should have Low-code
platforms in their arsenal?
For some time now, we’ve observed systematic growth in both interest and adoption of low-code and no-code platforms among organizations. Łukasz Wróbel, Vice President and Chief Business Development Officer of WEBCON, talks about what low-code platforms are and why their adoption continues to increase.
The terms low-code and no-code often appear side by side. Are they two labels for the same thing or two different things? How would you rate their size and potential?
LW: They’re two things targeting two different audiences. No-code tools enable the creation of simple applications, usually by business users – they fit into the Citizen Development trend.
Low-code platforms, on the other hand, offer greater customization options for drag-and-drop solutions, and greater control over the solution being created. They’re intended for users with greater technological skills, and they’re often used by IT departments and development teams who want more productivity and flexibility.
The market for both of these is definitely growing; the pandemic has accelerated the demand for business applications – and hence such tools – even more. Gartner forecasts, confirm this trend, they forecast 30% year-over-year growth for the low-code platform market .
Low-code platforms are in use building a wide range of applications, from simple to business-critical. Are there particularly common use cases for low-code?
LW: Our clients most often start their low-code adventure by creating applications to support back-office processes. Examples would be electronic document and form routing, such as invoice approvals, contract management, or leave requests. But it’s important to note that launching this first set of low-code applications platform changes the way companies think about process.
On one front business user demand increases because they finally see applications being delivered quickly – and being updated quickly when needed. Elsewhere, IT departments have been becoming less focused exclusively on curating technology and more focused on how to use it to support business, and a big part of that is delivering new applications supporting processes. And since low-code makes developing and maintaining custom-built applications easier, it’s being used formore and more important solutions and being integrated into the architecture of their transaction systems. Some of our clients have built low-code systems for managing product launches, opening retail stores, accepting loan applications, and even comprehensive CRM solutions.
Are there companies and institutions for which low-code platforms are a particularly good fit?
LW: A low-code platform is a tool you use to build applications for clients. They tell you what they want it to do and what problems it needs to solve. It’s completely independent of things like industry or company size. We have clients from the manufacturing, retail, service, and financial sectors. We have government agencies and educational institutions as clients. Client needs and wants determine what is built, not the platform’s capabilities. A good low-code platform is flexible enough to be used to build just about anything.
What are the biggest limitations of low-code platforms?
LW: Many clients come to us having worked with other low-code platforms. The most painful, and most common, limitation for them is change management. Most low-code platforms focus on building an application and moving on to the next one; the implicit mindset is that if it’s low-code, it’s disposable. A lot of low-code projects hence follow what amounts to a waterfall approach. If rapidly responding to requests, new business conditions, etc. isn’t built into a low-code platform, code starts to look appealing in some ways.
There’s another thing we see all the time, and sometimes it can be as much about application builders as the low-code platform they’ve chosen to use. Such tools and builders tend to focus on the obvious, visible parts of an application and ignore whole categories of professional due diligence in areas like auditing, metrics and monitoring, security, documentation, scalability, etc. Such efforts work fine for one or two users, but the moment it needs to be used by a wider audience the user and builder see cracks appear in their applications until they eventually break.
Corporate IT has architecture plans and practices for a reason, and it’s essential to choose a low-code platform that sees to it that both users and IT get what they need. Flexibility without stability amounts to fragility.
That said, these limitations aren’t inevitable – they’re just common. Low-code platforms can be extremely robust – but most offerings simply aren’t. There are low-code options that are mature, handle evolving requirements, and handle stability, reliability, security, and everything else.
How are security issues resolved on low-code platforms? Is there a risk of data leakage? Prying eyes? Sovereignty concerns?
LW: It’s easy to imagine that, in 2021, low-code platforms are only available as cloud-hosted, multitenant SaaS offerings, and you’re at the mercy of the vendor’s infrastructure choices. It’s still very possible, though, to use Enterprise-scoped low-code platforms that can be deployed and secured according to corporate preferences, which could be on-premises data centers, cloud-hosted Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), or a hybrid of both. You can find options that give you the control you need.
As for security, maturity matters. If a low-code platform assumes that applications are simple one-and-done efforts, they’re likely also leaving security to individual application builders, who have to figure out what they should restrict. When that happens, your application is only as secure as its developer. Mature low-code platforms, in contrast, build security into the platform so application builders can rely on it without having to think through security issues with each new low-code application they build. And they default to zero privileges and add them on an as-needed basis. They consider not just who’ll build low-code applications, but who’ll deliver and manage them, too; building an application is only about 10% of the total amount of effort needed to deliver and support it.
You can evaluate a platform and pretty quickly assess its design DNA; whether it’s built for an individual citizen developer, an IT department, outside consultants, etc. When its target audience includes IT, you’ll see security, rights management, and data access requirements being addressed from the outset. Our solution, for example, is in use by financial institutions that operate on the sensitive customer data, and in regions of the globe with strict privacy laws. Its continued growth might be the best testament toward our low-code platform’s commitment to security.
What role can large companies like Microsoft or SAP play in the low-code market segment?
LW: Due to their recognition and their ability to reach a wide audience, they’re helping to popularize low-code and increase awareness, interest in, and demand for low-code tools. Both companies have made low-code an important element of their development strategy. It’s a testament to the growing potential of this market.
Can low-code platforms significantly reduce the need for developers in the near future (2-3 years)?
LW: One of the main reasons for creating and adopting low-code platforms has to be the huge shortage of programmers. It’s a worldwide problem; even areas known for having plentiful talent pools are finding it hard to find staff. Low-code means you can create advanced, secure, efficient, and scalable business applications without coding skills. For example, one of our clients decided to hire a person with experience in accounting and entrust them with the task of creating an initial prototype of the application they had in mind. It went well; she delivered that first prototype in under two weeks from the day she was hired. Low-code platforms can be mastered by a much wider number of people, and that can help address the shortage. The most important thing is knowledge of the specific process that you want to digitalize and the ability to think logically. Some technical skills might come in handy, especially when it comes to integration, but IT can help with that, not programming competences. It’s a technology designed to remove technological barriers from the path to digitization.
Should resellers or integrators be interested in low-code platforms? If so, why?
LW: Gartner predicts, that by 2024, 75% of large organizations will be using at least 4 low-code solutions to build applications. This is not a coincidence. Creating applications with their help is simply faster, cheaper and allows you to build solutions in an iterative way. This way of working with clients allows integrators to focus less on solving technical problems and more on understanding their clients’ business. It helps cement long-term relationships, and it can transform tactical vendors into strategic partners. As low-code platforms enable quick application building and easy maintenance at a low cost, integrators can provide and support more solutions to clients without an increase in personnel. It really can lead to bona fide digital transformation.
How do you rate the awareness of resellers / integrators and customers about low-code and no-code platforms?
LW: We’ve started developing a partner channel in Poland back in 2011. Today we have more than 70 partners all over the world. A few years ago, we had to demonstrate and prove the value of a low-code investment. It’s a lot different now; there’s been a permanent change to the market, where integrators actively look for reliable low-code/no-code partners with whom they can build internal competences and provide their clients with solutions. Our partners include companies that have based their entire business on building tailor-made business applications using low-code technology. It’s not a coincidence.
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