Low-code platforms have become increasingly popular. They enable organizations to develop software applications quickly and easily without requiring extensive programming skills. However, their convenience and accessibility do come with some challenges.
As the usage of low-code platforms is gaining momentum these days, I wanted to share some of the lessons we've learned working with our clients.
We've been working with a client who had developed a product using a low-code platform. The product was solid and had strong market potential. However, there were challenges:
- Low-code platforms help you deploy agile application development rapidly with little expertise. However, portability is a major issue. If you want to move your code out of the low code platform, it’s almost impossible and you may need to rewrite it. In our client's case, the low-code platform could export code, but it was unusable. Extracted code could work as a “black box” but it was almost impossible to maintain. This brings up another issue which was intellectual property. Working within low-code platform you can be locked in with your low-code platform provider. In the case of business carve-out or software sales, the ultimate buyer needs either to drop the code or contract with the low-code platform company too. This impacts the longer term attractiveness of the product, particularly in terms of M&A.
- Integration issues present challenges. Often low-code platforms aren't built with integration in mind. This causes wider challenges in your tech stack.
- Customization can be limited. Low-code platforms offer a variety of pre-built components and templates that can be used to develop applications quickly. These are critical building blocks, but they can have limitations and building exactly to your needs becomes more challenging.
- Platform scalability and the ability to handle more complex applications are issues. Low-code platforms work best in small, tightly-defined instances. The pace and ease of use is attractive but scaling to larger enterprise-level challenges remains problematic.
These are valuable lessons when deploying low-code solutions - which have tremendous potential - but we believe that they are best used in the following cases:
- Accelerators for digitalization or automation. With a few skilled resources, departments can create digital solutions independently from the IT department. In other words, these capabilities reduce the dependencies on internal and external IT resources within business operations. This can work if what are created are small in size and standalone programs (for example to streamline or automate some business processes) where the Portability, Scalability, Intellectual property or Integration with the rest of the technology stack and the company application landscape is not of any concern.
- Running proofs of concept at pace. This enables businesses to pressure-test ideas and applications quickly without placing additional demands on the IT department.
- Currently, low-code platforms are not adapted for developing “large/strategic” programs. Their flexibility, agility and ease of use are attractive, but deploying them without addressing the challenges above will lead to long-term issues.
The technical and commercial consequences could be profound. There are increasing asks by clients to address these issues and reintroduce the agility and pace they had intended when using low-code platforms.
If you have similar experiences with low-code platforms, please do not hesitate to share.