How ‘Low-Code’ leads to ‘High-Agility’ in Software Production

Content by: DevOps Online

Agility in software development is based on the Agile methodology’s ability to respond to changes much faster than traditional methods.

Since the beginning and new the acceleration of Digital Disruption, the prevailing era of Start-ups and small businesses equipped with cheap, high computing and storage capacity and abundance of data to support their work, the ability to respond to market change (and customer appetite) changes, become a vital key to survival and success.

Low Code is based on the philosophy of “Maximizing the Code Not Written”.

This means to provide the software developers with the tools that would allow for quick design and setup of functional modules (through Visual Modeling tools) that would then automatically generate the code, configurations, pipelines, platform, and connectivity their solution needs in order to be released as a product to the world outside

Of course, since the dawn of software development, we have had traditionally used software libraries, APIs, and even Copy & Paste (of hopefully only our own code!) to reduce the amount of re-work needed in creating a new product or feature, but at the end, we still needed to go through thousands of lines of code and do an extensive amount of manual work to get the application complete, firefight a barrage of repetitive bugs and errors to eventually get it right and send it out of the door.

Low-code is the most recent paradigm in quick and efficient design and development of software applications with minimal manual coding.

It has a much less steep learning curve in comparison to any other development method and enables novice and skilled programmers to deliver value more quickly and more reliably.

Low-code uses visual modeling in graphical interface environments to pull together functions, their relationships, and data sources and then configure the quickly built application and in the process skipping over the pain-points of the platform, security, infrastructure, and connectivity.

The idea is based on a new adoption of Lean Manufacturing methods that have been tried, tested, and proven successful in the production of market-adjusted deliveries.

Low-code uses a set of tools that let the programmer “drag & drop” from a large set of pre-developed and encapsulated modules and then draw the flow pipeline between them, add decision points, data sources, reporting segments, tune and adjust what they want and provide the parameters needs and build a complete application with 1/10 of the traditional amount of effort with 1/1000 of the traditional amount of bugs.

Low-code platforms, at their bare minimum, are consisted of:

  1. Visual Environment for designing and composing the applications’ modules, resources, their relationships, and their configuration parameters.
  2. Back-end connection services to all the Microservices, APIs, Data Sources, and all of the available services that are available to the tool.
  3. CI/CD/ALM which enables CI/CD (Continuous Integration / Continuous Development) and (Application Lifecycle Manager) with provisioning of a complete DevOps or DevSecOps integrated toolbox used for automation of building, testing, debugging, deployment, operationalization, and ongoing maintenance of the released Product.

The key difference between Low-code and Traditional Methods in Software Development

Low-code and traditional methods both adhere to the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). The key difference is the merger of many traditional steps into composite, enriched steps under Low-code, which ultimately leads to a much shorter cycle and faster delivery, which directly results in “Higher Agility” in market change response.

As an added bonus, the code quality is also better due to reducing dependence on – the error-prone – manual coding.

When using a traditional software development approach, we may follow the following steps (notice that different teams may use a different breakdown of steps and even add additional ones):

  1. Market Research
  2. Requirement definition
  3. Creating Wireframes And Visualization Prototypes
  4. Designing the Architecture
  5. Deciding on the Platform (Front-end, Middle-layer, Back-end)
  6. Deciding on the Dev/QA Stack and Ops hand-off plan
  7. Creating the Prototype
  8. Collecting feedback from the market exposure of Prototype
  9. Decide on your Business Logic
  10. Loop between 7 to 9 as much as needed or afforded
  11. Coding the UI, Services, Back-end
  12. Connecting to Data Sources, Microservices, APIs, etc.
  13. Creating Test Scripts and Scenarios for each component and their Integration
  14. Testing for Regression, UAT, and Staging Verifications
  15. Testing for Security, Workload, Latency, etc.
  16. Deploy to the Production environment and Release to Customers.

When using a Low-code platform, a number of these steps merge and collapse into other ones and automation removes the need for manual implementation of some other steps:

  1. Market Research
  2. Requirement definition
  3. Choose APIs, Microservices, and Data Sources
  4. Visually drag and drop your software’s components and workflow stages in the graphic environment
  5. Add your manual code if needed (usually less than 10% of traditional ways)
  6. Auto-generate the Wireframes / Visual prototypes
  7. Verify-in the Market and adjust as needed
  8. Loop between 4 to 7 as much as needed or afforded.
  9. Test for UAT
  10. Deploy to the Production environment and Release to Customers

Low-code needs a fewer number of steps compared to traditional methods since it is automating many aspects of work, from prototyping to coding, testing, and through that avoiding the bugs and errors of manual work.

The Advantages of the Low-code approach:

  1. Higher Agility: Low-code platforms allow you to design, prototype, and deploy your ideas faster than all previous methods. They also come naturally to the DevOps team as they assist both sides in parallel, removing a lot of error-prone, tedious, slow manual work from their plates.
  2. Wide-Scale Integration: Low-code platforms allow you to easily integrate to APIs and Microservices that are available to your team internally and externally (3rd parties). REST and SOAP web services are common, and you can add your own APIs and use them as well.
  3. UX at a new level: The visual nature of the process and ease of prototyping and collecting user feedback off the market on your designs allow for a great match to user expectations and the creation of a user experience with a lasting positive impression.
  4. Latest Components, Designs, and Architecture: Low-code platforms use the most modern, market-tested approaches and tools that are available in the market, thus automatically providing the best current version of every component that you use in your development work. Every time a better component is provided in the market, the Low-code platform can use your most recent application design and workflow to re-build the solution based on the best high-performing components that have become available.
  5. Strong Reliability, Security, and Durability: The Visual design of your application makes it easier for you to design a strong, scalable, and balance solution, and the security hardening that is implemented on each of your components, and their integrated solution, will bring peace of mind over how your released product would behave and survive in the world outside.
  6. Solid Release Process: Low-code platforms can provide fully managed CI/CD pipelines that speed up the build, capacity management, and deployment process and raise the quality through automated testing on components each tested and proven individually and collectively.
  7. Solution telemetry and in-time tuning: Low-code platforms facilitate live application performance monitoring and data-driven decision process over fine-tuning activities, from configuration updates to application restructuring and rebuilding as needed.
  8. Agility in Compliance and Governance: The Visualization ability of the Low-code platform, combined with the unparalleled agility in responding to change, allows for far superior market change response, compliance update requirements, and enforcement of governance as needed in the enterprise.

A method for all seasons

You can virtually use Low-code to develop all kinds of software solutions. For example, the Visual IDE that seats at the center of the Low-code platform can also be equipped with several Web Design Templates, each coming with a rich selection of functions that would save a significant amount of time in design, prototyping, and market testing of web application ideas. Low-code can be used to design, develop and release any kind of Digital Product on green and brown platforms and even in enhancement or replacement of legacy solutions.

Low-code Platform Types

  • Generalized Platforms: Good for all software application development and management work with no added specialty or bias towards certain usability or market sector.
  • Niche Platforms: Specialize in certain market sectors (like Insurance, real estate, healthcare) or Line of Business (like Car Insurance, Commercial Properties, Vet Clinics) with functions oriented towards the delivery of business IT solutions in that specific field.
  • No-Code Platforms: They focus on enabling “Citizen Developers”, the business savvy but non/low technical people within an enterprise, using “Plug & Play” components without any needed coding to allow less technical staff to develop solutions within the boundary of the platform. It removes the burden of technical selections at the price of limiting the flexibility of the developed applications.
  • Bi-Modal Platforms: Designed to enable solutions in application modernization through creating new UX for the customer, by generating new Front-End flows and graphics and integrating them into the existing legacy systems. They can support short-term innovation efforts to boot UX on the enterprise’s products and services, buying them time to invest in incremental and eventual replacement of the legacy back-ends with modern solutions.

The Now and Future of Low-code Platform

The expanding market success of Low-code platforms over the past 5 years has accelerated market investments in creating and enrichment of existing and new tools.

Both Gartner and Forrester have been tracking the Low-code platform solutions and market coverage closely.

Conclusion

In our current, digitally disrupted, Agile-driven world where the User Experience and Value Delivery are the key competitive measures of businesses, Low-code has become a welcomed approach in solution design and delivery.

The high Agility that benefits Startups and enterprises alike, have boosted the market expansion on Low-code ideology and platform solutions and we already see a tightly competitive market for these solutions.

Low-code acts as a new wave in digital disruption as it even lowers the barriers of entry for development, below the lowest we had experienced before, allowing for greater participation of minds in the design and development of solutions and making it easier for people to try their hand in solution development.

This would not only make it harder for Start-ups to survive and grown-up, but also for enterprises that now have to either adapt and revamp their Agile-driven software practices with this new approach, or lose more profit to the new wave of market entrants that pose a rising risk to the lifelines of large enterprises.