Author: Susan Coleman, Content Marketing Manager, Appian
New tech terms and trends are making their way into public consciousness faster than you can scroll or click through your news feed. Does it all leave you wondering what the heck a metaverse is anyway, or whether you should worry that your smart home is getting a little too smart for your own good?
Not all tech hype is worth our attention (remember the first rollout of Google Glass?). So how do you know which technologies warrant deeper investigation and which are all buzz and no substance? The best way to get at the real value of a technology is by focusing less on the flashy features and functions, which on the surface may seem innovative and exciting, and paying more attention to the benefits the technology can deliver.
Granted, this is a somewhat subjective area. Take the example of smart watches. Some users love being able to track the distance and vigor of their daily runs, and therefore think the technology is a must-have. Others, however, don’t like the fact that smart watch faces are almost impossible to read in full sunlight, so they don’t think the technology is worth the price tag. Therefore, the more a technology can convince us that its features and functionality are more than just superficial hype—that they actually deliver on the promises of faster, smarter, better, etc.—the more attention we should pay. This is exactly what low-code does.
For a technology that’s still relatively new, low-code application platforms have been getting a lot of attention. From small startups to massive tech giants, companies specializing in niche functionality such as website or mobile app builders, and vendors offering full enterprise-grade automation capabilities—low-code is booming. But is there real value here? All low-code vendors will tell you that their products enable you to create business applications easier, faster, and at a lower cost than traditional development. They’ll tell you their platforms drive increased security, compliance, and user satisfaction. At this point in low-code’s evolution though, this is all just table stakes.
Beyond the claims of what low-code development platforms can do, here are the top five things low-code can do for you to create real value for your organization:
1. Legacy modernization: When the systems you’ve come to rely on show signs of wear and age, deciding how to address outdated and sluggish user/customer experiences, data silos, and disjointed workflows can seem overwhelming. In many cases, migrating to a completely new software landscape by ripping and replacing existing systems is well out of reach. Not every organization has the budget or technical resources for this type of major transformation project. With low-code, however, you can address these issues and achieve the same if not better outcomes compared to a full-blown migration—but in less time, at a lower cost, with fewer resources, and without sacrificing any functionality.
A low-code platform can operate in tandem with and as an overlay on top of legacy systems. With the low-code platform providing integrations to your legacy systems, you can build applications and interfaces that draw from the older systems’ data but surface that data with more modern and functional experiences for your users, customers, partners, constituents, or anyone else who needs to interact with your systems. This eliminates the need to have numerous applications running at the same time, jumping from screen to screen, and still not being sure whether the data you’re accessing is current and accurate. Because the data remains within the existing systems and is merely accessed rather than migrated, you’ll be able to run reports faster, you’ll see a significant reduction in latency, and productivity and user satisfaction will increase when working within a more modern, engaging experience.
Recognize the hype: Not all low-code development platforms have the same capabilities. Most vendors talk about legacy modernization, but when you look deeper into their offerings you’ll find what they’re really talking about is ripping and replacing with their products, or requiring extensive data migrations to get the results you want. Look for a platform that allows you to extend and unify existing systems and data.
2. Customer lifecycle management (CLM): Finding the right approach for attracting, satisfying, and retaining customers is no easy task, especially now that so many interactions occur through digital channels. If customers or prospects can’t find what they need within a few clicks, they’re likely to take their business elsewhere. Therefore organizations need a way to quickly adapt if customer feedback or any tracked metrics point to weaknesses within any stage of the lifecycle—and they have to do so while ensuring their customers’ privacy and security.
Low-code is the ideal solution for organizations that need a faster and more agile way to manage the customer lifecycle. Since low-code environments don’t require specialist knowledge of the proprietary code base to make minor changes, you can act quickly as your needs evolve. For example, banks often find that people abandon online transactions at a certain point, such as filling in an application form that is either too long, uses confusing language, or requires too much information. If this is the case, making the necessary adjustments using a low-code platform could be as simple as using a drag-and-drop interface to adapt your forms so as to provide a better experience for prospects. The speed and agility with which such changes can be made using low-code can be the source of considerable differentiation in a competitive market.
While you create a better experience for your customers, your customers can also feel good about sharing their information with you. Leading low-code platform vendors offer robust security built into their platforms. With continuous monitoring, vulnerability testing, and third-party audits and certifications, low-code platforms—and all the applications and interfaces built on top of them—can even provide more security over traditional development methods.
3. Corporate functions: Legal, accounting, human resources, and other corporate operations are some of the most crucial functions within an organization. But they can also be complex, and this complexity often manifests itself in long-running, inefficient processes; multiple systems with overlapping functions; and version control issues for important documents, to name just a few of the potential headaches.
Regardless of the function, efficiency comes down to workflow: taking care of all the required tasks, in the proper order, accurately and completely, with the necessary approvals and signoffs, and as expeditiously as possible. Suboptimal workflows could be the deciding factor between hiring the best candidate and losing her to a competitor, locking in the most advantageous contract terms and missing out on valuable discounts, or paying all your invoices on time and risking poor vendor relationships due to outstanding debt.
When it comes to workflow, low-code has clear advantages over traditional high-code application development methods. Low-code platforms provide a visual workspace that developers and business stakeholders can use during the application design phase to create a process model. This helps IT understand all of the business’s needs that have to be met by the application, and it helps the business see how IT will apply various automation technologies to make the workflow more efficient. In addition to helping you build better applications to drive more efficient workflows, low-code can also be instrumental in continuously optimizing your workflows and processes if the low-code platform includes native process mining capabilities.
Recognize the hype: Native process mining provides a seamless way to go from discovering what the issues are to doing something about them. However, if process mining is carried out with a separate tool, or one that’s only loosely integrated to the low-code platform, your insight-to-action efforts won’t be nearly as effective as with native capabilities.
4. Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC): GRC is a coordinated effort to keep operations on track, avoid risk, and remain compliant to the regulatory requirements governed by specific industries and regions. The more highly regulated an industry, such as financial services, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences, the more attention must be paid to this effort. To do so, an organization needs the proper controls and a high level of transparency into its operations so as to avoid issues that could result in costly fines and damage to the brand’s reputation.
But control and transparency are often lacking when organizations rely on paper-based or manual processes. When faced with tighter regulations and increased regulatory scrutiny, many organizations invest in more and more procedures and technology to eliminate paper, but this can lead to data silos, fragmented processes, and even more risk exposure.
If your organization has data residing in many different systems, databases, and regions, a low-code platform can effectively help you meet GRC needs by safeguarding customer data, helping to manage important licenses and certifications, and operationalizing compliance to any number of regulatory requirements. The result of this is highly synchronized data across all systems and sources that can be easily accessed by the teams that need it—including external auditors.
5. Integrated operations: What springs to mind when you think about integrated operations? Manufacturing, supply chain management, invoice-to-pay, logistics, facility management, and other similar functions with long-running processes requiring high levels of coordination. Technology can be of tremendous help in this effort, especially if your solutions are able to connect all the different departments, decision makers, external partners, and field teams that need access to the same information to get the job done right.
This is not always an easy lift. Especially in larger organizations, systems and applications are often implemented to satisfy specific requirements. This can result in a mismatched assortment of unconnected systems that don’t communicate well with one another. When dealing with the kind of long-running processes in integrated operations, anything you can do to minimize this complexity and give all users and stakeholders access to current, accurate information will help your operations run more smoothly.
Low-code delivers exceptional value when it comes to helping these types of processes run more smoothly. With low-code, you can:
Low-code excels in so many areas where high-code software development methods don’t. Low-code is faster, but it’s also ideally suited to use cases that demand connectivity, security, compliance, better collaboration, and improved transparency. Low-code brings a level of agility that simply can’t be matched when using traditional coding methods.
If you’re interested in learning more about whether low-code is right for your business, have a look at some of the additional benefits low-code can deliver and the innovative ways organizations are using low-code to deliver on their most ambitious goals.
Date: April 22, 2022