How to speed enterprise app development and meet digital transformation demands

Speed is the key to digital transformation. In fact, to paraphrase a recent Forrester Research article, companies have the choice of either going fast or going home. That’s because competition is no longer a matter of size, but rather velocity and those companies that fail to innovate quickly will find themselves getting left behind in the dust.

So what does this need for speed actually mean for IT teams that have to support enterprise digital transformation initiatives? And how can today’s IT teams keep up with the insatiable demand for ever more apps, devices, data, and connected things? We’ve clearly reached the point where we can no longer tweak around the edges by simply changing procedural approaches to software development. Instead, today’s competitive market is forcing us to re-think how IT teams develop enterprise applications.

Over the past decade the tidal shift from waterfall to agile development has given IT teams a glimpse of a new kind of speed. The gains were real and helped accelerate many companies into a new digital era. And yet invariably most companies still hit a wall.

That’s why these days we’re looking for a new kind of agility that comes with a radically different approach to application development. Low-code, rapid application development platforms have recently been thrust into the spotlight as a transformative technology that can propel IT organisations into the digital world at breakneck speeds.

A closer look at low-code

According to Forrester, application development professionals see these platforms as a way to deliver applications faster in order to win, serve, and retain customers. This need to meet overwhelming customer appetite for digital access is driving the demand for low-code development platforms and fuelling market growth. In the process, application developers are gaining confidence that low-code platforms can support fast delivery of even large and highly complex customer solutions.

That said, the definition of what constitutes a low-code platform is somewhat broad. Vendors are jumping on the low-code bandwagon as the demand for category of rapid app development solutions really takes off.

Many of the products and platforms deemed “low-code” have vastly different capabilities. And as in any hot market, buzzwords abound creating confusion. Pure-play through to tangential players use the same terminology, yet solve very different problems. For example, some so-called low-code platforms are great for workflow improvements but don’t provide a viable option for creating a mobile banking app or a customer service portal. Similarly, some citizen developer technologies are great for building lightweight apps, but fall drastically short when it comes to building an enterprise-grade app complete with integration, governance, and scalability.

Where OutSystems fits in the sprawling low-code landscape

This spring, Forrester published the first report dedicated solely to the low-code platform market. The 2016 Forrester Wave for Low-Code Development Platforms evaluated the top 14 vendors in the space. OutSystems earned the highest score based on the 26-criteria evaluation. We were also named a leader based on the strengths of our strategy and current offering.

So if you’re wondering how OutSystems differs from other low-code solutions and why this is important to IT teams and developers, let me explain.

First, the visual development capabilities in our platform can be used to create exciting new user interfaces and to integrate existing systems. That provides a solution for front- and back-ends, rather than just one or the other. OutSystems is also a single way to create web and mobile apps across mobile platforms so developers don't have to switch between tools when writing apps for different mobile platforms such as iOS and Android.

Next, we address the skills shortage many enterprises face because no company can justify hiring legions of platform-specific developers. Plus, even if they could, would they be able to recruit the right skills quickly enough to meet the needs of the business? OutSystems fits well within a company's DevOps structure because our platform can be used by any developer, not just those with the very best and most sought-after skills.

Finally, with our open low-code architecture, OutSystems plays well with existing systems, so there's no code lock-in that you would experience with a proprietary runtime or platform.

Speed matters, but so does choosing the right vendor

Speed, digital,

When it comes to digital transformation, the need for speed is so acute that companies have no choice but to take action. Many IT managers realise that their careers are at stake as they look for options to help them transform their mission-critical systems and for ways to help them rapidly build enterprise-grade apps to accelerate digital transformation.

My advice is to make sure that you choose a vendor that has the capabilities to meet your demands and don’t be hoodwinked by false claims. Ask to talk to some of their customers, go into developer forums, look at analyst reports, and really do your due diligence. Don’t gamble with your business-critical systems, otherwise you might find your digital transformation project going off the rails.

Eduardo Cruz, VP UK & Ireland, OutSystems