Are you hitting the low-code sweet spot?

low-code platforms for rapid application development

Low-code solutions, as part of your IT landscape, are clearly gaining continuous traction. Low-code now, actually has its own Gartner Magic Quadrant!

Whilst a survey by the other big gun: Forrester, has said that in 2019, 37% of developers in Forrester’s worldwide survey were using or planning to use low-code products. By mid 2020, they predict that this number will rise to more than half of developers.

Finally, to complete the trifecta, CapGemini have now included low-code in their “Top Ten Trends. So all three planets are aligned.

Forrester research found that 100% of enterprises who have implemented a Low-Code development platform have received ROI (Forrester 2019, Large Enterprises
Succeeding With Low-Code
, viewed 23 June 2021, https://assets.appian.com/uploads/2019/03/forrester-tlp-lowcode.pdf).

ButAs ever, a lot of what we read out there is a mix of genuine analysis and the marketing objectives of the company writing it. The question really becomes. Are your low-code strategy and applications hitting your “low-code Sweet Spot”?

What low-code solutions do you need & where? How big should you start with low-code? Who do they enhance? Also, importantly, where shouldn’t you use them?

It’s worth remembering that companies can go too far, trying to remove developer costs. Using low-code the wrong way or too widely can severely limit straight Jacket development options.

Developers and low-code

There is an ideal mix of 4 Key areas. That varies with each business & its development needs:

  • High level expensive developer talent.
  • Less experienced and lower cost developers.
  • The right people with skills to access low-code & no-code solutions.
  • What the industry is now calling “Citizen Developers” (keeping in mind they often know your business processes & requirements better than anyone).

Do you have the right low-code app in place? So your expensive front-end developers don’t have to hand the requirements of an API to an equally expensive back-end developer (who is juggling this with another task that is equally mission critical), even though the front-end Dev has little on that week & will move to lower value tasks.

Or to take advantage of the extra efficiency in the fact that they both no longer have to dedicate time to the communication of what the front-end developer wants?

Communications tasks are typically underestimated costs

With a low-code solution like ApiOpenStudio, front-end developers can go straight to API creation. This can be great if you need to even out the load in a team where they might otherwise be cooling their jets on less important tasks, where they have to spend time defining the API and then send it on to back-end developers to implement.

This flexibility and being able to quantify it is the key to tuning your low-code mix, as the team will become more efficient. 

Finally if they are both flat out, can a lesser developer or in the right environment a cross trained “Citizen Developer” with basic JSON or YAML skills be deployed? Ideally they should be close to the project and its requirements. 

Low-code enables members of the team closer to the requirements & product or project development to build and manage an API themselves. Using, and in many cases, replacing the time they would have used to communicate this to others with actually developing the product.

Equality does not exist in low or no-code

Low-code and no-code platforms exist on a spectrum. On one extreme, you have platforms offering very basic functionalities – i.e. simple form and logic creation, combined with rudimentary document automation capabilities. On the other, you have platforms allowing citizen developers to build large, end to end workflow solutions, encompassing features like e-signature integrations, multi-step approvals, email reminders and data management.

So time and thought needs to put into the use-cases that you want to address with low-code implementations. This will prevent you facing the, often frustrating situations that project or product managers, when developers reply “nope, that can’t be done” due to the limitations of the software.

The balance

Like just about all movements in IT that become long-term, there is still a lot more to it in terms of taking it to your business and marketplace than the initial Marketing Hype. The real sustainable change is almost always different and requires a deeper understanding of how things really work to make sure the rubber hits the road.

So what do you really need to consider to realise the value of low-code across an organisation? 

The fact is that low-code involves a trade-off, that is worth doing, but a trade-off nonetheless. 

On the one hand, low-code enables those closest to the product and business requirements to build what they need and build it faster. It eliminates layers of process and management… business units can, in the right environment, move forward without consulting IT. Low-code makes business Agility happen, as it changes how the business works with software.

HOWEVER…… 

The fact is, though highly effective for many businesses, with low-code, the MORE you use it, the more you straighten your development. That is the trade off. 

This is one of the reasons why pro-code (or pure developers) have little to fear from low-code. Though surveys show many of them fear this, it is not shown in the data. Particularly during the next decade, where Microsoft recently estimated that there would be a shortfall of one million developers in the USA alone. 

Being able to plan and resource your company’s low-code mix, as well as advise where it is not appropriate 
(like when your CFO thinks he can do all with low-code just to save money!!) is becoming part of the career skill set for professional developers.

How low can you go?

Low-code, by definition also enables Fast Followers. As they have a pathway to follow that is quicker and lower revalue. So I would think twice about ever letting your marketing dept tell the world how you got there.

We think it’s important to realise (after years of researching & discussing this market trend with stakeholders) 
low-code and pro-code do not cancel each other out. No organisation should aim to be one or the other.

So the “Democratisation of development”, like all of the most successful democracies… need good checks and balances. judges, oversight and impartiality in the execution.

Summary

So as you would expect, there are quantifiable :aspects to this:

Is it giving you enough power, while liberating you from increasing development cost? Due to the rising price of developers and the need for an increasing number of developers, as companies race to meet the demand for providing richer digital experiences.

Whole platforms for this is not the place to start, & may not be the place to go. But starting with something like API creation and management can reduce both cost of running the internal Apps, the outward business and web apps that the customer sees. In most cases, these apps will rely heavily on external feeds and there is a high benefit in the low-code approach to this.

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