Collaborative Application Development Platforms Shift the Dev Paradigm
Enabling real-time, distributed software development is a game changer for digital transformation
May 12, 2021

Bill Stevenson

Business meetings have become more digitally collaborative in response to the sudden increase in remote workforces. Zoom and other online meeting services have empowered employees to continue collaborating from anywhere in the world. For the most part, this rapid transition to digital was quite successful in moving the typically in-person business meeting to the cloud.

This transition to remote collaboration, however, has yet to extend to other key business processes. The software development workflow is still, in large part, sequential: First the business team defines the requirements; then the designers create a prototype; and then the developers try to translate the designers' work into code. Add in a few rounds of review and revisions and this process can be months long. Small design changes along the way can create significant delays. And when the coding is outsourced to teams in very different time zones, there is an added risk of fumbling a handoff which can trigger extensive rework. This is not an efficient process.

Enabling truly collaborative software development can fundamentally improve the process, shortening development cycles and improving application quality. In order to do this, business teams, designers, and developers need the technological capability to work on projects simultaneously from multiple locations, with users viewing the same screen and editing the project in real time — instantly seeing edits made by other team members. Code needs to be packaged into modular building blocks so it is easy to utilize and reuse. The project must be easily published to the team at any point during development for device-specific evaluation which allows faster build and test cycles. With this approach, everyone is literally on the same page (digitally speaking), resulting in more focused activity, fewer misunderstandings and shorter development time.

New Organizational Process via Collaborative Visual Editors

A collaborative visual editor can enable the business team, designers, and developers to produce a working prototype of an application in the first meeting, while working together to capture project objectives within the application itself. This initial prototype then becomes the framework for building out the completed application. Designers can ensure that branding and user experience standards are adhered to while developers have the context they need for custom elements or connectors that need to be built.

Developers must be able to leverage the native component library to add immersive features like 3D visualizations, voice recognition and gesture control without causing delayed development and increased testing.

With collaborative editors, sprints can be completed in hours instead of weeks. Projects finish in weeks instead of months. Fast build and test cycles mean that user input is incorporated during the project, not after development is completed. The business team or designers have the ability to make small changes after deployment, making applications more responsive to changing business environments. Instead of discussing possible changes to the project on a video call and then going away from the call to make the changes, teams can actually make, test, and tweak the project in real time and leave the meeting with an updated application. A collaborative editor also makes it very efficient for business teams to update deployed applications in response to customer requests or product updates.

Reusable Components Amplify the Value of Collaboration

Reusability is a powerful feature that allows multiple teams to utilize business logic, enterprise system APIs, branding elements and authentication across all projects. The team builds the component once and it is then available to everyone to incorporate into other projects. Automated testing can be set up for these modules as well as whole applications, all of which greatly reduces errors. While unit tests for code modules are common, testing of visual elements and low-code applications are often manual and very labor-intensive. To support real-time collaboration, recordable scripts with visual unit tests make this a fully automated process.

Accelerating Digital Transformation

Legacy software dev tools and practices have slowed the speed of digital transformation for many business operations by imposing bespoke, sequential processes on the development of relatively simple applications and workflows. Collaborative application development platforms that allow distributed teams to efficiently work in parallel will fundamentally reduce the cost and timeframe for building new digital processes. This removes a common obstacle to extending digital transformation across an organization's constituents and ensures higher-quality, secure applications.

Bill Stevenson is the Chairman of Umajin
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