The burgeoning low-code market could reach $13.8 billion (£9.9bn) this year as the surge in remote application development sparked by COVID-19 continues to play out, according to analyst Gartner.

Low-code/no-code tools enjoyed a boom in 2020 as businesses sought fast and straightforward solutions for building out new applications for cloud working. Low-code development platforms allow organizations to create business applications through graphical user interfaces, instead of traditional programming.

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Gartner predicts this adoption will “continue growing significantly” throughout 2021, with the worldwide low-code development technologies market increasing by 22.6% compared to last year.

Fabrizio Biscotti, research vice president at Gartner, said that while low-code application development wasn’t new, a combination of digital disruption and the need for rapid automation due to remote working in 2020 had resulted in an influx of tools, and rising demand.

“The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have validated the low-code value proposition,” said Biscotti.

“Low-code capabilities that support remote work function, such as digital forms and workflow automation, will be offered with more elastic pricing since they will be required to keep the lights running.”

Commitments to low-code development tools from tech giants like Microsoft indicate the market’s potential value.

According to Gartner, all of the major software as a service (SaaS) vendors now provide capabilities that incorporate low-code development to some degree. Low-code application platforms (LCAP) – such as Microsoft Power Platform – are expected to remain the largest component of the low-code development technology market through 2022, increasing 65% from 2020 to $5.8 billion.

As SaaS grows in popularity, so will LCAPs and process automation tooling, said Gartner.

Image: Gartner

The rise of the citizen developer

The ramping-up of businesses’ digital transformation plans is also putting pressure on IT teams to rapidly accelerate the delivery of new business applications, Gartner said.

The increased demand for custom software solutions in support of digital transformation has sparked the emergence of ‘citizen developers‘ – individuals with little or no formal coding experience – which have also influenced an increase in low-code development.

According to Gartner, 41% of employees outside of IT are now involved in either building or customizing technology solutions for their organization. The analyst predicts that half of all new low-code clients will come from business buyers that are outside the IT organization by the end of 2025.

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Gartner also predicts that one of the top three drivers for low-code adoption through 2022 will be businesses that want to develop their own custom solutions for improving automation in the workplace.

Biscotti said: “Globally, most large organizations will have adopted multiple low-code tools in some form by year-end 2021. In the longer term, as companies embrace the tenets of a composable enterprise, they will turn to low-code technologies that support application innovation and integration.”