The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much about how we interact with the world. Moreover, it has rapidly accelerated long-term business trends in a perhaps irreversible fashion. The digital revolution has arrived. The challenging business conditions of the past year has forced most business—large or small—to adapt to this reality to survive. Britain’s various accompanying lockdowns and a ‘new normal’ of social distancing have set out a swathe of changing consumer demands, to which business leaders have begun to adapt.
What will be a surprise to some, though, is the pandemic sparking to life a new wave of entrepreneurial spirit in Britain. Throughout this period, there have been significant spikes in company incorporations. New gaps in the market, alongside remote working, have given budding entrepreneurs across the country the inspiration to set up on their own. In the four weeks to mid-December 2020, for instance, business incorporations were up 30 per cent on the same period in the year prior. In an increasingly digitalised market, there is only one guaranteed consequence of this: demand for IT development will skyrocket.
Startups, scaleups and established businesses have all come under unprecedented pressure to speed up the pace at which they can deliver new digital products and competitive online experiences. Meanwhile, the widespread pivot to digital has had the consequence of exposing companies to more competitive, often global, market environments, as a simple matter of survival.
This reveals the heart of the issue: for years, even predating the pandemic, the UK labour market has had to work around a troublesome digital skills gap. Put simply, this means the supply of highly skilled and specialised digital professionals falls far short of demand. Of course, this competitive environment benefits firms with the most to invest in hiring, giving the deepest pockets access to the best expertise to drive rapid and effective software development.
It is for this reason that low-code and no-code tools have had a busy past 12 months. The provision of autonomous software creation, deployment and management in the form of ready-made core modules and ‘building block’ style functionality has reduced not only the complexity of IT development, but in turn the associated costs and inefficiencies. These platforms are simply an ideal fit for businesses facing agile market conditions such as those we face today.
Low-code is a visual approach to software development that lets you abstract and automate every step of the application lifecycle to streamline the delivery of a variety of solutions. By breaking down traditional silos of business and IT (promoting continuous collaboration), your organisation can develop solutions that meet the needs of your business.
In an environment where there is growing pressure to do more with less, the benefits are clear. Low-code and no-code platforms have simplified the process of product development and made it easier and faster to take an idea or solution from conception into practice reliably and at low cost.
By demystifying the development process, those with the strongest understanding of what applications will make the biggest difference to their business can take ownership over the digital offering and seamlessly respond to ever-changing consumer and business needs. Rather than clinging to traditional coding strategies, the low-code movement has empowered non-digital natives—or ‘citizen developers’—to find novel, digital-first ways to respond to problems old and new.
More established businesses will see an upside, too. Indeed, adoption among larger enterprise has accelerated rapidly throughout the pandemic. Gartner predicts that by 2023, more than half of all medium to large enterprises will have adopted some level of low-code development.
As we emerge from the most challenging phase of the pandemic, many firms will now look to evaluate the success of their pivot to digital, and begin to consider a longer-term view for their digital business strategy. Low-code and no-code platforms should be considered by anyone making such plans—however, it will be crucial for business leaders to consider with care how they can integrate these tools successfully.
Small businesses have near-total freedom in this area. In the past, integrating commerce, communications, marketing, and branding functions into a single platform could result in an expensive and time-consuming product development process. Often, this would delay time to market, while resulting in a product—whether an app or website—that was unwieldy and difficult to amend in response to market trends.
In fact, a recent report found that it takes the majority of in-house development teams three to six months to deliver an application. In the hyper-competitive post-COVID marketplace, this will leave many chasing the dust of their competitors. Efficiency is crucial for any SME, but so too is minimising overheads, and concentrating on improving the quality of their product. The ability to hand over parts of development to existing staff will also give agile firms a competitive edge when they launch to market, having taken the rapid low-cost low-code option.
In the case of more established firms, a popular strategy is to take a hybrid approach to integration. Commonly, this will use low-code tools for consumer- or client-facing front end platforms, where the benefits of rapid response and digital transformation will be most keenly observed. At the same time, platforms that are business-critical or long-term remain under the jurisdiction of in-house developers, who can hand-code these vital underlying systems that are less likely to require urgent response or troubleshooting.
With the market less predictable and more reliant on digital than ever before, and businesses of all shapes and sizes considering their next steps carefully, the benefits of low-code are obvious. The savings on costs and efficiencies could propel innovative new startups to scale at pace while allowing established firms to streamline to weather the storm ahead. It provides an interesting solution to the digital skills gap while giving business leaders more of a hand in overseeing their digital operations. With many firms expected to embrace these solutions in the near future, there has never been a better time to integrate low-code into your plans.
Technology is ushering in a new era where previously silenced voices are being heard louder than ever before—social media and access to web building platforms are prime examples that anyone can have a place to express themselves and make their work public. While inequality still plagues many industries, the digital revolution has the potential of driving forward change and levelling the playing field for both current and future generations—and what better place to start than in the beating heart of the creative industry?
This is what SuperHi, the online-only school training creative people, is all about. Although some industries are slowly becoming more diverse, there is undoubtedly still a long way to go, and it’s SuperHi’s mission to help people make it in the creative industries and tech world while demonstrating that code can be used as a creative tool. The goal is to open the doors to the world of coding and design and who can do it. With a strict policy on “no wannabe tech bros”—their words not mine, although I’m all on board—SuperHi is striving for greater equality and accessibility in the field of coding, design and broader still, creativity. Its students are a near even split between male and female and 2 percent non-binary. Meanwhile, SuperHi’s courses are structured around flexible remote teaching, which means it welcomes an international community of diverse creatives from all kinds of backgrounds, all across the world.
As technology becomes a defining factor in more and more industries, SuperHi works towards helping creatives from all walks of life break into the tech and creative landscape. The company is built around the principle that taking on new skills like coding should be accessible and understandable; you’re not excluded from the world of coding just because you didn’t choose to study it at university, and you certainly don’t need to be subjected to convoluted jargon or intimidating teachers in order to learn it either. Many of SuperHi’s community have tried to learn before unsuccessfully but are now making beautiful and functional sites. It wasn’t the subject, it was the teaching that made learning difficult. Overcoming this opens up the possibility for them to participate online. The whole point is that those with a creative eye can also possess technical skills, which is all too valuable in a world that demands we become more versatile than ever before, enhancing and growing what we’re already good at.
What SuperHi does so well is open doors for people no matter what their circumstances are. Its main focus is the array of online coding courses shaped with flexible schedules in mind. They know all too well that life can get in the way of traditional routes into education, especially for creatives who are struggling to balance their work-life balance while in full-time employment. SuperHi found that being flexible enables students to absorb the lessons in a way and pace that suits them. It’s a mix of less pressure, more time to think and having the space to ask questions, combined with user-friendly online tools that are creating better results for the students on its courses.
SuperHi also offers free tutorials and a First Steps to Coding guide for those who want a taste of what’s to come before they fork out any money, or simply want to get a few tips and pointers from trusted experts at no cost. No matter where you are or what your budget it is, there’s a little something for everyone.
SuperHi also aims to run three to four scholarship programmes each year, with previous partners in creative frontrunners such as UsTwo, Made By Folk, People of Creativity, Intern Mag and The Dots. The opportunity is often tailored to minority groups, who have faced—or will likely face—barriers in most industries at some point in their careers, whether down to ethnicity, gender, or age. Past scholarships have been geared towards women and non-binary creatives, black and Latinx coders, affording them opportunities where others might not. Winners can receive anything from a copy of Learn To Code Now, their own book which was born as a result of the severe lack of engaging reading material on coding, to the grand prize of every single coding course offered by SuperHi. Yes, every one.
Even applying is about as unpretentious as you can get. This isn’t like any university or scholarship application, where people typically have to jump through hoops and bend over backwards to satisfy the criteria. If you can explain why you want to be a creative coder in under 200 words, you’re in with a chance.
Creative industries not only thrive on diversity but are discovering more and more that inclusivity also boosts internal success and generally makes sense from all perspectives. Now that’s not to say that diversity and inclusion should become business strategies, yet it’s good to know that the future of these sectors will be greatly enhanced by addressing these challenges wholeheartedly now. It’s the tip of the iceberg, but if more companies follow in SuperHi’s footsteps, we might just see the creative industries flourish in exciting and unexpected new ways.