The pivot to quick application development is distinctly promising; IT teams are working at breakneck speed to achieve genuine agility and ably ensure business survival in the digital urgency era, according to OutSystems’ latest report, The Speed of Change: App Dev Priorities in an Era of Crisis and Recovery.

Months into the global COVID-19 pandemic that is vehemently rewriting the rules of digital investments, production, and service delivery, the opposite scenario has started to unfold: the transition to rapid application development is, quite simply, not fast enough.

Author Teodora Gaici | Copperberg

With organizations now vying for rapid application development in an attempt to warrant business continuity, justifiable concerns exist over the implications of this valiant move—none more acute than shrinking the application development time frame. The report also indicates that for the majority of respondents, their backlog of application development had not improved in the past 12 months, and had even gotten worse for some (8%).

In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the time frame of development is persistently narrower—and, perhaps even more evidently, not flexible. As customers are growing increasingly vigilant and demanding, the dire consequences of delivering a mission-critical application later than planned (or worse, abruptly extending the development cycle in times of unprecedented uncertainty!) may last well beyond the global pandemic.

Despite suggestions to the contrary, IT manufacturers shouldn’t get discouraged. There are varying ways for IT professionals to quickly shorten the application development timeline from months to weeks, industry experts say—all thanks to agile development practices, customer-centric plans, and new technologies:

“The increased adoption of cutting-edge technologies like microservices, containers, and DevOps that natively leverage the benefits of the cloud have further contributed to speeding up the application development process.”

Designed specifically for agile leaders, the following strategies look to accelerate the intensive process of application development and foster better software delivery in the manufacturing sector.

Plan the Development Process—and Put the Customer First

As of recently, many companies have reacted almost instinctively to the disruptive threat of COVID-19 by doubling down on customer-centricity. There is a fairly obvious reason for this: industry players are likely to dexterously meet and exceed customer expectations if they take notice of their audience’s novel buying habits.

The ability to rigorously plan—and ultimately, build an application—with the customer in mind is a crucially important differentiator. Those who will reorganize the application development strategy (in its entirety!) around the wants of their target audience will significantly improve the company’s responsiveness and adaptability to change.

Tagged as essential for creating an excellent user experience, customer journey mapping is also coming to the fore. In a bid to remove the guesswork from their UX strategies and identify new opportunities for innovation, developers are increasingly visualizing the path followed by their prospective buyers as they interact with the application.

This self-assessment that focuses exclusively on the client’s perspective allows for greater developer productivity; it enables IT teams to discover which potential pitfalls may stall their progress and equips developers with the necessary knowledge that helps them deliver complex applications—without compromising on speed or quality.

Invest in Modern Technologies to Rapidly Improve Delivery Performance

Technology, when expertly used, is a direct contributor to speed in the application development process.

Instead of reviving legacy systems that jeopardize sustainable development, IT manufacturers are growing more convinced that investing in modern technologies will allow them to speed up application delivery; and understandably so.  According to Outsystems’ latest report, based on research conducted with 2,200 IT professionals, here are the top technologies that leaders are using to speed up application delivery:

  • Cloud (61%)
  • Low-code + MXD Platforms (44%)
  • Containers + Microservices (29%)
  • New programming languages or frameworks (29%)

What’s interesting to note in the report is that, while laggards are also using cloud almost as extensively as leaders (58%), there’s a big gap when it comes to Low-code + MXD Platforms (only 29% of laggards), Containers + Microservices (15%), and New programming languages or frameworks (15%).  As stated in the report, “agility leaders invest more in every category of technology, especially those that automate development or offer visual environments. Manufacturers can evaluate these technologies based on their application development needs—preventive and maintenance, IoT, digital twinning, and more—and determine which is likely to accelerate development.”

Through the use of an enterprise application development platform, “the time to set up the entire development cycle, which on an average takes a couple of months, is brought down to a few minutes—resulting in agility rates increasing by 30X.” The results are stately and overtly immediate, as such platforms are built to:

  • Enable one-click DevOps automation;
  • Facilitate the rapid development of cloud-native applications with microservices architectures.

In order to stimulate faster innovation while eliminating its backlog, manufacturing IT is also turning to low-code development platforms. With their out-of-the-box functionality and pre-configured modules, these systems are highly intuitive—so, in consequence, they require limited IT support and minimal setup.

Not only is low-code tooling simplifying the development process, but it is also widely known for accelerating application development and reducing time-to-market. Either possibility presents developers with remarkable benefits; that’s an undeniable fact.

Adopt Agile Development Practices for a Short-Cycle Execution

Many organizations are now assuredly driving momentum for unceasing adaptability through the COVID-19 outbreak by prioritizing a mix of agile application development practices.

In the pursuit of agility, there is no bypassing iterative development. Or else, organizations may face an existential threat as a result of relying on rigid practices that lack flexibility for adapting to unexpected changes—which, in turn, could lead to delayed application delivery.

The adoption of iterative and incremental development regularly ensures a short turnaround time, as each iteration can be effectively trimmed down to a matter of days. Simultaneously, developers can release timely updates—and do it frequently!—for their customers by following a similar software development approach.

Experts point out that the rapid cycle of development promoted by this agile methodology allows the customer to “build confidence in the team’s ability to deliver.”

The client has, in fact, an active role in the development of the project. They can freely assess the progress to date and actively influence the direction of the software development process—enabling developers to expeditiously adjust modifications and deliver more value, faster.

Don’t Be Left Behind; Change Draws Near—Constantly!

Manufacturing IT is leading the effort towards rapid application development. But to adeptly respond to today’s crisis and improve their company’s agile maturity levels, manufacturers’ IT teams have to speed up application development even further.

The outlook is unmistakably uncertain and the path towards rapid application development could surely have its bumps. What is bluntly obvious, however, is that the speed of application delivery determines how well organizations perform in the era of increased urgency.

Customers take center stage in any application development plan, and they may inevitably condemn even the smallest blip of idleness.

Guided by a set of agile standards and new technologies, manufacturers can prioritize customer-centricity to deliver value to clients as fast as possible and perhaps, even win the race for faster application development and delivery.

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