Turning the Top Challenges of Low-Code into Opportunities

Author: Susan Coleman, Content Marketing Manager, Appian

Pretty much anyone with a tech-related role—from developers, to decision makers, to the business stakeholders who drive the need for tech solutions—has heard of low-code. It’s a technology that’s having its day. Market analysts are predicting huge growth for both the use of low-code applications and for the low-code developer community. Considering the impressive growth numbers and ever-expanding list of use cases and success stories, you too might be tempted to jump on the low-code bandwagon.

And we’re not here to dissuade you from that. But when adopting any new technology—low-code, robotic process automation (RPA), AI, or machine learning, for example—having a sense of the challenges you may face is just as important as knowing the value the technology can deliver. Below you’ll find what are often cited as the top low-code challenges organizations encounter. But you’ll also learn how they can play out less like challenges and more like opportunities.

Challenge: Shadow IT.

Low-code has a much lower barrier to entry than traditional high-code programming. Because of this, almost anyone from any professional background can learn to create applications using low-code. Some organizations fear this could lead to an increase in shadow IT, which is the technology that’s deployed without IT’s input or oversight. This usually happens when business stakeholders feel IT isn’t fulfilling their requirements fast enough or delivering all of the necessary capabilities. Shadow IT can lead to an increase in technical debt, which places an undue burden on IT teams and slows innovation. It can also result in a proliferation of applications that have limited, narrow utility and don’t deliver broader business value.

Solution: Step out of the shadow by increasing collaboration between IT and the business. As pointed out by CIO Magazine, even unsanctioned technology use, which historically has been the bane of IT departments the world over, can be a catalyst for positive change. It can serve to start conversations between IT and the business and bring about a stronger, more collaborative relationship, which can be made even stronger when a low-code platform is your foundation for application development.

Because low-code utilizes a much more visual approach to application development, where templates, flow-diagram-like workspaces, and user experience (UX) design elements take the place of long lines of code, it’s easier than ever for IT to work more closely with business stakeholders to ensure the needs of the business are being met. This evolution is sometimes referred to as the democratization of IT.

But low-code also makes it easy to set up guardrails. The application development process includes steps for assigning the right level of access to both users and developers. This combination of flexible governance and ease of collaboration makes low-code the ideal fit for your organization, regardless of whether you follow a federated, centralized, or hybrid IT model.

Challenge: Need for customization and additional coding.

There’s an incorrect perception in the market that low-code is not the ideal solution when you need functionality beyond what’s offered out of the box. Because the code is built into the various components supplied within the low-code platform, some see it as too rigid and incapable of adapting to the more complex needs of the business. Others feel that, because coding may be necessary for some projects, low-code application development is actually not simple enough.

Solution: Low-code can deliver the best of both worlds. Every organization is different and has different needs. This has led to the practice of either purchasing customized software, or investing a lot of time, effort, and money into doing in-house customizations to software that’s been purchased off the shelf. And while it’s true that low-code platforms come with code built into their various components, connectors, interface templates, etc., with powerful platforms, accessing and adapting that code to suit your needs couldn’t be easier.

Low-code applications deliver on the promise of rapid, secure, reliable rollouts to quickly meet the business’s needs, without having to code from scratch. Many applications can be stood up without having to do any coding at all. But even when you require the type of logic involved in highly sophisticated business processes, high-quality low-code platforms allow developers to surface the underlying code with a single click, which allows you to adapt your applications to suit any need, regardless of how complex. This can be incredibly valuable to growing organizations that want to scale their existing solutions by adding functionality, rather than having to migrate to completely new solutions.

Even with low-code’s built-in functionality, you’ll still sometimes need to go beyond the logic contained in constants, expression rules, query rules, and other functions and work with a code language that’s proprietary to the low-code vendor. But the amount of coding needed will be only a small fraction of what you’d encounter in a high-code environment. And because you’ll still be working with the low-code components provided within the platform, any changes you make to adapt a component’s functionality can be saved and reused in any number of other applications, thereby making the coding burden even lower as you develop additional applications.

Learning low-code is like learning any language. There is a logic to it, and it will require some effort and trial and error to get it right. What can look impenetrable to a novice is actually quite easy to understand and replicate, once you’ve learned the foundational logic that governs the language. If you’re brand new to application development, there will be a steeper learning curve than if you’ve already mastered another coding language. But learning low-code is nowhere near as difficult as learning a high-code language. And your vendor should offer training, support, and community resources to help you master everything you need to know. Look for training that covers a wide range of user needs, from beginners to the more experienced developers. If your vendor falls short in this area, this will be a much more serious challenge. But, if you partner with a vendor that excels in engaging with its entire developer community, then the likelihood of success will be much higher.

Selecting the right low-code vendor greatly minimizes challenges.

It’s important that you don’t view challenges brought on by a sub-optimal low-code product as challenges inherent in the technology as a whole. Choosing the right low-code platform vendor is the first step in a successful low-code platform implementation. Your vendor must satisfy your needs when it comes to security, integrations, compliance, and other capabilities that are vital to your low-code project. Some will have stronger capabilities than others, so take the time to do a thorough evaluation of any vendor you consider working with.

Low-code platforms are evolving and improving at a rapid pace, meaning that any challenges relating to governance, robustness of functionality, or usability are being addressed faster than ever. With solid collaboration between your developers, business stakeholders, and a low-code platform vendor, you’ll be ideally positioned to overcome these and any other potential challenges. Adopting low-code technology now means getting a headstart on the learning curve, while adapting your team dynamics to make the most of low-code’s flexibility and accessibility will ensure your application development projects are as successful as possible.

Posted: February 4, 2022

Susan Coleman

Content Marketing Manager, Appian

Susan Coleman has been working in the enterprise technology industry for over a decade. At Appian she writes on topics related to low-code, ranging from automation technologies to application development platforms, process mining, and more. Prior to her role at Appian, she developed product and strategy content at SAP.

Low-Code Guide

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