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How CIOs Can Drive ROI of Digital Transformation with Low-Code

The role of CIOs has evolved. With the emergence of the app economy, they need to adapt to a hyper-connected world, work with the next-gen, digital workforce, and adopt a strategic role.

To support the fact that the role of CIOs is changing,  the 2019 State of the CIO’ report by IDG states,

“67% of IT leaders are spending more time on business strategist activities to help drive innovation and nurture go-to-market plans.

Over the next 3 years, CIOs expect to not only retain but to expand their newly-established business strategist charter.

77% of CIOs are planning to devote time to activities like driving business innovation.”

What’s your level of involvement? How are you planning to drive business innovation? Where would you start your digital transformation journey? Take a look at our previous post which emphasizes that the best place to start would be at the core, which is IT. 

To achieve digital transformation success, enterprise application development is emerging as an integral aspect. Get to know how you can drive digital transformation ROI using enterprise application development and low-code platforms.

Leveraging the Power of Low-Code

How rapid application development platforms help CIOs drive digital transformation ROI

  • Modernize with Transformative Technology – Traditional software and application development falls short of fulfilling the hyper demands of modern enterprise applications. They are linear, time-consuming to develop, have minimum iterations and low customer / user interaction. The essence of your digital transformation strategy needs to primarily revolve around modernizing traditional software.

In modern enterprise application development, ‘transformative technologies’ such as rapid application development platforms drive ROI by providing ready-made application infrastructure, full stack development, improved usability with rich user interfaces, predefined best of breed technology stack, API-driven integration and business user participation.

  • Align Strategically. 1% Vision + 99% Alignment = Performance – Your strategy, digital or otherwise could be visionary, but it is ineffective if its not aligned to the business objectives and user needs. C-Level executives must be tuned into the needs of their business, customers and users to drive experiences that revolve around their expectations.

By adopting low-code platforms and rapid application development, you can align teams and enable them to focus on innovation providing the necessary support to your digital transformation strategy and revenue-generation initiatives.

  • Enhance User Experience (UX) in the Experience Economy – Your business users are your customers and every CIO needs to tune into their pulse. To materialize exceptional UX, you need to understand their line of work, how they function, what they need to improve productivity and how they collaborate and communicate. The framework of your enterprise application development strategy ideally needs to revolve around their ethos.

Low-code platforms provide the agility to create and deliver custom-built applications that revolve around user preferences, with a speed that resonates to demand. CIOs who utilize rapid application development to implement their DX strategy have a better opportunity to create custom enterprise apps that adapt to experiences rather than devices.

  • Realize Real ROI in Line of Business (LOB) Apps – Transformation is an enterprise-endeavor and enterprise app development is a departmental endeavor. Modernization has to seep into every facet of your enterprise as different lines of business have distinct requirements. When devising digital transformation initiatives, CIOs who consider LOB apps mapped to specific requirements have been successful in improving usability and productivity, and inherently boosting ROI.

What rapid application development platforms offer that traditional IT development dosen’t is ‘inward-facing’ agility with intra-departmental APIs. By supporting the development and delivery of custom LOB apps efficiently and on-time, low-code platforms ensure enterprise agility.

  • Be Equipped with The Tools of The Trade – C-Level executives when developing transformation strategies, need to identify the right type of IT infrastructure. Given the evolving demands of the digital workforce, transformation initiatives require IT infrastructure to be flexible, agile and cost-effective.

As traditional software run out of steam, enterprises can transition IT infrastructure to app modernization using low-code development. With rapid app development and agile integration, CIOs can support the digitally-empowered workforce in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

  • Be the Leader of Change or You May be Forced to Follow – To achieve successful digital transformation, CIOs have got to be the leaders of change. The digital workplace thrives on collaboration and to be effective it requires the involvement of the entire enterprise.

To realize ROI on modernization and transformation, CIOs need to ensure a culture of innovation, where creativity and productivity are instilled. They have to be committed, involved and encourage technology enthusiasts to work on emerging technologies.

CIO’s ‘Not-so-Secret’ Approach to Digital Transformation Success

Business transformation is all-encompassing, it affects everyone, involves everyone, and requires strategic alignment between processes, people, technology and culture. There is a ‘not-so-secret’ approach to digital transformation success. It’s the innovation philosophy of design thinking. More than ever before, CIOs are leveraging design thinking (observing and analyzing user behavior to gain insights) when devising IT development strategies. This however, will be covered intensively in another article.

As a tip-off, there are several sides of digital transformation you need to consider:

  • The ‘technology-centricity trap’. Does application of the new technology solve a need?
  • App-fatigue. Does every business unit need a line-of-business (LOB) app?
  • CEO buy-in. Does your digital transformation strategy have the stamp of approval?

Many questions need to be answered, several strategies need to be made, different demands need to be met, now. As they say “take your time but hurry up”, because digital transformation demands velocity!

With transformation comes change

With change comes making choices

With choosing comes responsibility

Make it count!

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RAD Definition is Changing

Rapid Application Development (RAD), also termed low-code development, is a visual approach to creating apps that enable greater developer efficiency. However, what started as technology to help the masses address the speed of basic development has since matured so RAD definition is changing.

RAD platforms started out as tools for citizen developers without substantial technical knowledge of coding, who could use intuitive “out of the box” features to create applications suited for simple departmental and experimental needs. While these early RAD platforms (not this “rad”) brought basic coding capabilities to the masses, the applications created were short-lived and unable to evolve and scale with changing business needs. To address this gap in enterprise IT, RAD technology transformed to meet the needs of developers looking to efficiently undertake more sophisticated legacy app modernization projects, end-user customer experience updates, and long-term digital transformations.

Gone are the days of non-responsive front-end technology, cumbersome integration approaches, and non-standards-based widget and page development. The RAD platforms of today are far more nimble – they’re capable of leveraging millions of APIs and the most advanced open-standards-based technology stacks while maintaining enterprise-grade security and end user experience. As a result, IT teams can tap into these functionalities to execute large-scale digital transformation and modernization projects faster than ever before. The technology enables a higher degree of coding intermixed with visual development, facilitating the creation of long-standing and flexible enterprise-grade applications (see Figure 1).

While there’s no question that low-code platforms have transformed over time to become the advanced, high-impact digital tools of today, the enterprise IT environment continues to evolve as user expectations and preferences shift over time. This dynamic begs the following question: where is RAD headed next?

The future of RAD platforms

Increased usage – As technology further matures and encompasses professional developers’ needs, RAD technology will become the de-facto productivity platform for professional developers executing long-lasting enterprise IT modernization and digital transformation projects.

Enhanced enterprise-grade applications – Over time, professional developers will continue to push the boundaries of RAD as they bring best practices in app development, deployment, and DevOps from their vast experiences into every stage of the application lifecycle. Enhancements will span a range of capabilities, including cloud deployment, real-time integration, and increased developer collaboration.

A central hub for app development via integrations – With increasing API adoption and service consumption, RAD platforms will continue to become the central hub for application development via lightweight integrations to external services. The integration model will redefine the user experience and will serve a specific use case. Examples of such integrations include RPA, BPM, cloud services, SaaS services, IoT, AI, analytics, etc.

Emphasized digital experiences – The customer/user experience will only grow more important as enterprises compete digitally. As a result, RAD platforms will increasingly cater to building highly user-centric digital experiences with clear customer touchpoints.

Long-lived applications – With serious professional enterprise application developers using flexible RAD processes, the future will hold increased development of mainstream business applications that prevail for many years (long-lived applications) and continually serve organizational needs.
RAD platforms have come a long way since their inception, and time will tell exactly how citizen and professional developers will leverage this approach in the future. Regardless, the IT community can count on the fact that as enterprises’ digital needs continue to develop, RAD platforms will continue to be a high-impact tool for modernizing years of legacy applications and creating digitally agile business infrastructures.

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The Continued Evolution and Revolution of Low-Code

Rapid Application Development (RAD) or low-code development is a dynamic approach to creating applications that minimize hand-coding to increase developer productivity. At first, low-code technology grew out of the needs of citizen developers with little coding knowledge to create basic applications using intuitive “out of the box” features – but over time, the technology has matured drastically to suit the nuanced and complex needs of IT professionals.

Today’s low-code technology features advanced open-standards-based approaches, comprehensive API capabilities, enterprise-grade security measures, and more to help developers execute on sophisticated digital transformation and modernization projects efficiently. However, the evolution of low-code technology is far from over. In fact, I predict that the low-code space will continue to grow in the following ways in the year ahead:

1.       Increased usage – Low-code technology enables a higher degree of nuanced coding intermixed with intuitive visual development, allowing developers to efficiently create high-quality and specific enterprise-grade applications. As more and more enterprise IT teams recognize the ways in which this type of development process can free up internal resource constraints, low-code technology will become the de-facto productivity platform for professional developers.

2.       Enhanced enterprise-grade applications – In 2019, professional developers will continue to push the boundaries of RAD as they bring best practices and relevant app development, deployment, and DevOps experience into every stage of the enterprise application development lifecycle. These enhancements will undoubtedly span a range of capabilities, including cloud deployment, real-time integration, and increased developer collaboration across and within teams.
3.       Central hub for app development via integrations – With increasing API adoption and service consumption, low-code platforms will become even more of a central hub for application development. The current model of enabling streamlined integrations to external services will open the door to an even wider range of use cases – including RPA, BPM, SaaS IoT, AI, and analytics integrations.

4.       Emphasized digital experiences – The customer/user experience will only grow more important as enterprises go head-to-head in a progressively competitive digital environment. As a result, RAD technology will increasingly cater toward building highly user-centric digital experiences with clear customer touchpoints where feedback can be provided quickly and easily from any device, channel, or location.

5.       Longer-lived applications – The flexibility of low-code technology will contribute to a future in which most mainstream business applications are built to be long-lived and capable of adjusting and scaling alongside changing business objectives. Previously, factors like cumbersome integration approaches would result in the creation of “locked in” applications incapable of change over time – which is both inefficient and costly.

There’s no question that low-code technology will continue to be a high-impact tool for CIOs and developers looking to tackle big enterprise IT projects more efficiently and flexibly in 2019 – and beyond.

Originally published by Vijay Pullur, CEO WaveMaker, in VMblog.com

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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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5 pitfalls to avoid when choosing a low-code platform

Today, enterprises are embarking on a journey venturing into new possibilities of application development to meet business demands. The adoption of low-code application development platforms seem to be very popular with most enterprises these days. However, while some have made the transition to low-code application development, there are enterprises out there who are unsure and hesitate in making this change to adopt to a low-code platform. This is understandable, as there are risks involved when it comes to choosing a low-code platform and a wrong choice can be costly.

We have put together five pitfalls that an enterprise can avoid while they choose a low-code app development platform.

  1. Assuming all platforms support integrations to build full-stack applications
    Most platforms offer visual development capabilities. But, it is extremely important to look for features that ease external integration of data and services. Look for out-of-the-box integrations and verify whether custom integrations can be built and reused across apps while choosing a low-code platforms. In addition, choosing a platform which supports open source technologies allow an open and extensible approach to application delivery. This permits developers to create full stack applications without worrying about vendor lock-in.
  2. Assuming the feature set is standard across all platforms
    It is key for enterprises to make a detailed study of the features of a low-code platform to understand which ones would best suit their requirements. Out of the box features provided by one low-code platform differs from the other platform.Few things to look out for are :

    • A modern low-code platform should provide ease of use to the user with features like visual development with simple drag and drop.
    • Collaborative development – where a developer can share their work with others and develop an application
    • Support of APIs which are the front and center of business applications and architecture.
    • Choose a platform  which allows developers to create, publish and discover APIs with ease.
    • Apart from hosting and release management, look for solutions that allow for rapid and continuous provisioning, deployment, instant scalability and maximum utilization of resources without hidden costs.
  3. Assuming applications built are compatible with mobile devices
    Modern applications are required to work on multiple mobile devices, like phones and tablets. For such applications being built on a low-code platform, it does not mean re-building an application to suit the orientation of a phone or tablet. It means the No-code platform must offer cross platform app development. Which in other words, is the ability to create applications using a single code base that can adapt to any native platform or operating system (which could be iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/RIM, etc) using a hybrid adaptive design enables applications to be run seamlessly on any device giving it cross platform capabilities.
  4. Assuming application migration is easy
    Modern low-code application development platforms offer multiple options of development like cloud and on premise. Enterprises have frequently changing requirements of development either for their internal use or for their clients and have to adhere to either an on premise or cloud based setup. Now, the question arises can an application partly built over the cloud be migrated hassle free to an on premise setup of the same low-code platform provider. As development requirements change from cloud to on premise, the low-code platform you choose should allow easy portability or migration of applications from one development setup to the other.
  5. Maintenance, security and support
    For an enterprise , terms like maintenance , security and support are crucial when they take a decision to invest in a low-code app development platform.

    • Maintainability is a critical aspect of application delivery and is overlooked by many platforms. Verifying the generated code follows:  design patterns, is well-organized, uses standard naming conventions and generates documentation which enables developers to understand and maintain.  
    • Enterprises crave the right security for their applications. While choosing a low-code application development platform, enterprises need to make sure it can handle flexible authentication and authorization mechanisms to secure users and various tasks within the application. It would be an added bonus if it can provide easy integrations of popular identity management systems like AD, LDAP, SSO and OAuth.
    • Before investing in a modern low-code platform, enterprises need to make sure that the platform provides adequate support during the usage of the platform and meet all the SLAs  promised by the platform to the enterprise.

Benjamin Franklin famously said  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Keeping that in mind, the above pitfalls can be avoided and can help enterprises choose the right low-code platform for their application development needs.

WaveMaker’s RAD Platform platform is designed keeping in mind the requirements of a Software Developer, Citizen developer / business user, IT architect and CIO.

Get Started to find out more about WaveMaker’s modern low-code RAD platform.