4 critical questions to ask yourself about low-code

In Los Angeles, it took an entrepreneur just three days to create Givelocal, a crowdfunding platform to help struggling restaurants. The secret? Using low-code, which drastically reduces the time and cost of creating IT tools.

According to a survey by Gartner from September 2020, more than 50% of medium-sized and big businesses will have integrated a low-code platform into their information system by 2023. Here are 4 questions to ask yourself before getting started.

What is low-code / no-code?

It’s above all a user-oriented platform to build a web or mobile application, without any (no-code) or with only a little code (low-code), based mainly on predefined models and on mainly visual programming (configuration, drag & drop, etc.). Most platforms include one module to manage data (connectors, API, etc.), another to support business processes and a final one for the user interface, based on business-oriented models.

Whether to meet a need quickly and cheaply, test a concept, or otherwise improve your everyday life, the low-code approach is a very interesting option to get started.The use case that resonates with the biggest user base is certainly the famous macro used to process a set of data from Excel to generate a business monitoring dashboard or similar.

There are also applications covering sales monitoring, ticketing and also workflow management including approval processes. A landing page can also be developed to test your own website or its e-commerce platform. There’s no shortage of use cases!

Who is this type of platform designed for?

Originally, this type of platform was mainly aimed at business users with solid basic development skills, called “citizen developers”. Super-users with super powers, capable of testing a concept directly with users and automating work flows to improve team productivity. That was the idea. Sadly, this profile remains very hard to find, as users are first and foremost dedicated to their business activity.

But another profile can be very interesting for these platforms: IT departments, which are very well organized to take on large-scale projects, with major aims, but struggle to handle more modest, often unscheduled demands that don’t require major development work, but need to be quickly implemented to generate as much value as possible (time-to-market).

By adding this string to their bow, IT departments will not only be able to quickly meet business lines’ tactical needs, but also better manage data security (identity management natively integrated into these platforms, availability of preformatted business data), and prevent the development of technical debt and “shadow IT” by proposing clear governance combined with an Information System urbanization approach.

How can you get started on your low-code adventure?

A fast solution requiring little investment (one of the founding principles of low-code), consists of using collaborative work environments, and digital workplaces such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. The two competitors propose a low-code approach using Power Platform and the duo AppSheet and Apps Script, respectively.

The advantage of using one of these platforms is that most users are already fully proficient with them. They already know how to use the basic features, so with low-code they can go further, enriching the user experience.However, to avoid any confusion, it is best to define the rules of the game in terms of features, data and security. Likewise, users need to be assisted with this adventure, firstly by teaching them about the low-code capacities of these platforms, and then by providing more advanced training to make them subsequently stand-alone. Once trained, the idea is to provide them with a “sandbox” to test, learn and bring the low-code ecosystem to life.

How can this approach be made sustainable?

The starting point is a holistic view of your information system, making it possible to define the governance best suited to users’ needs for instantaneity. That’s the key!So the first thing to do is to list user needs in terms of ideas to test or processes to automate, and then compare them to existing technical bases (that support business applications), and analyze them to identify data repositories and security needs. Based on these criteria (technological needs and capacities), the low-code platform(s) that best suit(s) your Information System can be selected.Two worlds then open up to you:

  • Digital giants (Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, etc.) using a low-code approach that can be perfectly integrated into existing systems, particularly including natively-deployed identity management, via their wide range of services.
  • Pure-players (Mendix, OutSystems, Bubble, etc.) based on a more vertical approach, featuring very business-oriented solutions that enable express deployment, but are harder to integrate into existing systems.

 This is why having an overview is absolutely essential given the wide range of low-code platforms available.

Published in LeMagIT