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When is a low-code platform right for your business?

In June 2014, ‘low-code’ went mainstream. Forrester researchers formally announced the arrival of ‘low-code’ platforms in their paper ‘New Development Platforms Emerge For Customer-Facing Applications’. While the idea of visual development and configuration instead of hand-coding existed since long before, Forrester’s report marked the time when global enterprises began taking low-code as a serious alternative to their current methods. And it has grown significantly since. 

Gartner predicts that by 2024, over 75% of large enterprises will use low-code development tools, and over 65% of all application development will be done with low-code tools and methods. Confirming these hard stats, low-code proves to be worthwhile because: 

  • It can make development up to 10x faster, as Forrester’s John Rymer argues.
  • It can help your application deployments achieve first-time-right. 
  • It can enable generalists to perform specialized coding tasks, optimizing investment in people.
  • It can improve your governance initiatives and security posture, and prevent shadow IT, through a unified platform.

The real question about adopting a low-code platform is: When is a low-code platform right for your business?

In order to help you gauge if low-code is right for you, in the present, we’ve identified specific situations in which enterprises see great benefits from low-code, across three dimensions — your business landscape, preparedness for low-code and technology position.

Business landscape

When you need to ease your digital transformation journey

Enterprises on a digital transformation journey realize soon enough that their business landscape is evolving faster than their transformation initiative is moving. They need greater speed in their application modernization endeavor without sinking more investments in additional resources/tools. Low-code can enable this.

When you need to close the business-IT gap 

The visual approach of low-code simplifies the application development process — it abstracts complexities of integration and configuration, somewhat reducing the intimidating aspects of hand-coding. This allows business users and professional developers to collaborate more meaningfully. With visual prototyping, business users can play with the feature, facilitating earlier validation, reducing rework and cost overruns significantly.

When you need to deliver fast with limited resources

Be it market pressures, compliance needs or competition, businesses from time to time come under pressure to deliver fast. And hardly ever has an IT leader said, “we have all the people and budgets we need to accelerate”. More often than not, IT teams are left to find innovative, yet cost-effective ways to deliver fast. And low-code is exactly that.

Low-code platforms enable enterprises to use their existing teams to perform complex development tasks with minimal upskilling. With visual prototyping, they provide a common ground for business users and developers to collaborate, without yet involving IT or DevOps. They automate coding, saving time and energy for engineers, which they can then leverage to innovate at scale. It ensures that you have standardized and consistent code, in spite of different developers working on it, eliminating shadow IT and facilitating better governance.

Preparedness for low-code

When you know exactly what you want from your low-code platform

As you identify and explore low-code alternatives to traditional development, you will develop an organizational know-how about how it works, how it fits into your existing systems etc. In such a situation, you might be in a great position to identify the perfect use-cases for adopting low-code — say, while modernizing legacy applications. 

In such a case, where you’re already up the learning curve, low-code can generate incremental benefits for you.

When you have identified the right people who will maximize the benefits using low-code tools

We’ve seen that early adopters and power users of low-code tools tend to be technically-inclined business users. For example, a business analyst who has a clear understanding of data organization / logical flows and a strong product point of view can leverage low-code for configuring and setting up the reporting software themselves. Or generalist developers who need to perform specialist roles as part of their job — say a backend developer needing to do UI design. 

When you have identified the specific person who can leverage low-code because it fills a specific gap, it can work wonders.

Technology position

When your app requirements are varied 

Enterprise applications can sometimes be labyrinths of layers, held together by loosely defined integrations. When different teams within an enterprise come to the developer with different business requirements, a working reconciliation of them all can be daunting. With low-code, you can build custom apps specific to the requirements of each business team, without wrecking the foundations of your application. 

When you have high expectations of tech innovation 

In a world where every business is a tech business, every enterprise faces pressure to innovate. This can be even more demanding in a tech-heavy industry.. Low-code helps developers build features faster — with the visual interface — and also gets feedback quicker from business users. 

When you already have IT support for application integration 

Existing development teams often have a conceptual understanding of the application architecture and underlying infrastructure, which enables them to integrate and deploy their code. Adding a low-code platform to accelerate development brings an additional layer, which also needs to be integrated. On the other hand, enterprises might still need IT support to integrate the code written using the low-code tool into the larger application codebase. Often, enterprises shy away from adopting new tools for fear of this integration.

If you have an existing IT support team that can facilitate a low-code platform’s integration into the application landscape, you are in a better position to adopt low-code and reap its benefits.

Low-code as a practice and low-code platforms as tools can help application development teams across a wide range of functions. Whether you’re just considering modernizing your legacy systems or are at the cutting edge of tech innovation, low-code can help accelerate your digital transformation journey.

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Explore the Strategic Role of CIOs in Digital Transformation

Digital transformation (DX). Everyone is talking about it and wants to get on the bandwagon. Take for example Razer’s story. As far as transforming a modern workplace and collaboration goes, it’s considered a phenomenon. By supporting teamwork, rapid communications, and real-time collaboration using intelligent technology solutions, Razer has gained a competitive edge in the multibillion-dollar gaming industry.

You can observe a similar story at Virgin Atlantic, where they aim to develop apps quickly and easily to empower employees with tools and information to help field workers get a better view of customers and deliver better service.

Digital transformation comes in all shapes and sizes. It is all-encompassing and can have different connotations for different stakeholders. How do you interpret it? Does digital transformation for you mean the same for your peers? A CIO may translate it as improving operational efficiency, while it may mean augmenting customer engagement for a CMO.

What does digital transformation actually mean for you and your enterprise?

  • Is it about modernizing legacy systems? Individually, gradually, simultaneously, enterprise–wide?
  • Is it about shifting from traditional software development to full-stack development with an API-driven app approach?
  • Is it about creating bandwidth for continuous innovation and advancing time-to-market?

While every enterprise wants to modernize and transform, not everyone is successful in digital transformation. What it requires is commitment and involvement, enterprise-wide.

According to the CIO’s 2019 State of the CIO Survey, “88% of CIOs say that they are more involved in leading digital transformation initiatives compared to their business counterparts.” In the ‘2018-2019 State of Digital Transformation Report’ by Altimeter, “CIOs are cited as the most typical official owners or sponsors of transformation initiatives.”

Executive Ownership of Digital Transformation 

As business modernization and transformation continues to mature, CIOs are required to have a stronger presence in revenue-generating initiatives and in areas they have not delved before. What’s your level of involvement? Are you skin-deep or knee-deep in digital transformation? When revenue and ROI become the name of the game and as you wade into uncharted waters, where do you begin, what’s your first step?

The Crucial Kick-Off In Your Digital Transformation Journey 

Make the first step count!
In your digital transformation journey, the best starting point would be the core. And the core of digital transformation is IT.

As ‘application organizations’ are constantly evolving to adapt to the hybrid world and the digital workforce, IT is expected to not only modernize technology, but also deliver business value, augment user experience (UX) and achieve core innovation.

Enterprise application development is emerging as an integral requisite to achieving digital transformation success. Rapid Application Development platforms are gaining sway by empowering IT, providing the bandwidth to focus on core innovation, advancing time-to-market strategies, and helping to achieve competitive differentiation.

How can you drive digital transformation ROI using enterprise application development and low-code platforms? Continue reading our next post to find out more.

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Enterprise Application Development

Use Low code platforms to empower java development teams

“By 2022, skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted significantly and no less than 54% of all employees will require significant upskilling”, according to the World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs 2018 Report.

Not all Java development teams have upskilled to stay relevant. Java developers, once valued, are finding themselves challenged and in a way, dispensable. New programming languages, development tools and delivery platforms are being introduced every week.

Modern enterprises need to innovate and deliver faster in order to remain competitive. With all the buzz around multi-channel delivery, ultra-rapid development cycles, fab front-ends, microservices and cloud nativity, traditional Java development teams need to learn new skills, new vocabulary and adopt new approaches to enterprise app development. The skills mismatch combined with rapid delivery demands has put immense pressure on Java development teams.

Here’s how existing Java development teams can become full-stack developers using low-code, rapid application development platforms.

Let Low-Code Platforms Do All the Heavy Lifting

What normally requires 10 developers can be done with 4

Traditional Java development teams require developers with specific skill sets at different stages in the application development lifecycle. To simplify the application development process and to address the shortage of skilled developers, here’s how rapid application development platforms help:

  • Build smaller, agile teams – Using rapid application development tools, an application development project which typically requires around 10 different types of developers can now be completed with just 4 developers. Java development teams can transform to full-stack developers using low-code platforms, therefore reducing the dependency on different types of developers with specialized skills.
  • Encourage upskilling  – Developers can learn and gain experience in full-stack development by using rapid application development platforms, which provide exposure to various types of technologies, frameworks, tools, and languages. Here’s a glimpse of how developers can upskill to become full-stack developers using a low-code platform:
  • Empower developers to deliver more  – Rapid app development platforms do all the heavy lifting by handling tedious and time-consuming tasks. Therefore, giving the bandwidth for developers to focus on analytical thinking and innovation.

Embracing new technology need not necessarily mean a radical transformation. It is about upgrading existing skills to keep up with changes in the industry. Find out how the ‘Survival, Revival and Arrival of Java Developers’ will depend on how they can upskill to full-stack developers using the right tools such as rapid application development platforms. Download this Whitepaper

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Role of Governance to Make Low-Code Platforms More Productive

Most organizations implemented low-code tools to speed up the application development process. From $4.32 billion in 2017, the low-code development platform market size is expected to grow to $27.23 billion by 2022. This technology is gaining popularity, not only as a means to transform legacy applications, but also for building customer-centric mobile and web applications.

The ability of low-code platforms to speed up the process of application delivery and deployment enabled enterprises to respond in time to demands for business software. It caught the attention of professional developers when they used it to build complex applications with multiple functionalities used across the enterprise and not just for one department. Add to that, access to cloud services via self-service interfaces compelled AD&D leaders to adopt low-code platforms to innovate and deliver.

Implications of Wide Low-Code Adoption

The idea behind adopting low-code platform is to use a minimum of coding and more visual modules to build applications, whether for user experience or data modeling purposes. According to a Forrester survey, large enterprises are among the biggest adopters of low-code platforms. This has helped to quell the doubts of developers who believed low-code platforms are not meant for building large scale complex application. Using low-code tools, developers found that they can create applications that once took months.

Yet in cases with no proper governance in place, it can become a technical burden for the company as the cost of maintaining such applications can escalate when using closed low-code platforms.

Know Your Users

Before putting any governance in place, it is important to know who the prime users of low-code platforms in an enterprise are. Primarily, professional developers, dependent on coding, are the first-level users of these platforms. They have an intimate understanding of application design, performance, maintainability, and reliability. Then comes business experts or citizen developers who also contribute to building applications by bringing in the knowledge of what the market needs are and how the application can best serve those needs. Depending on who is working on the platform, a sort of control mechanism can be established to ensure that users can get the most out of these applications.

Pitfalls of Lack of Governance – Shadow IT

No-code platforms have a strong appeal for non-technical users. They can rapidly create a business application using the visual tools of the platform without writing any code. In a few years, there will be thousands of such apps performing even mission-critical tasks. Completely independent of IT intervention, it will soon become another instance of Shadow IT. Although these shadow apps improve productivity in the short run, it may compromise IT security in the long run as they are not protected with firewalls and security systems. Also, when these shadow apps fail to deliver certain functions, the cost of rebuilding them using technology approved by the IT often increases the cost to the organization. It may also need to hire external developers who can implement applications in accordance to their IT policies.

When shadow IT is becoming the alternative to traditional ways of delivering applications, it becomes a monumental task to do away with it. But there are ways to realize the benefits of these shadow apps built with tools like low-code platforms, without compromising on IT security and governance. Open-standards-based low-code platforms are widely available and conform to the guidelines of IT security, enabling developers to build customized applications according to their business needs. Using proven rapid application development platforms, shadow apps can be liberated from proprietary technologies that often becomes a roadblock to innovation.

Collaborate Securely to Improve Efficiency

To mitigate the risk of shadow IT, developers want to work on secured platforms that help them build custom applications with minimal coding and in less time. Whether working on a large project or many small projects, enterprises rely on a global team of developers. These developers have varied levels of skills and roles to play. Platforms with comprehensive role-based access control features will allow enterprise application development teams to collaborate better and create applications faster without the risk of project governance issues. It is based on the principle of allowing the least level of access to perform tasks with full efficiency.

Conforming to Governance Rules Made Easy

Today’s government regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) place strict requirements on enterprise databases and their use. Keeping this in mind, logging data changes in a database has become a common requirement of enterprise applications. This involves additional effort during the application development process. Instead, an in-built functionality for data auditing will allow developers to concentrate more on the business logic than handling history logging needs. Platforms that enable seamless integration of such functionalities into applications will automatically become the preferred choice of enterprises to meet compliance needs.

Not All Rules Are Meant to Be Broken!

Rules, standards, and governance help to not only decide what apps are to be created but also how they will be written. Good governance policy is one of the secrets to successful low-code implementation. In the absence of it, an enterprise may end up with thousands of low-code applications in dire need of IT intervention.

Originally published by Rooplekha Poddar in DZone.com

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Realizing the Benefits of Containers for Rapid Application Delivery

Docker and container technology are well-known in Enterprise today. The simplified view of containers as a miniaturization of VMs seems to yield benefits of portability and faster startup times. But what is less apparent is the benefit they bring to the business. To understand this, we must first look at various scenarios in which the technology can be applied. Just as Java technology applied to IoT or Android is different from that applied to Enterprise software, the benefits realized from any technology, along with its challenges, vary depending upon the context of its application.

In this post, we’ll explore a couple of contexts in which container technology can be applied and how its benefits and challenges differ.

Containers for infrastructure optimization

This is the most common context. Here, containers are adopted by IT as a form of software packaging and distribution. Typically, IT expects to be provided with containers instead of application binaries by the development teams. So containers act as a sort of black box that contains all the software and its dependencies. Developers require to package and deliver a set of container images along with relevant configuration files–that describe how these containers may talk to each other (ports), what storage needs they have (volumes), and so on. From an IT stand-point this creates a homogenous black-box approach to deploying pretty much anything in the Enterprise, and this makes it especially suited to large, data-center scale deployments.

In this condition, the application and adoption of container technology is largely IT-oriented. It favours IT over developers as the latter need to do a lot of heavy-lifting–converting their app binaries and dependencies into container images and pushing them into a container registry. Most container management platforms out there focus on providing the right tools to IT to pull those images from a registry and provision them on a set of machines (physical or virtual). The focus of such platforms is purely on run-time aspects, such as container orchestration, with a very little context of the app or the app stack itself.

The key benefit of approaching container technology in this context is the optimization of infrastructure resource. Platforms like Kubernetes were born out of such a need to optimize infrastructure usage at very large scales (say, millions of containers). However, there are two points of caution. One, this may result in further isolation between IT and developers causing more throw-the-problem-over-the-wall scenarios. No matter how perfect the technology, experience tells us that more de-siloed communication and collaboration is the approach towards hassle-free and rapid delivery of applications in production. Hence, “DevOps”. Two, it is questionable whether all applications are suited to such a black-box hands-off approach between developers and IT. Also, the effectiveness of this approach in real usage remains to be seen.

Containers for rapid application delivery

In this case, application delivery teams adopt containers with the primary goal of speeding up the time-to-market for their apps or products. Using the rapid portability advantages of containers, development and devops engineers put together the app composition, wire together various services/ micro-services–by use of service discovery–and setup configurations for various environments. This context of container usage is more app-focused and less infrastructure-focused (though the resource optimization benefits of containers accrue over time as more apps adopt containers for delivery). Also, the approach is both design-time and run-time focused and favours development and DevOps teams over IT. It seeks to make development teams self-sufficient in getting their apps into the hands of their users.

Few platforms focus on these aspects that provide developers the required tools to automate the generation of container images, service versioning, and configuration for multiple environments of the app. The most important benefits of such platforms are rapid containerization of existing apps, rapid provisioning and configuration, and easy promotion of apps from one environment to another. Orchestration takes care of scalability and high-availability requirements, and these are configured entirely from an application perspective.

The greatest benefit for enterprises using containers for rapid application delivery is time-to-market for their apps rather than infrastructure optimization. As the market for containers matures further, expect to see a shift in focus towards this direction.

Introducing WaveMaker HyScale

Wavemaker HyScale is an app containerization and container management platform that takes the view that an application’s time-to-market is a far more important focus for Enterprise business than infra-resource optimization. The platform is built ground-up with the application in mind and every aspect is designed around the app’s stack, the app’s services, and the app’s configuration. Hence there are very few (if any) aspects of the platform that require users to deal with the underlying container technology aspects. In fact, HyScale makes it very easy for users to adopt the platform–and thereby adopt containers–without even requiring to know Docker, or use any Docker commands or even any kind of build/ deploy YAML configuration files.

HyScale allows development teams to stay focused on the app and become self-servicing at the same time, allowing them to rapidly deploy and iterate over their app.

Contact us to know more about how WaveMaker HyScale can empower your organization to achieve faster time-to-market with containers and without having to re-skill or re-tool you development workflows.

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What are CIOs expecting from low-code platforms in recent times

CIOs are finding it harder to meet their digital goals with obstacles like,

  • Finding skilled developers and development resources
  • Customers with ever-hungry digital application demands
  • Customers seeking new experiences with their legacy applications
  • The problem of solving infinite customer demands with finite developers
  • Clearing IT backlog   
  • Managing and keeping the harmony of individual IT silos
  • Maintaining pace with the enterprise app explosion

These obstacles manifest into expectations, imperatives, and challenges that organizations need to be aware of and take appropriate actions. Many organizations have responded by using one of a growing breed of “low-code,” rapid development platforms to overcome the obstacles. Low-code application Platform delivery business applications through a Rapid Application Development and Delivery approach, where the apps are created visually involving a minimum of hand-coding and upfront investment in setup, training, and deployment.

Visual development:

The fundamental expectation from a low-code app development platform is to offer a WYSIWYG development environment where developers can drag and drop components to design responsive user interfaces that adapt to a device’s screen resolution. Some Low-code Platforms take an extra step to offer out-of-the-box templates for commonly used layouts and screens such as dashboards. The demand for enterprise mobile apps has meant that Low-code Platforms have also started to offer cross-platform mobile app development with access to native mobile device features while abstracting the underlying operating system complexities.

Simplified Integration

Virtually every business application depends on data to create a meaningful application. But data is available from disparate systems ranging from proprietary enterprise systems to APIs from external entities and everything in between. Hence, data integration consumes an inordinate amount of time and resources during enterprise application development. A Low-code Platform is expected to provide a visual approach for developers to connect to these data sources and embed data elements directly into the application. Some platforms also allow professional developers to design data models and configure business logic directly inside the low-code app.

Instant Deployment

Beyond the need to eliminate or reduce application coding, Low-code Platforms are expected to streamline and speed up the application delivery process itself. One key characteristic is the ability to instantly deploy an application with zero DevOps. Such platforms also offer a single point of control for app maintenance and updates. While other low-code app development platforms extend the capabilities to security, governance, version control, infrastructure auto-scaling, and more.

What CIOs get by investing in a low-code platform

  1. Business IT Alignment:
    Low-code app development platforms enable close collaboration between developers, business analysts, and subject matter experts. This greatly benefits enterprises as rework is greatly reduced and cost overrun is avoided to a large extent.
  2. Clear IT Backlog:
    The linear approach of conventional software development models presents significant opportunities to reduce waste and fast-forward delivery. Low-code platforms streamline and speed up the development and delivery process, achieving a substantial reduction of the IT backlog.
  3. Democratization of App Delivery:
    With the ever-rising demand for applications, enterprises are expanding their internal talent pools, for building noncritical or long-tail apps using nontraditional developer talent like technical business users.
  4. Consumer-grade Business Apps:
    Today, customers and employees expect to access apps from a variety of devices, putting additional pressure on developers. Low-code Platforms with modern frameworks can provide consumer-grade applications using enterprise-grade technology at a fraction of the cost.
  5. Speed Innovation:
    Competitive advantage lies with companies that focus the most on ‘Systems of Innovation’. Low-code platforms are ideal for such systems that require the most experimentation and experience the highest rate of change.
  6. Cost and Effort:
    Do more with less is a philosophy that CIOs have to live with these days. But, with low code application platforms, CIOs come closer to achieving that. Enterprises can have the best of both worlds where they can build enterprise-grade apps of the highest quality in a matter of days to weeks as compared to months in the traditional approach to development.
  7. Repurpose & Reuse Resources:
    Whenever enterprises have a mandate to modernize, CIOs have a big dilemma in handling existing resources with legacy technical skills but with knowledge of the core business process. But with low code application platform, with their unique visual development approach, CIOs get an opportunity to reuse their existing resources and modernizing legacy projects without any issues.

With the WaveMaker low-code platforms, the above expectations and more can be met.

Get started with a free trial of WaveMaker low-code platform today!

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Ideal use cases for low-code platforms

According to Forrester Research, the low-code market is here to stay as they estimated it will go up to $15.4 billion  by 2020. This in other words defines that enterprises are beginning to realise long term benefits while they make a shift to using low-code platforms. Businesses today seek app based solutions built quickly and easily to meet their business needs. This has caused a change in the dynamics of low-code platforms, which earlier offered niche based solutions are now expanding with the rising number of use cases being offered by enterprises from various industries as mentioned in the table below,

 Banking and insurance Healthcare and pharma  Energy and utilities Information technology and services
 CRM apps  Patient management app  Business process management apps  Legacy app modernization
 loan approval app  Accounting and invoicing app  CRM apps  Business process management apps
 Insurance management app
(Read case study)
 Laboratory information management app  Monitoring dashboards  CRM and ERP platform dashboards

5 common use cases of low-code platforms

While there are a plethora of industries with varying app requirements, the use cases to build these apps roughly remain similar.

  1. Business process managing applications:
    They deal with process management, case management, process automation and social features to manage business processes. They support business process management and can ease work in industries such as healthcare and hospital management with apps for maintaining patient records, surgery procedure management, etc. Now, let us take a look at a few elements required in such apps like forms where data is captured. Low- code platforms provide these features like forms out of the box with design in place allowing you to run CRUD, sorting, caching and loading of data. Which saves time for the developer while building the application as this can be easily integrated into the application.
  2. Database managing applications:  
    Most businesses require platforms to work with relational databases. Data is key and crucial to most businesses. With a low-code platform, you can easily bind, view, update and visualize database tables without having to write any code. Databases like SQL, MySQL, PL/SQL to mention a few are supported by most platforms making database management easy. Let’s look at a CRM tool that needs to send out an email on successful creation of an invoice or an order in the CRM database. This can be achieved using a low-code platform as it allows you to tie business logic, on the occurrence of various events that get fired during the management of data.
  3. Omni-channel platforms:
    These are best suited for business sectors such as BFSI and call centers. Low-code platforms can help reduce the time and effort in building applications required for online banking where customers can manage their personal and/or business accounts anywhere, anytime and on any device. These requirements need the application to fetch data from multiple data sources (databases, APIs, Custom Business Logic, files, legacy apps, cloud services) and create web as well as mobile ready dashboards. Low- code platforms not only provide these integrations with APIs and business logic, but also provide real time charts, live data grids and live lists that give immediate visibility into data.This allows businesses in the BFSI sector see their applications finally reach a production phase.
  4. Microservices-based applications:
    Netflix and Amazon have implemented microservices architecture and have seen a great deal of success in their business models. Enterprises looking to make the shift from a monolithic approach to that of microservices can do so with low-code platforms. They have the ability to create web applications that are modular in nature. It allows an enterprise to create a suite of micro applications that can integrate with each other using services that are exposed by each application to one another. These services are automatically published by certain low-code platforms for each application allowing your enterprise a microservice architecture.
  5. Rebuilding legacy applications to modern mobile applications:
    Many Enterprises have legacy applications that are developed a decade back but still relevant in terms of the business functionality. The problem is these applications user interface due to its age lacks usability, modern design principles and most importantly a responsive user interface.With low-code platforms, existing legacy applications can be migrated while keeping the backend data source and business logic intact. The migrated application can take advantage of modern UX and user interface that most low code platforms provides out of the box. The application UI built by good low-code platforms, are good looking and responsive in nature, which means it can run on any mobile device.

With more enterprises and businesses making a smarter choice with low-code platforms, this list will further grow and provide greater depth in the capabilities of low-code platforms in the future bringing success to more businesses.

WaveMaker’s low-code platform has supported enterprises that can  bring their applications to life with minimal code,effort and at a reasonable cost. With WaveMaker’s out of the box features, the use cases mentioned above and more can be tackled easily providing a smart choice for your enterprise application based needs.

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Predictions for low code development using RAD platforms!

It’s that time of the year!!  Predictions for Low Code Development using RAD Platforms.
First of all wishing everyone a great new year and all the success for your products, services, customers and partners! It is that time of the year, where many in the technology industry spend time penning down predictions on the future of technology and everything revolving around it.  In the past few days, I have read various predictions on technology, tech marketing, sales enablement, tech disruptions, Cyber Security, and the list goes on and on…
I thought to contribute one more prediction to the many, out there.
This blog is my personal take on what 2017 will look for the RAD (Rapid Application Development) and more specifically trends within Applications developed using such an approach. This is based on my experiences working with customers, partners, speaking to folks in this industry and general analysis of the market trends.

Adoption

  • More Enterprises will continue to invest heavily in searching, exploring and concept proofing RAD for their own development needs.
  • RAD will move from experimental discussion to a serious topic of discussion and consideration among architects, development leaders and application influencers within enterprises as a way to increase productivity to develop Applications.
  • While RAD and low code development platforms came to being to democratize app development and continue to do so, we will see more of professional application developers join the bandwagon of using RAD platforms as a way to develop sophisticated enterprise applications.

Scope of RAD Platforms

  • RAD vendors will evolve from only development to full-fledged development, deployment and application hosting platforms
  •  As professional developers get deeply involved with RAD, they will want to bring in best practices in app development, deployment and DevOps from their vast experiences into application lifecycle. They will push the borders of RAD to increase its scope to include features around DevOps integration, code Branching, automated testing, cloud deployment, real time integration etc.
  • IoT platform integration will emerge as a key use for applications.

Ease of Development
RAD platforms will be expected to provide drag and drop out of box packaged integrations to commonly used services (Payment Gateways, SaaS Platforms, Identity Services, Cloud Services etc). As part of this, API based integration will become a de facto way to develop applications and integrate with internal as well as external systems.        

Ecosystem Play
For enterprises to fully utilize the power of RAD platforms, they will start to coexist RAD with other complementary platforms in the overall App Ecosystem.

  • RAD and API Management Platforms complement each other. These two platforms can feed off each other. RAD can help solve the last mile problem of easy app development for API management platforms. RAD can help create the APIs for App management platforms.
  • With IoT gaining traction, RAD and IoT platforms will gain more traction in this year.
  • SaaS Platforms will use RAD as an effective way to increase developer adoption and ecosystem creation.

Hope this prediction list has been interesting. Let’s see how 2017 pans out for RAD / Low  Code Platforms. While I am not a fortune-teller and do not intend to be one, and guarantee the above predictions, there is one thing I can guarantee, that the ride will be exciting for  RAD platform vendors as well as enterprises that adopt it. So stay tuned and let’s see how this unfolds itself.

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Empower Citizen Developers in your Enterprise

In today’s digital world, Apps have become an essential part of all enterprise activities.  App demands are driven by both external customers, who demands it to be interactive and  internal customers(employees), who want tons of custom business apps to be built.  Internal app demands are primarily generated by non-technical-business teams.  The apps are usually non-mission-critical but business-critical apps.  The people who demand these apps are business users who usually have limited -technical knowledge.  A small portion of these app demands are getting satiated by out of the box SaaS services but they still have a big chunk of custom demands that has to be built..  There is an inherent dependency created on the technical/IT teams to take care of these app needs.  But in organizations, IT/technical teams have focus mostly on the core/mission critical apps.  This creates a catch-22 situation for these business app developers, where they themselves cannot create app and the IT team is a bottleneck.  In essence app development is in the control of a select few technical developers and the IT team.  In other words, there is no “Democratic way to include all stakeholders into the app development process”.  

Unleashing the new generation of “Citizen Developers”

Back in 2011, Gartner predicted that at least 25% of all business applications will be built by citizen developers.  The emergence of the non-technical business developers,also called as citizen developers, is real now.  Gartner defines a citizen developer as “A user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and run-time environments sanctioned by corporate IT.”.  

Low Code Platforms and Citizen Developers

One of the primary reasons for the coming-of-age of the citizen developers include the emergence of modern low-code platforms.  Low Code platforms like Wavemaker bring in a new zeal for the citizen developers where they can use visual app building approaches, 1-click deployments and DIY app maintenance to quickly create an app from an idea.  

However, the emergence of both the citizen developers and low-code platforms have not played out that much with a lot of the enterprise technology leadership.  There are still challenges within enterprises to establish a centralized innovation platform for citizen developers to quickly create an app from an idea.  There are no established methodologies that can be adopted by the enterprise IT to make the combo of citizen-developers and low-code-platforms work effectively.  Agile processes are only partially successful with low code platforms.  Partial involvement of technical teams are still a reality.  Even a small involvement of technical teams bring in big hurdles to unleash the true power of the citizen developer movement.  

Is BiModal-IT a solution?

Is Gartner’s BiModal-IT, a solution for ushering in the Citizen Developer movement? The answer would be  Yes and No.  BiModal-IT is a high level methodology that is to employed by enterprises and propagates the creation and operation of 2 distinct teams to tackle the issues of renovate and innovate.  Citizen developers can be employed in both the teams, more so in Innovate teams.  

BiModal-IT doesn’t specifically get into the intricacies on how exactly the citizen developers can be empowered.  Gartner, though gets into those details in another publication specifically targeting at the citizen developers.  There it talks about how Citizen developers can contribute to enterprise innovation(mode 2 of BiModal-IT), how they need separate special infrastructure and tools (like low-code platforms) to get empowered.

citizen enterprisesBimodal IT and Pace Layering (Courtesy: Gartner)

WaveMaker 2-pass development methodology

2-pass development is a new methodology proposed by WaveMaker, specifically targeted at using a low-code platform in the most optimized manner to completely leverage the omnipresent citizen developers in an enterprise to usher an era of enterprise innovation.  

2-pass development methodology, as it says, includes two development passes:

  • A Business Pass, driven by a team comprising of non-technical business developers who build their apps using a low code platform like WaveMaker.  They build their apps visually by drag and dropping out of the box UI components.  When there is a custom requirement for an app, they pass on the development for a “Technical Pass”
  • A Technical Pass, driven by a team comprising of technical experts and developers write the code and wrap them as visual components, that can be used by the Business Pass team to build apps.  

*Read more about 2-pass development approach and its benefits in my blog here.

2-pass development methodology bridges the missing links, brings in the much needed standardization and process optimization into the app development using low code platforms with citizen developers.

This setup can enable the enterprise citizen developers in a big way and usher in innovation within enterprise.  “Democratization of app development” becomes a reality. WaveMaker platform is  helping customers serve theirs. It is truly commendable how low code platforms like WaveMaker is helping add tremendous amounts of value to many enterprises by giving them the freedom to build codeless, intuitive technology at the click of the mouse.

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4 catalysts for a citizen developer revolution

How can IT fuel the grassroots movement for citizen development and pave the way for frictionless enterprise application delivery?

Citizen development efforts are poised to grow rapidly in the next few years, led by the increasing adoption of cloud-based platforms, which simplify access to corporate data. Enterprises across the board are keen to embrace citizen developer tools not only to amass productivity gains but also because business users are tired of waiting for IT to deliver the applications they need at the speed of business. Let us look at how you can create the right conditions and catalysts for a citizen developer revolution at your enterprise.

Who is a citizen developer?

According to Gartner, “a citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT. In the past, end-user application development has typically been limited to single-user or workgroup solutions built with tools like Microsoft Excel and Access. However, today, end users can build departmental, enterprise and even public applications using shared services, fourth-generation language (4GL)-style development platforms and cloud computing services.”

Preconditions for citizen development

The above definition also contains two preconditions that are necessary for citizen development:

  • IT-sanctioned environment: Creating applications using tools that are not sanctioned by IT is “shadow IT” at best, not citizen development. Citizen development yields best results when it is done in partnership with the IT department. In fact, enterprises should take a step further and choose a platform that relies on open systems and technologies to avoid vendor lock-in.
  • Low-code development platform: Businesses are frustrated with having to wait for months in the IT queue and then getting something that was not what they asked for. They are looking for platforms that reduce cycle times and improve organizational agility by delivering applications at the pace of business. Enterprises should use low-code tools that use a rapid application development model, which supports visual (drag-and-drop) development and incorporates user feedback iteratively using rapid prototyping.

Catalysts that foster citizen development

Aside from the necessary preconditions, enterprise IT needs to take the leadership role by doing the following to foster a grassroots citizen development movement that benefits both business and IT:

  • Set legacy data free: In most enterprises, decades of delivering enterprise IT apps using proprietary software have locked not only IT dollars but also a substantial amount of enterprise data. In order to democratize application development, the data residing in legacy systems need to be set free. If you are still using legacy systems (and you’re not alone), immediately set in motion a plan to modernize legacy applications built on proprietary software such as Lotus Notes, Oracle Forms, and Microsoft Access.
  • Jumpstart application design: Custom applications built using no/low-code tools tend to stand out for their primordial UI and non-conformant design. Make sure you choose low-code tools that support out-of-the-box themes and templates for dashboards, login, and more. Templates not only reduce the time to design the app but also provide standardization across enterprise apps. It would be even better if IT can create a standard theme that can be readily applied to an application created by business users.
  • Enable last-mile development: To really bridge the business-IT gap, business users should be empowered to deliver even sophisticated applications. But limited coding skills for customization hold them back. Hence, commonly used code for integration, APIs, compliance, or security should be readily available and reusable across applications. For instance, WaveMaker RAD Platform provides Prefabs, reusable micro apps that abstract underlying complexity, so that business users can simply mash up an app using these reusable, independent, and tested micro-apps.
  • Strike the governance balance: While the benefits of citizen development are indisputable, the risks of serious security or compliance problems should not be discounted. Finding the right balance between productivity and control is vital for citizen development to succeed. IT leaders should unite application developers and business users so they can work together to efficiently optimize both the applications and the processes. For instance, IT should closely evaluate and choose a low-code tool that offers highly configurable governance capabilities such as role-based access controls. Ultimately, citizen developers should be able to create secure, compliant applications while offering IT the transparency of maintaining control.