A few months back, I visited Devnexus, a software developers conference in Atlanta, where I met my good friend Lawrence. I had worked with Lawrence when he was the Chief Technology Officer of one of our customers in New York. He moved to Atlanta and started his own company, focusing on building a low-code platform. I picked up a coffee and sat down with him to get more information about low-code platforms, as I needed to gain prior deep knowledge of such platforms.
“Hey Lawrence, I heard all these low-code platforms are supposed to make application development a breeze, right? No more spending hours wiring code from scratch?” I asked. “Exactly! They provide visual tools and pre-built components,” said Lawrence. “You can drag and drop to create applications,” he added. He continued talking about these platforms and his work to build such platforms. They allow faster development, lower costs, higher productivity, and greater accessibility. Some popular low-code platforms, like Mendix, OutSystems, Appian, and Microsoft Power Apps, enable users to create web, mobile, enterprise, and cloud applications.
Australia’s Bendigo Bank is an excellent example of how successful low-code development can be. The bank used a low-code Rapid App Development (RAD) platform to meet its challenges in customer service. The bank could create 25 customer-centric apps in considerably less time and cost than it took to develop similar hand-coding apps. Most of these apps are now critical to the bank’s everyday tasks.
The market has also exhibited positive trends for low-code platforms. A recent report by Gartner projected that the worldwide market for low-code development technologies could reach USD 26.9 billion in 2023, a 19.6 percent increase from 2022. Low-code platforms can empower more people to create applications, solve problems, and deliver value in a simplified manner. But are they the future of software development?
Gearing up for the future with low-code platforms
The benefits of low-code platforms can be understood from broadly three different perspectives: businesses, developers, and users.
Businesses: Low-code platforms can help companies to reduce development costs, increase speed, and improve overall quality. They reduce the reliance on expensive and scarce developers and enable the reuse and standardization of components. They allow for the automation of manual and repetitive tasks, like coding, testing, deploying, and updating. They also minimize errors, bugs, and vulnerabilities by ensuring best practices and standards compliance. Low-code platforms can also empower businesses to create innovative and customer-centric solutions.
Developers: For developers, low-code platforms can help improve productivity, creativity, and collaboration. They allow developers to focus on the high-value and complex aspects of development rather than the repetitive ones. These platforms also provide rich features, tools, and templates that enable developers to design and build applications more efficiently and flexibly. They facilitate better communication, coordination, and integration across different teams, functions, and systems.
Users: For users, low-code platforms can enable access to software solutions tailored to their specific requirements in functionality, usability, accessibility, and security. These platforms can also allow users to customize software solutions that suit their preferences, such as appearance, layout, language, and feedback. Low-code platforms can also empower users to create software solutions that solve problems or fulfill their goals.
Understanding low-code challenges
Despite their numerous benefits and frequently-touted success stories, low-code platforms are not a 360-degree solution for businesses. They come with their limitations, some of which are as follows:
Security and compliance: Low-code platforms can pose security and compliance risks if they are not designed, developed, deployed, and maintained properly. They can expose sensitive data or systems to unauthorized access or misuse without adequate encryption, authentication, authorization, and auditing mechanisms. They can also violate regulatory or legal requirements if not aligned with the applicable policies, standards, or guidelines.
Scalability and performance: Low-code platforms can face scalability and performance issues if not optimized for high-demand or complex applications. These platforms can also face reliability or availability issues if they lack the substructures to deal with sudden spikes in demand, resulting in a slow response time or poor user experience.
Integration and interoperability: Sometimes, low-code platforms may not be compatible with other systems or technologies, thus leading to integration and interoperability issues. In the absence of synchronization with other sources or destinations, they can cause data inconsistency or duplication. Poor compatibility with other applications or devices can also create functionality gaps or conflicts.
Leveraging low-code platforms for success
The success of low-code platforms depends on how well they are understood and utilized. Following best practices can help businesses and stakeholders ensure the successful use of low-code media. Here are some best practices to consider:
Choose the right low-code platform for the specific use case and requirement: Low-code platforms are not one-size-fits-all solutions. They vary in terms of features, functionality, flexibility, and compatibility. Therefore, choosing a low-code platform that suits your specific use case and requirement is essential. Businesses must also consider factors such as the low-code platform’s cost, security, reliability, and support.
Leverage the existing skills and knowledge of developers and users: Low-code platforms do not eliminate the need for developers and users. They augment their skills and expertise by providing added tools and resources to make their work easier and faster. Developers can use their coding skills to customize or extend the low-code platform when needed or desired. Users can apply their domain knowledge to provide feedback or input on the application design and functionality.
Balance the trade-offs between flexibility and simplicity: Low-code platforms offer a trade-off between flexibility and simplicity. On the one hand, low-code platforms simplify the development process by providing pre-built components, templates, and workflows that reduce the need for coding. On the other hand, low-code platforms limit development’s flexibility by imposing certain constraints or restrictions on what can be done or changed. It is better to use low-code platforms for applications that require speed, simplicity, and standardization but not for applications that require complexity, customization, and differentiation.
Due to their numerous advantages, most experts see low-code platforms as the future of software development. They offer great potential for the digital era by enabling people from both technical and non-technical backgrounds to get involved in software and web development. Despite the existing concerns, the popularity of low-code platforms is expected to grow in the coming years. Moreover, with the current growth rate in artificial intelligence (AI), low-code platforms are expected to become more intelligent and faster.