5 Benefits of Low-Code Application Development
Low-code application development continues to gain traction in the market due to its ability to enable enterprises to rapidly build and deploy custom web and mobile apps — without the need for coding.
Like any emerging category, there may be some confusion about what low-code application development is (and isn’t). With that in mind, this post aims to provide additional context around the key capabilities of a low-code platform, how the term compares to other industry acronyms, and why the need for these platforms is greater than ever.
What is low-code application development?
Instead of a technical coding environment that only professional developers can navigate, low-code development operates in a visual, model-driven IDE. People of all development skill levels — from novices, to subject matter experts, to professional developers — can build quality, value-driven apps with a low-code platform.
But not all low-code development platforms are created equal. But they all often include these most common features.
Features of low-code platforms
Low-code development platforms with model-driven development (MDD) provide visual models to define an application’s data, business logic, user interfaces, etc.
Low-code platforms with community app stores feature out-of-the-box templates, widgets, plug-ins, business components, and connectors to emerging technologies. Building apps becomes more like visually orchestrating the necessary building blocks, versus reinventing the wheel for each project.
Full app lifecycle support
Low-code application development platforms support the entire application development lifecycle. The time-to-market advantage of visual development (over hand-coding) is mitigated if there isn’t a seamless way to move apps along the lifecycle, particularly in terms of deployment.
Certain low-code platforms also offer the flexibility to deploy and manage your applications in the cloud of your choice, such as public, private, or hybrid clouds and on-premises.
What are the benefits of low-code application development?
To understand why the adoption of low-code application development is surging, we must step back and look at the big picture: There is no shortage of competition today. The barriers to entry are so low that new players are coming out of nowhere and disrupting industries with technology-led products, services, and business models. To compete, established enterprises must constantly find ways to:
- innovate and differentiate
- do things better, faster, and cheaper
- engage customers in new ways
Here’s a look at 5 ways low-code development benefits organizations.
1. Communication and collaboration
The inherent value of low-code is that it brings professional developers and other non-technical teams together by means of a visual language in a collaborative environment.
By aligning business, IT, and stakeholders, applications can be built quickly, deployed seamlessly, and changed easily. The result is a better quality application and more successful business outcomes.
2. Friction-free legacy modernization
Legacy modernization is crucial for digital transformation initiatives. However, legacy systems are known to monopolize enterprise IT resources, making it difficult to even think about bringing in a new app development platform.
Starting a legacy modernization is a huge undertaking. The challenges of working with legacy systems are mitigated with low-code. From building new user interfaces to completely rebuilding your system, you can start slow or dive in head first. Low-code enables enterprises to build custom applications that:
- integrate with existing software landscapes
- extend the capabilities of your legacy systems
- can incrementally replace antiquated systems
3. Flexibility and scalability
Low-code platforms are cloud-based, giving you the flexibility to deploy new apps and alter existing apps as needed. Platform users can onboard quickly and easily. System admins can oversee the entire ecosystem and apply role-based access. Professional developers can custom code applications in an IDE, giving low-code apps more potential than no-code apps.
4. Better customer experiences
Competition is high and it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate. Customer-centricity is key to survival, and low-code can help you provide consistent, unbeatable digital customer experiences.
Use low-code development to quickly deliver customer-facing mobile apps, web portals, IoT-enabled apps, and more — all in a single platform. Since low-code is collaborative, the teams closest to your customers can add value by building apps on their own or by working closely with professional developers.
Who doesn’t want to build and deliver solutions faster? With features like visual modeling, pre-built components, automation, one-click deployment, assistance bots, and built-in monitoring, speed is the foundation of every low-code platform. In fact, low-code can reduce development time by up to 90%.
What can you build with low-code?
From customer interfaces to field service management apps, anyone in your organization with an idea can use low-code to make it real.
With low-code, you can build:
- process improvement and automation apps
- web-based portals for customers, suppliers, vendors, etc.
- progressive web apps (PWAs) and native mobile apps
- core systems via microservices
- IoT-enabled smart apps
This is only a small portion of what’s possible. You can see more examples here.
How does low-code application development compare to traditional application development?
With demand for custom applications soaring, it’s clear that traditional development approaches simply can’t keep pace.
The traditional waterfall application development process requires the involvement of many people with highly specialized roles. For example, the process requires:
- business analysts to create functional requirements
- technical analysts to turn those requirements into technical specifications
- a database administrator to create the database and design the schema
- UX/UI developers to create wireframes and a design
- developers to code the application and bring all the pieces together
Then, once the application is built, you need:
- testers to test the app
- an operations manager to deploy the app
- a project manager to oversee all the moving parts
The process can take a long time from original requirements to a deployed application, with limited ability to collaborate. This often results in the finished product not meeting the expectations of the business.
How the low-code development process works
With low-code software development, most of the simple, repetitive tasks that you face in traditional development are automated.
Without the development team, there is no need to translate the requirements into technical specifications, so you don’t need a technical analyst. Some low-code platforms, like Mendix, come out-of-the-box with consistency checking and automated testing capabilities, eliminating the need for dedicated technical testers. And without all of those people, you don’t need a dedicated project manager to oversee all the moving parts and handoffs. Furthermore, with one-click deployment, you don’t need to wait for an operations person to build the environments and manually deploy the application with each release.
This means you need far fewer people to build an application with low-code development. The business engineer is closer to the business and requires less technical skills. The models provide a common visual language that can be understood by the business, enabling closer collaboration between business and IT. If you combine all of these things together, you can deliver apps with up to 70 percent fewer resources. Not only are you developing with fewer resources, but this now means you can deliver applications six times faster than with traditional development.
With low-code software development, it’s not just about building faster. It’s also about delivering the right application that the business wants, shortening time to value. Low-code development guarantees the success of the app because the person building it and the person who needs the app can work closely together due to the common language and collaboration ability that low-code development provides.
How does low-code application development compare to high-productivity aPaaS and RAD?
High-productivity aPaaS (hpaPaaS) is a term popularized by Gartner. The analyst firm defines high productivity aPaaS as a platform that supports declarative model-driven design and one-step deployment. hpaPaaS provides rapid application development (RAD) features for development, deployment, and execution in the cloud. When you get down to it, high-productivity aPaaS and low-code development both describe platforms that abstract away from code and offer an integrated set of tools to accelerate app delivery.
Rapid application development (RAD) is defined by TechTarget as a “concept which emphasizes working on software and being more adaptive than older development methods.” With that in mind, low-code development platforms facilitate the practical implementation of RAD with:
- visual development capabilities that enable rapid, iterative, and collaborative design
- frequent sharing of prototypes to gather user feedback and refine requirements
- reuse of apps and components through an app store
Low-code, high potential
Organizations need a faster way to deliver applications. Low-code development platforms provide a proven way to shorten the time to value for new applications. For IT and business leaders, it’s important to evaluate platforms carefully and choose the approach that meets your organization’s needs, now and in the future.
This post was originally published on October 9, 2018, and has been updated.