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Four things companies need to consider when choosing a low-code cloud solution

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(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ekaphone maneechot)

In 2020, the move to low-code platforms with cloud capabilities took on a new evolutionary imperative as the pandemic made going fully digital no longer a choice, but instead a matter of survival. Many companies scrambled to keep up with a global digital revolution by buying tools that would help them quickly undergo a digital transformation or augment existing business processes to account for remote workers or changing customer behavior and demands. However, throughout 2021, business leaders will be expected to make more sophisticated decisions about technology investments that will take their efforts to the next level of digital maturity.

A report by global research and advisory firm, Gartner, estimates by 2025, 90 percent of large organizations with legacy applications in the cloud will use external service providers for some portion of management and support.* In addition, Forrester predicts that in 2021, 75 percent of application development will use low-code platforms.† When offices across the UK closed their doors to employees in March 2020, and again the following November, the transition to working remotely posed great challenges to countless businesses. As office workers become accustomed to the countless advantages of working from home, it looks less likely we will ever return to the traditional 9 to 5 workweek in central city locations ever again. To adapt, business leaders need to determine the kinds of digital processes they need and want to put in place as well as the applications they want to build to support a remote workforce. This takes a level of time and developer expertise that many companies lack.

Low-code cloud solutions can play a critical role in spurring digital transformation by helping companies, especially those without the technical resources, to build and deploy custom apps quickly and, more importantly, at scale. However, not all cloud solutions are created equal. To maximize benefits and return on investment, companies need to consider these four things when choosing the best platform for them:

1.  Beware of one-size-fits-all promises. 

Despite the potential for cloud solutions to transform business processes, companies turning to an all-purpose solution without fully vetting their particular needs put themselves at risk of facing significant pitfalls. It is widely agreed that any product or service sold as a cure-all to every size and kind of business is destined to fail. For instance, the needs of a software business just starting up differs greatly from an established construction or retail company.

It is also critical that business leaders assess their unique situation, then make sure to choose the solution that is tailored to or flexible enough to meet their specific goals. For example, does the company need a solution with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities? A business that enables digital assistants or augmented and virtual reality? Businesses must ensure the cloud solution they choose has the specific support and capabilities to meet current and future organization needs.

2.  Make sure the cloud solution plays nicely with real-world devices. 

Companies that make physical goods along with digital ones need to select a cloud-based solution that supports low-code app development and is fully compatible with the physical devices they’re coding for. To give an example, an apparel company that ships products across long distances must trust that the chosen cloud solution stays connected to their truck drivers, shipments, and physical warehouses. A solution with bugs that becomes untethered from real-world devices will fall far short and cause significant issues down the road. 

3.  Check for a solution with a local data center. 

While most businesses realize their individualized requirements, few may understand that the location of the cloud service data center is just as important. While a data center can be built anywhere with power and connectivity, the distance from said data center significantly impacts the speed and performance of applications. It is recommended thorough diligence is undertaken upfront in order to prevent any issues with connectivity. Some customers still find themselves inescapably bound by the physics and infrastructure of the internet since data takes time to travel and almost never travels in a straight line between the sender and receiver. The closer the businesses are to the data center’s location means less latency and better performance is achieved.

In addition, some businesses may even have legal mandates requiring their data stored in the country where they are based.

4.  Ask if the cloud-based solution has local support. 

Many businesses considering low-code tend to overlook the need for a local support team from the platform’s technology provider. However, to ensure a low-code platform remains powerful enough to support the company for 20 years or more, a robust and nearby support structure is critical.

With low-code cloud solutions, businesses are not just buying a tool, they are buying a backbone. And to help that backbone remain strong, there should be a local team to provide support and assistance whenever needed.

It is also critical that local solutions understand and follow local rules. For example, the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 requires all European-based organizations to guarantee the use of a service that handles data under the provisions of GDPR. Because of the difficulty with navigating local data and privacy regulations, organizations must have assurance from third-party providers that they are GDPR compliant, then each business must ensure it is creating apps and handling data in accordance with the GDPR provisions. The complexities even extend to specific businesses in specific markets. For example, Germany requires localized data centers for some industries but not others.

Ultimately, the cloud solution’s success balances on how business leaders use all of the tools available to provide value to their customers, including the data, the insights, the actions. A lack of appreciation for the nuances of different tools and platforms will lead many companies down a path of wasted money and failed applications.

organizations savvy about the cloud and adopting cloud-smart platforms will enter the new digital world with agility, flexibility, and competitive advantage. 

Those who don’t risk being left behind.

Peter Nelson, vice president, Engineering, Claris International Inc