Low-code platforms are helping UK businesses adapt to the “double whammy” of COVID-19 and Brexit, according to a new report by Mendix.
A survey of more than 1,000 UK businesses and IT leaders by the low-code software firm found that more than two-thirds (68%) of businesses had implemented low code tools allowing non-IT employees to build business applications.
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This boom in low-code adoption is a direct response to IT teams’ need to work more closely with other departments in response to COVID and Brexit, the report suggested.
In financial services, 58% of respondents said low-code platforms had allowed them to build new applications to support their company post-Brexit. Data management (62%) and digital processes (62%) have been amongst the main focal points for businesses’ IT efforts, Mendix found.
Insurance firms have also turned to low-code to implement new solutions, many of which have seen an upswing in claims as a result of COVID-19. Of all the industries surveyed, Mendix found that insurance businesses were making the greatest use of low-code, with 70% agreeing that it had allowed them to introduce new applications to support the company post-Brexit.
Empowering non-IT employees to become ‘citizen developers’ using low-code tools can help organizations adopt new technology much more quickly, Mendix said.
“UK businesses were contending with a digital skills gap long before 2020. But the past year has created a conundrum; although Brexit and COVID have made digital skills even more valuable, there’s a risk that talent will be harder to come by,” the report said.
“Low-code technology is a powerful option here. By enabling IT to work directly with colleagues in other teams to manage digital projects, you can not only accelerate innovation but enable other teams to gain critical development skills.”
Brexit has been playing on the mind of UK bosses for several years now. According to Medix’s survey, British businesses have been preparing for their exit from the EU for an average of 2.6 years.
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Nearly half (46%) of IT leaders surveyed said they had prioritized solutions that boost business resilience in anticipation of Brexit. This was slightly ahead of improving agility or employee productivity (both at 45%). Technologies that support these initiatives have seen the most gains, with cloud computing (27%), collaboration software (26%) and productivity software (26%) most cited.
As well as an increased urgency to develop new digital solutions quickly, leaders are particularly concerned that the UK’s transition from the EU will make it more difficult to find skilled digital workers.
Sixty-one percent of respondents said they were worried Brexit would make it harder to find the talent they needed, while 14% cited concerns around hiring international workers and 13% were worried about losing current staff.
Businesses are looking inward to help address this: 70% of business leaders said they were upskilling employees for new digital roles that could complement in-house IT teams. This appears to be paying off too, with 65% of leaders reporting that their employees had become more tech-savvy over the course of 2020.
Yet while financial services, insurance and logistics firms have managed to adjust to the challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit, leaders in the slower-moving public sector are less confident.
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Fifty-two percent of public sector leaders said they were concerned about lagging behind when it came to digital transformation, and only 52% felt they were sufficiently prepared to support the public post-Brexit. The same proportion blamed a lack of clarity from central government for putting “them on the backfoot”.
Despite this, 48% of public sector organizations said they were already using low-code solutions to support themsleves moving forward. Mendix suggested this meant the public sector would be in a strong position to help the public recover from COVID-19.
Nick Ford, VP of product and solutions marketing for Mendix, said: “The double whammy of Brexit and the COVID pandemic has forced British businesses to radically change the way they operate. Digital transformation initiatives can no longer be put on the back burner while the IT team solves immediate problems – they are the immediate problem to solve.
“While 2020 was a good time for them to experiment, we will see this new approach to software development come in to its own in 2021 as businesses juggle their need for resilience and innovation.”