Recently, LV=, a UK insurer, built a broker workflow app that combined three processes on three systems into one application with an automated tracking and reporting feature. Given the complexity, you might guess that the project took a large team of highly skilled developers months to complete. But here's the thing: two developers built the production-ready app in just one week — without writing a single line of code!
Enter the power of a low-code development platform. The term has been gaining traction in the market to categorise platforms for rapidly building and deploying custom apps without the need for low-level coding. This is made possible through visual development tools where users can easily define the various elements of an application (database, application and process logic, user interface, security, etc.). Other common features include an App Store with reusable templates, widgets and components to further accelerate productivity, as well as social collaboration, enterprise integration and one-click deployment.
As evidenced by the LV= example, the main benefit of low-code development platforms is that they're capable of slashing project timelines from months to weeks or even days. This time to market advantage is crucial for organisations struggling to keep pace with rising business demands, particularly as they look to innovate and differentiate themselves in competitive markets.
While much of the attention right now is focused on the 'what' and 'why' of low-code development platforms, the next logical question for many IT organisations is 'who.' While traditional developers certainly use these platforms, there are a variety of other job roles well suited for becoming low-code developers. According to a recent Forrester Research report, "Low-code platforms enable a broad range of developers, including data and process specialists, business-domain experts, 'power users,' and students who aren't proficient with hand-coding environments."
So what are the defining traits of these low-code developers? More often than not, they have one leg in IT and the other in the business. This means they have some technical skills but also possess domain knowledge and are good communicators and collaborators. As such, they prioritise solving business problems over worrying about every little technical detail. And they're creative self-starters with a keen interest in tackling new projects, driving innovation and adding value to their organisations.
A great example of a low-code developer Savan Vyas, Scrum Master and Mendix Business Engineer at LV=. Savan studied computer science at university and while he always liked application development—particularly the creative side of it—coding was something that he didn't particularly enjoy.
When he first came across the low-code development platform used at LV=, he says it was the "perfect" fit for him. "You didn't have to learn 5-10 languages or worry about missing a comma somewhere. You could just focus on building apps that solve business problems."
And solving business problems is exactly what Savan has done—quickly. In less than two years since joining the company, he's completed six app delivery projects, including the broker workflow app discussed earlier as well as an app that allows distributors/brokers to use the company's platform to sell insurance policies. Meanwhile, he says his developer friends at other companies are lucky to have finished one project in that same time.
Summarising the value of a low-code platform to him as a developer, Savan says "It enables me to do things that I couldn't do before. It helps me to interact with people, to understand requirements and to deliver the best possible solution."
Another good example of a low-code developer is Javan Berry, Business Engineer at Digital Risk, a provider of risk, compliance and transaction management solutions. Javan received his degree in web design and had been working as a front-end developer for more than a decade when he heard that Digital Risk was building a team for their new low-code development platform. He immediately asked to be a part of it.
"I really hate coding and saw that a low-code platform would make it easier to build functionality," he explains. "I was excited about the idea of doing everything on my own, and not needing a developer to finish my designs. I also saw this as a way for me to show greater value to the company."
One of the main projects Javan has worked on is an information management app for one of the company's clients that allows their customers to view and update information in real time. The app is so popular that the client constantly has enhancement requests. According to Javan, "We're so fast that we often make changes faster than our testers can test them."
Beyond pure speed, Javan has found greater job satisfaction from being a low-code developer. "I enjoy my job a lot more," he says. "I used to work in Visual Studio .NET and I hope I never have to go back."
While the demand for custom applications has never been higher, traditional, code-based development approaches simply can't keep pace. The key and inherent value of a low-code development platform is that it brings IT and the business together, enabling rapid, iterative and collaborative development. Apps can be quickly built, seamlessly deployed and easily changed—with little to no low-level coding.
But just as low-code development platforms open the door for a more inclusive and iterative development approach, so too do they open up opportunities for more and different developers. Fortunately, this new breed of low-code developer exists not just in IT but throughout the organisation, in virtually every department. Most simply don't know it yet and are waiting to be activated with the right motivation and challenge.
Are you one of them? Now is a great time to get started and make a greater impact! Several vendors offer free trial versions, one example being the low-code Mendix Community Edition.
Gottfried Sehringer is a vice president at Mendix