Three smart ways to use low-code development platforms

A visual approach is good for modernizing legacy apps and experimenting with new services.

By 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development by 2024, according to Gartner. 

Mayur Shah, senior director of product management at software company WaveMaker, said that low-code platforms encourage collaboration between business units and developers, which can have a long-term impact on a business.

"This ability to bring stakeholders and software developers together to work on new applications iteratively is a particular strength of low-code platforms," he said.

This visual approach to building software is moving beyond marketing and accounting departments and back to software developers. While some low-code platforms are designed for non-tech business units, WaveMaker is designed to help IT teams be more productive by simplifying the app development process.

"As low-code has matured over the last six years, it has moved beyond business teams to developers," Shah said.

Shah said WaveMaker takes care of mundane tasks by auto-generating the code so app developers can focus on scaling and deploying new software.

One example of this is prefab units in the WaveMaker platform that combine both the user interface design as well as integration with another system like SalesForce.

"We not only import all the tables and SQL queries, we also generate the restful APIs," he said.

Forrester's Wave report on low-code development platforms for application development and delivery put Microsoft, OutSystems, Mendix, Koney and SalesForce at the top of the pack. The analysts put WaveMaker in the Contender category with MatsSoft and Thinkwise. According to the report, development services for basic web and mobile applications are table stakes and the leading vendors are now adding business process automation, real-time applications, and AI services to their platforms.

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Forrester described WaveMaker as a good fit for server-side Java developers who want to use a low-code platform to make them full-stack developers. The analysts also said that WaveMaker's use of the Angular7, Spring, and Hibernate is a plus for developers who know those open standards-based frameworks.

When low-code makes sense — 3 use cases

Shah said that he sees three main use cases for a low-code approach. The most familiar one is digital transformation projects focused on improving the customer experience and building mobile apps. 

John R. Rymer, a principal analyst at Forrester said that low-code platforms can propel software development to 10-times the speed of traditional processes, leaving more time for design work.
 
Another good fit for the low-code approach is greenfield work: a service or product built from scratch basically the opposite of modernizing legacy apps. Greenfield apps represent a new opportunity that a business wants to take advantage of or a small-scale experiment that a business unit wants to conduct. 

In addition to building brand new products, low-code also works for bringing legacy systems into the 21st century IT architecture. Shah said low-code platforms take some of the risk out of these projects.

"These projects are a huge undertaking, and companies don't always know how long it will take," he said. "With low-code, they get better predictability because of the automation of the process."

 Shah said that WaveMaker works with a lot of banks and healthcare companies to do this kind of work.
  
"Many times legacy systems don't support a mobile version or the company needs stronger security for the legacy app," he said, adding that apps built on an open standards-based platform have a longer lifespan as well.
 
Shah said that low-code is not the right choice for building a highly sophisticated consumer app because that requires ultimate flexibility and control on how the experience is delivered.

"If your app is your business, then low code is not the best solution for those things," he said.

Another limitation of low-code platforms is that developers have to work in the framework a particular platform uses, which is Java for WaveMaker.

Business process automation

Rymer at Forrester also said that low-code projects with strong business process features are a good choice for automating operational processes and "empowering the business experts who know the data and process best to lead."

Shah said that WaveMaker worked with a niche insurance company to automate the policy generation process. The company's products have to meet specific rules and guidelines that varied by state. The traditional process was siloed and required a lot of back and forth between the agent selling the policy and the underwriter creating it.

"We've automated the whole policy generation process from getting a quote to generating the policy, including a component that allows each party to talk to each other in real time," he said. 
 
WaveMaker is also working with other software developers that want to add a low-code option to their own products. Shah said that software vendors are realizing that customers and end users need better ways to modify or configure their software without being dependent on the vendor to make simple changes, such as adding a new field to the user interface or formatting a contact field in a certain way.

"We have OEM customers who are taking WaveMaker and making it part of their product," Shah said.

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