Low-code

The Latest

7 June 2022: Nintex added more than 50 new pre-built process maps, automation templates, workflows, and connectors to its Nintex Gallery that are designed to accelerate the digitisation of workflows across private and public sector organisations. This comes after acquiring online process management library Promapp in 2018, to expand the company’s range of end-to-end automated business templates such as employee onboarding and invoice processing.

Why it’s Important

Since its acquisition of Promapp, Nintex has introduced a wider range of Cloud-based workflow solutions to help various enterprises realise digitalisation and automation much more easily through visual process maps. Customers find value in integrating the templates in a more cost-efficient approach, which encourages teams to find more solutions to streamline and digitise their internal functions within the organisation.

In addition, even with more low-code platforms being leveraged by citizen developers, the process still requires investment in time and effort to digitise all-too-common manual processes. However, the Nintex Gallery evolves such concepts by providing digital processes that can be adopted 'out of the box', customised to meet specific needs, and integrated with different organisational systems according to an organisation’s needs. 

Finally, templated processes are about more than simply speeding up low-code development with cookie-cutter approaches, since they can also be used to obtain 'better practices' (or even just standardised practices) across industries. This is particularly useful in compliance-heavy  sectors, such as local government and healthcare. 

Who’s impacted

  • CEO
  • Procurement teams
  • Managers

What’s Next?

  • When reviewing low-code platforms, consider the availability and applicability of process templates that promote faster compliance and prevent handover risks.
  • Use process templates not only as an opportunity for quick-wins, but also as an avenue to assist with training and change
  • When procuring a digital business process automation solution, pay attention to local support channels and the costs associated with gaining experienced, local implementation partners.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape
  2. VENDORiQ: ServiceNow Introduces ServiceNow Impact

A New Program for New Programmers

Appian, a low-code vendor, recently launched a LowCode4All, a scholarship program that will cater to developing the low-code skills of marginalised individuals. The program will be launched in stages, with an initial focus on people with a background in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) or that have outdated coding skills.

Initially, eligible participants will include current undergraduate and graduate students, students who have paused their education, unemployed individuals, career-changers, and military veterans. As the program progresses, additional target groups will be added, such as single mothers, women returning to the workforce and disenfranchised groups. Low-code platforms represent a particularly powerful option for bringing people into the technology industry, and providing education and certification to disenfranchised citizens is both a socially sound policy and a way to directly address the skill shortage in software development.

This round of the program includes distributing 1,000 scholarships to provide training and certification to marginalised communities, teaching them low-code development practices. This not only benefits the individuals receiving the training, but also addresses the critical scarcity of skilled software professionals. Obviously, it also benefits Appian by ensuring a ready supply of Appian-skilled staff.

In short, the program aims at helping people that have historically seen employment opportunities limited to the lowest paying jobs, or who have experienced generational poverty, which may have hindered them from entering the technology workforce.

The fully-funded program includes a training program, trial examinations, mentoring and employment opportunities through the Appian network. Applicants will need to pass a final examination before becoming an Appian Certified Associate Developer.

Importantly, the program also includes post-certification mentorship with the vendor’s engineering and professional services teams to ensure they are ready for employment.

In an interview with IBRS and Appian’s executive, Appian described the plan as a way of ‘democratising access to a low-code career by reducing financial barriers’. Aside from supporting the scholarship recipients’ low-code platform certification, it will also assist them with job placement. IBRS notes that starting rates for low-code specialists average around US$70,000, which is significant, even life-changing for some candidates targeted by the program, but still very cost-effective application development (which is one reason why low-code is gaining such traction). Given that the people being targeted for the program may have been at poverty level wages, such employment opportunities are genuinely life-changing.

Other tech companies have also launched similar corporate initiatives for low-income learners to earn their certifications. For instance, Microsoft offers the Women at Microsoft Scholarship for high-school women and non-binary applicants, while Salesforce has established the Salesforce Foundation that supports global educational initiatives.

IBRS believes that these programs can help improve diversity by nurturing qualified developers. Women returning to work and young women are both targets for these types of programs. In addition, the programs can help address underemployment within the ageing population and low-income communities. They have real economic and social benefits.

Observations and Lessons from Appian’s Proposed Model

During IBRS’s discussion with Appian’s executives, several contentious issues were raised about the structure of the program. While the intentions of the Appian scholarship program are to support vulnerable members of society, especially those whose income opportunities are limited, IBRS raised the following:

 1. Educational Mentorship is Different from Career Mentorship

Appian’s mentorship program commences once the applicant gets certified after the final exam. However, a true educational mentorship program fosters prioritising first the development of the individual over his or her identity as a certified skilled worker. This means that the mentorship has to be set right during the practice exams instead of leaving them to figure out coding exercises on their own until they experience burnout prior to the final certification test. 

Appian has taken this advice on board and will be expanding mentorship within the program over time.

 2. Mental Health Concerns Among Learners

The target scholarship recipients are individuals with stressful backgrounds compared to typical university scholarship applicants. For instance, U.S. army veterans or service members who were recently discharged and intend to go back to the civilian workforce may still have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or simply be facing severe financial stress. Many academic and clinical literature has shown that such stressors manifest in dysfunctions when transitioning to student life. 

In addition, the pandemic has affected the mental health of employees who initially took their retrenchment in their stride but have become more distressed by the situation. Anxiety is high among this group of individuals.

IBRS recommends that a combination of tutoring and mentorship, with a special consideration on mental health issues, be instituted to ensure that the trainees can remain committed to fulfilling the requirements of the program. Most educational networks (TAFEs, universities, K12 schools) have mental health professionals that support students in need. Vendor-driven programs - especially those targeting marginalised individuals - will need similar support.

3. Time Flexible

Many of the marginalised individuals targeted by these types of programs will be time poor, or have commitments well outside of their control. For example, low-income, single parents may not be able to fully commit to the training in a given time period. Many of them have inflexible schedules and would have to balance their jobs and training while making time for their children because they cannot afford daycare facilities. 

Any programs that aim to support the marginalised will need to accommodate a great deal of flexibility in how and when training is conducted, timing and approach to trial exams, and even the certification exam. This means any mentors involved in the program will also need sufficient training and freedom to work with students at sometimes inconsistent times. A balance must be struck - but exactly what that balance looks like will depend upon the type of training and subject matter.

 4. One-Time Examination

In relation to the points raised above, the drawback to an all-or-nothing certification exam is highly concerning given that these students have to deal with non-academic issues and mental health problems. A pass-or-fail mentality can be demotivating since not everyone can be at the same pace in terms of building their low-code skills.

In these situations, the exam may likely have a poor predictive quality if the performance of all examinees are considered on their first attempt, due to anxiety and lack of focus initially, even if students had engaged with practice exams prior to the final test.

IBRS recommends that vendors implementing such programs establish a ‘safety net’ for their students. In its simplest form, students can be assured that they can retake the final examination a number of times to prevent further anxiety around whether they can pass or not. This can be done by requiring them to do some or all of the curriculum again before being allowed to retake the test.

5. Forward-Looking Approach

Such programs need to be evaluated at least annually to assess the quality and success of the program over time. Without formal evaluation, such programs can be dangerous - actually harming marginalised individuals - and the vendors cannot identify areas for improvement.

Conclusion

Appian is engaged in what should be a powerful win-win-win program:

  • a win for society by creating new employment pathways for marginalised people, in a way that government programs rarely provides
  • a win for the ICT industry that is critically short of developers
  • a win for Appian, as it expands the availability of workforce ready talent

The Latest

12 April 2022: IT consulting firm, Atos, has partnered with low-code enterprise software developer Mendix to expand the former’s low-code application service offerings. According to the press release, the collaboration will also enable Atos to promote its commitment to lowering enterprises' carbon footprints through digital modernisation tools.

Why it’s Important

Atos’s partnership with Mendix is one of the many collaborations between tech consulting firms and vendors that were forged to respond to the surge in demand for low-code solutions. IBRS has observed that major service partners are increasingly using low-code tools to deliver results more quickly, while simultaneously opening up new opportunities for other more sophisticated and profitable IT projects. 

This is a result of the growing market for low-code being a fundamental component of Fourth Wave ICT (or the low-code everything era), and the benefits of adopting such a culture for many organisations as discussed in our Special Report

In addition, many vendors are touting their sustainability credentials: all the hyperscale Cloud vendors and many of the major SaaS vendors all now report their progress towards zero or negative carbon footprints.

However, IBRS has previously pointed out that technology vendors with no credible approach to transparency are highly likely to leverage energy and carbon efficiencies to promote themselves, but diverge towards greenwashing – claiming benefits for the climate but without actually changing anything. 

Unfortunately, the agreement between Atos and Mendix appears to be no exception. By claiming that organisations can build applications to assist with decarbonisation, it does not necessarily translate for Mendix or Atos (or for any low-code for that matter) to produce viable carbon emissions reductions. This is because emission reductions are attributed solely to organisations that are actively involved in energy consumption or those that have a carbon footprint. For a software developer to overstate such claims, it is at best double-counting, and at worst blatantly committing cynical greenwashing.

Vendors will stretch their claims regarding sustainability, especially how products can impact carbon footprints. Without clear accountability and metrics, this is often little more than posturing. 

As more consumers are becoming aware of corporate disinformation, enterprise compliance on emission reduction claims in procurement policies for technologies needs to conform to proper sustainability reporting such as the Global Reporting Initiative Standards while incorporating the Oxford Offsetting Principles. Greenwashing will backfire. Proper reporting must include demonstrating a real and measurable commitment to contributing to environmental campaigns.

Who’s impacted

  • CEO
  • Procurement teams
  • IT teams

What’s Next?

  • Familiarise the concepts of allocating and reporting on carbon emissions within your industry. Include what standards exist, and which are likely to be mandated by regulatory institutions in the coming four to five years. 
  • Apply reporting standards to hold vendors accountable when claiming decarbonisation and emissions reductions. 
  • Prevent greenwashing from detracting from the very real business benefits of reducing carbon emissions, such as reduced costs, adoption of elastic ICT provisioning where needed, and meeting staff and public expectations. 
  • Ensure there is transparency in every claim by demonstrating how such green declarations were achieved through reliable accounting methods that gauge emission reductions more accurately.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Considerations for Selecting Modern Low-Code Platforms

  2. Think green IT: Think saving money

  3. Greening your ICT purchases

The Latest

15 March 2022: Snowflake announced its planned acquisition of data applications builder Streamlit. Snowflake’s goal is to integrate app building into its Warehouse-as-a-Service platform with simplified data access and governance features. 

Why it’s Important

There has been a growing trend in the acquisitions of analytics platform developers to boost product features and improve capabilities of data science tools.

IBRS expects more mergers and acquisitions among leading Cloud analytics vendors that will commence the initial stages of consolidating the hyperscale, elastic analytics market. It projects more integration of key components of the data analytics system in the next three years. In particular, data catalogues or data sharing solutions will become increasingly integrated with Cloud data lakes and data warehouses.

However, it is the use of centralised data repositories - data lakes and warehouses - to simplify the development of low-code apps that has been overlooked. One of the biggest challenges and costs for low-code apps development is integration. However, data analytics platforms have already integrated and normalised data from multiple systems. As a result, using these centralised data resources for low-code application development could be very attractive. 

Microsoft’s Dataverse is essentially this concept - albeit within the Microsoft world. Snowflake’s investments in Streamlit are an indication that there is a growing market for this use case.

Who’s impacted

  • COO, CIO, CTO
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Organisations should look at how their low-code initiatives tie into data analytics initiatives. Low-code platforms generate not only data captured from forms, but also metrics on how processes are performing - data which will likely end up being reported upon via analytics platforms. But there are also opportunities to leverage the analytics platforms to act as engines for low-code and rapid application development environments. Bringing the people involved in each of these areas together can reveal new opportunities to ‘streamline the process of streamlining processes’.

Related IBRS Advisory

1. VENDORiQ: AWS Accelerates Cloud Analytics with Custom Hardware

The Latest: 

26 June 2021: Zoho briefed IBRS on Zoho DataPrep, it’s new business-user focused data preparation which is being included in its existing Zoho Analytics tool, as well as being available separately as a tool to clean, transform and migrate data. DataPrep is in beta, and will be officially launched on 13th July 2021.

Why it’s Important

Traditionally, cleaning and transforming data for use in analytics platforms has involved scripting and complex ETL (extract, transform and load) processes. This was a barrier to allowing business stakeholders to take advantage of analytics. However, several analytics vendors (most notably Microsoft, Tableau, Qlik, Snowflake, Domo, etc.) have pioneered powerful, drag-and-drop low-code ETL into their products.  

Zoho, which is better known for its CRM, has an existing data analytics platform with Cloud storage, visualisation and reports, and dashboards. While the product is not as sophisticated as its top-drawer rivals, it can be considered ‘good enough’ for many business user’s needs. Most significantly, Zoho Analytics benefits from attractive licensing, including the ability to share reports and interactive dashboards both within an organisation and externally. 

However, Zoho Analytics lacked a business-user-friendly, low-code ELT environment, instead relying on SQL scripting. Zoho DataPrep fills this gap by providing a dedicated, AI-enabled platform for extracting data from a variety of sources, allowing data cleaning and transformations to be applied, with results being pushed into another database, data warehouse and Zoho Analytics. 

All existing Zoho Analytics clients will receive Zoho DataPrep with no change to licensing.

However, what is interesting here is Zoho’s decision to offer its DataPrep platform independent of its Analytics platform. This allows business stakeholders to use the platform as a tool to solve migration and data cleaning, not just analytics. 

IBRS’s initial tests of Zoho DataPrep suggest that it has some way to go before it can compete with the ready-made integration capabilities of Tableau, Power BI, Qlik, and others. In addition, it offers less complex ETL than it’s better established rivals. But, that may not be an issue for organisations where staff have limited data literacy maturity, or where analytics requirements are relatively straightforward.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

The bigger take out from Zoho’s announcement is that ETL, along with all other aspects of business intelligence and analytics, will be both low-code, business-user friendly and reside in the Cloud. ICT departments seeking to create ‘best of breed’ business intelligence architectures that demand highly specialised skills will simply be bypassed, due to their lack of agility. While there will be a role for highly skilled statisticians, data scientists, and machine learning professionals, the days of needing ICT staff that specialise in specific reporting and data warehousing products is passing. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Snowflake Gets PROTECTED Status Security Tick by Aussie Auditor
  2. IBRSiQ: Power BI vs Tableau
  3. Business-First Data Analytics
  4. AWS Accelerates Cloud Analytics with Custom Hardware
  5. IBRSiQ AIS and Power BI Initiatives
  6. Trends in Data Catalogues
  7. When Does Power BI Deliver Power to the People?
  8. Staff need data literacy – Here’s how to help them get it

The Latest

19 May 2021: Google has launched Vertex AI, a platform that strives to accelerate the development of machine learning models (aka, algorithms). According to Google and IBRS discussions with early adopters, the platform does indeed dramatically reduce the amount of manual coding needed to develop (aka, train) machine learning models. 

Why it’s Important

The use of machine learning (ML) will have a dramatic impact on decision making support systems and automation over the next decade. For the majority of organisations, ML capabilities will be acquired as part of regular upgrades of enterprise SaaS solutions. Software leaders such as Microsoft, Salesforce, Adobe and even smaller ERP vendors such as Zoho and TechnologyOne, are all embedding ML powered services into their products today, and this will only accelerate.

However, developing proprietary ML models to meet specific needs may very well prove critically important for a few organisations. Recent examples of this include: customise direct customer outreach with specific language tailored to lessen overdue payment, and creating decision support solutions to reduce the occurrence of heatstroke.

IBRS has written extensively on ML development operations (MLOps). However, the future of this disciplin e will likely be AI-powered recommendation engines that aid data teams in the development of ML models. In a recent example, IBRS monitored a data scientist as they first developed an ML model to predict customer behaviour using traditional techniques, and then used a publicly available tool that leveraged ML itself to build, test and recommend the same model. Excluding data preparation, the hand-coded approach took 3 days to complete, while the assisted approach took several hours. But more importantly, the assisted approach tested more models that the data scientist could test manually, and delivered a model that was 3% more accurate than the hand-coded solution.

It should be noted that leveraging ‘low-code’ AI does not negate the need for data scientists or the pressing need to improve data literacy within most organisations. However, it has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of developing and testing ML models, which lowers the financial risk for organisations experimenting with AI.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • Marketing leads
  • Development team leads

What’s Next?

Prepare for low-code AI to become increasingly common and the hype surrounding it to grow significant in the coming two years. However, the excitement for low-code ML should be tempered with the realisation that many of the use cases for ML will be embedded ‘out of the box’ in ERP, CRM, HCM, workforce management, and asset management SaaS solutions in the near future. Organisations should balance the ‘build it’ versus ‘wait for it’ decision when it comes to ML-power services. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Six Critical Success Factors for Machine Learning Projects
  2. Options for Machine Learning-as-a-Service: The Big Four AIs Battle it Out
  3. How can AI reimagine your business processes?
  4. Low-Code Platform Feature Checklist
  5. VENDORiQ: BMC Adds AI to IT Operations
  6. Artificial intelligence Part 3: Preparing IT organisations for artificial intelligence deployment

The Latest

23 February 2021: Creatio has just taken US$68 million in funding, joining the current investment frenzy in low-code platform vendors. 

Why it’s Important

Creatio started life as a BPM vendor in 2011, and introduced its low-code platform in 2013, making it one of the better established of the new generation of low-code vendors. This round of investment is relatively small, compared recent activity in the low-code platform market. Even so, it is yet more evidence that the market for Cloud-based low-code is on the boil. These low-code platform vendors are spending their new-found cash on the following, in order of priority:

  • global market expansion: setting up new offices and hiring channel managers, which means more vendors will be entering the ANZ market more aggressively
  • buying additional elements of the ‘low-code everything’ stack: including business process mapping / management (BPM), robotic process automation (RPA), API management (APIM) and rules engines
  • buying market share with acquisitions: as we saw recently with Nintex procuring K2

The challenge for buyers of low-code platforms is that while the market is beginning to see a great deal of change and competition, their ICT investments need to be considered for the long-term - at least a decade. This is due to the need to invest the skills, processes, governance and change management to get the promised returns on whatever low-code is selected. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

When considering low-code platforms (and it is likely your organisation will have more than one, in order to meet different needs) look for the investment and development road map of the vendors. In particular, determine if the vendors have a viable strategy to develop skills and support resources locally, either directly or through channel partners. Also, explore their road map for delivering more than just eforms and workflow, but moving to acquire or develop a ‘low-code everything’ platform. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million
  2. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need
  3. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  4. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape

There is more innovation going on behind the scenes in Australian organisations than they are being given credit for. IBRS advisor, Dr Joseph Sweeney, who specialises in the areas of workforce transformation and the future of work stated, Australian organisations have led the world in the uptake of virtualisation which now has Australia leading in terms of Cloud adoption. 'World-leading Australian innovation was emerging in how Cloud-based services could be used to make internal operations more efficient, which was less glamorous than some of the consumer-facing apps being developed by emerging fintech companies, but equally worthwhile." said Dr Sweeney. 

“One area of innovation IBRS has identified over the last year is a rapid update of low-code platforms to allow less-technical staff to be involved in digitising business processes,” he said. Citizen developers aren't just limiting themselves to e-forms but are using a full range of low code tools and vendors are reporting sales growth of over 30%.

Full story.

The Latest

17 February 2021: Google Apigee announced the release of Apigee X, its latest edition of its API management solution.

Why it’s Important

IBRS has found that the topic of APIs has moved out of the boiler room to the boardroom. During a series of roundtables with CEOs, CFOs and Heads of HR in late 2019, IBRS noted that many of these executives were advocates for ‘API enabled enterprise solutions’. Upon further questioning, these non-technical executives were able to accurately describe the core concepts and purposes of APIs. Much of their knowledge had come from engagements with combined SalesForce / Mulesoft sales teams. During 2020, the demand for rapid digitisation of processes with low-code platforms further raised the profile of API usage.

Expectations for APIs are high. Meeting those expectations demands a structured approach to management of APIs, and the ability to report on their usage. 

Who’s impacted

  • CTO
  • Software development teams

What’s Next?

Consider how the topic of APIs - which many executives see as critical for evolving business functions, or even a building block of digital transform efforts, needs to be communicated within the organisation. Explore how the adoption of low-code platforms both within and tangential to the ICT group will further expand the use of APIs. If not already available, put in place a roadmap for the introduction of API management capabilities, factoring both governance issues and supporting technologies.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Architectures for Mobilised Enterprise Applications
  2. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 15: Traditional enterprise architecture is irrelevant to digital transformation
  3. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS advise on the pros and cons of best of breed combined EAM/ERP vs fully integrated ERP/EAM?
  4. The impact of Software-as-a-Service on enterprise solutions: Why you must run IT-as-a-Service
  5. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) Part 2: Planning the ERP strategy for modernisation
  6. How to succeed with eforms Part 4: Selection framework
  7. Making the case for enterprise architecture

The Latest

2 February 2021: Google has announced general availability of Dialogflow CX, it’s virtual agent (chatbot) technology for call centres.  The service is a platform to create and deploy virtual agents for public-facing customer services. Google has embraced low-code concepts to allow for rapid development of such virtual agents with a visual builder. The platform also allows for switching between conversational ‘contexts’, which allows for greater flexibility in how the agents can converse with people that have multiple, simultaneous customer service issues.

Why it’s Important

While virtual agents are relatively easy to develop over time, two key challenges have remained: 

  1. the ability to allow non-technical, customer service specialists to be directly involved in the creation and continual evolution of the virtual agents
  2. the capability of virtual agents to correctly react to humans’ non-linier conversational patterns.

Google’s Dialogflow CX has adopted aspects of low-code development to address the first challenge. The platform offers a visual builder and the way conversations are developed (contexts) can be described as ‘program by example’. While there are third-party virtual agent platforms that further simplify the development of agent workflows (many of which build on top of Dialogflow), the Google approach is proving sufficient for non-technical specialists to get heavily involved in the development and fine-tuning of virtual agents

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

If not already in place, organisations should establish a group of technical and non-technical staff to explore where and how virtual agents can be used. Do not attempt a big bang approach: keep expectations small, be experimental and iterative. Leverage low-code ‘chatbot builder’ tools to simplify the creation of virtual agent workflows, while leveraging available hyperscale cloud platforms for the back end of the agents. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Chatbots Part 1: Start creating capabilities with a super-low-cost experiment
  2. Virtual Service Desk Agent Critical Success Factors
  3. SNAPSHOT: The Chatbot Mantra: Experimental, experiential and iterative
  4. New generation IT service management tools Part 1
  5. Artificial intelligence Part 3: Preparing IT organisations for artificial intelligence deployment
  6. VENDORiQ: Tribal Sage chatbot

The Latest

11 January 2021: IBRS interviewed low-code vendor Kintone, exploring its unique capabilities. The Japanese company is looking to expand its presence in the Australian market through traditional channels and some unexpected partners.

Why it’s Important

As detailed in the ‘VENDORiQ: Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million’, the low-code market is growing rapidly.  Kintone Australia is a subsidiary of Cybozu, one of Japan’s largest software companies, which was founded in 1997. The firm’s platform focuses as much on collaboration around digitised processes as it does on the development of applications - with every process having ‘conversational threads’. The firm’s clients in Australia are predominantly Japanese firms with local operations.

Who’s impacted?

  • Development team leads
  • Workforce transformation leads

What’s Next?

Kintone addresses the low to mid-range of the IBRS spectrum of services for eforms and low-code environments. It is suited for less-technical staff (including business analysts) to create structured processes that include collaboration. 

Kintone’s approach is worth noting, since many of the processes digitised by low-code platforms are replacing ad-hoc, messy processes that are often managed with manual activities and collaboration. There is an active evolution from manual, collaborative processes to digitised processes.

Kintone has a stable financial base via its strength in the Japanese market. Skills, training and support for Kintone are comparatively weak in the domestic market. However, Kintone is looking to partner with IT services organisations and partners with strengths in providing printing and digitisation technologies. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need.
  2. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  3. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape
  4. VENDORiQ: Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million

The Latest

14 January 2021: IBRS interviewed Appian, a low-code vendor that specialises in providing business analysts and developers with a platform to deliver custom enterprise applications. The vendor has seen strong growth in the later half of 2020 due to organisations needing to quickly develop new applications to address lockdowns and new digital service delivery demands. The vendor also detailed how it is leveraging machine learning to guide users through the development of applications. The use of machine learning to recommend low-code application designs and workflows is a key differentiator for Appian.

Why it’s Important

As detailed in the 'VENDORiQ: Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures $140 million', the low-code market is growing rapidly. Appian is a major global vendor in the low-code market. It positions itself above the non-technical / citizen-developer tools such as Forms.IO, but below the specialised development team platforms such as OutSystems. Appian’s ‘sweet spot’ is teams of business stakeholders working with business analysts and developers to jointly prototype and then put into production applications. 

Appian has been expanding the use of machine learning algorithms to application design. During application development, the algorithms will make recommendations on fields that are needed on forms, workflow steps, approval processes, etc.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

When selecting a low-code platform, organisations should be very clear about who the stakeholders are, who will use the platform, the project management model for application development and the applications to be developed.  

In the case of Appian, there is clearly a close alignment with Agile business methodologies, which extend beyond the ICT group as outlined in the 'IBRS Snapshot: Agile Service Spectrum'.

The use of AI during the development applications is a feature more than a gimmick. This ‘guided’ approach to design not only speeds up application development, but by analysing a large body of existing applications and drawing inferences based on usage and effectiveness, it helps ensure that ‘best practices’ in workflows are not overlooked.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need.
  2. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  3. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape
  4. VENDORiQ: Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million

The Latest

12 January 2021: Webflow, a Cloud-based low-code vendor, has secured US$140 in investment. The new round of investment values the vendor at US$2.1 billion. 

Why it’s Important

The low-code market exploded over the last year. Newer entrants, such as Webflow (founded in 2012), are attracting significant venture capital. Just 17 months ago, Webflow took $72 million investments which valued the company at $400 million. The new investments thrust the vendor into unicorn status. At the same time, well-established low-code vendors such as Nintex and Microsoft are consolidating and expanding their portfolios to include robotic process automation, process modelling and integration tools.

The market for low-code is not yet at the peak of its feverish growth, but IBRS cautions that current rates of investment and hype are unsustainable. There will be turmoil as the mark begins to consolidate, likely in 2023 to 2026.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Workforce transformation leads

What’s Next?

Low-code development is not a new concept. However, the uptake of Cloud platforms, common data models, robot process automation and business modelling are extending the notion of low-code development from simple ‘e-forms’ tools to services that enable enterprise-grade process digitisation.  

The pandemic and working from home has supercharged the need for process digitisation, and low-code vendors are all seeing strong sales growth. 

Unfortunately, the term ‘low-code’ is starting to become meaningless, as vendors that provide very different application development tools and platforms attach the term to their products.  IBRS recommends organisations view ‘low code’ as a broad term that covers a spectrum of capabilities, as detailed in 'How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need'. It is likely that most organisations will need to acquire two low-code products to cover different parts of this spectrum: one product aimed at non-technical staff for simple e-forms, and another product to increase the agility of pro-developers in the ICT group.

Consider the financial backing and stability of a vendor when selecting low-code tools, as market consolidation is on the horizon. You do not wish to be developing business processes on a platform they will outlive.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need.
  2. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  3. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape
  4. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS assist in identifying a mobility platform other than Xalt?