Selecting a low-code product requires a clear understanding of your most common requirements. Are you dealing with a variety of data and workflows? Do your apps need to integrate with partner APIs? Are your business requirements changing often? Are your users finicky about the experience? Do you have both citizen and professional app development teams? Are you finding it difficult to hire skills?
All low-code platforms give you a promising start. You get off the block at speed, simple apps are easy, and tough ones seem possible. But missing key requirements in your platform means you will soon find yourself skipping deadlines or you need to hire developers to finish the job - defeating the purpose of buying a low-code product. That's why setting some criteria for choosing a low-code application platform is important. Here is our list.
Using a low-code platform offers several benefits.
Here are some common goals of using a low-code platform:
Low-code platforms enable faster application development by providing pre-built widgets, custom reusable components and visual development interfaces like out-of-the-box themes, templates and layouts. Developers can rely on drag-and-drop methodology, automatic code generation that provides open-standards-based code that is human readable, and auto-API documentation which is all handled by the low code platform. This allows developers to focus on the core functionality of the application without spending excessive time on repetitive coding tasks and reducing the manual coding effort drastically. Consequently, development cycles are shortened, and applications can be delivered to the market quickly.
Low-code platforms can reduce development costs by minimizing the need for seeking/hiring proprietary developer skill sets, extensive coding, reducing the development cycle, and streamlining maintenance and updates. With faster development times and increased productivity, organizations can achieve cost savings in terms of development resources, resource allocation and time to market. Low-code platforms priced based on developer seats are hassle-free when it comes to developing applications, as there is no limit to the number of applications or end users. In addition, it is vital that these platforms do not have any runtime dependency or hidden costs that can later impact the TCO of applications.
Low-code platforms offer seamless integration capabilities with third-party systems, databases, and APIs. This simplifies the process of connecting and interacting with external services, eliminating the need for extensive custom coding. As a result, integrating disparate systems becomes straightforward, enabling enterprises to leverage existing enterprise assets and data sources effectively with minimal to no disruption in existing practices. The LCDP should also provide the ability to deploy anywhere without any runtime implications. This will enable enterprises the freedom of deploying their apps built using LCDP to either merge with their existing CI/CD process or deploy to an orchestration layer like K8s or Redhat OpenShift or a cloud of their choice or an on-premise setup.
Low-code platforms provide the ability to make rapid changes, prototyping and updates to applications. With visual development interfaces that include the WYSIWYG approach, developers can easily modify and adapt applications in response to changing business requirements or user feedback. This agility allows organizations to iterate quickly, experiment with new ideas, and respond accurately to market demands.
Low-code platforms come with built-in collaboration features, allowing multiple developers to work together on a project. By providing centralized governance and enterprise-grade features like role-based access control at a development level which enhances project management for a development team. These platforms facilitate communication, version control, knowledge and application asset sharing among team members by providing an internal artifact repository that resembles an internal developer marketplace. This promotes transparency, enhances teamwork, and improves the overall developer community.
On the other hand, there are LCDPs that are business user-oriented, which deliver a workflow-based approach to application development that may or may not fall under the category of solving serious enterprise-grade applications, like basic approval flows, data collection etc., they do provide value in creating simple user journeys and flow-based applications. But here, the application delivery cycle times can be delayed due to a handoff between the business user and the development/delivery teams.
There are multiple use cases that can be an ideal fit for low-code platforms:
The LCDP of choice should have the necessary open framework to support integration for systems already in use within your enterprise to meet your application requirements. Integrations to Swagger API open spec or standards provide LCDPs with a higher acceptance of universally used APIs facilitating integrations with any third-party systems - external or internal.
It is an added benefit when the LCDP is advanced enough to understand the API input and provide the necessary CRUD endpoints automatically based on the API definitions. This heavy lifting of the LCDP will improve developer productivity and reduce the coding effort. In some cases where the already in-use APIs do not meet the universal Swagger spec standards, there would be a need to create custom integrations and custom code configurations to enable the LCDP to accept these APIs. A pitfall to look out for would be that LCDP in consideration could be tied to a particular technology and only supports integrations within the said locked technology landscape (for example - Microsoft™ / Salesforce® / ServiceNow™). This can limit or eliminate the scope of integrating with other third-party systems that use other technologies.
With the LCDP being developer-centric and open standards-based, it is easily adoptable by developers. The ability of the platform to generate standards-based code that is human readable, editable and extensible gives developers a sense of security and ownership. This puts the developers in their comfort zone to be able to adopt a new development tool or a platform, and the learning curve is neither steep nor long. With the help of the support channels, documentation and training, the adoption time coupled with the understanding of best practices creates a seamless transition for developers to feel confident with the platform of choice. A realistic time estimate for a developer to attain low-medium proficiency with a LCDP can be 1-2 months and high-expert proficiency may span 3-4 months.
An LCDP providing code-level controls is definitely a good-to-have feature when choosing an LCDP. An LCDP that provides access and control to the generated code provides development teams with transparency and ownership which may be in general; lacking in LCDPs that do not provide code control or access. Development teams can now understand and read the generated code allowing the possibility to bring in more complex customisations and integrations to meet the high standards of enterprise-grade use case requirements.
The advantage of a LCDP that generates code and provides code-level controls can be seen in the versatile use-cases of the platform. There can also be scenarios where development teams need not want access to the generated code/perform code-level changes, which is befitting for such requirements. A good LCDP platform caters to this segment of developers as well.
All enterprise applications need to come with enterprise-grade security measures to safeguard the applications from external threats making them robust and secure. It is a good practice to look out for LCDP platforms that have certain out-of-the-box security certifications in place like OWASP Top 10 vulnerability attacks. This saves time and effort to perform individual tests as the platform already possesses these safeguards.
LCDPs that generate code need to take care of the code quality and standards to minimize flaws in their first-party code. Having a certified status by companies like Veracode, Checkmarx or Acunetix etc. represents a high standard of security practices in the generated code. In addition to this, LCDP platforms should have the provision to connect with existing enterprise authentication and authorization mechanisms to blend in. Out-of-the-box integrations with LDAP, Active Directory, OpenID, CAS, SAML etc. with the support for SSO help developers configure security tasks and authentication with ease, for respective application use cases.
Low-code fosters continuous innovation and allows you to create at the speed of change. There is a wide range of low-code tech out there, be wise to evaluate how these platforms perform in context to your enterprise and development needs, the right platform can accelerate productivity, produce secure and scalable apps, with great user experiences, enabling your teams to go to market faster.