The traditional model of building new applications relies heavily on highly-skilled, technical developers to translate business requirements into working software. Even though the process may differ from business to business, it is typically a time-consuming affair. On the other hand, fast-changing market and customer needs demand rapid development and deployment of new applications with very little lead time. This is precisely the challenge that low-code platforms are designed to overcome, and this blog aims to provide a broad perspective of low-code application development, use cases, and dispel a few myths.
What is Low-code development?
Low-code platforms offer a powerful visual environment for the rapid development of web and mobile applications using widgets and drag-and-drop components. The greatest advantage of the low-code platform lies in the fact that it not only does away with the need for coding of routine infrastructure tasks but also enables developers to abstract complex functionality through visual modeling and reusable code blocks. These unique features of a low-code platform enable the non-technical, business person to work together with professional developers to rapidly develop and deploy, highly scalable apps, in a fraction of time compared to traditional development methods.
There are also lots of misconceptions surrounding low-code application development. While I wouldn’t try to address all of them, I would like to write about my experience with some of the popular myths, so that you can have the right perspective to evaluate low-code platforms.
Myth 1: You don’t need professional developers
Perhaps the biggest myth about low-code platforms, is that app development can be done exclusively by non-technical people, and therefore you no longer need any professional developers. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Most enterprise application development needs collaborative effort from cross-functional teams. The versatility and visual environment of a low-code platform allow business-facing people without any technical skills also to participate in the application development process. For simple applications, business analysts who have a much broader understanding of the business will be in a position to quickly build an App. To build enterprise-scale applications with rapid deployment and integration with other systems, a professional developer is indeed required. Developers should be problem solvers who bridge the gaps between business and IT. They should have a complete understanding of the business and be able to provide solutions to complex workflows, work with platform limitations, provide feedback to the platform teams to reduce custom coding. They are the ones facing key stakeholders and responsible for application delivery.
Therefore, application development using low-code platforms enables non-technical people also to be a part of the process, but doesn’t diminish the role of professional developers in anyway.
Myth 2: Low-code Apps don’t scale
The other prevalent myth is that low-code platforms are used only for simple, non-mission critical apps, which are not scalable.
The underlying design & architecture determines the scalability and extensibility of any application. From that perspective, many leading low-code platforms support scalable architectural patterns such as microservices, deployment through containerized services, support for openness and extensibility, and cloud deployment through computing services such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, etc. It is important to review the design of the application with the platform vendor. Having an understanding of platform-specific best practices will reduce tech debt & rework.
It’s nothing but a myth to think that low-code apps are not scalable. On the contrary, many leading businesses have built highly scalable apps with complex workflows using low-code platforms.
Myth 3 – Low-code platforms accelerate development speed
A number of factors contribute to a successful software release. Comprehensive planning, commitment from stakeholders, scope creep, good leadership & development processes are important for low-code app development projects just like any software projects. With low-code, you can speed up the software delivery as long as you manage the project well.
Use cases for low-code app development
Now, the next big question that many have is, what are the best use cases for low-code platforms. According to leading analysts, low-code platforms are an excellent choice for the following use cases:
- Operational Excellence: IT departments of enterprises are often a big bottleneck in delivering apps that improve operational excellence and customer delight. With their visual models and ready-to-use widgets, low-code platforms enable rapid development and deployment of engaging apps that improve customer satisfaction and retention.
- Digital Transformation: Automation, Innovation, and customer-centricity are at the heart of digital transformation initiatives. With out-of-the-box support for connectors, ease of use in creating applications for capturing information, and the use of emerging technologies such as AI, ML, and IoT to create new, innovative apps, low-code platforms are ideally positioned to be at the heart of digital transformation initiatives.
- Legacy Modernization: Legacy modernization does not necessarily mean rewriting the legacy systems. Low-code platforms have the ability to reverse-engineer data models, identify reusable components, build an API layer to existing components and build a modern-looking UI with modern deployment methodologies.
Time to market and the speed & quality at which you deliver the solution is the critical success factor of a low-code platform. Most often, building a POC with such a platform is easy. The devil lies in the details. The deeper you go into your SDLC, you start to discover limitations and bottlenecks that will block you to scale or even reconsider a DIY solution.
In a nutshell, low-code platforms can transform the application development approach and processes for any business. By empowering the citizen-developer and complementing the professional developers, businesses can rapidly deploy leading-edge, scalable apps.
coMakeIT has setup a Mendix Center of Excellence, to help customers achieve modernization, digital transformation & operational excellence using this industry-leading low-code platform. In my next blog, I will share my perspective on how to choose the right low-code platform.