What are the cons of OutSystems

Low Code Platforms: What Are They Really Suitable For?

Low-code platforms seem like an all-purpose weapon for the digital transformation of companies, for alleviating the shortage of skilled workers or for faster time-to-market for innovations in software development. Low-code platforms promise to automate the IT industry, which is characterized by extensive manual production, to a greater extent. Can low-code platforms actually deliver on this promise?

The concept can be described in a few sentences. These platforms make it possible to develop database-based specialist applications very quickly with almost no programming knowledge; a partner company of a leading provider, "Outsystems", estimates the average development time for applications at just 8 weeks (cf.: low code platforms - example Outsystems). This is possible because low-code platforms offer extensive prefabricated components, such as connectors to cloud services such as IBM Watson or Google Maps. Here, development becomes an interactive way of clicking together prefabricated software modules that combine to form a consistent application. Lego for developers.

Development is usually done visually, which encourages quick feedback from end users. The training period is very short (especially compared to learning programming skills). It is a full-stack development, which means: Not only the user interfaces are developed here, but also all the necessary backend functionalities (e.g. data models, integration of databases such as Oracle, MS SQL Server, DB2). Incidentally, low-code platforms are designed for the entire life cycle, from requirements engineering to maintenance. The applications can be cloud-based, but also on-premise.

First of all: It is undisputed that low-code platforms are a success story. One of the leading providers, Outsystems, already has a community of over 200,000 developers (also known as “Citizen Developers” in connection with low-code platforms), Service Now a community of over 100,000 developers. A survey by Forrester Research among 41 people responsible for development ("Were you able to eliminate the deficits of classic software development through low-code platforms") was clearly very positive: 21 respondents said "Yes, significantly", 19 others said "Yes, clearly noticeable", only one participant in the Survey stated "yes, but only marginally".

There are a number of players, each developing the low-code platform from a different starting point; The platforms therefore also have different characteristics; for a software project with a low-code platform, these must be compared according to strengths / weaknesses profiles (Kony, for example, is very suitable for mobile apps, ServiceNow for IoT applications and reporting) . The analyst provides an overview Gardener (see: Gartner: Magic Quadrant for Enterprise High-Productivity Application Platform as a Service). The leading platforms include: OutSystems, Appian, Mendix, Kony, Salesforce, ServiceNow, AgilePoint, Bizagi, K2 and Software AG.

The application area of ​​low-code platforms can be described - in simplified form - on the basis of the following dichotomy: On the one hand, there are deeply integrated core applications such as an ERP system that is developed and is responsible for the company's own IT department. On the other hand, there are a large number of (smaller) applications in the specialist areas: This ranges from an MS Excel-based application for maintaining smaller databases to function-specific reports.

The application area of ​​low-code platforms is typically located in the departments: Here (technology-savvy) department-associated (“citizen programmers”) can very quickly “click together” efficiency-increasing applications or develop prototypes with the help of low-code platforms. This can be seen well in a DEMO example, where an Excel list for partner management becomes a decentralized low-code platform-based application for collaborative collaboration (from 5:30 p.m. onwards): Demo: Low-Code Development - Building Business Apps Faster. Another example is a mobile app for a “beer app” in a few weeks: A state-of-the-art beer app in a few weeks. And here is another demo video that illustrates the development process on such low-code platforms (here: Mendix): The Mendix Demo, On-Demand.

This limitation of the area of ​​application to the specialist department will disappear in the future; there are already indications that low-code platforms are also finding their way into the sphere of digital legacy systems such as ERP systems. The first projects with low-code platforms that replace such deeply integrated applications are already successful.

Author Sebastian Zang

The author is a manager in the software industry with international expertise: Authorized officer at one of the large consulting firms - responsibility for setting up an IT development center at the offshore location Bangalore - Director M&A at a software company in Berlin

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