Look to low-code to balance quality and speed

Low-code development platforms can help you increase project velocity, reduce technical debt, and meet rising expectations

Look to low-code to balance quality and speed

There has never been more pressure on developers. Today’s always-on, 24x7 marketplace requires an agile business that is able to spin up new features and applications virtually overnight to meet rising demand. The development team is simply expected to increase development velocity and push code out the door as fast as they can. At the same time, rising customer expectations are creating additional pressure to produce exceptional user experiences that can be delivered to users at the right time on the right device.

The problem is that speedy app development and error-free software are hard to achieve at the same time. If the two made up a Venn diagram, their overlap would be hardly perceptible. That’s how challenging it is to develop powerful and robust software quickly.

Failure to achieve the balance between quality and speed leads to an unmanageable amount of technical debt that is baked into business applications. In short, technical debt is the risk you take when you invest in new software initiatives. You pay down your technical debt through ongoing updates, patching, security fixes, and other maintenance related activities.

Much of technical debt is built into planning and resourcing, but sometimes it can get out of control—especially when the pressure of getting code out the door as quickly as possible is added to the equation.

Low-code yesterday and today

Low-code development tools have been touted as a panacea for producing applications quickly. But then, we’ve heard this before. In the past, tools like Microsoft Access or PowerBuilder allowed people with limited or no coding experience to quickly build software solutions, often with little foresight or planning. Rather than streamline the development process, these low-code tools ended up adding unmanageable technical debt through ongoing maintenance, security, and scalability issues.

And guess who had to maintain these slapped together apps? That’s right, the development team.

However, modern low-code platforms have evolved from a long history of tools that use visual design paradigms to simplify and accelerate software innovation. Low-code platforms recognize that while the rapid composition is valuable, all software solutions must follow a proper software development lifecycle. And this makes a big difference toward mitigating technical debt and delivering ongoing value.

Low-code and enterprise development

Implementing low-code software development isn’t a simple matter of procuring a tool and letting developers go nuts. The platform must support enterprise development needs—from planning, testing, and ongoing maintenance to the actual coding process. The platform needs to integrate with existing software development lifecycle processes already in place, including an added step to determine whether a feature or a new app should be built using the low-code platform.

Despite the evolution of low-code into an enterprise tool, most enterprises should continue to use traditional development tools for mission-critical or customer-facing apps. But not every app or feature needs to be built from scratch. Enterprises can reserve low-code for small internal processes or automating previously manual tasks, making low-code platforms a great tool for executing digital transformation projects.

Because the goal is to increase development velocity, your tools must help you get code out the door quickly so it can be tested and pushed to users. There is no time for inefficient processes or sloppy code that will just increase technical debt and push timetables back. A low-code development platform needs to empower the developers with the tools they need to build powerful and robust apps quickly. This includes fully-vetted, pre-built snippets of code that can be pasted into source files.

Low-code and technical debt

Another way a low-code development platform increases development velocity is by eliminating much of the technical debt typically associated with new software. Here choosing the right low-code development platform goes a long way. If you adopt a low-code platform that is a fully-managed cloud environment controlled by the vendor, then maintenance is baked into the platform and developers or the security team don’t have to worry about upgrades or patches. The platform also should be forward compatible and support future versions of operating systems and other platforms such as iOS, Android, and Chrome.

In addition, your low-code vendor should be available to help developers make client updates and future platform support easier by ensuring that your software is developed with integration and support issues in mind from the very beginning. Your developers should “just know” that an application built on the platform is being updated to the latest standards.

The pressure is on to speed the development of applications, and modern low-code development platforms can provide the framework needed to follow a proper software development lifecycle. Enterprises can use these platforms to increase velocity, and develop powerful and robust apps, and meet growing expectations. It’s time to take some pressure off of our hard-working development teams.

Malcolm Ross is deputy CTO and VP of product strategy at Appian, the provider of a low-code software development platform that enables organizations to rapidly develop powerful and unique applications for digital transformation and competitive differentiation.

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