Authored by Deepak Anupalli, Co-Founder and CTO, WaveMaker, Inc
The Global Digital Transformation Market is expected to grow from USD $469.8 Billion in 2020 to USD $1,009.8 Billion by 2025 while enterprises are responding to market demands by transitioning toward a new digital era – with haste.
There is much to be said about the velocity at which this transition is being made. This is particularly the case for organizations that have relied on traditional software platforms and methodologies for decades.
Take, for instance, large Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and solution providers. They typically create custom software solutions for their clients at scale, but delivering complete customized software using a traditional development team is simply not a scalable business model in these times.
In terms of cost, traditional development platforms and processes are burning a huge hole in the enterprise pocket. Typically, enterprise software costs are factored in on a short-term basis, but the bigger picture leaves much to be desired. The overall cost to maintain, update, re-platform, or rebuild software with traditional development teams on a long-term basis is astronomically higher. Add the cost of lingering technical debt, and enterprises that rely on traditional methods might have a problem that won’t be going away anytime soon.
It’s no wonder that enterprises are switching to Rapid Application Development platforms like low-code that can offer not only speed, but also customization, composability, and the ability to build customer experiences that differentiate them from competitors.
Low-code is a modern approach to agile software development. A low-code platform enables professional developers to build products in a visually declarative manner, by abstracting commonly used functionalities as components. These components can be dragged and dropped onto an application canvas and then configured and customized per application. Such a methodology allows developers to tackle complexity with ease and build products, almost 3X times faster than traditional approaches. Components that represent an entire functionality bundled with UI, logic, and data can be stored in internal repositories that can be customized for any use case across the enterprise application landscape. This allows SMEs and business users to provide their expertise while building applications, and in turn, democratizes software development leading to better ideation and innovation.
While low-code platforms give an initial boost to rapidly build and deliver software to the market, can they also help enterprises build software with the right architecture, provide iron-clad security, and the best software to scale? Most importantly, can low-code approaches help businesses build software that is sustainable in the longer term?
The answers to these questions depend on the choice of platform and the enterprise’s long-term strategy around the platform. Low-code adopted as a quick fix for an immediate problem cannot scale up as a long-term strategy.
On the other hand, the adoption of a low-code platform as the basis for an enterprise-wide, long-term strategy – with the right methodologies and best practices set around it – will enable growth, ensure sustainability, and allow businesses and their apps to scale.
The first advantage of adopting a low-code platform is, of course, speed and agility. Using a composable experience platform, existing development teams can pool their resources, integrate with best-of-breed APIs, and rapidly componentize them as LEGO-like blocks. These components can then be assembled together to quickly compose custom software that is highly integrable and customizable. Faster go-to-market is just the first milestone.
However, there is an initial ramp-up time for the learning curve, albeit a smaller one than with other approaches, and the gains are usually best observed when building multiple apps or when there is wider adoption of the platform across the organization.
Once existing development teams build familiarity with the low-code platforms and align with the technology stack offered, a core competency for the platform is created internally within the organization. This is a determinant for the success of the low-code strategy within the ecosystem.
After the go-live, it is important to look at the turnaround time at which changes can be rolled out using the same low-code platform. Business and development teams should be able to collaborate, review changes, and align on business objectives for successful change rollouts.
In a traditional development setup, software updates typically must go through the entire build, review, and QA process. Some of the changes could lead to regressions, which necessitates the need to have expert software development teams to govern them.
With low-code, changes can be confined to specific layers of an application, ( such as user interface, data model, and business logic), and only the functional aspects of the app are impacted, leaving the underlying software components, integrations, and their integrity intact.
Changing market needs usually demand that software development teams be very agile to remain in sync with business changes. It is here where the true differentiator of low-code lies.
Only a few low-code platforms enable a composable way of defining and creating new experiences from existing components, cutting down the time it takes to make drastic changes or even a complete overhaul of the app experience. A composable low-code platform offers a powerful way to create components that can be reused by development teams to compose new applications and user journeys, allowing businesses to experiment with new product ideas and innovate.
Every software product goes through its own evolutionary process and has to scale as the number of users grows and adoption kicks in for wider markets. It becomes very critical for the product to support a wide array of capabilities such as internationalization (e.g. i18n), support for accessibility, multi-cloud deployment, versioning for components, penetration testing, industry-specific compliance, and so on.
Mature low-code platforms have out-of-the-box support for these capabilities making the development process easier for development teams as the software evolves.
It is estimated that engineers spend a whopping 30% of their time resolving issues arising due to technical debt when modernizing software. A changing technology landscape renders it very difficult for software to withstand the test of time. Technical debt will show its damaging effects unless the platform was built with resilience in mind and there is a process in place to handle the debt.
With new technology innovations, software should adapt and change course to thrive and sustain itself. Low-code platforms enable a layer of abstraction for development teams, allowing them to stay closer to their business solutions and do the heavy lifting of technology advancements underneath the platform strategy.
Organizations that are contemplating adopting a low-code platform are making a wise choice. However, due diligence is required to zero in on the right platform. If the motive is to enable business users to develop simple apps for their internal use, any no-code platform can do the job.
However, if the low-code platform is for serious app development, then all stakeholders including IT teams, business users, CTOs, and CIOs need to create a strategic plan for its adoption in a collaborative manner. Organizational best practices of change management, upgrades, and rollouts need to be consolidated and built around low-code. Processes for each stage of app creation need to be set in place. The low-code platform of choice must offer flexibility and scalability unconditionally. It should ideally be able to ride the maturity curve as the use cases expand and as adoption spreads throughout the organization, allowing organizations to deliver, customize, compose, and upgrade at the speed of their need.
Originally published in DEVPRO JOURNAL