In today's business environment, software is king. With digital disruption in the marketplace accelerating at a rapid pace, companies need to be able to quickly deploy innovative new applications, both for their internal operations and to better serve customers.
In fact, the pace of innovation is so great that even companies with well-established IT development teams can find themselves struggling to keep up. What many organizations are discovering is that the traditional way of developing new applications is simply inadequate to meet today's requirements for speed, flexibility, and agility.
That's why developers at many companies are turning to low-code platforms to provide major boosts in software development productivity. The low-code approach allows them to create robust new applications, and deploy them quickly with much less time and effort than previously required. In fact, industry analysts have identified low-code software development as a top enterprise technology trend.
But what, exactly, is low-code development, and how are developers using it to save time building their apps?
What is low-code development?
Low-code platforms allow the development of business applications without developers having to write substantial amounts of dedicated code. A recent 451 Research report defines a low-code (or digital automation) platform as:
a set of tools and resources structured within a uniform framework to enable developers to rapidly design, prototype, develop, deploy, manage, and monitor process-oriented applications.
Low-code platforms feature a user-friendly Graphical User Interface (GUI), along with a range of pre-built software components, code modules, and templates. Developers implement the business process logic and workflows of their apps by dragging and dropping components with the required functionality into an appropriate arrangement on the visual canvass of the GUI.
The great advantage of this low-code approach over traditional development methods is that because so much of the needed functionality is already available through pre-built components, the developer typically has to hand code only about 10% of the application's functionality. The low-code platform handles the rest.
How low-code development speeds up the application development process
One of the major advantages of low-code development is that it allows non-programmer stakeholders, often business analysts, to develop relatively simple apps on their own, without having to ask IT to mount a formal development project. In fact, one recent study found that 24% of those involved in developing low-code apps have no coding experience at all.
But, as Gartner notes, professional software developers are also increasingly turning to low-code platforms for rapid development of their own applications. That's because those developers have discovered that the low-code approach can speed up the app development process significantly. Let's see how.
1. Visual development using pre-built modules is much quicker
A low-code platform's toolbox includes an array of pre-built components with well-defined functions. The developer designs the logical flow of the app, including its inputs, outputs, and internal functionality, by dragging and dropping components with the required functions into an appropriate arrangement in the GUI. This visual design process is far more intuitive, and much less complex, error-prone, and time-consuming, than coding the same flow using a traditional programming language.
Of course, as applications become larger and more complex, there may be instances in which manual coding is required to obtain the exact functionality or integrations required. But that usually applies to only a small portion of the project. As much as 90% of the design is typically embodied in the pre-built components supplied by the platform. By making extensive use of high-function generic code modules as the building blocks of the design, the low-code approach allows professional developers to focus most of their time and attention on that 10% of the app's functionality that makes it unique.
2. Not having to code line-by-line leads to quicker implementation and fewer bugs
Low-code platforms provide out-of-the-box functionality for most of the functional elements of your applications. That keeps manual coding, along with all the time required to envision, design, implement, test, and integrate that code, to a minimum.
Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of line-by-line coding is the amount of errors it produces. Consider these statistics from Coralogix:
- On average, a developer creates 70 bugs per 1000 lines of code
- 15 bugs per 1,000 lines of code find their way to customers
- Fixing a bug takes 30 times longer than writing a line of code
- 75% of a developer's time is spent on debugging (1500 hours a year!)
Low-code modules and templates are extensively tested and debugged by the platform provider. Plus, because these components are designed to seamlessly integrate with one another, those integrations are also extensively pre-tested, allowing designers to minimize the time spent working out interface issues.
3. Low-code development is extremely flexible, so changes can be made quickly
In today's business environment, the ability to react quickly to changing marketplace conditions is an absolute necessity. That means a company's software design process must be flexible and nimble. Low-code development is key to meeting those requirements because:
- The graphical design process produces an app whose functionality is easy to visualize and understand, making it far easier to see how to modify it for new functionality.
- Since a low-code design is modular from the ground up, the app can be updated by simply pulling in additional components or modules with the needed functionality.
- Most low-code platforms support versioning, making it easy to keep track of changes as they are made.
4. The low-code approach allows business stakeholders to participate in the design process
The visual nature of low-code development allows business stakeholders, who typically lack technical or coding knowledge, to understand the app and apply their business expertise in its design. That usually results in apps that not only better fit the requirements of users and the business processes with which they work, but which are also much easier to adapt as business or operational requirements change.
Low-code is the future of application development
The 451 Research report referenced above projects the future of low-code development this way:
The overall benefit of a [low-code platform] is speed. In general, they can potentially shave 50-90% off development time vs. a coding language.
We believe low-code [platforms] will craft nearly half of all applications developed in the coming years because they take less time to prototype, test, and deploy to production.
Low-code development is a growing force in leading-edge companies today, and its use will only accelerate in the future. Companies that take advantage of it will inevitably enjoy a competitive advantage over those that do not.
Your company can be one that does. Provide your customers, organization, or team with applications built for their current needs, and which are ideally positioned to meet future needs as well. We've shown you the speed and power of low-code development. To get started fulfilling your needs today with eSystems, please contact us.
WRITTEN BY: Reggie Rusan | Chief Technology Officer