Solve IT challenges with low-code platforms
Traditional software development may not move fast enough today to match the speed of change in business. A common development bottleneck for many organizations is the long lead time required to research, write, and test new code. A worldwide shortage of development talent compounds this problem. Additional challenges like disconnected legacy data systems, shadow IT, and technical debt can further reduce IT productivity.
Organizations that need to roll out more automations, APIs, data integrations, and other solutions at scale in this challenging environment have found a solution to these challenges: low-code development platforms.
Low-code platforms drive development progress through faster execution and reduced reliance on professional coding talent. Designed to be integrated into a wide range of existing platforms, low-code platforms can bring operations together within complex development environments.
What are low-code application platforms?
Low-code application platforms use pre-designed, combinable commands in a visual, drag-and-drop interface to build apps, automate processes and workflows, create websites, and connect data sources. Low-code software development is an approach that accelerates app development while reducing the need for traditional coding. Users need only a basic understanding of programming to develop apps with this method. That means that everyone on the IT team as well as citizen developers—or employees without professional training or technical backgrounds—can create impactful business applications. That can have a transformative effect on an organization.
Low-code development platforms are more customizable and sophisticated than no-code platforms, which require zero coding ability. Both low-code and no-code platforms make app development easier and faster.
The benefits of low-code platforms
Most low-code development platforms have key benefits in common, including:
- Drag-and-drop design. These platforms’ visual, intuitive user experience is accessible to those without a technical background and makes it easier to visualize how an app will work while it’s being built.
- Speed. Building apps with a low-code platform is much faster than traditional development since you begin with templated building blocks. Plus, you don’t need professional coding skills to use low-code platforms, so you don’t have to wait for a developer to be available to start building.
- Extensibility. Direct integrations via APIs and data connectors allow IT teams to build reusable automations across platforms.
- Code templates. Many low-code platforms come with built-in templated actions for even faster deployment.
- Robust prototyping. Testing is a key element of any successful deployment, whether the project was developed using no-code, low-code, or fully hand-coded methods. Most low-code platforms offer prototyping tools that streamline this step.
- Improved governance. One-off app creation processes are hard to manage. Creating all business apps from a centralized location like a low-code application platform makes it easier for IT teams to better control each project.
- Collaboration tools. Collaboration is key to successful low-code project deployment. Many platforms come with real-time tracking, messaging, testing, and deployment tools that streamline the workflows between IT and business teams.
6 common IT challenges that are solved with low-code platforms
Low-code platforms make it possible to work faster, spend less money, and improve connectivity between organizational teams as well as between disparate data sets. This helps solve six of the most significant IT challenges faced by organizations today, including:
- Staff shortages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for software developers will grow 25 percent, much faster than average, over the next 10 years, resulting in a shortage of nearly 1.2M software developers by 20261. Low-code development empowers junior developers, citizen developers, and other employees to develop technological solutions to problems.
- Productivity problems. Technical debt—or the time spent reworking software that went live with known deficiencies—can be a significant burden for busy IT teams. When business needs outpace IT departments’ ability to deliver, technical debt builds up and further reduces the IT team’s capacity. Low-code solutions that encourage collaboration between business and development reduce the need to rework the resulting solutions. These projects move faster than traditional development projects, preserving time for concepting and testing to eliminate future rework. Low-code platforms also improve productivity by allowing IT teams to build automations that streamline digital business processes.
- Long lead times. Businesses must respond quickly to evolving market conditions to stay competitive. Low-code projects go live much faster than traditionally coded applications with no need for outsourcing to highly skilled developers. Keeping sensitive projects in-house improves security, too.
- Shadow IT culture. Impatience with IT lead times has led to the rise of shadow IT, which comes about when business leaders work around IT to develop their own solutions. The faster pace of low-code development builds can restore business users’ faith that IT teams can deliver on desired timelines. Plus, business users with some coding background can play a more active role in building solutions, strengthening collaboration.
- High expenses. Low-code platforms are less expensive than hiring more developers or other external resources. These platforms can also save money by empowering junior developers and non-developers to make a bigger business impact than they otherwise would.
- Disorganized data. The past 20 years have seen exponential growth in the volume and sources of data that are created and ingested into corporate systems. Organizing and connecting that data in meaningful ways is a major challenge for many organizations. Low-code development tools can help bridge gaps between systems and people, making data usable and generating insights and action that can have a significant business impact.
How to choose the right low-code platform for your business
Before getting into demos and free trials, first make a list of realistic use cases. Ideally, this list will include a mix of customer-facing and internal apps, simple and more complicated solutions, and critical and “nice to have” projects. A varied list will make it easier to compare the capabilities of each low-code platform option.
As you evaluate potential low-code software development solutions, look for these features:
- Security. If you plan to develop both B2C and B2B apps, make sure the platforms you evaluate meet your enterprise requirements for each. Many low-code solutions include built-in governance and monitoring tools. Platforms that prioritize identity management, secure encryption, and user rights management will make it easier to control workflows and data exposure.
- Integration options. Most organizations manage huge amounts of internal and external data across different teams and systems. Your new low-code platform will be more useful if it can integrate with all your systems. Consider the user experience, too; it should be simple for users to find and use data from any source.
- Cross-platform capabilities. What platforms are most commonly used by your customers and employees? How easy is it to develop one app that can be deployed to multiple platforms? Your low-code solution should be compatible with the full range of your users’ devices and platforms.
- Notifications. Choose a platform that includes robust notification services. That way, your IT team will be alerted to any issues with your apps as soon as possible.
- Intuitive interface. The simpler, the better. Look for drag-and-drop functionality and easy-to-use tools. Make sure both developers and business users have the chance to test front-runners as you evaluate solutions. What’s intuitive to developers may not be so easy for those without a coding background.
- Custom development tools. One of the best uses of low-code platforms is to give developers a head start on complex projects that require hand-coding. For that, you’ll need the flexibility to incorporate custom code that builds upon the platform’s templated solutions.
- Scalability. Consider your organization’s growth trajectory. Do you expect to add new users later? If so, make sure your chosen platform can scale alongside your workforce.
How to integrate a low-code platform into your existing processes
Low-code software development is a radical approach compared to most organizations’ standard process. As a result, you may need to make significant changes to your IT team’s ways of working. Once you’ve acquired a low-code software development platform that meets your requirements, follow these best practices to integrate it into your existing tech stack.
- Evaluate existing systems. Perhaps your new low-code development platform can replace one or more other systems you have in place. Or maybe there are upgrades you’ve wanted to make but haven’t yet. Now is the time. Make improvements across the board so that your improved development process starts on the right foot.
- Implement a new development approach. Low-code platforms make app development accessible to employees beyond the IT team. Ensure the IT team controls the development process with new safeguards, roles, responsibilities, and procedures, if needed. Some organizations may need to implement a different software development life cycle approach to match the speed and agility of low-code development.
- Ensure your data is ready. Confirm that your data capturing, storage, and management processes lend themselves to integration with your low-code development platform.
- Appoint platform administrators, identify users, and conduct training sessions. Ensure that everyone who will use the platform receives the proper training on both the tool itself as well as the internal process for ideating, building, testing, and approving apps.
- Configure settings. Establish all necessary authentication processes, security settings, and integrations.
- Conduct a security review. Make sure your settings meet all enterprise security requirements.
- Grant licenses. Authorize the developers and business users who will build apps using this new solution.
- Start with the pre-built solutions. Low-code platforms come with built-in components like workflows, reports, task assignments, and dashboards. Take advantage of these quick wins while planning for more customized projects.
Explore low-code platforms from Microsoft
Find out how Microsoft Power Apps can reduce development costs and build times and empower more of your employees to solve problems by building business apps.
Frequently asked questions
Why are low-code platforms the future?
Low-code software development is a simplification of the traditional app-building process. Organizations that need more flexibility to respond to changing markets and customer needs find it easier to reach their goals with low-code platforms.
What problems do low-code platforms solve?
Low-code platforms resolve several common problems for organizations. They allow citizen developers to participate in software development, accelerate digital transformation, and offer more flexibility than traditional coding. These platforms reduce reliance on specialized programming resources at a time when those resources are at a premium. Any organization that needs to move faster and more efficiently can benefit from low-code software development solutions.
What are low-code platforms used for?
Organizations can employ low-code development platforms to:
- Modernize or add new features to existing apps.
- Replace outdated business apps.
- Automate manual administrative tasks.
- Track or schedule recurring processes.
- Collect, manage, and connect data.
- Engage customers with easy-to-use mobile apps.
- Strengthen security across operations.
- Improve collaboration and rapport among IT and business teams.
- Empower citizen developers.
Why should businesses use a low-code platform?
If customizability, scalability, efficiency, and productivity are important to your business, a low-code platform can drive innovation and sidestep many of the challenges of traditional software development processes. Keeping the app development process in house can save money, improve security, and empower employees.
1“Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, September 9, 2022.