By Colin Earl
Enterprises are always searching for systems that are easy to use and implement, affordable, and will decrease the time it takes to respond to customer needs. But finding this recipe for success can seem like trial and error.
Research conducted by the Standish Group studied 50,000 software deployments in 2015. Of those, only 29 percent of projects were successful, 52 percent were challenged, and 19 percent failed altogether.
Several factors can lead to those failures, such as evolving requirements, putting nice-to-have features before core functions, and poor communication between the customer and software developer, to name a few. The Standish Group findings show the need to remove uncertainty from software deployments. A viable solution to this problem has emerged this year and will grow in popularity in 2017—low- and no-code software.
In a globalized, fast-paced environment, businesses must remain agile to maintain their competitive advantage. Speed and flexibility are crucial when engaging with customers, responding to issues, or implementing a system change. The old method of configuring the enterprise systems that provide the backend for these business functions—custom coding—is the root cause of most problems as enterprises deploy and then must maintain clunky yet business-critical software.
Low/No Code Advantages
If a system requires custom code, the deployment and development can take months or even years. It’s slow and expensive to hire and manage developers to write tens of thousands of lines of code. Of course, vendors promise that the result will be worth it, but their customers often learn otherwise once the project goes live. No system is perfect at first and users inevitably request changes based on their experiences using the software. Then business requirements evolve. So, you go back to the developers, which require more time and money. When change cycles take months, the software may never actually catch up with requirements, especially when each round of custom coding brings new bugs. Eventually, management can get so frustrated that they adapt business processes to the software, instead of the other way around. Finally, there are long-term issues to consider, like re-testing and adjusting the custom code after system updates.
Low-code and no-code software presents a compelling solution to these issues. Forrester Research outlines the benefits in a recent report on low code platforms. “Hand-coding is too slow to develop and deliver many of the applications that companies use to win, serve, and retain customer. Faster delivery is the primary benefit of these application platforms; they also help firms respond more quickly to customer feedback after initial software releases and provision mobile and multichannel applications.”
The term has circulated for a few years, but 2016 brought larger-scale recognition and adoption of these platforms at an enterprise level. Low-code systems might require several hundred or a few thousand lines of code to meet business requirements. But a true no-code system can be configured to meet requirements without any manual coding. These systems are the fresh alternative to conventional development tactics. The paradigm shift toward no-code solutions puts the power of development in the right hands—the business owners.
Enterprises that make the switch enjoy several benefits, saving time, money, and headaches. The initial deployment effort is measured in person-weeks, rather than months or years. It’s deeply customizable, so each company can shape the system to fit their exact needs. Administrators can make updates in a few hours or less from the Web interface. The admin interface shows exactly how the system will behave, making it fully auditable and transparent. Also, no custom coding means no custom bugs or security holes, preventing unnecessary drains on the IT budget. All compelling benefits when you consider that an average 80 percent of the IT budget is spent on maintaining previously developed software applications and projects, according to Software AG.
Tips to Capitalize
With so many companies making the switch, many vendors are trying to capitalize on the trend by claiming to be low-code. Be cautious when evaluating systems by following these tips. Ask the vendor to make a significant change during the demonstration, such as creating a new table and custom workflow. If their system is as easy as they say, they should be able to apply the change in a few clicks, in real time.
Get a fixed-price implementation quote. Often, software vendors make their revenue from the professional services (read: custom coding) that it takes to really get the software to work. If the vendor can’t provide a fixed price, their business model and software likely require extensive custom coding. Ask directly whether any custom coding is required to implement the system.
As more businesses adopt genuine low and no-code software platforms, they will solve one of the long-standing infrastructure issues. IT departments are over-burdened managing and implementing changes to the scores of software applications. By adopting systems that can be configured, not coded, the staff is free up to focus on long-term projects and user needs. They can turn over minor updates like adding a new field to an online form to the business users, so this new wave not only democratizes software, making it accessible and useful to more than just the coders of the world, it also frees employees to focus on the tasks that help organizations succeed.
Colin Earl is the CEO at Agiloft, a company serving more than 2.5 million users at organizations ranging from small enterprises to U.S Government agencies and Fortune 100 companies. The company’s no-code platform allows the rapid automation of processes that are too complex for competing vendors. For more information, visit agiloft.com
Feb2017, Software Magazine