“As companies proceed with their digital transformations, software becomes increasingly strategic and pervasive – which means they need more of it. Lots more.”
Jason Bloomberg, IT industry analyst,
Founder and President of Intellyx
The increasing complexity and variety of app development solutions led to the rise of low-code development platforms. Following the Prescient & Strategic Intelligence data, the global low-code development platform market revenue was $10.3 billion in 2019, and it is expected to grow during 2020-2030 (CAGR of 31.1%). And not in vain, for the first sight. They focus on business managers and their need for the fastest time to market. Low code vendors offer tools for business-apps development everyone can use. Does it mean that there's no need for developers now?
How Low-code App Building Can Empower Small IT Teams in the Enterprise
There are numerous solutions on the market with different integration possibilities and pricing policies. But they have a lot in common. Low-code platforms are developed for business managers. They offer a visual drag-and-drop interface to create a business logic you need for your application. But low-code platforms keep in secret everything developers are interested in - data management. This sounds quite risky for a long-term software solution. If you consider a low-code platform as the main tool for enterprise application development, seriously check what is hidden beneath the low-code facade.
Low code Platforms are Right for Software Prototyping
Low-code platforms are good at simple processes, automation, and prototypes building. Easy to manage. This tool is helpful for general analytics by newbies as well as by advanced users. WYSIWYG editor with set widgets and templates facilitates the interface development and describes data models and app's logic with microflows. When you have finished configuration app deployment in the Cloud, the app is ready to work. It sounds like magic, but in the real world, the magic ends here.
Once an app is launched, it becomes more complicated - integration, data, number of users. At this stage, it is impossible to proceed without a PRO developer. You can't hire any developer; you need someone familiar with a platform used. Low Code platforms offer an opportunity to design complex solutions in short terms with a minimal traditional coding part.
And for Sluggish Development
Whether it is user interaction or computation, every logic must be displayed in the microflow way with drag & drop tools. And it is not as simple as it sounds.
Time. A developer can write 8-10 code lines faster than connect and configure the same volume of blocks. Does low code platforms really save time?
Usability. The more blocks you have, the more complicated app's logic becomes. It means that some serious really working apps need a war room to be managed visually. Debugging and tracking of the dependencies is complicated.
The Black-box Solution Gives No Control to its Owners
We love the open-source of Java. The mistakes could be tracked and managed as you can find code where something wrong has happened. You can find a solution. This gives you 100% product ownership and control. Low-code platforms are black boxes: frameworks are closed as it is intellectual property. You have no opportunity to discover what is under the hood. However, you need a 2d or 3d level support. It is not about the speed; it's more about a headache.
Vendor Dependency and Low-code Pricing
Low-code platform pricing starts with 1250€ monthly (1350$) per app. Does it sound fascinating if you have 100+ apps as large corporations do? Can a startup spend annually 15000€ (16200$) annually only in support? Low-code platforms don't offer the possibility to use the code when you finish the subscription. You need to design everything from scratch again.
“The main drawback is definitely its cost. They offer a free option but it's for test purposes. The free OutSystems account deletes your DB after 2 weeks which makes practising building big things a pain. To be honest many low coding platforms miss out on this part and often lack focus on small businesses making it purely for big companies.”
Scalability is one of the market standards for application development, especially for large corporations. But low-code platforms have a fundamental limit of scalability (database problem) and a lack of process optimization tools. There is no option to scale a database; it is impossible to make a structure optimization.
Skillset for Developers
Any real app needs a team of pros to create an architecture and deliver the solution. There is no space for a playground where we talk about real business problems. It is hard to find someone who is deeply focused on some specific low-code platform. Such specialization gives no perspective for developers.
Why do we all want low-code platforms?
We buy an illusion of fast problem-solving. Every large corporation has a lot of inner difficulties and procedures. This leads to slow projects delivering and eternal requirements discussion stage. Budget planning and procurement procedures, task coordination, and lack of professionals are often facing these issues. Hiring extra developers is not a solution. So business managers try to take control. They are looking for a magic pill. Low-code platforms sound like the best option. But it does not.
While developers focus on application UX and capabilities, such low code platform are promised to manage the rest:
Easy transfer from one project to another
The unified base for omnichannel development
One-click app deployment. Automated testing, no coding language limitations
Lower security risks for real-time management, monitoring, and support.
Easy access and integration (APIs, blockchain, IoT, AI, machine learning, and cognitive services)
No special skills are required to build an app
Collaboration tool for distributed teams
Easy updates without touching the code
Low-code platform alternatives?
There is a variety of frameworks for developers who build corporate apps. Spring Framework — is one of the most popular open-source technologies to build them. It's easy to integrate with web-frameworks like Angular or React.
If you still need speed, you can try an open-source fast-code configuration platform. It is based on Java and offers no vendor lock-in, necessary 2d and 3d level of support, and ready-to-config components to reduce your delivery time.
If time-to-market is important for your business, have a look at tools like XME.digital.
On this fast-code platform, you can launch any cloud or on-premise solution MVP in 4 weeks, and you won't have scalability issues in the future. The sustainable software, many widgets, and dashboards will help you create a perfect customer experience.
At the end of the day
Low-code platforms are perfect for prototyping. They reduce the gap between business users and IT and help them to understand each other better. This increases efficiency by itself. Prototypes have a small number of users, so pricing policy would be comfortable.