Low Code

Low Code delivers high productivity

Is Low Code going to simplify Enterprise Application Integration?

Low Code technology is considered a toolset CIOs can deploy to rebuild the legacy applications in the modernisation of the enterprise.  Dealing with legacy applications is a constant challenge for organisations. Analyst house Gartner describes the typical journey as beginning at re-hosting, moving to a new architecture in the cloud, before rebuilding applications and eventually replacing them.  So what is Low Code and how will it modernise the enterprise?

Low Code is an application development platform. Both customer facing and internal business process applications can be created in Low Code platforms. The dominant Low Code providers are Matssoft, Mendix (recently acquired by German software giants Siemens), OutSystems and Force.com from Salesforce.

Research by Gartner reveals that Low Code can increase developer productivity and the analyst house advises CIOs to consider Low Code. Productivity has to increase as 54% of CEOs interviewed in late 2017 by Gartner indicated digital business transformation was a critical objective. CEOs are thus investing in digital transformation; the same survey found a 61% increase in IT investment. With more money flowing into the IT department, the pressure on CIOs to deliver results is on.

"Organisations are using the cloud to move faster, and cloud ways of working allow organisations to launch products faster," adds Forrester analyst Paul Miller. 

"For the CIO, this can present a migraine," CIO and transformation advisor Mark Aikman says from the IT trenches. "The CEO or Senior Leadership Team will identify a business need and there is an expectation that technology moves so rapidly that anything that doesn't already exist can be built smoothly and swiftly." 

Low Code platforms provide CIOs with an opportunity to accelerate build processes through the use of templates.

"This is an application development tool and an alternative to C# or Java," says Chris Olsen, a consultant with Leading Resolutions and former Head of Application Development with financial services provider JLT.

"Low Code is a productivity and maintenance platform, and as a Software-as-a-Service tool, scale is not a problem. Having run big software development departments, I can see all the challenges with keeping everything up to date," Olsen says of the benefits of moving to Low Code.

"We describe ourselves as the WordPress for the enterprise, conceptually our platform is the same," says Richard Billington, CTO with Low Code provider Matssoft. 


Integration opportunities

"Low Code's ability to create omni-channel capabilities and to integrate into the back-end systems is impressive," says Jonathan Vardon, formerly CIO with retailers Boots and The Cooperative in the UK, and currently a business technology leader with global services provider UST. "You can get e-commerce products to market in days and weeks as the user interface is easy to work with, as are the workflows." Vardon says that when he led technology at Boots and The Cooperative, between 2011 and 2014, some projects took between nine and 18 months to deploy.

Billington agrees: "Typical delivery times is five weeks, you wouldn't expect a traditional developer to go live in that time." 

Nick Pike, VP for Low Code provider OutSytems in the UK and Ireland says: "People are looking to rebuild processes and integration is part of that. For example, if you create a customer on-boarding application, you will integrate a number of processes. Whether internal or external, the drive is to improve the processes and make them more efficient." 

"The ability to get something from a proof of concept to a full solution is impressive. Simplifying integration and the business processes by having all the connections (to major systems of record technology) is a considerable benefit," Vardon of UST says. 

"Whether an external or internal service, the drive is to improve the processes of the business and make them more efficient and a better journey for the customer," explains Pike of Outsystems. "Low Code can help with the integration," he says of how organisations are using Low Code as a point solution when simplifying the business. The Low Code providers are seeing their technologies used to address manual processes and reduce costs.

"We often see that we are sitting on legacy platforms providing the customer interface or mobile application," Billington of Matssoft says. The CTO adds that Low Code is being widely adopted by the financial services and local government sectors, for two very different reasons. In financial services it is a need for speed; Low Code technology can create template-based repeatable processes like mortgage or credit card applications, which then feed a legacy mainframe. Local government authorities are using Low Code to digitise processes such as the application of a green bin, which reduces costs and improves the efficiency of the financially struggling civic services.

Low Code technologies will not mean that CIOs and CTOs reduce the head count in their development teams though. Understandably there has been some concern by technologists that this would be the case. 

"It is actually quite complex and there is a lot of nuance," says Olsen of Leading Resolutions. "You do need to know how to build applications in the first place. Low Code won't put development teams out of work, it will help IT teams crunch through a backlog. The benefit there for the business is that building a user interface (UI) is not a good use of the development teams' time.  They are better off doing all the sexy integration stuff." 

Vardon of UST agrees and adds: "You can still amend the code… But the days of having to code are behind us," he says of the consensus amongst CIOs that the best business strategy is to adopt out of the box technology, and modernise the business process to optimise the use of the technology. 

"In 12 years, I have never known a developer lose their job as a result of Low Code. Low Code is a tool in the IT department toolbox," Billington says. "There will always be a place to hand code alongside configuring."