Fueled by the pressure for digital innovation and differentiation initiatives, demand for application development is at an all-time high.  My previous blog post, examined the relentless demand for custom applications. So, it’s no wonder that IT pros are obsessed with one question: how to accelerate software development.

This year's State of Application Development survey investigated what approaches and technologies software developers are using to speed up software development and, more importantly, whether these investments are paying off with faster and more successful delivery of software applications.

But before we dig into the details, let’s first understand the problem. What are the challenges that slow down application delivery? And, do IT Pros think that application delivery has gotten any faster in the past year?

Top Challenges That Are Slowing Down App Delivery

In the 2019 survey, we asked what complicates or delays the delivery of web and mobile applications. The top three answers were integration with legacy systems, fuzzy and changing requirements, and the time necessary for testing and QA.

How to Accelerate Software Development - top causes of app delivery delays

There was also a diverse mixture of other issues. (1) Leadership and project management issues, (2) lacking collaboration from business representatives, (3) resources, skills, and budget, and (4) compliance challenges were mentioned repeatedly.

Speed of App Dev: Has It Gotten Faster or Slower in the Past Year?

Respondents told us whether they thought that the typical speed of application delivery at their organization had become faster or slower in the past year. It was encouraging to learn that 33% of respondents thought delivery had gotten somewhat faster, and 8% said it was much faster than a year ago.

How to Accelerate Software Development - Apps planned for dev

Respondents also told us what approaches and technologies they had invested in during the past year to speed up software development.

Approaches and Technologies to Accelerate Software Development 

Approaches— Among the approaches organizations had invested in, Agile stood apart from the pack at 60%. Devops or SecDevOps scored 31%, and 28% of respondents said their organization had outsourced some development. Customer-centric methods also scored highly, with design thinking, customer journey mapping, and lean UX combining for a 61% share of attention. This correlates with many other research reports that indicate customer-centric experimentation is on the rise.

How to Accelerate Software Development - investments in approaches to speed up app delivery

Multiple responses were allowed.

Technologies— We also asked what technologies organizations had invested in over the past year to increase the speed of application delivery. Respondents could select multiple options. Overall, 55% of organizations had invested in the cloud, 39% in low-code. Mobile application development platforms, containers and microservices, and new languages and frameworks are also worthy of mentioning, scoring 26%, 24% and 21% respectively.

How to Accelerate Software Development - investments in technology to speed up app delivery

Capacity Improvements Efforts Are Coming Short

Despite the investment that organizations have made in approaches and technologies to improve the speed and quality of software delivery, for most respondents, backlogs are not getting shorter. In fact, 11% of respondents said their backlogs are getting worse and 50% said it was about the same. Only 39% said they had improved in the past year.

How to Accelerate Software Development- Backlog by organization size

So, despite the 41% of respondents that said the speed of application development is faster this year than last, the big picture is still one of “demand outstripping supply”. 

The Future of Software Development

So, what further approaches and technologies should application development pros employ if they are to start crushing their backlogs? Here are a few thoughts derived in part from the State of Application Development report:

  • Agile maturity has a way to go. According to our research, only a quarter of organizations grade their agile maturity higher than 3 on a 5-point scale.
  • Cloud technologies are evolving fast. Cloud technologies including containers, microservices and a slew of DevOps technologies promise to make the work of application developers more efficient. However, given the severe competition to hire the latest technology talent, IT leaders might well worry that so many of their resources will be focussed on learning and configuring technology, rather than delivering immediate customer value. See what our OutSystems partner Cognizant has to say on this subject here.
  • Artificial intelligence is on the rise. Taking a longer-term view, there’s plenty of excitement about the way that artificial intelligence could help speed up the software development process. Some would say that the future is already here. If you’ve not already investigated how we are embedding AI and machine learning in the OutSystems platform to make developers more productive, check out the outsystems.ai page

How Low-Code Can Help

Forty-one percent of respondents in our State of Application Development survey said that their organizations were already using a low-code or no-code platform, while 10% said their organization was planning to start using one soon. So, we compared the results between those who are already using a low-code platform and those who are not.

Organizational Agility and Agile Maturity

Low-code users had an 8% higher organizational agility self-assessment score compared to those not using low-code. They were also 20% more likely to rate their agile maturity as level 3, 4, or 5 compared to those not using low-code.

How to Accelerate Software Development - agile maturity

Web and Mobile Application Development Speed

Low-code users were 11% more likely to deliver web applications in 4 months or less, compared to those not using low-code. And, in the case of mobile applications, this speed advantage moved up to 15%.

How to Accelerate Software Development - mobile and web dev time

Software Release Cadence

Users of low-code said that they release new software versions more frequently, being nearly 7% more likely than those not using low-code to release monthly or more frequently.

How to Accelerate Software Development - release cadence


Low-code users were 12% more likely to say that their backlog had improved in the past year, compared to those not using low-code.

How to Accelerate Software Development - app dev backlog improved

According to these comparisons, low-code appears to provide a significant speed advantage for building web and mobile applications. Respondents who were using low-code were 37% more likely to describe their organization as happy or somewhat happy with the speed of application development.

So, if your organization is struggling with an intractable backlog, and you’re not yet using a low-code platform, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look?

For a more detailed look at the priorities and challenges faced by application developers, and the tools and approaches that really speed up delivery, get the full report