Low-code development: the promise and the small print
08 February 2022 • 4 min read
In recent years the use of low-code/no-code platforms has grown exponentially. If you have anything to do with the digital world, you have probably heard that low-code is the next big thing in software development. The predictions certainly look positive - by 2024, 65% of apps are expected to be developed on a low-code platform. By 2027, the low-code market is estimated to generate a revenue of $65 billion (almost five times more than its current value).
The appeal is easy to understand - a promise that citizen developers with no coding or limited coding experience can build apps in no time, using only “drag and drop”. The increased demand for applications for businesses, the need to cut down time-to-market, and reduce the pressure on IT staff, have created the perfect context for the rise of low-code development.
Why should you consider low-code development for your company?
Low code development can bring a number of benefits. These include:
- Speed. Low-code development is between 40 and 60 percent faster than traditional development. It provides a graphical user interface where users have access to drag-and-drop functionalities, pre-built blocks, models for business processes, and data models instead of writing complex lines of code.
- Easy to learn and easy to use. Since they are designed for citizen developers, low-code platforms offer the equipment of out-of-the-box units (APIs and components) and training modules to build apps quickly.
- Low code development is particularly useful for prototyping. The automated processes and workflows, vast collections of widgets and templates, and fast deployment are all great ingredients for trying out new ideas.
Read next: How no code and low code tools can help organisations launch apps faster
Remember to read the low-code small print
While there are some clear advantages, it's important to read the small print before embracing low code and importing it into your technology strategy. Failure to do so could be incredibly risky, leading to many unanticipated problems.
The learning curve
How long does it actually take to learn low-code development and to be able to build a functional app? Most platform suppliers estimate anything from a few days to a few weeks. A while back, I was part of a project where six citizen developers with no coding experience tried to learn low-code development and build an app. From the first training module to “go-live”, it took us ten weeks! Once up to speed, the following projects run faster and smoother. But still, you should not underestimate the learning curve and the need for training.
Lack of customisation and flexibility
Most low-code platforms are pretty limiting once you are past the prototyping stage and want to move to more complex customisation. In addition to this, most platforms don’t always enable good practices such as version control, system integration, automated testing, separation of concerns, and literate programming.
Should you consider shifting to low-code?
Although there are conflicting views on low-code development, it all comes down to your organisational context. So, here are a few things to consider as a preliminary analysis before signing a pricey contract:
Does your organisational culture support prototyping across teams, decentralised development, and an embedded belief of “let’s start small and see how it goes”? And if you are not quite there, are you willing to make the required changes? Citizen developers will need business and IT support, but also a high degree of autonomy, access to data, and cross-department cooperation.
Do you have the in-house technical expertise to support your teams of citizen developers? Or can you outsource it? The complexity of delivering and integrating low-code is something you need to keep in mind. What a citizen developer can achieve is very different to what an experienced developer can achieve with low-code. It can’t be expected that everyone in every department will quickly pick up app development, agile delivery, and product development skills. “Drag and drop” doesn’t just make agile delivery happen and doesn’t instantly guarantee a secure app. This means the IT team must have full ownership of the process.
How much are you willing to spend? Considering the high cost of low-cost app platforms and the lock-in for several years, making sure you choose the right provider is essential. There are several analysis frameworks, but it all comes down to your organisational context and building a solid business case before signing a multi-year contract.
What is the envisioned impact of using low-code development? More precisely, what are you hoping to achieve, and what work are you hoping to stop doing due to low-code? Ultimately, it comes down to managing expectations and ensuring a solid business-IT alignment.
Andreea Iosub is a Principal Consultant at AND Digital.
Talk to us about how you can make low code an effective part of your technology strategy.