Hype vs. Reality: Are Low-Code Platforms the Right Approach?
Low-code platforms have gained tremendous popularity, but the fact of the matter is that solving the app development challenge is not as easy as offloading it to business users.
Low-code application development platforms are at the peak of the hype cycle. Just recently Seimens bought Mendix for a staggering $730 million in cash. Meanwhile, its nearest competitor OutSystems raised $360 million around the same time last year.
Today, almost every mobile application development platform company is looking to position itself in the low-code/no-code space. These companies are looking to expand the market by transferring the development keys from the developer (IT) to the business user. But is that the right strategy? Are we trying to simplify the problem so much that we end up with generalists who are unable to perform on either side, business or IT?
Below are some of the pitfalls with this approach:
1. App Building Is Operational, Not Strategic
While the application itself maybe be strategic, the process of building it is not. This means that while business users have a dire need for apps and they may even have the ideas and the business case for them, they often don’t want to spend hours trying to create screen after screen to ultimately develop their "dream" app.
2. Speed Is of the Essence
Speed is the need of the hour and is the main driver for the movement toward low-code. However, that does not mean that giving a tool to the power user will ensure a speedy delivery. It’s like giving an axe to an architect and hoping he will be able to build the house in half the time vis-a-vis construction worker.
3. Building a Prototype Is Easy; Building an Enterprise App Is Not
Most of the companies in the low-code space focus on drag-and-drop UI builders. However, that’s probably 30% of the problem. The remaining 70% is on the backend side, which requires sufficient amount of expertise to configure. There are complications of authentication, scale, engagement and notifications, etc., which are definitely beyond the scope of the average power user.
4. No-Code and No-Ops Are Not Everyone’s Piece of Cake
No-code stories are becoming even more tempting with the backing of No-Ops on the cloud. This means that you don’t have to worry about servers, computation, scale, speed, etc. Sounds like a fairy tale but in reality, there is more that meets the eye. It’s another skill that is not very easy to just add on to the power user and hope everything is ready to go at the blink of an eye.
It’s easy to get sucked in to the allure of empowering business users, but be aware that they will not want to replace their day job for something which does not directly add to their performance parameters.
What’s the Solution?
As a company seeking to move the application development needle fast, the important aspect is to look for high productivity tools for developers. Provide them with an arsenal to ensure that the experts are delivering in full capacity and with high quality. Consider the following to build this arsenal:
Cross-Platform Development: Low-code platforms that can help the development team create cross-platform applications with the same toolkit and very little rework.
Backend-as-a-Service: Infrastructure-as-a-Service no-ops should be layered with a team that can handle the ops in a way to ensure built-in efficiency and scalability, not just for the current scenario but for future scenarios.
Multiple Components to Borrow: It is very easy to re-invent the wheel for every piece of the application. However, a true low-code platform should have enough integrations with third-party applications and services that they should be easy to pick and place.
Minimal Relearning: Most importantly, low-code platforms should have the flexibility to let the developers code in their language of choice. Requiring developers to learn a new tool or a new methodology simply increases the chances of bugs in the system.
Ultimately, low-code platforms need to be designed in a way that actively increases developer productivity. Application development needs to be like a puzzle with all the necessary components available to be placed one after another. This will help create a true enterprise-grade application in a short period of time.
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