Companies, from SMBs to large enterprises, in order to support their business processes inevitably use one or more software products, mainly purchased as an off-the-shelf package, or nowadays the leased peruse PaaS or SaaS products. Rapid market and business environment changes require fast process adaptation, which is why software should be quickly modified and made ready to support activities with minimal stress and costs. One of the possible solutions lies in using low-code development platforms.
Continuous Business Requirements Pressure
Bigger companies usually have a relatively big internal development team inside their own IT department that conducts all the IT operations from hardware and network maintenance to business software development. Back when IT operations consisted mainly of data entry and batch processing activities, like accounting and payroll, because of the relatively low software complexity level, such an IT management organizational model was sustainable.
With the growth of the IT industry, the emergence of numerous new technologies, platforms, and especially with moving businesses to the Internet, wide adoption of process automation, big data analysis, and machine learning – the original model starts showing shortcomings.
To follow such rapid process changes, it wasn’t possible to employ all kinds of software development and business specialists needed to cover all aspects of the modern software product lifecycle. Losing one of the key IT technical specialists could land the company in serious trouble. The solution was – and still is – relying on experienced outsourced development and consulting teams, business process standardization, agile development, and change management practices. In spite of the fact that we use solid, standardized software products, delivered and maintained by a reliable outsourced development team (especially in big companies), there still should be an internal IT and business processes managing staff because the wheel of the IT industry is once again turning.
The growth of high quality, reliable IT products and platforms is followed daily by the continuous, perhaps even exponential growth of business requirements.
Fast delivery of numerous software changes requires serious effort in order to fulfill the whole planning to deploy the development process with minimal risk.
What is low-code development?
As mentioned before, business software development started inside companies. On the one hand, software was developed by highly qualified engineers who worked on mainframes. On the other hand, we have business users – which would later become known as power users – who have tried to utilize early personal computer spreadsheets and database tools, like Excel, Lotus, and dBase, to automate work and get most of the raw data generated on the mainframe, usually to satisfy the everlasting business need for customized reports and analysis. Such a concept still exists but on a much higher level.
Low-code application development platforms cover both aspects. They provide ready-to-go core business objects and processes, various APIs, openness for service integration, along with predefined mechanisms for authentication and authorization, event handling and logging. Generally, there is a solid architecture and software base that should be a part of each business information system.
They also facilitate advanced interactive development tools that enable data model definition, data entry forms design, process definition, coding data manipulation procedures using the scripting language, modules organization, debugging, testing, reports, charts design, and a lot more. These tools could be used by outsourced or internal professional software developers, or internal business users who understand the business problem that needs solving, or the entire process for which whole app should be designed.
What to Expect From a Low-Code Application Development Platform
As you could conclude so far, low-code application development platforms are designed to accelerate software delivery by quick-building solutions for specific business requirements. Rather than expending effort to design and develop core technical components to build a whole software architecture from scratch, the low-code platform should be made up of common features and components, letting the developers and power users work by reusing templates, or dragging and dropping reusable elements to create complex custom solutions like data entry forms, business processes and reports in a fast and reliable manner.
A fully featured low-code platform should furthermore offer some additional options, especially in the software development lifecycle domain, like:
- Agile end-to-end project management
- Source code control, with package/module export and import options
- Reliable CD/CI toolset
- Object/record level security over predefined and custom groups and users
- Openness for integration over standard protocols like REST and SOAP
- Process definition, workflow execution, event handling, and action triggering
- Generation of complex reports, charts, and visualizations
At first glance, low-code development platforms seem like a utopia technology stack. Frankly, a lot of the existing solutions offer nice stories for marketing materials. However, in reality, there are too many gaps and shortcomings.
There are a few really mature platforms that cover almost all expectations, though. Over the last few years, they have built a solid development community and customer base. Some of them have very exhaustive training materials and certification programs. Of course, there are big differences in pricing and licensing models that should be seriously considered before making your decision.
If you need some help to identify which low-code development platform is most suitable for your business, feel free to schedule a meeting with our consultants: