Anyone thinking about implementing a business solution cannot ignore low-code. On platforms like Mendix and OutSystems, you can cut development time in half compared to the 'classic' high-code requirement. It also simplifies maintenance. KPMG states that a low-code solution requires only a quarter of the maintenance time compared to a similar high-code version. What drives this success and what are the challenges of low-code?
The power of low-code lies in working with standard building blocks. By combining ready-made functions into a new application, developers can achieve results with less effort. The individual parts have already been tested for stability and safety, which removes a large part of the risks and the additional testing work. Only the end product still needs a critical evaluation.
This rapid development method brings its own way of thinking. This is where the concept of the 'citizen developer', a layperson who builds their own applications, originated. In practice, they are more likely to build apps in a no-code environment. For low-code, developers still need knowledge of IT systems. You cannot link up with SAP if you do not know the system and you cannot build a component of a larger IT system without knowledge of its contents.
Developing with ready-made building blocks
The use of ready-made building blocks makes it a lot easier for developers to create new applications. It is almost negligeable to integrate other services with an off-the-shelf link. For example, banks use low-code to improve uptime and stability with cloud-based redundancy. Developers have built a system in which two data centres (in different countries) are deployed simultaneously via low-code cloud links. In the unlikely event that something goes wrong with one of the two data centres, the service continues unimpeded.
This can of course also be achieved via a high-code environment but then the developer has to build and test all the links themselves. In the case of cloud links, it requires fairly strict security checks. In a low-code environment, already available applications can be used. The only thing that remains is 'styling'; adapting the interface so that it can be integrated into the larger business environment.
Low-code is an attractive option
Low-code is an attractive option for the vast majority of organisations. Only in environments where you really want to exclude every external risk would low-code be impractical. Examples of these might be the controls of fighter jets or nuclear power plants. On a cloud platform, you can never fully see which applications are interdependent. If the exact operation of the software is critical, then the only way to offer certainty is with high-code.
The movement towards low-code has been going for about six years. Through constant innovation, more and more possibilities are emerging. Even an experienced developer can learn new things every day. For example, currently there is a lot of progress when it comes to controlling distributed computing from a low-code environment.
Low-code simplifies SAP-implementations
Specifically for SAP, low-code shows a lot of promise. This solid business platform is almost notorious when it comes to customisation. Traditionally, a lot of custom development work is needed to turn the very extensive platform into a company-specific solution. This makes maintenance and system updates difficult. If a core SAP update becomes available, then all the customised work must be examined to see whether the changes will affect it. The associated costs discourage organisations from actively pursuing innovation.
Switching to 'customisation' development with low-code removes this limitation from SAP. The standard building blocks ensure that the underlying core SAP is correctly managed. In the event of an update, the operation of the standard blocks can be checked centrally. Where necessary, a building block can be adapted and rolled out across all the systems that use it. That is how low-code makes tailor-made systems possible with a minimum of customisation.
Choose from Mendix, OutSystems and many other variants
There is a wide range in choice of platforms. The two largest are Mendix and OutSystems. Developers with a specialism in Java will feel most at home in Mendix. Those with a .Net background will feel more comfortable in OutSystems.
Apart from the two big ones, there are many other choices. All-rounders such as Microsoft Power Platform, SAP Business Technology Platform and Appian come to mind. There are also more specialised low-code platforms. BLOX is primarily geared to the implementation of Blockchain. Salesforce, under the name Force.com, offers a completely separate low-code environment for its CRM platform.
Two factors are important for an organisation when evaluating low-code platforms:
Is it scalable enough for my organisation?
Does the security meet the requirements of my industry?
Your existing IT landscape is also important. Which off-the-shelf packages are already running, and how can they be integrated with the platform of your choice? It is wise to work with an experienced partner for the implementation of a low-code platform. Putting it bluntly: all the issues surrounding the implementation of customisation can, in theory, also play a role in the implementation of a low-code environment. Someone who knows how low-code works will help you avoid any pitfalls.
Expert consultants continue to play a leading role since they translate business concerns into appropriate solutions. In addition to this translation, attention to change management is essential. The standard blocks of low-code work like a straitjacket, forcing certain ways of working and causing existing processes to change. The solution will only be successful if the people on the work floor make use of it.
Low-code makes rapid development of new solutions possible and also brings the running cost down accordingly. It is not surprising that big names such as Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Alliance and Intratuin can share success stories about the deployment of this technique. It requires attention to change management, good consultancy and a knowledgeable partner. If you get the combination of these factors right, it offers great opportunities.