There are four keys to low code success. Follow them, and you can speed development of new software assets up to ten fold.
With digital transformation being top-of-mind these days for thousands of enterprises, low-code platforms are becoming one of the hottest sectors in the IT industry. The reason, of course, is simple: for most organizations, digital transformation means a dramatic increase in software development—new business apps, new mobile apps, new automated processes that cascade throughout an enterprise, completing, updating, notifying, and so on. Trying to pull off this sort of accelerated development with traditional methodology would require a virtual army of engineers, and not just to write the code at the outset, but to maintain it in perpetuity.
Low-code platforms, in contrast to development teams using Visual C++or any other traditional development environment, can speed application development and delivery up to ten fold. And these platforms can dramatically expand the pool of potential developers to include non-senior-system engineers (novice engineers and even power users [citizen developers]). Just the same, adopting a low-code platform for business and mobile app development as well for complex process automation doesn’t guarantee low code success.
The Low Down on Low Code
Elite low-code platforms utilize a declarative, drag-drop-and-configure approach to software development. And most have large portfolios of connectors/adapters to allow you to incorporate major systems, cloud services, and devices into custom apps and processes. These platforms enable experienced development teams to fly through complex development projects.
But such elite platforms are sophisticated environments having many hundreds—even thousands—of features organized in deep menu structures. Furthermore, these platforms have well defined protocols for application development that must be adhered to. Finally, they are called “low-code” for a reason—while many applications can be built entirely without coding, in many cases your IT department will find it necessary to extend the platform on the fron-tend, back-end, or both to accomplish its objectives.
Four Keys to Low Code Success
There’s no doubt that low-code is the wave of the future for a big part of custom software asset development. But like all IT initiatives, low-code platform adoption and deployment has inherent risks. The good news is that after almost fifteen years in the BPMS (Business Process Management) and low-code markets, our own Professional Services department has defined four keys to low code success when adopting, launching, and delivering software assets with a low-code platform.
Key One: Establish Executive Sponsorship
In one regard, low-code platforms are designed to create the digital connective tissue throughout an organization. (See Digital Ecosystems and the Enterprise Ripple Effect.) Many, if not most events affect more than one department. Automating processes that are triggered by events in one department that then cascade throughout an enterprise performing any number and variety of tasks is, by some definitions, the essence of digital transformation.
But this reality requires buy-in from multiple departments, including allocation of resources and budgets. And to ensure that interdepartmental cooperation exists, it’s extremely important to have executive sponsorship of your low-code initiative.
The executive sponsor does the following:
- Develops Vision with Senior Management
- Ensures Alignment with Senior Management
- Manages Communication to Senior Management
- Provides Support for Organizational Transformation
Key Two: Establish a Center of Excellence
A Center of Excellence (CoE) is the guiding entity that keeps all required components of an organization in line with a corporate vision.
Why Do You Need a CoE?
An organization’s low-code CoE has several important functions: The CoE
- establishes a collection of methodologies, tools, and techniques that will be used by experienced staff to continually improve development procedures and projects.
- orchestrates people and processes across IT and business units within other enterprise departments, such as Human Resources, Finance, Operations, and so on.
- provides expertise to support application development across the organization.
- addresses the need for a unified approach.
- defines the complex relationships between various constituents of the system on an ongoing basis. This function provides governance over the process and people competing for resources and time while providing quality for new software assets.
Who should be on your CoE Committee?
Staffing your CoE with the right types of people is critical to low code success, enabling it to guide your low-code development initiatives. The CoE should include the following:
- Visionary—someone who understands the enterprise processes that drive revenue and has a clear understanding of how they could be improved.
- Project Manager—someone on the frontline of application development, who actually manages development projects for the company.
- Platform Expert—someone who has deep understanding and experience with the low-code platform being deployed.
- Enterprise Architect—someone who is involved in designing your organization’s software stack and has a big-picture view of your entire IT portfolio, including which systems and applications are rising in value and which ones are losing value.
- Multiple Subject Matter Experts
Key Three: Ensure Governance
Governance is largely the domain of your CoE. Governance should be driven by committee, and, consequently, for each individual low-code project, you may require additional representatives from various departments.
One of the biggest issues with governing a low-code development initiative is configuring the platform itself. Likewise, depending on the platform you choose, each individual application or automated process may require additional configuration, extending rights and privileges to various staff members and blocking access to staff members that don’t need it.
Effective governance of a low-code project also includes establishing and codifying naming conventions, defining application specifications and feature sets, and implementing a system for change management and support. It is critical to ensure that Governance is appropriately applied to avoid restricting the benefits of the low code approach to development.
Key Four: Utilize a Low-Code-Development Methodology
Low-code development projects differ from traditional development projects only in the production of the software asset. All other non-coding activities and practices relating to a software development cycle need to be completed and adhered to. Put another way, it really is possible for non-programmers to build sophisticated apps and automated processes with a low-code platform, but designing and managing the development cycle is best handled by your IT department.
AgilePoint’s own Professional Services team has developed, over the course of several years, what it calls Beyond Agile Methodology, a systematic way to successfully complete low-code projects by combining best low-code-development practices with traditional, Agile techniques. While the Beyond-Agile approach evolved around AgilePoint NX, it, nonetheless, can be applied to almost any low-code development initiative using almost any elite low-code platform.
Beyond Agile is a three-stage process:
- Define the scope of the low-code project in question.
- Developing the software asset, as well as training materials and communications protocols.
- Deploying the low-code asset in production.
Beyond Agile is an evolved methodology that leverages the power of AgilePoint NX to allow both rapid iteration and comparative paths to be realized in the development space in significantly less time than normal development times used in Agile. Designed to encompass even the most sophisticated development scenarios Beyond Agile and AgilePoint NX work together to improve the development cycle without additional resources. To learn more about Beyond Agile, visit us on the web at AgilePoint Professional Services or Contact us directly.
Because low-code is such a growth market, lots of vendors—both large and small—are hurrying new products into distribution. Perhaps the best advice you can receive is this: Be careful not to mistake brand visibility as a proxy for value. Put another way, spending a lot on a big brand is no guarantee of low code success. Find a platform that has functionality above and beyond what you need with flexible, reasonable licensing options (See Digital Transformation with the Safe-Choice Low-Code Platform.) from an established vendor with a history of success and recognition. A well chosen Low-code platform along with appropriate resources, strong governance and an innovative approach to development becomes the first stage in your transformation to a Digital Ecosystem.