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Looking Behind the Rapid Application Development Curtain

Appian Contributor
June 7, 2017

The technology world is sometimes like the kid who, in order to get a clean room, shoves as much as possible into the closet to hide the mess and leave the rest of the space neat and clean. Modern interfaces are minimalistic so that users can focus on the work they are doing, the data they are analyzing or the media they are consuming. Settings, customization options and similar business process management tools effectively get tucked behind a digital curtain.

The modern app environment is one in which all the complexity gets pushed into the background in order to simplify and streamline the end-user experience. What if you could do the same thing to app development? Low-code application development platforms do just that. Instead of using programming languages and custom code to create apps, these platforms portray core features and functions through a visual representation of what the app will need to do, allowing users to quickly mix-and-match components of a solution to create an app.

The Rise of Rapid Development

Marketplaces are changing quickly. In just a few years, we've gone from talking about the consumerization of IT to discussing digital transformation as a central enterprise trend. This evolution has created a climate in which quickly creating or altering customer-facing apps and services is critical. What's more, all these outward-facing adjustments must align with internal data and process workflows or your workers won't be able to process customer interactions at the pace necessary to keep up with your users.

At first, simply implementing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) systems represented a solution here. Companies could subscribe to apps quickly and make adjustments to their strategies in a hurry as customer demands changed. SaaS alone isn't enough anymore. Off-the-shelf products often end up being too generic for the customer journeys and experiences organizations must maintain to create loyalty. As such, businesses increasingly depend on proprietary apps to meet their needs, and IT teams have historically not been equipped to solve this problem.

Modern applications are big and complex, even when they do seemingly simple things. Remember, the smartphones of today are as powerful as early supercomputers. A basic app can't be coded, tested and deployed with ease. Digital transformation has pushed IT teams to demand new solutions for customer-facing apps, and rapid application development with low-code tools have emerged in response.

Rapid app development through low-code tools isn't a mirage.Rapid app development through low-code tools isn't a mirage.

How is Low-Code Evolving?

Simplifying the development experience by tucking the complexity behind the scenes is an increasingly common practice, and it's useful for citizen developers and expert programmers alike. Transparency Market Research explained that the declarative development tools incorporated into low-code platforms allow businesses to create custom apps much faster than they would be able to with programming. Furthermore, this functionality is increasingly necessary in response to fast-moving customer behavior changes.

At this point, low-code market expansion is being driven by the rise of microcomputers that allow organizations to automate key processes, but also need applications to guide how they process and use data.

The main issue slowing the market, on the other hand, comes down to misinformation around the technology, the study found. There are many myths surrounding low-code app development platforms - particularly that they are primarily meant for citizen developers and aren't relevant in the IT department - that are stifling growth.

"Organizations have an opportunity to tuck complex programming beneath the surface and simplify the developer experience."

With low-code platforms emerging as a mature technology, Transparency Market Research found that app developers are increasing their spending on low-code platforms aimed to support a variety of use cases.

As the low-code market continues to evolve, organizations have an opportunity to tuck the complex programming beneath the surface and use visual, declarative programming to simplify the developer experience. This allows for greater responsiveness to customer demands, but app platforms aren't just about low-code.

Beyond Low-Code - How to Accelerate Development with Cloud Platforms

If you're writing an app in a development environment, you must then test it in a configuration that is similar to the production setup and eventually deploy it into the operational setting. These processes can slow app implementation to a crawl, severely increasing time to market. App platforms counter this by creating a stable cloud infrastructure and operating system environment for the low-code development tools to reside within.

Cloud platforms provide the foundation needed to maximize the value of low-code, further removing the complexity development and operations teams must face when responding to new customer requirements.

It Isn't Too Good to Be True

Of course, bringing all of these capabilities behind the scenes may remind you a bit of a certain famous wizard who had almost no power, but created an illusion of functionality. Innovative technology can look a bit like magic and seem too good to be real, and it isn't crazy to second guess app platforms. That's exactly what PC Magazine did.

"IT teams that look behind the low-code curtain will find a powerful, streamlined set of tools."

Last year PCMag responded to the growing low-code hype by running a simple test: It took four low-code platforms, gave them to some developers and asked those individuals to create a basic scheduling app within just an hour. Appian's enterprise application platform was involved in the test, and PC Mag came away impressed.

"[Appian's platform is] the most mature, easiest to use low-code platform we tested for creating BPM apps," the report stated.

This response was elicited by the combination of our Quick Apps and Designer tools. Quick Apps uses form-based tools to rapidly create an app, and Designer allows users to map out data and objects through our Process Modeler tool.

Low-code may seem like a messy closet that's about to burst and show the need to actually clean up the room. However, maturation in the industry and coupling low-code with cloud application development platforms has turned that closet into a neat, organized space that can be used to drive efficient development. IT teams that take a look behind the low-code curtain today will find a powerful, streamlined set of tools to add unique features to apps, ensure secure data workflows and get new solutions to market with unmatched speed.

Empower, build, launch and change faster than ever before with Appian's low-code application platform.