For this edition of the Tech Blog, we will cover the topic of configured systems also known as “low-code/no-code” applications. It has become a bit of a buzz-term, but it is nothing dramatically new. The applications have matured and the marketing surrounding them have slightly changed. For over a decade, vendors have sold the message that the “magic” of these systems meet business needs through a few clicks of a button under the cape of the admin console and a swipe of the business analyst’s wand.
Not all low-code platforms are the same. Forrester broke down the low-code market into three different types of customer-facing software, each trying to fit a specific business need. There are general flavors of each of these, but in the end, they all have the same purpose–deliver maximum functionality while limiting the amount of coding required.
Escape artist or street magic?
Like magic, there are different types of low/no-code platforms. There is the business-process management (BPM) type, which would include applications such as Salesforce, Dynamics, Pega Systems, MicroPact, and even SAP and PeopleSoft to an extent. The applications are designed for versatility in that they can function as a case management system, a financial system or a workflow system for any industry or any governmental program area. Then there is the web content-management type: WordPress, Joomla, Dot Net Nuke, SharePoint and a host of others. These are generally geared at rapid site development, published content management and libraries. They are built to make the content management, publishing and workflow manageable by business users. Finally, there is the cloud-based builder apps like Wix, GoDaddy, SiteBuilder and others that drive web functionality through a templated framework for the general public. Their purpose is to make the internet accessible to everyone and anyone that can point, click, or drop paragraphs, graphics, content and pre-built services. A large chunk of what you see every day on the internet is driven by this technology.
Regardless of the application type, they work the same–just add or modify the configuration and instantaneously you’ll have a great product! Like magic, right before your eyes a solution appears. However, like any good and successful magic trick, it takes a mix of preparation, altered reality and a little sleight of hand. Preparation being the most critical–just because you don’t have to code it doesn’t mean you get to skip thoughtful design. There are several critical design areas to consider. One is the capabilities of the platform and how those capabilities happen, ensuring to effectively communicate any limitations to the end users and managing their expectations. The second of course, is understanding the needs of the user and how they do their business. The altered reality is that behind the scenes, the platform designer may design a function to serve a specific purpose, but the user might utilized that function differently to meet their needs.
Magic is, well magical…
But, when preparation and sleight of hand successfully meet, there is a little magic that happens and you end up with a functional system with some significant benefits.
- Productivity: More rapid implementation to delivery functionality to customers over custom coding.
- Responsiveness: All of the UI is prebuilt to run on multiple platforms from PC to Tablet to Mobile.
- Reliability: Maintenance comes from the platform vendor who has pretested new releases so they are generally more reliable.
- Time and Cost Savings: Developers can generate more functionality in a shorter period of time, adding business value in needing fewer coders to achieve the same result.
As Cambria helps our clients explore these paths and look to these platforms to solve business problems, we stay keenly aware of the business need, listen to the business problem and don’t skimp on the design. Also, as we approach these initiatives with an Agile mindset, we understand the dependencies and limitations of the platform. We also understand that there has to be some order to the configuration and some portions may not be able to be configured without prerequisites, making product road mapping imperative. In the end, we believe the magic happens when we have a happy client!