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IT Leaders in Difficult Balancing Act Between Pandemic-Induced Operational Priorities And Urgent Need To Innovate

Mendix, a Siemens business and the global leader in enterprise low-code, has this week released a survey that shows the COVID-19 pandemic is placing IT leaders in a precarious and challenging position of needing to keep the business running while accelerating digital transformation initiatives, all with fewer resources. The global study of 1,000 IT leaders, conducted in May 2020 during the height of the lockdown, paints a picture of the challenges faced by IT as companies work to establish a new normal.

Lockdown has forced many companies to pivot the way they do business, with IT leaders in particular playing a crucial role in ensuring a distributed workforce is supported and businesses continue to function. While most IT departments already had business continuity plans in place before the COVID-19 crisis, including provisions for remote working (70 percent), almost half of IT leader respondents (43 percent) found themselves shifting at least part of their mission to better support remote work streams outside of IT, as workforces started operating in a new, 100 percent virtual environment. This mandate for home working has meant over half of companies (54 percent) are accelerating their digitalization, including expanding cloud adoption for 62 percent of respondents. This abrupt shift to remote work brought on by the pandemic has provided a compulsory testing ground for a more agile and connected workforce, with digital transformation at its heart.

Despite this shift, the need to readjust priorities to support remote workstreams poses challenges to business innovation. Seventy percent of respondents report having to put IT projects on hold due to the lockdown, in part because of budget constraints (32 percent) or a reduction in team size and skillset (19 percent). For close to a third (31 percent) of respondents, the need to support remote working has resulted in more than half of the IT team’s time being spent solving challenges linked to this new way of working.

With less time and fewer resources to innovate, businesses are challenged to explore new technologies to deliver the applications that they require. While remote access app development remains the most compelling priority (28 percent), companies are exploring a wide array of other applications: COVID-19 related apps (21 percent), collaboration (14 percent) and digital customer interactions (12 percent) are all areas of focus, with only 14 percent of all respondents having to put all their innovation projects on hold. Each of these types of applications would traditionally require many months of development, extensive knowledge of code and a team of software developers designing every feature before making them available across the business.

Using Low-code Development Platforms to Accelerate Digitalization

IT leaders are walking a tight-rope to achieve new ways to support a remote workforce, while at the same time designing innovative solutions to meet client and business challenges. This need to align the two has made spreading the burden of creating business-critical applications across the company a strategic imperative. For a third of respondents, “better technology for more efficient and faster development of applications” ranks as the number one priority, higher than preparedness for remote working and expanding channels for customer engagement.

Low-code software development has become a crucial lifeline for IT leaders seeking a platform to enable greater collaboration with business units. Based on a visual development approach with drag-and-drop components, low-code enables developers of varied experience levels to create applications for web and mobile. This enables non-technical developers to participate in the creation of the app, while relieving professional developers of tedious plumbing and infrastructure tasks, giving them greater opportunity to focus on innovation.

According to Johan den Haan, CTO at Mendix: “We are on the cusp of a new workplace, one where distributed workforces can collaborate on projects from any location and innovate together. This puts the IT team in a challenging position, where it has to juggle the need to support a more agile workforce while at the same time speeding up digital transformation timelines. This is no longer a choice, it’s a business imperative, and it requires a new approach to application development. Low-code provides a single, collaborative platform that enables developers of every skill level to participate in app development, regardless of their technical acumen. This allows for faster development of business-critical and innovative apps for the post COVID-19 world, combining the business and domain expertise of citizen developers and the know-how of the IT team, working together to create the future of work.”

The May 2020 survey is based on responses from 1,000 IT leaders in Germany, The Netherlands, the UK and the US.

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