4 Ways Low-Code and Agile Development Make a Perfect Pair

Author: Dan O'Keefe, Appian

In the early days of software development, nearly everyone followed a waterfall approach. But waterfall projects often failed. Too much could go wrong—early architectural missteps, failure to capture a key requirement, key developers getting sick or quitting. And beyond that, the fixed plans waterfall requires don’t account for what a team learns while building.

To respond to these issues, a group of technology professionals created the Agile Manifesto. The principles of the manifesto remain relevant today, as agile adoption has been consistently on the rise among software teams. 

Let’s explore how low-code platforms fit within and even extend the four guiding values of the Agile Manifesto. 

Note: Though this blog mainly features examples from the Scrum framework, low-code plays well with any agile approach. 

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

The first value of the Agile Manifesto emphasizes “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” In short, collaboration between individuals matters more than specific tools and red tape.

Building out code by hand takes a lot of work. It can be a heavy process that involves not only building but checking, rechecking, and factoring code. Multiple complex processes must be followed to ensure team members write strong code and ship quality work, like automated testing, pair programming, and code reviews. 

Low-code may not eliminate the need for these processes, but it significantly reduces the burden they pose. By offering standardized components, low-code reduces the time you spend struggling with hand-coding rote foundational elements and lets you spend more time focusing on higher value activities that require more nuanced judgment. You’ll spend less time setting up the foundations and more time writing innovative code. In short, you’ll focus less on the time-consuming limitations of hand coding the basics and more time exercising your expertise in designing the back-end of applications. 

Beyond that, a good low-code platform will allow you to build your own code as needed, giving you the flexibility to complete projects exactly as your team intends. You’ll be able to add innovative code to prebuilt low-code elements, putting the focus on the creativity of individuals and teams rather than the tool sets they use. And you aren’t even locked into just using a drag-and-drop editor. 

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.

The next value of the Agile Manifesto emphasizes “working software over comprehensive documentation.” The manifesto writers wanted teams shipping products rather than building long specifications (or adhering to early decisions that may not work long term), which leads to Agile teams working in short sprints and iterating upon their progress over time. 

A low-code platform with a workflow-based design capability offers a shared “documentation” language for developers and business users. It lets you show business users documentation in a workflow diagram rather than by creating a long, complicated spec. Low-code offers a more streamlined process that allows teams to ship more working software and features in a given iteration, thus increasing their velocity. 

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.

Next, the Agile Manifesto advises “customer collaboration over contract negotiation.” Here, too, low-code excels. Using a workflow-based design engine gives you a shared “language” to use  with both developers and traditional business users. Using business process diagrams lets you collaborate more easily with business analysts, product owners, and more. This cuts down on back-and-forth interactions, as business stakeholders know exactly what to expect and can quickly give buy-in on features. 

4. Responding to change over following a plan.

Finally, the Agile Manifesto advocates for “responding to change over following a plan.” Prior to the agile revolution, the development planning process was often rigid. Developing MVPs and iterating on them allows teams to quickly respond to change, whether it’s caused by stakeholder feedback or internal issues like staffing changes.

Enterprise-grade low-code platforms drastically reduce the amount of development time it takes to build features and products. If a stakeholder decides they want a specific feature in their application, teams can design and build that feature fast—often fast enough to get feedback in that same sprint period. If the teams discover a major architectural issue, they can quickly change tracks using a drag-and-drop interface. The flexibility built into low-code lets teams adapt fast, increase team velocity, and deliver more. 

Low-code agile development.

Low-code platforms are a near-perfect fit for supporting agile software development. With low-code, development teams can build applications faster, discover inefficiencies in real-world systems, and select from automation tools as needed to achieve the full benefits of an agile development process.

Try Appian for free with Appian Community Edition. Explore low-code, build your own apps 10x faster, and learn through hands-on tutorials. 

Sign up today for your free development environment.

Date: March 22, 2022

Dan O'Keefe


Dan O’Keefe has been working in the technology and software spaces for more than 15 years serving roles in user experience, technical communications, copywriting, and content marketing. At Appian, Dan writes about low-code development and how low-code applies across multiple industries. Prior to Appian, Dan has served companies across the IT, cybersecurity, marketing technology, and artificial intelligence spaces. 

Low-Code Guide

Low-Code development is the way to build apps more quickly by reducing the need to code.