Why Low-Code Platforms Are the Developer Shortage Solution People Aren't Talking About
Developer shortage solutions tend to pendulum between offshoring and establishing more coding schools, but there's a third solution.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the shortage of engineers in the U.S. will exceed 1.2 million by 2026. On a global level, according to staff augmentation firm Daxx, the talent shortage is expected to soar from the current 40 million to more than 85 million by 2030. A McKinsey survey from earlier this year additionally reported that 87% of businesses are already seeing a developer shortage, or anticipate one in a few years.
Case in point: Nate Chastain, OpenSea's head of product, recently tweeted a plea for help: "We need to ramp up hiring… We are 37 people handling 98% of all NFT [non-fungible token] volume. Referral bonus: Will pay 1 ETH [the Ethereum cryptocurrency] to anyone who connects us to engineers or designers that we hire."
Given companies' inability to hire the developers they need, their short-term fix has been to pile more work on existing teams. This is not a sustainable solution; in an Indeed survey, 30% of respondents said this accelerates employee turnover. Fortunately, Stack Overflow has found that 75% of developers explore a new technology at least once a year, with many saying they learn a new language, framework or tool every few months. This aptitude sets companies up for a transition to a low-code platform, which allows IT and business professionals to create applications with fewer or no developers. As a result, using low-code platforms to develop custom software is significantly easier.
Reskilling is the right idea, but most are taking the wrong approach
The McKinsey survey mentioned earlier contains another intriguing stat: half of the respondents said skill-building would be the most effective action for their organization to take, as opposed to hiring. That follows, as it takes an average 50% longer to fill tech roles compared to other positions.
High-tech companies are the most likely to reskill part of their workforce, too; 23% of them report that their organizations have reskilled at least one group or class, although most of these reskilling programs are hindered at least in part by lack of infrastructure to properly train. Roughly six in 10 say their companies are good at selecting which employees to reskill — and have effectively prioritized the skills to address — but fewer than half say they have strong curriculum design capabilities.
With low-code, the learning curve is shorter, so the need for training is minimal. And most of the leading platforms have robust resource libraries, taking the burden of curriculum and education off employers.
Research points to a low-code future
Considering what Stack Overflow revealed about developers' interest in teaching themselves new things, getting comfortable with a low-code platform should be a light lift for employees. This will make it easier not just for developers, but other employees as well. I've seen companies deputize project managers with tasks that once required a developer; in one such instance, a project manager told me their knowledge of SQL made it easy for them to connect APIs to their backend using GraphQL, an open-source language originally developed at Facebook.
And this is not just anecdotal evidence. Research from Gartner tracking the growth of low-code platforms indicated that 41% of employees outside of IT now customize/build data or technology solutions. That same research report predicts that by the end of 2025, half of low-code platform clients will come from business buyers outside of the IT organization.
Forrester's Predictions 2021 further shows that low-code platforms are becoming a go-to for companies. By the end of 2021, such platforms will be used for 75% of application development (up 31% from 2020).
In a separate study Forrester conducted in partnership with Mendix, a composite organization derived from four companies using low-code platforms accrued $20.52 million in total quantified benefits over a three-year period. It also saved $8.1 million across its application delivery process, saw $6 million in efficiency gains from the digitizing processes, generated $3.1 million in incremental gross profit from better customer experiences and recorded a $3.3 million net gross profit by expediting time-to-market. Remarkable results, by any standard.
Becoming less reliant on developers is just one low-code benefit
If this is not enough proof that low-code platforms can help companies do more with fewer developers, consider this stat: developers can use them to build cloud-native applications ten-times faster. Companies can also spin up these experiences with 70% fewer resources.
Whether the transition to low-code enables your company to maximize its existing development team — or build a greater number of applications outside of IT — Forrester notes that making the shift will lead to faster testing of new ideas, lower-cost experiments with new technology and the ability to attract top talent, thanks to a culture of innovation.