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Interview: How low-code development platforms make businesses more agile

By Kai Ping Lew
Mon 8 Oct 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

As the adoption of Agile methodologies continues, organisations are increasingly looking for ways to leverage Agile to help them move faster in the market.

Low-code development is emerging as an indispensable, must-have technology allowing organisations to be more productive with the resources already at their disposal.

OutSystems Australia/New Zealand regional director Steve Oliff spoke to Techday about the trend, how it helps organisations in digital transformation, and how it empowers employees.

What trends are likely to disrupt companies now and in the future and why?

Organisations continue to look for ways to leverage Agile methodologies to increase productivity.

But, Agile can be disruptive for traditional enterprises with specific processes and ingrained ways of doing things.

New market entrants, complete with the latest software technologies and not encumbered with legacy commercial relationships, business intermediaries, and culture-based processes, can often more quickly connect customers with solutions, at scale, to increase value and the customer experience.

Highly productive software development using low-code helps more nimble organisations take an idea from innovation to commercialisation very quickly, without needing a team of experienced full-stack developers.

Low-code platforms enable less skilled programmers or citizen developers to develop custom software applications rapidly.

Because they aren’t pure-programmers, they are often better equipped to understand what the customer wants and translate it into a high-value, enterprise-scale business solution.

This approach and speed can be very disruptive to existing organisations that cannot move quickly and foster innovation.

How can organisations prepare for the challenges of implementing Agile methodologies and tools?

Integrating new technology such as low-code development platforms and Agile delivery into the workplace will almost always meet with some resistance.

Agile demands a mind-shift in how people operate and work together and the benefits of Agile aren’t always easy to impress on professionals who have been doing things a certain way for a long time.

In this light, companies should ensure that employees at all levels understand the importance of innovation and the focus of driving business value rather than the fear of someone moving in and taking over their role.

Rather than focus on how each role needs to evolve specifically, organisations should support the generation of results and provide adequate time for upskilling in the new types of technology and processes.

This can be accomplished by promoting Agile initiatives in a “digital culture” and rewarding innovation by encouraging the rapid generation of solutions.

While these micro changes are going on, there need to be similar efforts ongoing at a macro level to ensure that things like quality assurance and governance are not being ignored, but are instead being actively integrated into the new Agile model.

This helps reinforce the changes at the business level instead of focusing only on a specific area or department.

How are low-code platforms democratizing coding for employees working in tech?

One of the key attributes of low-code platforms is they allow a less technical approach to developing custom full-stack enterprise application development, including front and back-end systems, employee apps and portals, and web and mobile applications.

Low-code, rapid application development uses a visual-based “drag-and-drop” approach to coding rather than traditional hand-coding thousands or millions of lines of code. Low-code platforms can also leverage template and reusable blocks of code for things that dev-teams do frequently so that you don’t have to keep writing the same code over and over again.

When you’re ready to test and deploy, the platform automatically compiles the application, performs error checking and an impact analysis, and lets you know of any problems before it goes to the live production environment.

Even technical staff who aren’t professional developers, but who understand the business process and functional requirements can competently develop applications with only weeks of training, rather than the years required for traditional development.

This opens the application development process to a much wider range of employees and also increases the productivity of experienced coders, who can now spend more time on the differentiation and innovation aspects of their applications.

What are the opportunities for organisations using low-code?

Low-code platforms have considerably streamlined custom application development and deployment, reducing the need for highly specialized programmers who can handle complicated software and hardware management.

Instead of being tied up with software installations and configuration, IT teams can now focus their time on more creative and profitable tasks, which enhances their propensity to innovate.

Pluggable open source components and web services accelerate the development process and expand the horizons of applications and developers.

Providing these solutions rapidly to web and native mobile interfaces supports the “work anywhere, anytime” concept and increases the adoption of these solutions.

Why is it important for companies to make learning opportunities available to employees?

To promote a productive workforce that does not feel like it is being “left behind,” it’s critical to learn and embrace new ways of working and the technology that empowers them.

Because of how long they have worked with the organisation or in the industry they’re in, often, employees have very valuable intellectual property—so they are employees you want to keep. But at the same time, their technical skills are becoming legacy or may no longer be in high demand.

They are aware of this, and if they see their organisation making changes that could make their skills obsolete, they may feel pressured to leave.

Not surprisingly, these employees are often the ones who quickly become advocates for low code application development platforms because they see in it a fresh start for themselves and can do something that brings real value to the company and to themselves.

They can become productive very quickly and utilise their existing business intellectual property for innovating and automating existing or new business processes.

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