At its most basic level, DevOps—a combination of development and operations—refers to a set of practices that streamline application development at every stage, from building and testing to deploying and monitoring. DevOps largely aims to break down silos and improve collaboration for teams looking to increase agility without compromising on software quality. Unfortunately, traditional high-code methods of development present a few challenges to successful DevOps transformations.
First, custom code can drastically slow down the app building process. Without pre-built components and automation tools, writing and reviewing code is often tedious and time-consuming. Second, custom code environments can impede collaboration at all stages of an app’s life cycle. These environments often require more specialized, esoteric skill sets, which makes understanding and communicating concepts across teams a challenge. Additionally, custom-code environments may not feature easy-to-use, central interfaces that help team members connect with one another in an organized fashion. Inefficient collaboration can be devastating to brands trying to stay competitive in fast-moving markets. Finally, high-code approaches often make ongoing maintenance an arduous task, given the effort required to review, tweak, and validate custom-code.
Given these challenges, many companies are ditching legacy approaches in favor of low-code ones; Forrester reports that by the end of 2021, 75% of development shops will be using low-code platforms. These offerings optimize every step of the app development process while greatly improving how teams collaborate and apply DevOps philosophies. Below, we’ll take a closer look at how low-code tools support strong DevOps performance and collaboration in these key development areas: building, collaboration, and maintenance.
During the initial building phase of app development, many companies get bogged down by the labor-intensive nature of high-code. Manual code writing, without any reusable or pre-configured blocks, is painfully time-consuming. One recent survey found that 83% of developers have experienced some form of burnout; 47% of those developers cited heavy workload as a key factor, and another 31% cited inefficient processes. The relative difficulty (and ensuing fatigue) of large manual coding assignments, often leaves companies with bugs, bad code, and an exhausted dev team. DevOps processes face an uphill battle if teams remain mired in sluggish, custom-code environments, and bottom lines suffer—research has shown a roughly $85B loss in global GDP due to developer time spent adjusting bad code—an issue low-code tools can solve.
Low-code allows for faster builds without compromising on power and flexibility. Using low-code to automate your processes is similar to sketching out a plan in a notebook. You use simple visual tools that let any team member easily understand and contribute to the process. Building an application becomes as easy as dragging and dropping a series of pre-built functions and configuring them to meet your specific business needs. Pre-built interface components reduce the need for tedious manual coding by baking in security, accessibility, and native rendering on mobile devices. And you can customize or reconfigure each component later to suit a new process. This saves huge chunks of time that developers can then devote to more creative tasks or areas of development where their expertise is better directed.
An in-depth Forrester study found that, when low-code solutions were implemented, app development was accelerated by 17x and the time to value for customer organizations improved by 50%. The evidence is unequivocal: low-code supercharges the building stage of any app.
High-code requires specialized skills, which can make it difficult for differently skilled team members to collaborate on and communicate about projects. This is especially true when individuals are responsible for complex, custom-coded software—though the code’s author understands how it works, it is often unclear to other team members. Furthermore, manually coding integrations for multiple software solutions can be extremely laborious and increases the risk of coding errors, resulting in ineffective integrations. Considering that employees at large companies use an average of 9.5 applications each and overall tech spending is forecasted to grow 9% this year, clear and polished integrations are more important than ever.
Low-code visual design tools clearly show any team member how a proposed application’s functions are mapped out—no coding knowledge required. Visual design tools for process management offer an intuitive, flowchart-like map that lets each team member easily understand what their tasks are and how they fit into the broader workflow.
And these collaboration benefits extend to team members trying to balance multiple software solutions. Low-code solutions often provide multiple out-of-the-box integrations with a range of other enterprise software solutions. However, advanced low-code platforms go even further: they offer a sharing economy that lets users create custom integrations or add-ons and list them publicly for others to use. Collaboration becomes easier when these integrated platforms are consolidated in a single, user-friendly front end.
For development team collaboration, powerful low-code tools like the Appian platform and solutions take a package-based approach. When deploying to a new environment, developers can bundle new and updated objects into a “package” to better organize changes during development and peer reviews. These packages are highly traceable and help prevent conflict in code being worked on by multiple people. While building, developers can also use powerful impact analysis tools to understand how the changes they are pushing will alter the final application. This feature, included in the Appian Low-Code Platform, is especially helpful when multiple developers are making changes to a single application and need to be cognizant of how those changes will manifest when deployed together.
Debugging, refactoring, scaling, maintaining libraries, fixing bad code—all these monotonous tasks create enormous IT backlogs. This is especially true in a high-code environment, where making changes requires poring over countless lines of code. Finding bugs can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack—a study found that each week, the average developer spends over 17 hours on maintenance tied to debugging or refactoring, over 13 hours on issues tied to “technical debt,” and roughly four hours correcting bad code. Those numbers are staggering and severely limit the amount of time (and energy) developers can devote to more valuable and creative tasks.
Low-code is the solution. Pre-configured components reduce the risk of bugs or bad code, and the best low-code tools automatically scan code (in real-time) for risky design patterns and recommend alternatives to improve maintainability. With that guidance in a single, centralized dashboard, it’s easier to monitor ongoing application health and collaborate on functionality.
Furthermore, working through a low-code platform automatically protects you and your business against vulnerabilities that a custom-coded application may not. Low-code components continually evolve to protect against new common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) and adjust to changing regulatory requirements, which means applications built with low-code can be instantly futureproof. This is not true for custom-coded applications. Some low-code platforms like Appian also provide a backwards compatibility guarantee, which states that they will inherit the cost of ensuring your applications work on newer versions of the platform without any further effort on your part.
Adopting a low-code approach is a game changer for any team’s DevOps efforts. The agility that low-code unlocks will give just about any company an immense edge in the fast-moving, demanding software marketplace. It frees developers from the most tedious day-to-day tasks, like performing constant maintenance, and allows them to instead focus on using their expertise for innovative development. IT leaders benefit from teams that are unburdened by massive backlogs, cumbersome communications, and inefficient project management. Even non-technical members of teams can communicate more effectively with the visual tools and consolidated platform low-code offers.
High-code has its benefits, but in software marketplaces that demand rapid builds, frequent updates, asynchronous collaboration, and high-quality work, low-code tools are some of the most powerful developer allies.
Learn more about how low-code helps solve the most pressing IT challenges in this whitepaper: