by 2023, 40% of professional workers will orchestrate business applications in building-block form, customizing them much like they would a playlist. I find that skeptics of low-code development, however, often believe the tools are not robust enough to offer quality at scale, or that they are only for niche applications and use cases.

Meeting A Digital Imperative

With the pandemic altering the economic landscape and the way we do business, many companies are realizing that traditional development methods must be reconsidered. Shifts to remote work and new ways of serving customers mean companies need fast digital solutions. Even in the best of times, relying solely on traditional coding takes time, requires extensive developer resources and strains IT departments. All applications must be custom-built, and requesting the smallest change requires getting in line with IT.

Low-code tools expand the pool of employees who can build applications beyond traditional developers, helping to lighten the workload on IT departments and freeing up actual developers to focus on more complex coding projects. Employees without advanced technical knowledge can make changes quickly, with guardrails in place to guide them, as priorities shift.

The velocity of innovation can increase dramatically since the limited number of developers doesn’t create a bottleneck. Changes are automatically documented, making development more efficient and agile. So at a time when budgets have to stretch further, companies don’t have to sacrifice quality for scale.

For example, a community bank we work with leveraged low-code to help provide relief to small businesses. After the CARES Act passed in March, the bank suddenly started processing large volumes of applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Staff used folders in shared drives to track applications until one technical employee used low-code to build a digital tool for tracking PPP applications and creating reports.

Another example is a fintech client of ours that offers a digital banking platform for financial institutions. To handle the increased volume of these banks’ online loan applications from small businesses and issue loans quickly, the company used a prepackaged low-code workflow to build and deploy a solution to process a massive influx of loan applications quickly and efficiently.

Finding The Right Low-Code Solution

When adopting a low-code solution, companies should consider the following factors:

• Extensibility: Don’t get hard-coded into a static form or webpage. You should be able to customize and adjust layouts and workflows to fit your specific business needs and add custom code as needed.

• Governance: Select tools that have built-in governance processes to ensure everyone building with the low-code solution follows a consistent methodology.

• Integration: Most applications require pulling data from multiple sources. Your tool should be able to integrate with various data systems through application programming interfaces (APIs) you can configure. Otherwise, you’re building yourself into a siloed solution that won’t scale.

• Compliance: Make sure your low-code vendor offers comprehensive and up-to-date security features and maintains any industry-relevant certifications.

• Globalization: Many companies serve customers globally. Your tool should allow you to easily flip applications to a different language or currency. It should also use data centers around the world to avoid latency issues.

• Automation: Companies need to be able to scale with confidence. Make sure your low-code solution has automated workflows and artificial intelligence-powered bots to automate repetitive processes.

Accelerating Digital Transformation

Historically, companies have had the luxury to plan for an eventual shift to digital. Now, they have no option but to move fast. Low-code development allows a diverse set of team members — in IT and beyond — to quickly empower everyone across the organization with applications that are automated, scalable and secure.

As companies get back to growth, low-code development can help them stay agile and continuously deliver innovation as needs evolve. They may be surprised by how quickly they can achieve the digital transformation they’ve been postponing simply by changing the way they build apps.