Many enterprises are adopting low-code platforms for their ability to enable a broad range of developers to rapidly build and deploy custom web and mobile apps—without the need for time-consuming coding.
Organisations focused on delivering applications for innovation, customer engagement, operational efficiency, or legacy migration are recognising the inherent business value and time-to-market advantages of low-code development platforms.
With business demand for custom applications soaring, it’s clear that traditional development approaches simply can’t keep pace. According to Gartner, through 2021, market demand for app development will grow at least five times faster than IT capacity to deliver it.
So what exactly is a ‘low-code’ development approach? How can it help organisations meet surging demand for applications? What are the key capabilities of a low-code development platform?
Defining low-code development
In the recent Forrester Wave on Low-Code Development Platforms for AD&D pros, Forrester defines low-code development platforms as: Products and/or cloud services for application development that employ visual, declarative techniques instead of programming and are available to customers at low- or no-cost in money and training time to begin, with costs rising in proportion of the business value of the platforms.
To elaborate on Forrester’s definition, there are several important features of any low-code development platform:
1. Model-driven development
Low-code platforms offer more intuitive ways to build applications, minimising the use of coding. Model-driven development (MDD) uses visual models for defining an application’s data models, business logic, user interfaces, etc.
This approach enables a range of users—from professional developers to citizen developers—to visually model full-stack web and mobile applications. Using visual tools can result in 10x productivity gains over traditional approaches. As capability matures and organisations begin to scale, some organisations have seen up to 20 times productivity.
Productivity can be further accelerated with low-code development platforms that promote reusability through an App Store populated with out-of-the-box templates, widgets, plug-ins, business components, and connectors to emerging technologies.
The platform may also offer a private app store, whereby an organisation can distribute company-specific IP for reuse across development teams. In either scenario, building apps becomes more like visually orchestrating the necessary building blocks, versus reinventing the wheel each project.
3. Support beyond just the build phase
It’s easy to fall into the trap of viewing low-code platforms only as a way to speed the build phase. In reality, many platforms are designed to support the entire app lifecycle: design, build, deploy, manage and iterate.
As such, usually include collaboration tools, agile project management, cloud-native deployment, application governance tools, and feedback tools. This is an important part of the time-to-market advantage, with a seamless way to move apps along the lifecycle, particularly in terms of deployment.
4. Cloud-native deployment
Some low-code development platforms offer the flexibility to deploy and manage applications in the cloud of your choice, or even on premises. Offering automated deployment along with a cloud-native, stateless architecture enables out-of-the-box high availability and fail over to support large-scale deployments, particularly in an enterprise context.
Comparing low-code development to high-productivity aPaaS and RAD
High-productivity aPaaS (hpaPaaS), a term coined by Gartner, and low-code development both describe platforms that abstract away from code and offer an integrated set of tools to accelerate app delivery.
Gartner defines high-productivity aPaaS as a platform that supports declarative, model-driven design and one-step deployment. hpaPaaS provides rapid application development (RAD) features for development, deployment, and execution — in the cloud.
Rapid application development (RAD) is another related term that emphasises the fast and iterative release of prototypes and apps through gathering requirements using workshops or focus groups, early user testing of designs, the re-use of software components, and more. This concept aligns closely with low-code development, where low-code development platforms facilitate the practical implementation of RAD.
Visual development capabilities enable rapid, iterative and collaborative design; frequent sharing of working prototypes and MVPs to gather user feedback and refine requirements; and reuse of apps and components through an app store.
Key benefits of a low-code platform
In many business sectors today, the barriers to entry for digital competitors are so low that new players are coming out of nowhere and disrupting industries through technology-led products, services, and business models.
To stay ahead of the competition, organisations must constantly find new ways to do things better, faster and cheaper; and to engage customers and partners in new ways. The challenge is that, while the demand for custom apps has never been higher, traditional development approaches simply can’t keep pace.
>See also: Let’s not take the art out of coding
It’s clear that businesses need a faster way to deliver applications—and low-code development platforms provide a proven way to shorten time-to-value for new applications. The fundamental value of a low-code development platform is that it brings IT and the business together, enabling more rapid, iterative, and collaborative development.
Applications can be rapidly built, seamlessly deployed and easily changed—all without the need for low-level coding. In addition, these platforms provide an excellent communication mechanism to align business and IT stakeholders, thereby ensuring greater software quality and more successful business outcomes.
The next step for IT and business leaders is to evaluate platforms carefully and choose the approach that meets your organisation’s needs, now and in future.
Sourced by Johan den Haan, CTO at Mendix
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