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Why firms should take the low-code route to high-efficiency app development

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors)

The thing with application development is that it leaves a lot of room for disappointment. Consider the scenario. You give a long list of requirements to your development team, wait for six months and pray that at the end of the process, you’ll have something you’re happy with and expecting. But more often than not, you aren’t happy because there was too much emphasis on the launch day product being the final product. 

Then there’s another thing to think about. Organisations are demanding continual innovation, and this requires more applications. The more applications you have, the more you are multiplying the original problem of unfulfillment on launch day. Countless apps are developed, many of which are unsatisfactory, especially considering the time it took to create them.

According to IDC, there were 22.3 million software developers globally in 2018, which is an increase from 2014 when there were 18.5 million. Industry forecasts suggest the numbers will continue to increase. Although there are more developers than there used to be, the reality is that most firms don’t have the resources to throw more bodies at the problem. Teams just don’t have the capacity or speed that is necessary to create the required quantity of apps in the traditional way. 

Indeed, we can’t address the changing needs for apps with sheer manpower alone. We have to do so with different methods and approaches. It used to be the case that traditional project management techniques such as Waterfall ruled the roost. Now, with the move towards agile development, it helps create applications quickly and to expectations. Agile takes the emphasis away from day one launch. It also makes the process more collaborative so that everyone can have visibility of, and contribute to, the ongoing project.

Developers no longer need to work towards one big end product, that traditionally took many months and often years. They can work in a more iterative agile way where improvements are made all the time to an application that is constantly evolving. And this can all be carried out using visual metaphors that everyone in the business can understand, such as flow charts and rule tables. 

Acceptance and adoption

But if this agile development is so efficient, why don’t all firms adopt it? Here’s the problem. The move to agile works when business stakeholders who are used to Waterfall, with no experience of an agile and rapid environment, buy into the process.

Currently, many executive stakeholders have a heritage in working in linear processes. Agile can only work when these stakeholders have confidence in agile as a concept and push their teams to work towards a minimum viable product (MVP) as opposed to expecting all of their requirements to be in the solution from day one. If companies are willing to start with an MVP and then iterate with subsequent releases, they’ll get far more impact than if they were to wait eighteen months to implement the first phase.

By using improved application development techniques, you aren’t coding, you’re configuring. And you’re doing so in a way that the entire business can see and understand. The benefits of low-code application development include lowering cost, improving service, lowering risk and growing revenue. But most of all, it transforms the way software applications are built, evolved and used. Solutions come to life in days and weeks, rather than the months and years with traditional software development approaches and methodologies.

Take insurance company Aviva, for example. They have worked with Appian for their application development for the last three years. In that time, they have deployed 32 applications that have improved the way they interact with and service their customers. That’s ten per year or almost one a month. That’s incredibly fast and agile and it shows what’s possible if a company wants to use applications to transform their business.

Big bang to evolution

The big bang launch day is dead. Not that devs should stop caring about what goes into their apps from the outset but they should change the way they think about projects if they use linear processes. A low-code approach within an agile delivery methodology, allows powerful software applications to be quickly built and iterated for continually high-impact innovation.

I speak to business leaders all the time who want to implement change and transformation to their companies. But they feel shackled by lengthy planning and development timelines and the need for the solution has often moved on by the time it’s finished. By using low-code techniques, the apps get better all the time, which allows the business to stay nimble and respond to new challenges as they arise.

Apps developed using the old techniques will not be built quickly enough for today’s business environment. It’s vital to have a solution that can be built and implemented quickly that can also be changed easily when required. Agile has opened the door for this to be a possibility and now solutions can be developed faster than ever.

Paul Maguire, Senior Vice President of EMEA, Appian

Paul leads Appian’s European operations and has substantial experience growing enterprise software companies into market leaders.