When deciding which platform is right for them, companies should first consider the role of low-code in their architecture and justify the tools that are currently used in-house. They need to consider whether it is a strategic solution that will help drive the organisation’s broader application delivery goals, or whether is it a point solution to solve a specific problem - it’s important to avoid the risks of selecting a tool for limited scenarios.
Low-code platforms simplify much of the engineering complexities of app development by minimising things like hand coding and setting up a built environment. While this greatly reduces the technical skill requirements to use them, it doesn’t mean just anyone is cut out to be a citizen developer. Other softer skills; like attention to detail and project management are vital to getting a usable product up and running.
While most vendors offer respectable visual development capabilities, it is important to look for features that ease external integration of data and services as most business data is stored in different, proprietary systems. Look for out-of-the-box integrations and verify whether custom integrations can be built and reused across apps.
Be careful to not merely receiving a hosting and release management solution. Check for its ability to scale applications and handle private cloud needs. Look for solutions that allow for rapid and continuous provisioning, deployment, instant scalability and maximum utilisation of resources.
Today, APIs form an important part of business applications and architecture. Most low-code platforms merely support APIs. However, it should be easy to import data from any service and bind it to UI components. Additionally, the platform should allow developers to create, publish, and discover APIs with ease.
Myth #1: Low-code platforms are for citizen developers, not pro developers.
This is not necessarily the case, even though low-code is an easy way for citizen developers to create applications, more often, professional developers will use low-code platforms to create tools for citizen developers to deliver apps.
Myth #2: Low-code platforms eliminate the need for any programming.
Generally, developers can use low-code platforms to create self-contained, relatively simple applications without having to write any code, but typical business applications require some programming and scripting for integrating with other applications and databases, writing custom algorithms, and accommodating technologies not incorporated in the low-code platform. See our previous article on where we briefly discuss no-code development platforms.
Myth #3: Low-code platforms mean small scale.
Architects and developers hesitate at business requests to evaluate low-code platforms because they believe these products cannot support large and growing user bases and application portfolios. However, the evidence for many low-code platforms prooves these products can - and do - accommodate enterprise needs for high-scale.
With most low-code platforms, even the most experienced developer would not necessarily understand the code generated by the platform. Maintainability is a critical aspect of application delivery and is overlooked by many these platforms. Verify that the code generated follows design patterns, is well-organised, uses standard naming conventions, and generates documentation that developers can understand and maintain.
Enterprise applications needs both coarse grained and fine-grained security control mechanisms. The low-code platform must support flexible authentication and authorisation mechanisms to secure users and various tasks within the application. Check for integration support for popular identity management systems like AD, LDAP, SSO and OAuth.
Templates dramatically increase productivity. If you are looking at low-code platforms for process automation, make sure that your solution provides a variety of pre-built templates that can serve as starting points for your citizen developers, so they can get an app up and running quickly. It not only speeds up app development, but normally these templates are well designed and tested, so you will end up with a more reliable and secure application.
Eventually, you will need to customise the look and feel of your apps somehow, or perhaps connect to an internal system or database in order to retrieve data or setup your own authentication and authorisation. Every platform provides some degree of customisation and configuration but be mindful to the degree of IT involvement required. If every little thing requires IT support, it defeats the purpose.
We hope that this article has provided you with the necessary precautions to take into consideration when deciding on the best low-code platform to suit your business needs. Be sure to read our previous article on why you should consider low-code and what benefits it could offer your business.
Regularly scheduled and on-demand training programmes, whether delivered online or on premise, are vital. This might very well be one of the most important differentiating factors – after all, your goal is to make citizen developers self-sufficient, and not constantly looking over their shoulders as they create apps.
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