We see low-code application development assuming a larger role in organizational IT strategy: Bharath Kumar B, Head of Marketing and Customer Experience, Zoho Creator

The need to optimize the IT ecosystem, to do more with less without compromising on the speed to market, and an increase in demand for contextual business solutions are the key driving factors behind the growth of low-code platforms, says Bharath Kumar B, Head of Marketing and Customer Experience, Zoho Creator

Some edited excerpts:

What are some of the biggest trends that you are seeing in the software development space (especially in the last two years)?

Thanks to the pandemic, the approach to business software development has undergone a massive change in the last couple of years. Organizational focus on delivering a multi-device experience, heightening privacy and security concerns, and adopting a cloud-first approach have been top trends over the past few years. In addition, we have observed two other key trends, which we believe will define the future of application development:

a) Democratization of application development: Before the pandemic, IT teams were constantly trying to strike a balance between implementing critical organization-wide technology initiatives and frequent software demands from business teams. The pandemic made the situation even more dire by turning digital priorities upside down. In addition, market uncertainties, shortage of skilled resources, and budget constraints have forced IT teams to explore alternative means to restore this balance. One of the main initiatives under this is org-wide citizen development programs that democratize application development with low-code platforms. This would essentially mean, an individual from any department in the organization can build solutions just by using their business logic.

b) Rise of fusion teams: The urgency to build contextual business solutions faster has led to an increase in the deployment of multi-functional fusion teams in software development. They define business problems together and adopt a solution-centric approach to co-create software that keeps business goals at the centre of their efforts, fostering better business-IT collaboration.

How is Zoho positioning itself in the software development space?
Our vision in the software development space with the Zoho Creator platform is “to empower everyone to easily build powerful applications.” For this, we offer no-code, low-code and pro-code features across the spectrum of application development supported by enterprise-grade backend infrastructure.

Citizen developers leverage the no-code visual builders to develop apps based on the business process they are trying to transform with the application. From designing the process blueprint, assimilating data, deploying AI functionalities, setting up workflow automation, integrating with third-party applications to setting up insightful dashboards that drive decision-making, all can be set up without a line of code. More skilled citizen developers can leverage our guided-scripting language, Deluge, to add complexities to their applications. Deluge is easily comprehensible with a user-friendly syntax that allows developers to write code for business logic once by understanding the context of data-models.

We also offer full-stack serverless capabilities for professional developers. It comprises microservices, backend-as-a-service (data store, file store, queue, and cache), and function-as-a-service (functions and app logic). With the built-in Integrated development environment (IDE), developers can edit and update the application codebase and modify the underlying model and logic using programming languages like Javascript, Node.js, or Zoho Markup Language (along with Deluge). We also provide widgets at various levels of applications for developers to host on Zoho servers.

What are some of the biggest opportunities for Zoho in the low code software development space? What is your biggest differentiator?
We see a couple of big gaps in the existing low-code market as an opportunity.

Multi-persona low-code development: The current low code landscape has two kinds of offerings. One, platforms that are easy to use for business users but with limited scope for building complex applications. Two, platforms that target increasing IT developer productivity with features that help build complex solutions. The issue with such platforms is that they demand a steep learning curve with extensive training and are not citizen developer-friendly. Many organizations opt for a multi-vendor ecosystem to bridge this gap, but that leads to governance issues around user management, subscription management, audits, compliance, privacy, and security. Striking a balance between the two is the hardest path to take for a low-code vendor but an advantage for us since we have been working on it since the very beginning.

Market consolidation: To benefit from a low-code platform, enterprises need to commit to it in the long term. In the past couple of years, the low-code application development market has seen a massive boom at the lower end of the no-code/low-code spectrum. Most of them seek quick funding in niche areas and have limited vision or capability to scale—they become unreliable over time. The biggest market disruption we expect in the coming 12-24 months is the widening gap between vendors looking to be acquired and established vendors, eventually leading to a slew of acquisitions/shutdowns. Either way, the customer will be adversely impacted by the change and move back to bigger established players to start from scratch. We see this as a huge opportunity for us, given the maturity of the platform, and our proven track record of long-term success.

Our differentiator
Early in our journey, one of the biggest strategic decisions we took as a company was to invest in the Zoho technology stack, our ground-up full-stack infrastructure (including data centers, networking, hardware, software, etc.) where all our products are built and hosted. This decision was driven by the need to control all aspects of the product experience we deliver to our clients. Over the years, this company-wide strategy has become our biggest differentiator.

For example, at Zoho, integration and analytics capabilities have been worked on as standalone products for over a decade. Since all our products share the same frameworks, interoperability between services is seamless, allowing us to pull these two services to the Creator platform. This has enabled us to become the only low-code platform in the market to seamlessly unify capabilities to build apps, integrations, and business insights from a single dashboard. For the customer, this means just one license to access all three critical capabilities that help them go beyond building just custom applications to building end-to-end custom business solutions.

No other low-code vendor does what we are doing organically.

What is the strategy for positioning Zoho creator against some of the more established competitors? Can you give us some indications on the kind of growth you believe will be possible for this solution in India and globally too?

Catering to the needs of both business and IT developers, breadth and depth of features leveraging Zoho’s full-stack, and the stability we offer as a vendor based on a proven long-term track record are some of the key advantages for our customers.

We see low-code application development assuming a larger role in organizational IT strategy every passing year and don’t see the trend changing anytime soon across the globe. The need to optimize the IT ecosystem, to do more with less without compromising on the speed to market, and an increase in demand for contextual business solutions are the key driving factors behind this.

From a geographical growth standpoint for Zoho Creator, North America and Europe are our mature markets which are growing steadily. APAC and MEA are our growth regions. Additionally, within APAC, India is the fastest growing country with a growth rate of more than 100% in the last 12 months, which is a testament to the platform’s demand.

Bharath BLow code platformsZoho Creator
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