Low-code Platforms for Productive Development and Delivery Practices

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Big desktop applications, designed from requirements that are as numerous as they are rigid, that take months if not years to develop, and that target only one output device are on steady decline. Instead, new lightweight, flexible, rapidly deployable, multi-device, cross-platform applications that work seamlessly together1 are taking hold, becoming the new standard and driving the trend to an accelerated rate of delivery. To deliver better and faster in order to gain or retain a competitive edge, organizations must move toward a lighter, more versatile and more productive approach to application development. To that end, they need to:

  • Accelerate the rate of application development, release and delivery.
  • Create multi-platform, multi-device applications.

Low-code platforms

Low-code platforms are gaining popularity as a way to achieve the flexibility and rapid delivery that characterize this new shift in application development. Low-code platforms are environments that "...lower the barriers between requirements and delivery"2 by providing:

  • minimal hand-coding
  • a single platform where requirements, design, development and deployment are shared
  • A centralized environment with increased automation for configuration, maintenance and delivery.

Low-code development shares core features of agile approaches such as the fast, iterative development cycles and frequent deliveries, but it goes beyond agile3. Low-code development encourages:

  • Minimal hand-coding using "easily configured data models that eliminate data integration headaches", and tools for quick definition and assembly of applications4.
  • Flexibility in experimenting and testing ideas and designs. The iterative approach makes it easy to try out creative designs and new ideas and learn from them5. Experimentation not only can lead to unexpected innovations, but it also lowers the resistance to change that is so characteristic of big, rigid and over-planned projects.
  • Continuous testing and feedback. In particular, close involvement and rapid feedback from the customer is an intrinsic part of the process, and earliest involvement is the best6. Fast iterations demonstrate progress, identify possible enhancements or pinpoint problematic issues, helping all stakeholders validate and clarify the requirements by producing functional prototypes incrementally. Since code is delivered with small enhancements each time, it can be corrected faster and more easily, reducing risks while providing high quality assurance.
  • Continuous delivery through automation. Deployment can be a scary stage, especially with multi-platform applications: keeping them all synchronized requires exceptional coordination and is hard to achieve. By including deployment in the cycle, it becomes an inherent part of the process, and can be tested and automated like the rest of the application7; ultimately it becomes better understood and therefore becomes less of an issue8. Applications are delivered more rapidly and reliably, with minimal manual overhead9.
  • Responsive design for cross-platform, multi-device applications. Customers demand it, organizations that deliver benefit from it10.

There are many benefits to low-code platforms. They enable rapid prototyping in cycles that produce smaller, more frequent deliverables. They help put in place more productive practices that include extended, cross-functional teams that can handle entire projects from design to delivery11. They encourage collaborative efforts as an intrinsic part of the process. They promote accelerated deployment. They centralize model, management, and configuration to facilitate development and delivery over multiple platforms. They enable better development practices such as decoupling layers of an application to enable independent changes, thereby implementing separation of concerns, and increasing automation to improve consistency and quality.12,13

To summarize, low-code platforms foster more productive development and delivery practices that can quickly demonstrate a project's value.

1. Forrester Consulting. The State of Modern Product Delivery; Challenges and Trends Making Product Delivery Responsible, Iterative, and Collaborative In The Age Of The Customer, Thought Leadership Paper Commission by Jama Software, November, 2013, p. 1.
2. Richardson, C. and J.R. Rymer. New Development Platforms Emerge For Customer-Facing Applications, Forrester Research, June 9, 2014, pp. 3-4.
3. Richardson and Rymer, p. 12.
4. Id., p. 3.
5. Forrester Consulting, p. 10.
6. Id., pp. 6-7.
7. Bittner K. and G. O'Donnell. The Eight Tenets of Faster Application Delivery, Forrester Research, April 15, 2014, p. 6.
8. Id., p. 12.
9. Evans Research. Continuous Delivery: The New Normal for Software Development, Findings from Survey of Software Development Professionals Commissioned by Perforce Software, 2014, p. 2.
10. Richardson and Rymer, p. 3.
11. Bittner, K. The Business of Continuous Delivery, Forrester Research, Keynote address notes, CD Summit, New York, NY, June 19, 2014, p. 17.
12. Id., p. 25.
13 Bittner and O'Donnell, p. 9.