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With the pandemic forcing organizations to fast-track their digital transformation initiatives and develop and deploy new digital engagement methods, there has been an evolution of Rapid Application Development tools ("RAD") that has enabled companies to deliver new applications faster. Low-code/no-code platforms were really the first tools to be utilized for RAD initiatives.
"GartnerForecasts Worldwide Low-Code Development Technologies Market to Grow 23% in 2021."
Businesses looking for a low-code platform first need to understand and define what benefits or value they are trying to gain. For example, they may want to enable non-technical resources to rapidly develop and deploy apps for non-critical simple business processes or workflows.
Low-code tools have matured over the past few years but still have some limitations in their ability to develop, deliver and maintain complex enterprise business applications. It is important for businesses to really evaluate and select a platform that both aligns with their strategic application delivery drivers and mitigates risks. Organizations should beware of picking a tool that only meets some of their overall application delivery needs without providing the security and ease of maintainability offered by enterprise-grade mobile application development platforms.
One of the biggest challenges of many low-code platforms in the market today is the ability to develop and deliver true native mobile features and functionality, including critical native UI components like maps, sliders, progress circles, progress bars, tab containers, and barcode scanners; key native device capabilities such as cameras, geolocation, Touch ID, Bluetooth, pull to refresh, and infinite swipe to go back; and of course offline-first features such as improved synchronization handling, and conflict resolution.
Large enterprises that are looking for developer and IT-focused tools should also look for low-code platforms that sport heavy-duty features such as automated software testing, app analytics, and Scrum project planning.
Change and release management capabilities in a development platform are also critical today as development organizations are adopting a CI/CD delivery model. Feature enhancements are sorely needed around the ability to stage a release to a subset of users plus the ability to roll back a release in case of an error. Make sure your low-code platform allows you to easily deploy and rollback releases if needed.
Here are some key features and capabilities that you should look for in your low-code development platform:
Ability to modify code if the need arises is the key difference between "low -code" and "no-code" platforms. One common mistake is that most people tend to group these platforms in the same bucket. There is a difference between "low-code" and "no-code" tools. Low-code tools allow for a greater level of functionality with customized code rather than "no code" tools that provide a drag-and-drop interface.
Functionality that provides pre-built user interfaces and models for business processes, logic and data models that allow you to simply drag and drop design elements and features to create full-stack, cross-platform apps, and add custom code as needed.
APIs and prebuilt connectors that are easy to implement allowing easier integration with commonly used third-party tools used today by most developers such as Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, etc. and employ standards-based integrations for consuming REST and SOAP services, and smart connectors to IoT, machine learning, streaming processes, cognitive services and real-time analytics.
Application delivery capabilities that automatically track changes and handle database scripts and deployment processes, eliminating time-consuming deployment and operations processes.
The same characteristics that make low-code development so productive for some organizations can bring challenges when it comes to security. The largest challenge to low-code development is that it becomes difficult for organizations to handle what the employees develop. Enabling non-IT resources to develop apps using on-prem low-code platforms limits visibility by IT to ensure proper security measures are being adhered to.
To improve IT visibility and mitigate security risks with apps developed by low-code platforms, organizations should use cloud-based platforms which provide the governance to access and provide rule-based permissions.
Ability to log and provide audit reporting for activities performed by developers, application managers and system administrators. Logging and reporting for deployed applications, including inbound or outbound integration calls and end-user access to applications, components, and screens.
While it is important to make sure you select and use a low-code/no-code platform that aligns with and supports your initiatives, there are two key benefits driving companies to leverage these RAD tools:
■ Speed To Delivery. These platforms enable faster development and delivery of business apps using pre-built modules in an easy to use visual environment. This allows more agility with reducing the time spent on app development. Most of the low-code platforms run in the cloud automating the majority of the processes while iterating the application.
■ Lower Resource Cost. Finding and hiring talented developers is always a costly challenge. Low-code tools don’t require deep technical expertise and resources which automatically lowers resource cost in the long run.
With the "new normal" and continuously changing digital engagement models and customer expectations, low-code application development platforms will continue to rise in adoption providing fast, creative, and efficient visual environments in the cloud for companies and non-programmers.