For IT professionals, a core theme of Salesforce World Tour 2017 was that IT is facing demand like never before. 

In the drive to provide outstanding customer experiences, organisations are leaning heavily on their IT departments to develop more business apps, faster. 

And not just any apps, but apps that are mobile-first. Apps that draw on a single view of the customer to deliver a highly personalised experience, and use artificial intelligence to improve that experience over time. Apps that can be rolled out in weeks or even days, but which must be as secure and as trustworthy as any hardcore back-office system. 

It’s no wonder IT teams are struggling to keep up. Addressing an audience of developers at Salesforce World Tour 2017 in London, senior vice president of product marketing Shannon Duffy framed the reality of the situation in two statistics.

  1. Firstly, Gartner says that demand for apps outstrips IT’s ability to deliver them by a factor of five. There just isn’t the time or the resource in the IT function to deliver what the business wants.  
  2. IT’s response is to try to hire more developers, but they’re in scarce supply. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics sees 1.4 million developer jobs currently open in the United States, but only 400,000 computer science students currently in education – creating a serious developer skills gap. (A problem we're also facing here in the UK)

A new approach to app development

Something has to change in the way enterprise apps are developed – and at trailblazing companies, that change is already happening. 

One brand taking a different approach is Lilly, the global pharmaceutical business with UK headquarters in Basingstoke. It’s using the platform and a DevOps approach to build more apps, faster – rolling out 100 new internal and customer-facing apps in the past two years.

Lilly’s director of emerging technologies, Rich Grogut, told the Salesforce World Tour audience that in making the business case for using as a development platform, he gathered business and IT stakeholders in a room and co-created a meeting management app with them in just three hours – a powerful indicator of the agility that developing with Salesforce could bring to the company. 

For any new app, Lilly UK’s average time from ideation to minimum viable product is now just seven weeks – a far cry from the years-long development projects of old.

To plug the digital skills gap, Lilly partners with UK universities to host an annual hackathon, where students spend a week learning Salesforce, building an app, and presenting it to Lilly stakeholders. 

The best and brightest are offered a year-long placement – and two of them were on the stage at Salesforce World Tour, telling the audience how quick and easy it had been to go from having no knowledge of Salesforce to becoming a certified Salesforce developer, thanks to the learning resources available at Trailhead, Salesforce’s online learning hub. 

Now, just 10 months into their roles at Lilly UK, they’ve developed 25 new apps, used by up to 2,500 users. And, as placement student Calum Bell noted: “These are serious business processes, not just minor apps – some of them are external-facing to our patients and customers.” 

Everyone can be a developer now

But the demand for apps can’t be met by full-time developers alone. We’re entering the age of the citizen developer, where everyone in the business is empowered to build apps that automate processes and make their area of operation run more efficiently. 

The Salesforce platform is uniquely set up to enable developers across the entire spectrum: from people with no coding skills at all, right through to skilled developers. Today, you can build an app in Salesforce Lightning purely with mouse clicks – or you can use Heroku to develop complex applications using your own choice of programming language.

Crucially, empowering everyone to develop apps doesn’t mean sacrificing security or control. The IT session at Salesforce World Tour showed how the entire Salesforce platform has security and trust “baked in” – ensuring that every app built on the platform has the same levels of security as Salesforce’s own applications. 

Security isn’t the only common feature across the platform: it benefits from all of the services that underpin Salesforce’s own apps – from infrastructure and network services to identity management, AI and predictive analytics. 

With, IT can massively increase the size of the developer community across the organisation – while making sure that all apps share the same secure, stable and trusted platform. 

The customer at the centre of digital innovation

The ultimate beneficiary of all this is the customer. “If we want to create a great customer experience, we need to meet them where they want to meet us, and how they want to meet us”, said Lilly’s chief marketing officer Rob Brown in a video shown during the session. “If we don’t, we’re going to be left behind.”

With the whole enterprise using to develop more apps, faster, companies can meet demand for personalised, customer-centric digital experiences that will keep them at the forefront of their industry.

Watch the video of the session here: Salesforce for IT: Build Smart Experiences People Love.

Download the Second Annual State of IT Report to learn how leading IT teams are embracing new technologies to speed app development, sidestep complexity, and fuel digital innovation.