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Low-Code: A Butterfly Effect of Digitization?

Enterprise Platform

October 27, 2021

Looking back to the early stages of my career, as early as the late 90s and then early 2000s, I have had at least two fortunate intersections with what is now called Low-Code (LC). In both cases, it was about developing a platform for the same. The first one in the mid-90s was about creating and templatizing platform metadata along with user specification templates using a choice of proprietary keywords which worked with a parsing engine that was used to create and deploy applications.

The second in early 2000’s was orchestrating applications using drag and drop to compose and deploy applications which would also interface with other enterprise applications out of the box using connectors. From having seen those types of platforms to what I see today in terms of LC platforms, there has been a significant change in the positioning, packaging, deployment and adoption of these platforms over the decades. Few things that come to my mind when I look back on LC.

  • Is Low-Code really new or just an evolution of various software perspectives which have now been seamlessly packaged to create multiple platforms to accelerate software development, improve user productivity, decrease defect ratio and improve quality of code?
  • Has our global current war for technology talent accelerated the development and adoption of these platforms?
  • Have standardization and citizen development become mature enough to allow for adoption of Low-Code or will shadow IT derail and brand such an initiative as hindering collaboration of the organization and its related structure?

In all this, what have been the drivers that have led to the current and forecasted explosion of LC, which has been largely dormant for all this time – well in my opinion there are many drivers, however, the one  key driver in my opinion is digitization….

Digitization and the Butterfly Effect

Digitization has opened the floodgates of opportunity for many a business. The butterfly effect of digitization are many, and one of those is its impact on talent availability to drive digitization. The frantic pace of much needed digitization has led to a mismatch between demand and supply of talent. No amount of cross-skilling / upskilling by even the best agile development teams is enough to satiate this demand for building new applications.

Further, adding to the chaos is the shortage of skilled developers, long tenure taken to complete IT projects using existing application development approaches and the piling up of technical debt induced by dismal code quality. What is even more concerning is the amount of time, efforts and cost required for developing applications for different operating systems and for different devices (web, smart phones, tablets, etc.). All these decrease the productivity levels of a software programmer, thereby applying the brakes on an organization’s journey to stay ahead of its competitors. Is this then the key driver for Low-Code and the demise of traditional development as we know… ?

The answer is, it depends on who you ask. Traditional software development will certainly not be obsolete anytime soon, its share though will be significantly eaten up by Low-Code year on year. According to Gartner, Low-Code applications development will account for more than 70% of applications development activity by 2025, up from less than 25% in 2020. What is this precisely all about? Will it replace programmers? And what is the future?

Drag & Drop – Drag out the conventional and Drop into Digital…

hat if we were told that creating software applications is as easy as drawing a workflow diagram? Then my reaction to it when I wear one of my older hats as a software architect would respond typically with the following – “Remember late 90’s and early 2000’s when we were told Java was written once and run anywhere; my experiences were more in the line of write once and debug everywhere.” However, when I actually examine the state of LC today, well that is pretty much what it does. Users draw a workflow diagram which elucidates the end-to-end process flows of a task, and then the underlying Low-Code platform does the heavy lifting.

In simple words, Low-Code development is a visual way of application development paradigm, with ready-made developer gadgets and visual workflows, which abstracts most of the coding part and shortens the development time and efforts by 10x. With the help of these solutions, it is now possible to build highly scalable, secure, and performance-oriented enterprise grade applications.

Apart from the drag and drop approach and machine learning assisted development techniques offered by most of the Low-Code development platforms, the most interesting part is the out-of-the-box functionalities which can then be reused to develop different solutions. For instance, some of the default modules that comes with LC platforms include service management, sales process management & data management, etc.

Adding to the excitement is the intelligent applications management and execution solutions offered by these platforms.  Let’s have a look at the two types of personas which Low-Code solutions cater to-

Low-Code Platforms for Professional Developers

These platforms can typically help experts to deliver mission critical applications in a short time frame. Some of the value adds include reading database schema, automatically generating base code, deploying apps to production within a single click, etc. They also give flexibility to programmers to write their own code / use developer components from open-source libraries / marketplaces.

Low-Code Platforms for Citizen Developers (No-Code)

These platforms are typically targeted for people who are not having any prior programming knowledge. They allow users to key in only text for complex formulae and expressions, define process flows for creating simple client facing applications / forms. Their ability to create large scale applications is constricted since many complex configurations, despite being No-Code, will still require some specialist developer skills.

From my perspective, todays modern application development platforms need to co-exist along with LCAPs (Low-Code Application Platforms) to deliver end-to-end grounds up for digital transformation.

I have tried to list some typical comparison parameters between traditional development, Low-Code and No-Code. The idea is not to beat up traditional development, that will always have a place – though maybe the positioning might change a bit, but to show the value that Low-Code / No-Code brings to the table when viewed objectively.

Paramenters Traditional Platforms Low-Code Platforms No-Code Platforms
Professional Coding Expertise required High Medium Typically not needed
Build Complex Applications Yes, but with considerable time & efforts Yes, with minimal time and efforts Hindered, since it will require some coding skills
Developer’s Productivity Medium High High
Maintenance post application deployment High Minimal, due to avoidance of technical debt Minimal, due to avoidance of technical debt
Time to market Slow Rapid Rapid
Code Reusability Relatively less Highly made possible with its visual declarative interfaces, which abstract code Highly made possible with its visual declarative interfaces, which abstract code
Cross-Platform capability Huge efforts required to develop apps Yes, can easily build responsive apps suited for different platforms Yes, can easily build responsive apps suited for different platforms
Cost of Application Development High Cost 30 – 40% reduction in average development costs Relatively lesser cost

To summarize,

  1. Low-Code platforms are typically different from No-Code application platforms since they cater to entirely different personas
  2. Low-Code platforms are apt for building complex applications, and not just light-weight applications, which is the case with No-Code platforms
  3. Contrary to most misnomers, Low-Code application platforms generate high quality code, which can eradicate most of the issues found during application testing and production run-time
  4. Low-Code platforms can swiftly create and release best-in-class progressive web and mobile applications in official app stores (Android, iOS, Amazon, etc.), eliminating the need to rewrite code separately for different devices, browsers, operating systems, etc.
  5. Low-Code platforms can help organizations to intellectually respond to and solve customer issues in a robotized fashion, based on learning from their omni-channel past interactions (customer service calls, chats, emails), similar problems, trends, etc.

I would touch upon some key topics and examples of a typical Low-Code adaptors profile, ROI model, Best Practices along with some industry wide use cases in Low-Code in my upcoming blog.

Orginally posted on: https://www.intelligentautomation.network/intelligent-automation-ia-rpa/articles/low-code-a-butterfly-effect-of-digitization

About the Author

Prasan Prabhakaran

Prasan Prabhakaran

IT Thought Leader with a track record of growth and transformation expertise in the areas of Digital, BPM & Low Code, Customer Orchestration, Change Management, and core Product Engineering.

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