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The Low-Code Manifesto: A Radical Solution for the Software Development Crisis

Roland Alston, Appian
October 2, 2019

If you define "solution" loosely enough, there's always a possibility that a quick-fix will work. But cutting corners on software development can kill innovation and put your organization on really thin ice against faster, more agile challengers.

With the astonishing evolution of digital transformation, custom software may be your single biggest source of competitive advantage. But many brands are struggling to keep up with ever-rising demand for business applications. The problem is so serious that we're now in a situation where the application gap is screaming for a solution. Here's the math:

    • 50% of enterprise applications fail to meet expectations, according to a recent Future of Work survey by IDG

    • 75% of companies worry about not being able to deliver applications as quickly as the business needs them, according to Forrester

    • 86% of IT professionals say demand for new apps and tech integrations is stoking anxiety in their organization

Need a Better Solution?

With the blistering speed of digital transformation, it's tempting to chase shortcuts to build that killer app on the latest version of your product roadmap. But the cost of replacing and maintaining software that fails to meet expectations may be far more than building it right in the first place. Why not raise the bar and empower your IT organization to build applications better than you ever imagined instead?

That's where Low-code development comes in. It's a radically different way to turn innovative ideas into custom software. In fact, low-code empowers developers to build a custom application 10 to 20x faster than coding it from scratch. Consider Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) the world's largest equity derivative clearinghouse. OCC used low-code to build and deploy 9 mission-critical risk management applications in just 18 months.

Today, OCC uses low-code applications to do everything from onboarding new customers and managing new product development to automating the creation of compliance documentation and more.

Another case in point is Aviva one of the largest insurance companies in the world. With the help of a low-code platform, Aviva was able to combine data from 22 different systems to build a single customer view for a more efficient call center. The business impact? Customer service response times improved by a remarkable 9x and operating costs dropping by a whopping 40%.

The Simple Truth

Perhaps Appian Founder and CEO Matt Calkins said it best: "If I could boil Appian (low-code development) down into one word," says Calkins, "it would be simplicity. But all companies must be able to accelerate IT delivery without sacrificing quality (cutting corners) or accumulating more technical debt," says Calkins who recently doubled down on this sentiment in a ComputerWorld interview:

"Software today is slow, it takes years, it's waterfall," said Calkins. "It's fast enough to save money but not fast enough to appeal to fickle customer tastes. ..."So, if it is true that the number one priority for new application development in terms of digital transformation is to please the customer? I think we are approaching it far too slowly."

Faster Business Impact, Lower Costs

"Because no-code/low-code platforms are now integrated infrastructure," says Eric Bloom, Executive Director, IT Management and Leadership Institute (IML), "I think they should be presented as a rapid development, enterprise-based architecture because that's what IT listens to. Also, whatever it costs per desktop per month, per quarter or per year depending on the tool and number of desktops involved it (a low-code platform) can provide significant financial savings because you can build many types of apps on it and it doesn't change the per desktop price, says Bloom."

"If it's properly deployed and used, the first app may be a little expensive," says Bloom. "But with the second, third, fourth, fifth app and beyond, the ROI goes through the roof because the apps are developed quicker, and the platform environment is amortized over multiple apps. So, development cost becomes very low on a per application basis."

It's also worth noting that it's easy to visualize what low-code development looks and feels like. Imagine a Lego-like approach to building enterprise software, a user-friendly system of icons and drag-and-drop tools that allow developers to build applications without writing code. Here's how the reviewers at CIO magazine described the benefits of low-code: "The best low-code platforms offer new, more nimble ways for IT to help the business move faster, keep up with customer expectations and deliver faster business impact."

Why Are Some Low-Code Platforms so Powerful?

Because as low-code translates your idea into an application, it also invests that application with numerous features automatically inherited from the platform. With the best platforms, this includes powerful features like enhanced security and multi-platform parity that would otherwise be too expensive and time-consuming to code. Think of this as "free power."

The best low-code platforms also empower users to meet the toughest enterprise requirements for security, scalability, and reliability. A recent study by Forrester revealed that firms with the lowest tolerance for downtime and data loss, and the strongest requirements for continuous auditing and independent security certification, are the most likely to run top applications on low-code.

The 3 Keys to Low-Code Power

    • Reliability and Security: The Appian low-code platform, for example, gives you the confidence of 99.95% service level reliability. There's also an optional service level agreement that guarantees 99.99 reliability, with a 15-minute Recovery Time Objective (RTO). Security is built right into the Appian Platform. And the company's suite of security endorsements and badges is unsurpassed by any other vendor in the industry.

    • Global coverage: Need global coverage for your application? The best low-code platforms have your back on that as well. Appian's data centers are strategically located in numerous regions and availability zones around the world. And Appian's Cloud Security is designed to meet the toughest local, regional and global industry standards. With the best low-code platforms, you can host your application anywhere, because it runs on the cloud. You can also leave your data anywhere you want, because the platform can assemble unified data views regardless of where the data resides.

    • Instant mobility: Build once, deploy everywhere. The explosion of mobile devices like cell phones and tablets in the business created waves of new development requests. And there's Alexa, and smart watches, and who-knows-what-else coming just around the corner. Modern enterprise applications must have cross-platform functionality standard in their design. With true low-code development, it all happens behind the scenes automatically, with no extra effort, coding, or resources.

Low-Code: Rethinking Software Development

"ÖWhere I really see it (low-code) is in process re-engineering," says IML's Bloom, "because you can do rapid development to enhance internal processes. And that's a really good thing for companies looking to transform their internal operations in a way that fits under the digital transformation umbrella."

Today, organizations are under enormous pressure to keep up with the blistering pace of digital transformation. Many companies still believe the best way to innovate is by coding software from scratch. Ten years ago, if you wanted to build, integrate and deploy a new, business-critical application in weeks not years, you were out of luck. But the rise of Low-code has changed everything and research suggests the share of IT projects that involve coding solutions from scratch will soon be cut in half.

Back to the quick-fix conundrum. Intuitively, we know that a quick-fix is a shabby attempt at solving a problem, which usually leads to bigger problems that could have been avoided by doing the job right in the first place.

The same is true in software development. We're now on the cusp of a low-code revolution. Companies that have embraced the movement are elevating the game, changing the rules, making software and creating business value faster than anyone ever imagined. If you can't win that race, don't run it.

Read our new whitepaper, "Low-Code ñ The Future of Enterprise Application Development" >>