Advantages of low-code platforms: Speed, agility, collaboration
ServiceNow's Gregg Aldana discusses the role of low-code platforms in speeding application development, easing the app developer shortage and creating hybrid development teams.
Video brought to you by ServiceNow.
Survival in business has always been about time to market. Companies that consistently develop and upgrade their products and services ahead of their competitors typically increase market share and boost revenue. Fulfilling that goal depends heavily on delivering business applications that can liberate siloed data, automate processes and consolidate digital workflows.
"IT leaders are facing mounting challenges around application delivery," Gartner reported in September 2020. "Developer shortages and skill-set challenges are impacting their ability to deliver increasing levels of business automation in a rapid and reliable fashion."
Building these applications has traditionally required professional app developers working with highly specialized and time-consuming hand coding designed to meet the specific needs of marketing but not those of sales, service and support, resulting in the creation of multiple specialized applications, app sprawl and greater demand for skilled developers.
"[W]e're predicting about 500 million new apps have to be built over the next five years, and that's more applications than have been built over the last 40 years," said Gregg Aldana, senior director, Creator Workflows Global Solution Consulting at ServiceNow, during an interview with TechTarget's Jamison Cush. "There are not enough developers out there to hire your way out of this problem. So companies are turning more and more to low-code platforms."
Along with faster development times, advantages of low-code platforms include their higher productivity, greater agility, multifunctional capabilities and simplified coding that invites business users and citizen developers into the app development, deployment, execution and management mix.
"[T]he biggest fans of low-code development … are professional, traditional developers," Aldana said. "They can develop very sophisticated applications very quickly, because they're not spending time building components from scratch. They can get out-of-the-box low-code platforms. But at the same time, for some of the low hanging fruit, they can pass off that development to business users [and] to citizen developers in the business units."
In this video, Aldana and Cush discuss the advantages of low-code platforms for businesses in the throes of digital transformation, the shortage of professional developers, the creation of hybrid development teams, and what companies need to know when evaluating low-code platforms.
Jamison Cush: Hi, I'm Jamison Cush with TechTarget, and I'm talking with Gregg Aldana with ServiceNow about low-code platforms. And if you'd like to learn more about enterprise low-code app development, please click the link above or in the description below. Gregg, why has low-code become so important? And what's the difference between low-code and no-code?
Gregg Aldana: Well, I'm glad you asked that question, Jamison. So we've seen a dramatic shift over the last 18 to 24 months in the industry. And the reason that low-code has become so important is because so many companies have to move and automate all of their business processes so much faster than before. During the pandemic last year, everyone was sent home and was remote, and so there was this overwhelming need to automate all of these manual processes that people can no longer rely on being for in office interactions. So, I think we're predicting about 500 million new apps have to be built over the next five years. And that's more applications than have been built over the last 40 years. And there are not enough developers out there to hire your way out of this problem. So companies are turning more and more to low-code platforms. So they can address two things. One, they can be more productive with their professional developers, and deliver applications more quickly. But they could also use these low-code platforms to empower more developers and more business users within their enterprise. And some of the differences between no- and low-code platforms is no-code platforms are platforms where you don't have to have any background in application development, or even any kind of structured processing. You can literally -- like somebody who would open up a spreadsheet, I call that a no-code application. A low-code application is where it kind of starts out as no-code, which you can inlay or some simple scripting or some simple macro type of business logic if you need to.
Cush: So you mentioned the sort of benefits to traditional developers, but it seems at least on the surface, that low-code could be a threat to the traditional developer or the traditional developer role in an enterprise.
Aldana: Yeah, I would. I would say -- I would dispel that myth. That low-code doesn't represent really a risk to traditional developers; it's actually an opportunity. And I would say the biggest fans of low-code development in low-code development platforms are professional, traditional developers, because it addresses two major things for them. One, it allows them to move faster, that they can develop very sophisticated applications very quickly, because they're not spending time building components from scratch. They can get out-of-the-box low-code platforms. But at the same time, for some of the low hanging fruit, they can pass off that development to business users [and] to citizen developers in the business units. So they don't have to waste their time with their backlogs on the lunch menu app, or maybe that are lower priority applications, they can empower more people so that they can focus as professional developers on the most challenging and most critical problems where their skill sets are needed.
Cush: So it sounds like there's a great opportunity for collaboration that might not have been there before.
Aldana: Absolutely. And one of the areas that's enabling this collaboration between citizen developers and traditional professional developers is local platforms are allowing people to introduce governance and management. So whereas, and I would say many years ago, people were very scared about giving development tools to business units or to citizen developers in the different areas because they were afraid of sprawl. But some of the new low-code platforms like ServiceNow, are allowing the professional developers to offer this capability to their business users, and then be able to control it and govern it so that it doesn't go off the guardrails.
Cush: So how do these low-code platforms handle integrations with other, more sophisticated requirements?
Aldana: Well, there's not a one size fits all. I would say, on some platforms, they offer, like ServiceNow, offer integrations out of the box without writing any code with having pre-canned spokes, that can be just drag and drop type of components, to bring in data and to send data to external systems. And all of those actions are pre-canned. And we've seen more and more professional developers build these spokes and build these integrations, and then offer them off to their business users to be able to bring in data and to retrieve data. And to put data back here without writing a lot of code. But not all platforms are created equal. And in some low-code platforms, you have to bring in a third-party tool to do some of these integrations.
Cush: So let's just take it back up, get more high level. You're an enterprise or a business and you're looking into low-code platforms. What would be a sort of simple checklist you can look at to assess a low-code platform?
Aldana: I think some of the things that you need to consider when choosing a low-code platform is the integration question here. Does this platform allow no-code or native integration? Or do I have to bring in another tool for that? And by bringing this low-code platform, does this fit with my overall enterprise strategy and technologies that I already have? Or am I taking on more technical debt? Does this platform have a configuration management database where I can get more and more value around the more applications that I develop. I think you also need to look at whether or not your low-code platform will allow you to discourage or get your hands around siloed behavior. Because the idea is you don't necessarily want to have less reuse and more waste and have different platforms in different areas. You want to be able to control that and have a more predictable investment and get a better return on your investment. So you're looking for a platform that you can offer to business users, but yet control and really kind of eliminate the app sprawl. So you're looking for a platform that provide guardrails that allow you to give limited visibility and make sure that you give a consistent experience. You don't want an application that's built by the marketing team to look different than the application that's built by the IT or the sales team. So you really want to bring that together and make sure that the platform has a common experience across all these different areas. But I think the biggest thing that you're looking for when you're assessing a low-code platform: Does it lower your risk or increase your risk? And what I mean by that, some low-code platforms are very siloed, and they're very slow. They're very specific for addressing very specific business problems. But what that can do is that can introduce more risk into your enterprise by having too many different technologies. By having a central technology, you can actually reduce that risk and control the compliance and make sure that you don't have people using technologies to put information out there that violates security principles or whatnot.