At the heart of many digital transformation efforts is often the organization’s desire to be more agile or responsive to change. This requires looking for ways to dramatically reduce the time needed to develop and deploy software and to simplify and optimize the processes around its maintenance for quicker, more efficient deployment. Another key outcome that is part of many digital transformation efforts is enabling the organization to be more innovative. That might encompass finding ways to transform how the organization operates and realizes dramatic improvements in efficiency or effectiveness or creating new value by either delivering new products and services or creating new business models.
For organizations using conventional approaches to developing software, this can be a tall order. Developing new applications can take too long or require very specialized and expensive skills that are in short supply or hard to retain. Maintaining existing programs can be daunting, as well, as they struggle with increasing complexity and the weight of mounting technical debt.
Enter “low-code” or “no-code” application development platforms. This emerging category of software provides organizations with an easier to understand – often visual – declarative style of software development augmented by a simpler maintenance and deployment model.
Essentially, these tools allow developers, or even non-developers, to build applications quickly, easily, and rapidly on an ongoing basis. Unlike rapid application development (RAD) tools of the past, they are often offered as a service and accessed via the cloud with ready integrations to various data sources and other applications (often via RESTful APIs) available out of the box. They also come with integrated tools for application lifecycle management such as versioning, testing, and deployment.
With these new platforms, organizations can realize three things:
Faster time to value
The more intuitive nature of these platforms allows organizations to quickly get started and create functional prototypes without having to code from scratch. Prebuilt and reusable templates of common application patterns are often provided, allowing developers to create new applications in hours or days rather than weeks or months. When coupled with agile development approaches, these platforms allow developers to move through the process of ideating, prototyping, testing, releasing, and refining more quickly than they would otherwise do with conventional application development approaches.
Greater efficiency at scale
Low-code/no-code application development platforms allow developers to focus on building the unique or differentiating functionality of their applications and not worry about basic underlying services/functionality – authentication, user management, data retrieval and manipulation, integration, reporting, device-specific optimization, and others.
These platforms also provide tools for developers to easily manage the user interface, data model, business rules, and definitions for simpler, more straightforward ongoing management. So easy, in fact, that even less-experienced developers can do it themselves, lessening the need for costly or hard-to-find expert developers. These tools also insulate the developer and operations folks from the need to keep updating the frameworks, infrastructure, and other underlying technology behind the application because the platform provider manages them.
Software development is a highly creative and iterative process. Using low-code or no-code development platforms in combination with user-centric approaches such as design thinking, organizations can rapidly bring an idea to pilot. This way, they can get early user feedback or market validation without spending too much time and effort – a so-called minimum viable product (MVP).
And because these platforms make it easy to get started, even non-professional developers or “citizen developers,” who are more likely to have a deeper or more intimate understanding of the business and end-user or customer needs, can develop the MVP themselves. This allows the organization to translate ideas to action much faster and innovate on a wider scale.
While offering a lot of benefits, low-code/no-code application development platforms are certainly not a wholesale replacement to conventional application development methods (at least not yet). There are still situations where full control of the technology stack can benefit the organization – especially if it’s the anchor or foundation of the business, the source of differentiation, or source of competitive advantage. However, in most cases, organizations will benefit from having these types of platforms as part of their toolbox, especially as they embark on any digital transformation journey.
This article originally appeared on DXC.technology and is republished by permission.
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