In 2020, the effects of the COVID pandemic, as well as high-priority efforts by many companies toward digital transformation, led to an acceleration in the already growing use of low-code software development.
Companies found themselves under extreme pressure to produce a variety of new software applications, and to do it fast. Low-code, with its up to 10X development speed advantage over traditional methods, proved its worth as an integral part of the modern software development process.
And that low-code surge is continuing. In its "Predictions 2021: Software Development" report, Forrester Research declares that while 44% of software teams were using low-code in 2020, that number is expected to reach 75% by the end of 2021.
Yet, many of the teams that have adopted low-code are failing to take full advantage of its potential. That's because, although they've folded low-code into their process, their overall approach to software development is still based on the traditional methodologies with which they have perhaps decades of familiarity.
Low-code, however, presents new opportunities for streamlining the software development process to an unprecedented degree. In this article we want to look at some best practices that will help you reap the full benefit of the improvements in both development speed and application quality that low-code provides.
Why low-code has become a strategic necessity for modern app development
The #1 driver of the accelerating use of low-code is speed. In today's environment of aggressive digital disruption, keeping up with, and even getting ahead of, technological innovations in a company's market arena is fast becoming a survival necessity. As McKinsey observes,
Future-ready companies "operate with a fixation on speed and simplicity… Visit a future-ready organization and you'll observe that speed is both a preoccupation and a cultural bias."
Low-code produces a massive speed advantage in app development due to three of its fundamental characteristics:
- Developers create their designs using a collection of pre-written code modules and templates that typically embody around 90% of the app's logic. The fact that only 10% or less of an app's design must be hand-coded speeds up development by as much as 10X over traditional methods.
- Because low-code designs are created visually—by dragging and dropping pre-built components into place on a user-friendly Graphical User Interface (GUI)—ordinary workers with few coding skills, but who are intimately familiar with their work processes, can participate fully in the design process, even to the extent of automating many of their workflows mostly on their own.
- Software professionals are provided with tools that allow them to easily integrate low-code apps both with one another and with external systems.
These features of low-code platforms are the basis of some best practices that can help your teams speed up their software development process significantly. Let's take a look.
Ways to speed up your low-code development process
1. Include stakeholders from the beginning
Software is all about helping stakeholders achieve the results they need as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is users, and not professional developers, who have the best understanding of exactly what an app needs to accomplish. So, incorporate their insights into your process by including important stakeholders as full and valued members of the development team from the beginning of the project.
2. Include both end users and developers in determining requirements
Traditionally, software developers assemble a user requirements document up front, then go off on their own to translate those requirements into code. Because such requirements statements are inevitably incomplete, and sometimes downright misleading, the resulting app often fails to fully meet the needs of end users.
But because the visual nature of low-code designs makes them accessible to non-coders, end users and workflow experts can help to continuously refine requirements during the design process to ensure the app does what they need it to do. The result is a much quicker design process, and a higher quality app that more fully meets the needs of end users.
3. Use small, cross-trained development teams
Traditional software teams are often staffed with technical specialists, each performing specific tasks. The coordination requirements of that type of organization often add delays to the process.
But the simplicity of low-code design allows all team members, including non-coders, to understand and participate in most development tasks—only coding for special functions or integrations need be reserved to technical professionals. Not only does that minimize coordination requirements, but it also allows teams to be smaller since all members can be cross-trained to handle several project tasks.
4. Use an Agile methodology
While traditional software development aims at producing a well-crafted finished product at the end of the design cycle, low-code enables a more Agile approach. With Agile, developers release a minimum viable product (MVP) as quickly as possible. That's the first step in a continuous cycle of design, release, gathering user feedback, and updating the app based on that feedback. This process allows the final design to be refined for maximum usability much more rapidly.
5. Educate users on your low-code platform
While simplicity and accessibility are low-code hallmarks, that doesn't mean low-code platforms are so intuitive that users can make effective use of them with little exposure or training. Team members, whatever their level of coding skill, need to have a clear grasp of just what the platform can and cannot do, which of its functions must be supplemented by additional code, and how the low-code modules it creates can be integrated with other applications and systems.
The eSystems team are low-code experts!
A good way to ensure that your team acquires the skills they need to get the most out of your low-code development platform, is to work with a partner that can provide the right low-code platform for your needs, and also educate your workers on how to use that platform most effectively.
eSystems has a team of more than 50 highly qualified low-code professionals that has delivered more than 500 applications to customers in many industries, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, and government. We've been recognized as a Center of Excellence by OutSystems, provider of the #1 low-code application development platform, and as the Best Data & Integration Partner in the Nordics by Workato, acclaimed as the #1 integration and automation platform.
And now we're using our expertise to produce a unique low-code development enhancement tool for teams using the OutSystems platform. This soon-to-be-launched new product, Agile.Now, is designed to help your teams maximize their efforts by automating, streamlining, and accelerating the development of OutSystems low-code applications throughout the app lifecycle. In particular, Agile.Now helps you avoid common low-code pitfalls by providing enhancements in areas such as platform education, collaboration, communication, documentation, security, testing, customization, and integration.
Here at eSystems, low-code is in the DNA of our corporate culture. That's why we've earned the title of best low-code house in the Nordics. If you'd like to know more about how we can help you take your low-code development to the next level, please contact us today!
WRITTEN BY: Sami Kovanen | Chief Customer Officer