Nowadays, you do not have to be a designer to create nice designs. You do not have to be an architect to sketch building plans. And you do not have to be a developer to write apps. Together with Daniel Vahla, an expert in application development, Alexandra Buszko, Digital Product Owner at ERGO Technology & Services, introduces the topic of low-code development platforms and how it has changed daily business.
By Daniel Vahla, Managed Cloud Application Developer, and Alexandra Buszko, Digital Product Owner at ERGO Technology & Services
Low-code development platforms have their roots in the mid-90s, when the digital transformation really got started. Data management, information management started to digitalise and so did the business processes. Why? In order to ease daily tasks and make resources available anytime and anywhere.
Such a transformation required a vast number of programmers, and of course lots of investment in the IT infrastructure. Money for specialists is one thing, but on the other hand resources are limited and this is where the low-code (or even no-code) development platforms (LCDP) enter the stage.
The main idea of the LCDP is:
Most LCDPs are based on drag-and-drop solutions or the point-and-click mechanism from the graphical interface (sounds familiar?). With an LCDP the user can build web apps, automatise business processes or even build mobile apps.
First of all, no-code and low-code development is appealing due to its promise of lowering costs. You can train business employees to develop in a no-code environment, and they will produce applications for their needs. Seasoned programmers will opt for low-code, so that they can cut down on the development time of typical CRUD applications.
Platforms for creating applications and websites with little to no code focus on abstracting away the troublesome parts of development; often, a hosting option will be available. Sometimes, an entire ecosystem of plugins, connectors or widgets will be at your disposal. Having the development process simplified results in lower entry level requirements for employees to get into it.
Most often, the low- or no-code approach allows for flexibility of the development process itself. Your application can drop widgets in and out with a simple drag move of your mouse, adjustments to the logic flow are done with building blocks, and the results are available to preview in real time.
As with any tool that promises a lot, there will be downsides and "optimizations" that are done in order to achieve those goals.
Most importantly, you are limited to the ecosystem that the platform provides. If you cannot find the exact graph you want to include, developing one from scratch may be near impossible for an inexperienced programmer.
When your product requires a fair amount of interconnectivity with other services, it might be better to go with a traditional approach. Another aspect to be aware of is that you might be in trouble if you decide to change your development stack and the platform does not offer any code export.
Then, there is the one thing that is often forgotten - security. After all, the applications created by non-programmers are still operating on the databases and services of your company, but without technical expertise one might end up exposing sensitive data or allowing destructive operations to be performed by unauthorized users. This risk should not be underestimated.
An LCDP is a tool that should be selected according to your needs. Does your development team roll out simple websites for viewing content? Take a look at Wordpress, a seasoned platform that leads the rankings in web development. If your company relies on business intelligence to drive value for clients, then the big IT companies have a tool just for you. Oracle, Salesforce or Microsoft will provide a platform for low-code app development that ties in with the rest of their ecosystem. When you want a bit more control and possible enhancements at hand, why not go with Mendix? This platform offers an entire ecosystem of plugins, widgets or even app templates, with their own cloud or on-premises hosting runtime environment.
Notably, big cloud players are also joining the low-code movement. AWS with Honeycode, Azure with PowerApps, and Google with AppSheet are striving to gain a market share and increase the use of their cloud offering.
With the explosive grow of the LCDP market, soon enough we will all be able to develop applications – even though without coding knowledge we cannot be called programmers.
Daniel Vahla works as Managed Cloud Application Developer for Nordcloud. He describes himself as a “digital builder and cloud expert with superpowers, harnessing modern cloud technologies”.
Aleksandra Buszko is a Digital Product Owner at ERGO Technology and Services. Since almost 3 years she is actively engaged in projects within mobile apps, firstly as an Analyst, now as a Product Owner.
Together with the team, she works on various apps from the ERGO portfolio. Currently, Aleksandra dedicates most of her time to the development of a brand new IoT app, that shall be launched soon.
Here you'll find her first //next article on The future of mobile apps.