Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Writing less code does not mean delivering less value. It can reduce your time to market, lower operational risks and simplify support and maintenance. This helps to keep you ahead of your competitors while providing a valuable service for your customers.
When application changes take
There is more opportunity to try different options.
Stakeholders can suggest updates and see them almost immediately.
Features are demonstrated as part of a business application rather than being described in a document.
What is low-code?
Vendors often differentiate between no-code and low-code. No-code platforms describe
the role of ‘citizen developers’. These are business people who can create functional, but
limited, applications without writing code. Low-code platforms are more aligned with
professional developers–helping them to design and build digital applications. Ideally,
low-code platforms can also create applications without manual coding. However, this is not always possible, so these platforms support the addition of manual coding where necessary.
The differences between no-code and low-code are getting smaller. This does not mean that IT and development teams will disappear—far from it. It means that there will be a shift to focusing on delivering business value.
Working better together
This paper looks at the merits of low-code from several viewpoints. While the speed of development is often the first benefit to gain attention, it is not the only reason for adoption. Perhaps as important as anything else is how low-code platforms can help people to work better together. Visual modellers replace code in creating digital processes. These are flowcharts that describe what happens during a business workflow. This removes a layer of complexity in converting requirements into code (and sometimes back again).
Focusing on what’s important
From a coding perspective, low-code allows developers to focus on service capabilities rather than service implementation and delivery. The tools take care of much of the important and non-value adding activities.
What the analysts are saying
The low-code market is expected to increase from $6.5 billion in 2019 to $21.2 billion in
2022 as more companies see the benefits of adopting the platform for their business needs.
84% of enterprises have turned toward low-code for its ability to reduce strain on IT resources, increase speed-to-market, and involve the business in digital asset development.
By 2024, low-code will account for more than 65% of all application development activity.
Between 2018-2023, more than 500 million apps will be created. That’s more than the previous 40 years combined.
Technical Debt costs a company $3.61 per line of code, and with the average-size application at 300,000 lines of code (LOC), that comes to $1,083,000 per application.
How can it help your organisation?
In the modern business era, change is the only constant. Your business and your customers are continually updating their needs and priorities. Development teams must be flexible and agile–able to react quickly to hard challenges and business imperatives. For new initiatives, you must strive to deliver your services to market before your competitors. Keeping customers happy requires constant communication. Collecting feedback and acting quickly helps you to maintain a competitive advantage and get a quicker return for your investments.
Common use cases
While low-code is not the answer to every problem—there are specific areas where it excels.
Legacy modernisation and replacement
Low-code can help whether you are rebuilding a system from the ground up or improving elements of what already exists. Legacy systems are important. They are still around because, for whatever reasons, you cannot do without them. Any change introduces risk, and the aim should be to make updates quickly to avoid interruptions to service as usual.
The need to access information is crucial both when people are working from home and travelling around the world. There is no time to build the same application multiple times for different devices. Low-code supports the ability to build once, consume everywhere. You can access a single application footprint from anywhere and pretty much on any modern device.
Low-code supports accessing one or more data sources to provide CRUD (Create, Read, Update and Delete) services. Application screens are built automatically by examining the data schema of the information you are processing. This is done without the need to create or process any SQL or other query language.
Business processes and workflows
Visual modelling tools allow you to create business flows by dragging and dropping pre-built components onto a digital canvas. These flows are easily understood by
technical and business people alike.
This value here is:
Digital processes are easier to understand—especially when compared to reading code.
A process and its requirements are captured together and remain in sync when changes are made.
AI and machine learning
AI and machine learning are already playing a huge role in helping modern businesses to do things better. Still, AI can be difficult to understand. It often takes many iterations of trying different things before reaching an acceptable level of improvement.
Low-code can support AI initiatives in delivering updates in short iterations. Machine learning models can be integrated quickly with line of business systems to evaluate their impact. Additionally, low-code vendors are beginning to use AI in their tools and platforms. Further enhancing the speed and quality of the development process.
The combination of low-code platforms and AI technologies is something to keep an eye on as this partnership advances.
The potential pitfalls
It is important to remind ourselves that technology, in isolation, will not deliver business value. Good engineering practices and close collaboration between business and IT functions are essential elements for success. It is also worth noting that you are not facing an either/or decision in terms of low-code or manual coding. There is room for both—your technology choice is not a zero-sum game.
While low-code is not the answer for every problem, an understanding of the potential pitfalls will inform your decisions.
Good engineering practices
Low-code makes development easier in many ways. Still, the need for a well-defined and proven delivery framework cannot be over-stressed. Automated testing, continuous integration, strong version control and security are still as important as ever.
Creating prototypes for internal consumption is fine—just be sure to industrialise your application before making it live. Low-code does not mean low risk. By allowing more people in an organisation to develop applications, low-code development creates new vulnerabilities and can hide problems from security.
Choosing the right platform requires some careful thought. Does it provide the level of UI and user experience that you need? Do you want templates that give you a head start or are you creating a unique user experience? What level of integration do you need with existing services?
Compare your key requirements with the capabilities of your candidate low-code platforms. This will help you to identify gaps and ensure you can address them before moving forward.
While many vendors are taking steps to address lock-in, it can still be significant a risk depending on your objectives. Equally, you may be less concerned with lock-in if you are developing internal, tactical applications rather than strategic, customer-facing systems.
Where you host your solution is important. Don’t lose all the ground you’ve gained by spending excessive time dealing with VMs, software patches, configuration, security and underlying OS updates—unless this is a well-trodden path. Most low-code platforms are available as a PaaS (Platform as a Service) cloud option. Be sure to consider the additional work you will need to perform if you do not go for this option. Where security and hosting of sensitive data remains a concern, some vendors provide options for installation in a private cloud or a third-party vendor or in an organisation’s
wn data centre.
Working together while being apart
Coronavirus has affected everyone on a global scale. Once infections are under control, we must work hard to resume our working lives and reignite our economies. In uncertain times—agility is a critical success factor. We need to react quickly to change and regularly share updates with our customers and colleagues. The lessons we are learning now will be equally valuable when the crisis is over. Continual feedback, regular updates and strong collaboration should be part of everything we do—for as long as we are doing it.
Working at home is likely to continue at elevated levels. Even as travel restrictions are reduced, we should expect far more remote interaction and collaboration than ever before. Having graphical process flows will make it easier to share ideas and work together—while being apart.
Multi-device access to core applications will be essential. Ideally, we will need to consume and share information from any device, at any time—no matter where we are. Low-code can create a ‘write once, use everywhere’ mentality for development and business teams. This not only reduces the footprint of many applications but will also lead to improved standardisation and reduction in testing time.
In challenging times, we must seek the lowest possible to entry for supporting our customers and our businesses. Low-code platforms are well-positioned in terms of ‘hitting the ground running’ as normality resumes.
No matter what tools and technologies you choose, software systems should not begin
their lives at the keyboard. Creative design begins with a group of people, ideally stood
around a whiteboard, exchanging ideas and suggestions. If a virtual whiteboard is your
only viable choice then this is also a good starting point.
Start with a whiteboard
In this way, you can capture ideas quickly—in an environment where everyone can feel their contributions are appreciated. This stage of your journey will definitely be codeless.
This new way of working gives ‘citizen developers’ the ability to create application prototypes. Simple, working models that demonstrate how a particular feature looks or operates. You may choose a different way to do this. There are many visual modelling tools for creating graphical mock-ups of an application or user interface. Whatever your choice, it is possible for business people to engage and contribute directly to tangible outcomes. This reduces rework by having business know-how embedded early in the development process.
At this point, you have a working prototype or a visual mock-up. A professional development team can begin to transform these assets into an industrialised application. This is not the end of the journey for business people and non-technical stakeholders. Their input will continue by reviewing and refining the same development artefacts that produce your fully operational application. This reduces the misunderstanding and frustration that can arise when non-technical people cannot make the journey from visual design to source code.
Objectivity leverages new and emerging technologies and combines this with a proven
Our knowledge in other areas including—cloud migration/adoption, Artificial Intelligence and full-stack web development helps us to address our clients’ core business challenges.
If you are considering low-code as a development platform, or if your journey has already begun – we can work with you to:
Evaluate and select an appropriate low-code platform —and help you get the best value from it.
Provide experience, expertise and capacity to design, build, deploy and maintain your core business systems.
Advise you on creating an efficient development environment to support early and frequent software delivery to your clients.
Industrialise your applications to ensure they operate correctly in terms of security, performance and accessibility.
Equally, we are happy to have a further discussion to understand your challenges a little better—and how we may help you to address them. Over the last 30 years, we have learned that while technology is important, it is creative people and strong working relationships that deliver real business value.
Do you want to deliver more value with less effort? Please click below to find out more.