Getting optimum returns from low-code platforms
Low-code solutions such as OutSystems are being seen as the way to accelerate the digital transformation. And they work. Specialists and stakeholders involved say that they cut development time and provide greater user-friendliness (usability) and a robust application landscape. And they achieve all this at lower initial costs.
Development and maintenance based on a low-code platform takes me back a long time, to the last century. With two partners I managed to build up a software company that specialized in a financial ERP package. This package had good connection capabilities with other technologies, certainly for the time. My associate was an expert in the package and knew everything about its possibilities and limitations. He was also excellent at anticipating the IT support needed by financial managers.
We built up a company with long-lasting client relationships. However, custom work was an absolute no-go for the development and administration team. This was only allowed in exceptional circumstances. Our long-lasting client relationships were grounded in the relatively low maintenance and administration costs over several years. In hindsight, I now realize that we never had any complaints about crucial functions that had not been implemented. People were happy with the continuity and cost-effectiveness.
Something that has not changed over the years is the temptation to develop quickly using the technology that you as a developer have the most experience with. If the development functionality and best practices of the low-code platform are not followed, eventually the question then arises as to whether the low-code promise – rapid, cost-effective and controlled realization of the digital transformation – will be maintained in the long term.
As I mentioned, the ERP package could be easily connected to other technologies. A low-code platform such as OutSystems now offers considerably more options for connection and integration. In the last century, a development team could be directed to a certain extent. However, things are different in 2018. Teams and developers now work more independently.
So, how do you resist this temptation, given the possibilities of OutSystems and independently operating teams?
Effective measurement helps to resist temptations.
It is customary for modern Agile development teams to control ‘it’ among themselves. In practice, we see that resisting temptations depends on the maturity and level of experience of the team. So, should you wait until all the teams have matured?
There is another way, namely effective measured information on (code) quality, genuine use of best practices in the application and transparent reporting based on metrics. Nowadays you can automate the measurement of how the application is actually built in a standardized and objective manner. Also for the OutSystems platform. This makes it possible to understand the future viability of applications, and therefore control it.
You should make this information available to different players. Naturally, you should make it available to the development teams first, but also to users and management. They also play an important role in a robust and affordable application platform over the long term. Doing this enables you to discuss and manage temptations.