Low-code technology: an emerging term that needs more definitionThe term "low code" has been a technology buzzword over the last few years, but what does it actually mean for the software industry?
Within the last few years, “low-code” has emerged as one of the newest technology buzzwords. As a result of the term’s popularity in the software industry, large companies to tech startups are marketing platforms as “low-code” in order to align themselves with the space.
The ultimate value of low-code systems is to help companies deploy applications faster and more agilely than they otherwise could. In doing so, they give themselves and their organisations the opportunity to gain greater control and visibility over their critical business workflows and processes, increasing efficiency and throughput.
But the truth is that not all of these so-called low-code platforms function alike. In fact, solutions vary widely, especially in terms of the amount of code they require to create or modify applications. So depending on the platform, the “low” in “low-code”, may be extremely relative.
Given this reality, it’s important for those eager to adopt this technology to take a step back and seek to better understand the evolution of this emerging space and the differences between low-code solutions on the market before taking the plunge. That way, you can more accurately evaluate and identify platforms, which will provide the low-code functionality that will best serve your organisation.
An intro to the low-code space
The recent history of website management systems provides a good comparison for what led to the emergence and wide adoption of low-code technologies. Ten years ago websites were built from scratch with hand-coding. But as the world became increasingly digital, companies found that relying on programming for websites became problematic.
Quickly building out a new site or making iterative changes to a current one simply took too long, required wasteful resources and created unnecessary complexity. This gave rise to website or CMS technologies, such as WordPress or SquareSpace.
These systems lower the previous barriers to website creation and management — making it easier and more efficient by eliminating the need for hand-coding. Instead, users can easily assemble or modify a website using visual tools and drag-and-drop features.
>See also: App development meet digital transformation
A similar evolution in the enterprise software space created a demand and market for low-code technologies. Offspring of first generation software-as-a-service, these next-gen solutions accelerate the time it takes to build, update and deploy custom applications by making software creation and management easier, more efficient and less resource-intensive.
Forrester began tracking the low-code platform category in 2014. They define it as, “platforms that enable rapid delivery of business applications with a minimum of hand-coding and minimal upfront investment in setup, training, and deployment.”
Examining Forrester’s definition helps us to discern what it means to be truly low-code. Often, the conversation centres around the amount of actual coding required for rapid application development and deployment.
Additionally, it encompasses the relative ease, efficiency and speed, with which a platform can support the overall process. Using these main criteria to distinguish between low-code platforms, you’ll find that two categories of solutions emerge.
Less-code v. low-code
There are two principal kinds of application platforms, “less-code” and “low-code.” Both were designed to cater to a specific type of professional. Identifying the intended user, for which a platform was designed, can help you begin to differentiate between the two. Understanding both types of solutions, and their main differences, will provide you with unique insight into what truly constitutes low-code functionality.
True to their name, “Less-code” solutions require less coding than traditional development. That said, less-code platforms are still code-heavy relative to “low-code” systems. As a result, less-code platforms require their users to possess advanced technical and programming knowledge in order to both create and deploy applications.
Several less-code vendors do market some model-driven, visual options for configuration, but often these capabilities are basic and only offset a small amount of the programming needed to build or modify an application.
Due to their inherent nature, traditional software developers are the most common users of this type of solution. As such, if companies don’t have abundant, affordable access to highly technical talent, less-code platforms can be limited in their capacity to provide universal speed and agility.
True “low-code” platforms are designed primarily to be leveraged by business professionals, process experts and IT users. Unlike less-code platforms, low-code solutions obfuscate manual coding with drag-and-drop configuration. And a few cutting-edge low-code systems even provide integrated native mobile capabilities, intelligent workflow automation and rapid connection points to seamlessly share data with existing corporate systems. Akin to their “less-code” counterparts, some even provide advanced technical features and toolsets, which can be utilised, if desired.
Given the rising demand for business applications and a global shortage of traditional developer talent, low-code systems are driving the true definition in the app platform space and are solidifying buyer expectations in the market.
At the end of the day, companies must assess what type of platform, “low-code” or “less-code”, will best cater to their users and solve for their unique and diverse needs.
The growth of low-code
Recent research found that true low-code technology addresses both business and IT executives’ biggest pain points: integration of compatibility with other software, customisation and scalability, and mobile and offline/native capabilities.
With this greater efficiency, it’s no surprise that low-code software is seeing rapid adoption. Nearly one in three executives are leveraging this technology already. With another 43% of executives interested in pursuing low-code solutions, experts believe this technology is on the precipice of broad enterprise utilisation.
In fact, Forrester projects the low-code application market to grow from nearly $3 billion today to $15 billion by 2020.
But as popularity and adoption continue to increase, it will be crucial that companies use discernment when choosing solutions. First, it’s important to determine the types of potential users at your organisation, what current low-code needs exist across your enterprise, and the level and amount resources at your disposal.
From there, examining the differences between less-code and low-code platform offerings will assist you in understanding the type of low-code functionality you need and help you identify which type of solution will be most beneficial for your company.
Sourced by Pete Khanna, CEO for Denver-based TrackVia, makers of the leading low-code application platform in the cloud
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