How much time and money can an enterprise save if the development of IT becomes democratized and aided by direct input from those who actually use corporate apps on the job? The answer, my friend, is: "Quite a bit."
It’s not that anybody is against the idea of using code in information technology. After all, nothing would work at all without all that carefully crafted computer literature. In fact, code and data together make up the lifeblood of all computing.
Over time, however, IT experts have found ways to preconfigure and embed code snippets into applications so that people using the apps have everything set up for them in order to save time and effort. Because so much good software has already been written and doesn’t need to be reinvented each time it is installed, the idea of “no-code” or “low-code" application development—built upon the idea of reusing existing application components with instructions on how to fine-tune them—has become an important thing. This is not necessarily new, but it certainly has been reborn.
No- and low-code development signifies software that's complicated under the hood yet has a user interface simple enough for line-of-business employees to modify and use. With low-code development, non-IT folks can build and customize standard business applications and make them directly relevant to the business they do every day—at their desks or on location somewhere else. Drop-down menus and wizards used in an intuitive fashion are the keys to low-code. Changes are made in real time so that results can happen in real time.
No- and low-code is parallel to something named citizen development, in which non-IT personnel at companies are able to customize all or parts of a business application to make using it a better, more satisfying experience for everybody concerned. This can add a great deal of value to call centers, for one example among many.
Companies that are competing in this space include Appian, AppSheet, Webalo, Dell Boomi, JourneyApps, Outsystems, Pegasystems, Google, Progress, QuickBase, K2, Appery.io and several others.
It's All About Agile Development
This all folds into the idea of agile development—refreshing apps as often as necessary to keep them sharp and as effective as possible. Workers on the front lines—the ones who actually use these apps in their business every day—don’t have much time to reconfigure software, but they can make adjustments on the fly when necessary.
How Low-Code Platforms Make Full-Stack Development Simpler, Faster
As the app economy grows, there’s a sense of urgency to create business value and drive mobility and agility. These digital opportunities to deliver value are massive, urging enterprises to develop applications with greater momentum. Technology is the primary enabler in enterprise-wide modernization, and the demand for developers to support this transformation is huge–and this is where the challenge of the looming skills gap emerges.
The 2018 LinkedIn Workforce Report stated that there is a shortage of 212,838 people in the U.S. with software development skills, including programming languages such as C++ and Java. In the developers market, it is easier to find developers proficient in one programming language than full-stack developers experienced in end-to-end application development. This is because traditional Java development teams depend on specialists, decelerating the application development process.
What Java teams are missing is access to consumer-grade UI that provides a conversational user experience, the ability to create multichannel responsive apps, API-driven integration for microservices and REST APIs, and agile DevOps to automate, iterate and deliver rapidly.
Here’s where low-code platforms play an important role. Gartner Research predicts that by 2024, about two-thirds of application development activity will be done using low-code application development. This is because these platforms are widely used to help create agile teams, reduce dependency on specialized skills and empower Java development teams to develop future-proof skills using a modern technology stack.
Data Point No. 1: Develop rich and responsive apps using modern UI features.
Creating enterprise applications that have a rich user interface (UI) and responsive user experience (UX) requires time, effort and specialized skills. Traditional teams require highly skilled front-end technologists with knowledge of HTML5, Bootstrap, Angular and UI design.
Low-code platforms, however, provide drag-and-drop features, out-of-the-box Angular-based responsive UI and modern UI frameworks such as Angular 7. Utilizing a radical approach to use open-standards-based generated code, the code for every drag-and-drop action is automatically generated. Through this method, low-code platforms enable developers to build modern applications with minimal coding and guarantee the best code quality, maintainability and extensibility of enterprise applications.
Data Point No. 2: Automate the creation of APIs from existing services.
Creating APIs from existing applications requires skilled Java and API developers to develop new database logic and coding, but there’s an easier solution. Low-code platforms provide one-click API creation, where microservices are auto-created and developers can use existing database logic, reuse existing Java code and create new Java code in IDEs of their choice, such as Eclipse.
Using an API-driven app development and integration approach, microservices are created and REST APIs are automatically generated for existing applications, making modernization of legacy systems easier and faster than ever before.
Data Point No. 3: Abstract complexity and empower smaller agile teams for full stack development.
Developers, in addition to understanding all layers of the application stack for full stack development, are required to deal with the underlying complexity of integrating, configuring and developing for the various systems and frameworks involved in the end-to-end application development process. This includes UI, binding UI to back-end data sources, security configuration, API integration and creation, database logic, microservices, CI/CD, multicloud deployments and much more. Full stack development becomes very complex for developers as they need to upskill.
Low-code platforms can abstract the complexity by providing accelerators across the life cycle of full-stack application development. Using low-code platforms, developers can own micro-functionality (also known as microservices) and can manage end-to-end application development from UI design, focused code development (avoiding any infrastructure code) to deployment, in a simplistic manner.
Data Point No. 4: Democratize the delivery and deployment process.
Today, enterprises are leveraging hybrid infrastructure models (on-premises and multicloud) and distributed app architectures such as microservices and APIs. As traditional virtual machine (VM) pipelines are script-driven, repurposing and rebuilding them at scale is not an easy task. As a result, developers need to create deployment scripts to deploy apps to application servers and create CI/CD Git hooks for continuous delivery.
With low-code platforms that support continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), developers can instead deploy application artifacts (WAR files) to any Java application server. By supporting VM-based deployments and containers, deploying on-premises or in multicloud environments is made easier than ever before. As container images are automatically generated by integrating with existing enterprise CI tools like Jenkins, low-code platforms democratize the delivery process through seamless deployment to Kubernetes and auto-containerization.
Data Point No. 5: Migrate from proprietary technologies easily.
Migrating to modern applications can be expensive and require extensive coding. With the assistance of visual development features in low-code platforms, it’s easier to migrate from legacy applications based on proprietary technologies such as Lotus Notes, MS Access and Oracle Forms.
With the app economy maturing, enterprise application development is becoming more sophisticated. While there is an increasing demand for a highly skilled developer workforce, there is a talent shortage and skills gap in the developers market, and the extent to which enterprises upskill their development teams will determine the survival, revival and arrival of developers. Using the right tools such as low-code platforms, Java development teams can be empowered to focus more on innovation and address the demands of the modern enterprise. Enterprises that modernize and upskill existing development teams can future-proof the next-gen developer workforce and gain a competitive edge.