A massive transformation faces the software industry, similar to the disruption we've seen hit other industries like health care and manufacturing. We've already seen how Google Docs took the world by storm through free cloud-based software, forcing Microsoft to change its Office 365 business model. Cloud-based software is now the norm.
Now, we're about to see another software industry jolt. But, unlike other transformations that destroy existing markets, low-code and no-code software promises to make software itself even more ubiquitous than it is today. In full disclosure, I'm actively involved in the low- and no-code market space myself as co-founder of a "no-code" software platform called upBoard that's creating a marketplace of instantly customizable business process apps.
That said, understanding the market and the implications of no-code and low-code software will be important whether you're in the software industry or not. If you're a developer, you'll need to shift focus to adapt to some significant changes. If you're running a business, new opportunities will open up that will allow you to move faster and be more innovative than ever before.
Low-Code Versus No-Code
Low-code software is software that can be fully customized with a "low" (minimal) amount of programming. Instead of taking weeks or months to develop a custom application, it can be done in a few hours or days. While low-code software still requires coding by someone knowledgeable about programming, it's faster and cheaper than ever before. Salesforce and Zoho are examples of low-code platforms.
No-code software, on the other hand, takes the low-code concept to another level, allowing literally anyone to tailor an application to their needs without any programming knowledge whatsoever. Pipedrive and Airtable are examples of no-code platforms.
Right now, both types of software are often grouped together into the "low-code" category, but no-code software may arise as its own market category and force in the coming years, since no-code software allows anyone--even those with zero technical knowledge--to customize their business processes, dashboards, etc.
Big Trend. Big Changes. Big Opportunities
Gartner forecasts that low-code application platforms will account for 65 percent of all app development by 2024. This means the majority of apps created in 2024 will be developed using platforms and tools that provide turnkey ways to program.
What are the implications?
Enterprise software providers like SAP and Oracle will need to continue to simplify their solutions to allow for greater customization faster. It also means we'll see an entirely new set of software infrastructure platforms in the coming years geared to enabling faster development. Zapier and GitHub are examples today. As a result of this, gone will be the days of tolerating yearlong enterprise software customizations or hiring a development house to program your application entirely from scratch.
In terms of revenue, Forrester says the low-code market will top $21 billion in spending by 2022. That's a huge number--and opportunity.
Investors will be well served by supporting the larger existing players who can shift quickly to the new low-code model, even when it means giving up short-term services revenue for longer-term competitive advantage. Startups that help build out the industry's new low- and no-code application platforms will also rise, like the design app Canva, which was recently valued at $3.2 billion.
Anyone in the software business should become intimately familiar with the various tools, APIs, and business models that will power the next generation of the industry. Check out Google's Data Studio to track various data connectors or GitHub to access open-source out-of-the-box code snippets. Get new skills through an online course from Udemy or others, or get a basic overview from searching YouTube.
Now is the time to embrace software disruption. Disruptive innovation is only a threat when you're in the game but sitting on the sidelines.