Graeme Clarke, DevOps global lead for Expleo, offers five top tips for getting the best return from your low-code investment.
Brands are in an existential race to launch user-focused applications faster than their competitors. However, quality software can be expensive to build, and even more expensive to test. Finding the right developers is increasingly difficult too. In the US, most CIOs struggle to fill positions. Indeed, there are 500,000 open computer science jobs nationwide, despite the average salary being over $100,000.
Low code software development could be the solution that brands are looking for. Speed to value can be as much as ten times faster than traditional full-stack development, with less than half the process steps needed, meaning a marked reduction in costs. For example, the electronics firm Ricoh used low code to replace their legacy systems, with a 253% ROI in just seven months.
So, what’s the catch? There are certain watch-outs and limitations that are worth noting. For a start, engineering knowledge can’t be learnt overnight, so output quality can vary. Some of the platforms can also be quite hard to test. Personalisation, accessibility, security and performance can all come into question, so it helps to seek advice, rather than diving straight in.
To achieve the right level of quality from low-code software development, here are five top tips, from our experience at Expleo.
1. Mobilise your non-tech resources
Employees can learn low code quickly. For example, the low-code platform Appian claims that beginners can produce enterprise-level apps in just a fortnight. Therefore, use the people in your company who understand the business application inside out, like your business analysts or even your sales team, to help develop new software that the customer actually wants. These citizen developers can help to direct the user focus for each application.
2. Find the right platform
The tools and platforms on the market are quick to get started and easy to use. Most use an intuitive drag-and-drop format, with lots of useful controls, as well as simple configuration options to change the look and feel, colours, text position, and so on. However, some will offer more features geared towards what you want to do, whether banking, retail or insurance etc. It pays to do some background research at the start to make sure you pick the right tool for your application and for your industry, as this will reduce onboarding time.
3. Understand how it will actually work
This might seem fairly obvious, but write down the purpose for the app in a very structured fashion that’s clear and easy to understand. It’s all about driving quality, right from the start and throughout the whole process. At Expleo, we write down our requirements using a technique called behavioural driven development or BDD. This helps to promote collaboration between all the people involved, as well as readability, testability and customer buy-in.
4. Use adjacent skills
Your user-focused citizen developers can help drive quality if they have some sort of exposure to engineering, and understand the need for testing. At Expleo, we train our consultants in skills such as test automation to give them the engineering basics. Learning testing skills is made easier by tools like Micro Focus UFT1, which is specifically targeted at non-tech developers. The tool takes away the complexities of testing. Requirements written in BDD are turned into automated test cases. You want to shift left as much as possible and start testing from day one. The Micro Focus tool helps to support that rigour.
5. Extend the platform
Low-code platforms have their limitations, so it’s important to understand what the platform isn’t going to do. How far can you can push it before the errors creep in? All of the platforms have some mechanism allows you to extend it and to build new functionality. A hybrid low-code/full-stack approach may result in the right combination of speed, cost and quality. At Expleo, we have full-stack software development teams who are ready to parachute in to fix clients’ technical issues.
In the race to produce software better and sooner than the competition, low code offers real potential, but don’t overlook the need for user focus and quality. With the right technology partner, you can gain all of the speed, while avoiding the potholes along the way.
Read more about how we can help you with your Low Code journey or contact us using the form below to speak with one of our consultants: