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“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.” - The Agile Manifesto

This is one of the key principles of Agile software development. This ‘environment and support’ — what has come to be known as the agile organizational structure — comes in various shapes and forms. A specific and well-documented model is that of Spotify, which groups its teams as squads, tribes, chapters, and guilds.

You can dive into the details of the Spotify engineering culture here, but for the purpose of this article, here’s a gist...

In theory, this is a great model. Squads, being autonomous, can develop and deploy applications faster. Chapters can help strengthen specialized skill sets. Guilds and tribes can encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

In practice, though, implementing this model can be a challenge. For instance, without coordination and leadership support, guilds might not amount to much. Shortage of specialized skills might mean that a developer or a QA is expected to juggle multiple squads. Each tribe might turn into a silo, affecting organization-wide standardization of programming practices or optimization of tools.

To overcome these challenges and accelerate organizational agility, enterprises need an intervention: a low-code platform.

A low-code platform is a visual development approach that enables application teams to accelerate development with graphical user interface-based coding and pre-existing repeatable configurations. In short, with simple drag-and-drop actions, teams can quickly and securely create enterprise-grade applications. Organizations typically adopt low-code to expedite their development and save cost. Yet, they often find that low-code platforms have a positive effect on organizational agility and culture. Here’s how low-code makes it happen:

Strengthen the developer toolbox, eliminating the skills gap

The developer role is among the hardest to fill. As the need for enterprise applications grows, the supply of developers to build them will be an important bottleneck. It is here that a low-code platform does two things well. It makes your business user a citizen-developer, who can build usable applications without much coding knowledge. Also, it transforms programmers into full-stack developers, empowering them to make their squads truly autonomous.

As a result, developers play a more meaningful role within their squad. They can even jump easily between squads without any drop in productivity. Chapter leads can use low-code platforms to reduce the burden on their training resources — in that, they don’t need to train their developer to hand-code every feature. This ensures that the speed of development is not entirely dependent on the developer’s skill set.

Accelerate the idea-to-app journey with rapid prototyping

Another complaint about application development teams is that they are often sitting on a huge backlog of user stories. Manually coding each of them takes time and energy. With low-code platforms, app teams can prototype rapidly and collaborate with business teams instantly, to test far more features than they used to. This clears the backlog and paves way for experimentation with all kinds of ideas.

Boost adaptability-to-change with automation and integration

Welcoming change, even late in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a fundamental principle in the agile manifesto. By freeing up time spent in hand-coding the application, data integration, and manual deployment, low-code allows for focus on the customer. With low-code, making changes to apps is easy, managing those changes is easier.

Ease deployment at scale

By its very nature, enterprise application development demands scale. With hundreds of microservices and containers across multi-cloud environments, application deployment itself requires large operations teams. Yet, having multiple operators within each squad is not the most optimum use of organizational resources. A low-code platform with auto-containerization, cloud-native architecture, and integrated CI/CD pipeline can automate much of the deployment process.

The foundations of an agile organization are Autonomy of squads, alignment with product strategy, organization-wide collaboration, self-driven communities, and innovation through experimentation. This requires significant financial investment in hiring and training; as well as cultural investment in encouraging collaboration and fostering innovation etc. While this is necessary, it might also be time-consuming.

A low-code application development platform, as part of your technology toolbox, can give your squads and tribes the ‘environment and support’ they need to excel at their job. And by extension, they accelerate the organizational agility required to stay competitive in this environment.

Whether it is code transparency, data ownership, Integrated Development Environment (IDE) interoperability, API connectivity, hidden costs, or vendor lock-ins, there are many restrictions when using a No-code platform. In modern application development plans, vendor selection is a complex decision-making process.

While many low-code platforms claim to have features such as “No vendor lock-in”, export to external IDEs, custom integrations, and no extra cost for additional features, in reality, there are many restrictions you may have to workaround. When selecting a low-code platform, it is important to know the scope and restrictions involved. The following will help you understand whether a low-code platform is truly open:

Question 1: What happens if you decide to move, will you get “locked-in” to the platform?

A “lock-in” includes different aspects, from the creation of standalone applications, data access, and control, to open-source or proprietary code generated. When examining the platform, you need to approach the answer to this question through several angles.

Question 2: Can you customize applications and integrate custom business logic?

Real-world, enterprise applications have complex business logic. While many low-code platforms serve the needs of citizen developers helping them build applications with simple use-cases, you need to make sure the platform you choose allows for customization based on your business logic. The best choice would be to use a platform that allows business users to create applications first and then enables the technical team to customize. In this way, you can integrate custom business logic and customize applications, thereby reducing iterations and accelerating delivery

Question 3: Is the platform open and flexible to allow two-way IDE interoperability?

The main criterion when selecting a low-code platform is its flexibility and openness. In application development, interoperability between development environments is critical, where interfaces can completely understand and work with other systems without restrictions on access or implementation. The platform you select must have the ability to export project code to external IDEs and re-import it to the platform. Along with this two-way IDE interoperability, the ideal platform will offer an open-source runtime library, allowing for deeper customizations free from lock-in restrictions.

Question 4: Does the platform make integration with external systems easier and allow custom integration?

One of the challenges of application development and modernization is database integration. Many platforms, due to a non-standard data model, use multiple tools for integration. This results in writing custom Java code for database integration making it an onerous affair. An ideal platform must be designed taking into consideration business data that is stored and accessed across proprietary systems. It needs to provide a range of integration options that add functionality to your applications and also enable you to create and reuse custom integrations.

Question 5: Does the platform make it easier to create, share and consume APIs?

APIs are important as they act as an interface between systems, allowing applications to talk to each other. Low-code platforms have easy-to-use, drag-and-drop technology to generate APIs. While most platforms are limited to providing support to connect APIs, what you need is a platform that adopts an API-first approach. The platform of choice would be one that automatically generates APIs and integrates business logic. It needs to allow developers to effortlessly create, share, consume, and bind APIs to UI components.

Question 6: Are there any hidden costs in the licensing structure?

One of the main aspects when selecting a low-code platform is pricing. There is no standard, one-size-fits-all licensing structure, and hidden costs could increase your budgeted cost. To be certain you know what you pay for, you need to know the type of charged by vendors such as fee for end-user seats, developer seats, run-time, distribution, and maintenance fee. Some platforms also provide standard email support included in the cost.

There are many questions the answers to which will help you make a better decision when selecting a low-code platform. The most important criterion, however, must be how it fits in with your business goals and how it can empower your teams to deliver more with less.

In the 13th Annual State of Agile Report, 97% of respondents report that “their organizations practice agile development methods.” 22% of the respondents said that all of their teams are agile. We don’t need evidence to show that the adoption of agile methodologies for software development is on the rise. Look around you and you’ll find that everyone is going agile in one way or another.

An important reason teams adopt agile practices is it helps accelerate software delivery—it changes organizational processes and steers teams towards technology excellence. In fact, that’s how the agile movement began. The principles of the agile manifesto set development teams up for success in the fast-paced modern world. It encourages teams and leaders to welcome changing requirements; build projects around motivated individuals; communicate face-to-face; and plan for sustainable development.

Alongside these mindset shifts, the practice of agile also needs a fundamental transformation in the way teams are organized. Bringing business people and developers to work together throughout the project was the first direct challenge to the plan-build-run model. This has been the foundation of IT organizations of the previous generation.

Plan-build-run, the predominant model of the waterfall development era, broke IT into three units. The planning unit included the business people, responsible for strategy, demand planning, financial management, etc. The build unit performed software development. And the run unit took care of operations and maintenance.

As the agile movement gained ground, the plan and build teams came closer, bringing major changes in how teams formed and worked. Agile development teams were cross-functional and often self-contained, in that they can develop and deliver a product all by themselves. In agile teams of today, business and IT teams are often co-located, making it easier to communicate face-to-face. Unlike the waterfall era which enabled extreme specialization, agile teams are made up of ‘generalizing specialists’, that is software professionals who have specialist skills in more than one area and a generalist knowledge in software development and the business domain. It would look a bit like this.

In most agile teams, operations are still an independent silo, leaving much room for improvement in the software delivery process. As a solution to this problem, we see DevOps taking shape since the last decade, especially among agile teams. The agile manifesto says “Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.” To do that, bringing together business and development teams alone is hardly enough. Enabling frequent delivery, which has since come to be known as Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) needs a closer collaboration between developers and operations as well. A modern agile DevOps team would look like this.

If you’ve ever tried to build an agile DevOps team, you’ll know this isn’t an easy cocktail to brew. Bringing together a cross-functional team of motivated professionals to deliver great quality software, consistently in short delivery cycles, needs more than just intent.

What you need is a low-code application development platform designed to accelerate development processes for agile DevOps teams without adding to the cost of efforts needed in doing so. Low-code application development is the process of using development environments with Graphical User Interface (GUI) and pre-built configurations, instead of hand-coding software. Low-code is distinguished by:

In essence, low-code platforms abstract and automate a significant part of the application development lifecycle.

How Low-Code Can Transform Agile DevOps Teams

Accelerate development by empowering developers, whatever their skill level

The fundamental change a low-code platform can bring to application development is that it makes it easy and convenient for developers across skillsets, including citizen developers and non-technical developers to write code. It eliminates the need for ‘specialists’ and enables ‘generalizing specialists’ to perform all their tasks..

Even for complex tasks requiring specialized skill sets, a low-code platform can enable you to be a self-contained team, democratizing application development. It also helps build reusable components, making them easily available for enterprise teams through the platform, and making it significantly easier and quicker to scale.

Accelerate development and shorten delivery cycles

Whether you are modernizing legacy applications or building state-of-the-art apps, low-code will expedite your coding process, by allowing your developers to use a simple drag-and-drop interface that will auto-generate code. Out-of-the-box widgets, templates, and native UX for mobile apps in line with best practices and design guidelines ensure consistency across applications and teams.

The common platform also brings business and development teams on the same page for feedback, iteration, and improvement. This will accelerate staging and testing cycles, by offering a visual prototype of the application in progress, improving collaboration and cooperation.

Streamline deployments

A low-code platform can enable instant multi-cloud deployment across public and private clouds, and on-premise. With a singular shared code-base, it can also enable cross-platform mobile app deployments, while maintaining code quality. It can offer innovative release management possibilities, version control, high availability, application portability, and a lot more. Through deployment automation, a low-code platform can streamline your deployments and give you better control over your application.

Ensure better security and governance to your application landscape

In a world where applications are constantly under attack, enterprises can no longer afford to consider security as an afterthought. A low-code platform integrates security protocols throughout the application development lifecycle such as authentication, authorization, certification, security architecture, auditability, performance monitoring, etc.

Enterprises focused on application development are moving towards agile DevOps to address the challenges of bringing complex ideas into reality. As the agile manifesto recommends, “To empower individuals, give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done, without compromising on consistency and quality of code across hundreds of teams deliver software rapidly without investing in large development and operations teams. Harness the change required to gain a competitive advantage while also ensuring utmost security and governance

A preferred solution to address these challenges is low-code platforms. By abstracting and automating complex development and deployment tasks, a low-code app development platform can accelerate your application development without compromising on quality, security, governance, and scalability.

18 weeks or more. That’s about the time it takes to build a mid-sized mobile application using traditional application development. Given the industry expectation to deliver fast, do you have that kind of time to build applications? Do you have the skilled resources required to address the demand for applications? Do you feel that you need to improve your time to market for application development?

Traditional Application development has always been a tedious and laborious journey for developing and delivering applications. While it gives you great flexibility in terms of development choices, it includes drawbacks like slow time to market, needs for highly skilled teams, and lack of automation.

In today’s digital transformation era, businesses want more applications in less time with fewer resources and complexity. Consider for a moment that you want to build a supplier registration application. Think about it, what would take 18 weeks to build the application using traditional development would take just 8 weeks using a low-code platform. The story of digital enterprises primarily revolves around using high-productivity tools and high-performance technologies. This has been the major driving force behind the emergence of no-code and low-code platforms.

Despite the disruption, there is widespread adoption of low-code and no-code platforms. Is the buzz around these technologies worth the investment? Do they walk the talk? Let us understand these alternatives and find out what is better suited for your enterprise.

To find out what suits your enterprise best, here’s a snapshot that gives you a comparison of low-code and no-code:

Criteria No-Code Low-Code Technically Bent Business Users Low-Code for Application Developers
UI / UX Multi-Channel Visually appealing Multi-Channel Visually appealing Multi-Channel Visually appealing
Coding Requirement None Less Designed for Code Customizations
Integration Limited Comprehensive Comprehensive
Target Users Business Users Citizen Developers App Development
Time To Market Fastest Faster Faster
Enterprise Development Alignment No Limited No Disruption to existing enterprise processes
App Scalability & Performance Limited Limited High
Modern App Stack No Visibility Limited Developer friendly Modern Stack

There is an inevitable need for digital transformation and increasing demand for building enterprise applications. The expectation to deliver faster with fewer resources is rising. To materialize your digital transformation story, 18 weeks to build an application could be too long. By using low-code and no-code platforms, you could leverage the power of technology and reduce the time to developing a native app MVP. While disruptive innovation is the road to transformation, choosing your approach and technology wisely could determine the success of your digital transformation story.