2021 Predictions: Low-Code Transforms Enterprise Applications

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2021 Predictions: Spurred on by Health Crisis, Innovative Technologies Will Come of Age as Low-Code Transforms Enterprise Architecture

2021 Predictions: Spurred on by Health Crisis, Innovative Technologies Will Come of Age as Low-Code Transforms Enterprise Architecture by Mendix

As the pandemic’s impact is expected to last well into 2021, Mendix’s top technology visionaries examine eight key trends for 2021 being driven by urgent market needs, while describing how low-code software development will accelerate deployment of these critical digital solutions. With Forrester analysts estimating that 75% of all enterprise software will be built with low-code technology this year, industry watchers opened the year calling 2021 “The Year of Low-Code.

Predictions for 2021 cannot be made without awareness of 2020’s extraordinary events. In a remarkable, real-world test, low-code’s model-driven software development approach enabled organizations to quickly pivot, adapt, and scale operations for business continuity as the pandemic swept the globe. In this way, low-code enablement joined other first responders by greatly accelerating the creation and deployment of innovative digital solutions.

“Under very challenging and difficult circumstances, low-code was able to showcase its value, delivering new apps for organizations within days and sometimes overnight,” said Nick Ford, vice president of product and solutions marketing. “These real-world success stories set a new benchmark for what the future technology landscape looks like.”

Here’s what Mendix sees for 2021 and beyond.

1. Low-code platforms evolve beyond application development

Gartner concurs with Forrester that 75% of all application development will soon be built on low-code platforms. Best-of-breed offerings will be ones that provide “all-in-one” capabilities, expanding low-code’s core principles of abstraction, automation, and seamless connectivity into adjacent technologies and services. “Evolving low-code ecosystems will underpin business innovation” said Johan den Haan, CTO. “The technology stack will expand horizontally, to have an integrated developer experience with drag-and-drop simplicity for data integration, data science insights, building AI solutions, and creating multi-experiences.”

2. Computing power makes a massive migration to the edge

Edge computing, which pushes “computational” work as close as possible to the point of data collection, will attain critical mass in 2021. Already, more than 50% of new enterprise IT infrastructure will adopt edge computing as an alternative to massively centralized data centers, for proprietary data or in situations (such as transportation or defense) that need to make decisions in real-time and cannot afford the delays caused by round trips to the cloud. Also, 34% of global manufacturers plan to incorporate IoT technology into their operations and embed IoT technology into their products this year. “Low-code software development leverages this ecosystem to reduce complexity,” said den Haan. “In this environment, apps that can extract actionable data and business intelligence empower industrial enterprises in particular — but also any enterprise with connected physical assets — to optimize all manner of operations and explore new opportunities for innovation.”

 3. Multi-experience moves beyond web and mobile

In the next iteration of multi-experience, developers will extend the consumer’s cohesive experience across devices and touchpoints with data from back-end systems for a unified experience on mobile, web app, live person, or chat bot. “In 2021, multi-experience evolves into a total experience, using information, integration, and efficiency to generate customer retention and loyalty,” says Gordon Van Huizen, vice president of platform strategy. “That requires the enterprise to break down silos, automating across functions, and communicating across departments on every device to optimize both the customer and employee user experience. Organizations will be forced to think holistically about the automation underpinning the employee’s workflow and how that interacts with an excellent customer experience.”

4. Augmented reality drives business success in the new normal

From NASA simulations in the sixties to “wearable tech” popularized by Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, and Oculus Quest, augmented reality (AR) has been marked historically by the search for lightweight, user-friend devices with enough computing power to deliver a unique immersive experience. In 2021, AR’s ability to visualize information, enable training and consultation, and facilitate remote work on “digital twin” models will move beyond the enterprise to transform live entertainment and retail experiences stymied by the pandemic.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” said Nick Ford. “Given last year’s uptick in layoffs, empty cinemas, malls, and storefronts, we can expect forward-thinking commercial property managers, retail consortiums, and live venue managers to transform unused physical sites. Low-code software development will enable those organizations to successfully pivot to augmented reality to digitalize their physical assets, and bring these experiences safely to people wherever they are.”

5. AI without the training wheels

Expect a breakthrough this year in applied AI use cases as San Francisco’s OpenAI consortium makes its new API, GTP-3, “Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3,” widely available. The powerful general-purpose language model removes the need to train AI algorithms on massive training datasets and expensive computational hardware. In doing so, the nonprofit consortium mimics a core principle of low-code platforms, using abstraction and automation to speed AI neural network training. Said den Haan: “We can expect R&D teams and software engineers this year to explore new uses for AI that can be customized with much smaller amounts of data. It will certainly remove barriers to entry, lower costs, and spur innovation.”

Already, AI technology is widely adopted across economic sectors, including finance, healthcare, defense, transportation, criminal justice, smart cities, and urban planning use cases. “We’re going to see an exponential growth in embedded AI tooling for productivity gains, for analysis and recommendations. The public may not realize that AI-enabled decision-making is taking place in physical settings, whether it’s applying for a loan, getting a speeding ticket, or being rerouted on city streets to make way for emergency vehicles,” said den Haan.

6. Composable enterprise enables industries to scale innovation

Last year, Gartner predicted the growth of prepackaged digitalized business capabilities. This year, new marketplaces for best-of-breed digital components that leverage industry-specific data and insights will spur widespread adoption by enterprises seeking to reuse, recompose or recombine digital functionality. “The economic imperative fueling every organization’s digital transformation project is too large and time-sensitive for IT leaders to build solutions from scratch,” said Van Huizen. “The potential of the composable enterprise lies in the enterprise’s ability to reuse automated, vetted functionality to dramatically lower costs and scale-up time to value.”

7. Integration and development are increasing synonymous

 The growth of democratized, cognitive services and digital hubs that enable the full spectrum of developer talent to discover and use data in purpose-built applications will result in the merging of aPaaS (application platforms as a service) and iPaaS (integration platform as a service) software categories. “The ability to discover and leverage enterprise data underpins every successful software initiative,” said Van Huizen. “Making enterprise data assets available to nontechnical business experts enables these citizen developers to rapidly assemble intelligent improvements in the domains they know best. Combining these tools into one collaborative developer environment enables the enterprise to scale that rare quality—next-gen innovation.”

8. Low-code fulfills the elusive promise of workflow automation

Business process experts will assume an active role in developing process solutions by leveraging workflow editors and drag-and-drop integration to drive automation and operational efficiency. “The need to automate a series of tasks in a certain order by employees across the enterprise has always been driven by departmental needs,” said Nick Ford. “This functionality should not sit outside the portfolio of enterprise software. This year, we’ll increasingly see workflow enablement embedded in the fabric of every tailored application built by low-code developers.

Bonus: Return of the human connection

After 2020’s annus horribilis, 2021 will be an annus mirabilis. “We predict that 2021 will be the calm after the storm,” concludes den Haan. “Technology helped us endure these long months of pandemic-related separation. This year, we look forward to the closeness of friends, a firm handshake, and sharing a pint or a coffee with colleagues.”