Low-code software development is already accelerating digital transformation for sectors throughout the economy, and this trend is only poised to grow. By simplifying, expediting, and democratizing custom application development, low-code development platforms are an essential tool for companies looking to modernize their internal processes and to provide their customers with a better overall experience.
When a construction company begins work on a new building, we don’t expect them to fabricate their own screws, cut down the lumber, or create drywall from scratch. They take pre-built components, and they apply their skills to configure and assemble them into a finished product.
So, why do we often assume that software developers need to start from scratch when programming a new application?
Just like builders can access prefabricated construction materials, today’s organizations can use low-code development tools as a foundation upon which to build custom solutions. Forward-thinking companies have already made the switch, and they’re seeing results. According to KPMG, “100% of enterprises who have implemented a low-code development platform have received ROI.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that low-code is an either/or situation. It’s not a compromise. Software engineers will continue to play a pivotal role in developing complex, high-value, and unique applications, and low-code development platforms (LCDP) give them more time to focus on those tasks by simplifying and expediting common components.
Ready to learn more about low-code development and how you can leverage this technology to turbocharge your organization’s digital transformation? Keep reading Blaze’s complete guide to low-code.
In a nutshell, it’s a paradigm shift from textual programming to visual modeling.
Think about how the advent of the graphical user interface (GUI) opened the door to regular people using personal computers; before Apple released the first GUI-based Macintosh in 1984, computers were purely text-based, and their usage was relegated to academics and specialists.
Low-code enables ordinary users to create applications and helps professional developers do so more efficiently. That’s because they leverage a GUI instead of dense text. Rather than having to learn to read programming languages and follow complex logic, low-code developers can drag and drop or point and click.
Which would you rather do?
At the heart of low-code programming is the collaborative integrated development environment (IDE). Rather than the traditional IDE that programmers use to build their applications by editing source code, debugging, etc., the collaborative IDE packages premade building blocks into a visual format. Users assemble them into custom applications by performing familiar actions like clicking a button, dragging an icon, or labeling a field.
Professional software engineers can also write custom code to create reusable components, which their colleagues, including citizen developers, can then leverage in their applications. What this ultimately amounts to is the ability to customize and stay flexible while simultaneously getting access to a development platform that’s faster, easier, and has a lower barrier to entry.
This makes low-code development especially useful for building out internal tools like portal development, data integration, and workflow automation. As you’ll learn later on in this guide, these features make low-code the ideal tool for accelerating digital transformation.
The headline benefit of low-code is saving time and money. Whether that takes the form of shortening the time to market for a product launch, getting productivity-boosting internal tooling online faster, or reducing the number of hours spent on an application by high-paid engineers, organizations realize a tangible ROI when they invest in low-code.
Even simple applications built from scratch in native code take 6-25 months and cost, on average, at least $72,000 to develop. Low-code applications, on the other hand, take hours or days to build and only cost a small fraction of that price. With tools like Blaze, you can build the application for 90% less in both cost and time.
Another advantage of low-code is that it democratizes the software development lifecycle. When building custom applications is no longer the sole privilege of highly technical individuals, when ordinary businesspeople can create software that meets their needs, and when organizations can bridge the gap between their teams and departments, we end up with an organization that’s more robust, more flexible, and better able to thrive in our increasingly digital world.
Improved cybersecurity is another benefit of low-code development. Any low-code platform worth its salt will extensively vet their code and test it for vulnerabilities before releasing it. That means that developers, particularly business developers who are less likely to introduce their own custom code, can be confident that their application is secure by design.
Additionally, the best low-code development platforms are cloud native. This makes deploying the finished application to your company’s cloud platform—whether it’s AWS, Microsoft Azure, or any other—much simpler. It also makes integrating applications and sharing data that much easier as well.
The final reason to use low-code that we want to highlight is that it provides human resources flexibility. With the US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting a 22% increase in software developer jobs by 2030, an already tight labor market is becoming squeezed even further. Companies, especially small and mid-sized businesses, can’t always get the talent they need to build their software. Low-code alleviates this problem by enabling professional developers to be more productive with their time and by enabling citizen developers to create custom applications.
Now, let’s take a step back and look at how we got here.
In the beginning, using and coding computers was an arcane profession, restricted to math PhDs and other elite thinkers. These veritable wizards programmed in assembly language, a “low-level” set of instructions for the computer to follow that are much closer to hardware machinations than ordinary human thought. Think numbers and hexadecimals instead of words and syntax.
Over time, notably with the invention of the C programming language, computer programming languages become more abstracted, more “high-level”, and less closely coupled with the underlying hardware that runs it. New languages have made programming more accessible by reducing complexity.
Take, for example, the world's most popular language, Python. This language is often a programmer’s introduction to the craft because it features simple syntax, an extensive library of standards, and focuses on readability as a core tenant. That does not, however, diminish its ability to handle even the most complex of tasks; after all, Python is the most widely used programming language for machine learning applications.
“Python comes from that tradition where the intended user is someone whose primary responsibility is not software development or coding, but getting something done,” says Guido van Rossum, Python’s creator. He also recognizes which way the wind is blowing, however, concluding that “low-code specialists will take over the more rudimentary aspects of programming in the years to come, freeing up pros to focus on more complex, mission-critical tasks and projects.”
This is a recent development. Forrester coined the term “low-code” in 2014, and, in the span of less than a decade, we’ve witnessed a meteoric rise in low-code technology. It’s the next step in increasing accessibility and decreasing complexity.
“While low-code application development is not new, a confluence of digital disruptions, hyperautomation, and the rise of composable business has led to an influx of tools and rising demand,” says Fabrizio Biscotti, VP of research at Gartner.
The tech consulting and research firm has been one of low-code’s biggest advocates. According to their 2021 report, “By 2025, 70% of new applications developed by organizations will use low-code or no-code technologies, up from less than 25% in 2020.”
At the same time, GlobeNewswire forecasts that “Low-code development platforms will be a $187 billion global market by 2030, up from $10.3 billion in 2019. So if your organization isn’t using low code yet, there’s a good chance it will be soon.”
In a word, it’s all about how much code goes into programming an application, and, as a corollary, who is doing the programming.
High-code is what we typically associate with software engineering; it requires skilled professionals, and it’s often a time-consuming process. On the other side of the spectrum, no-code relies purely on visual modeling and caters towards business developers and other not-as-technical employees who know that there is a tech solution for their problems but may not have the expertise or experience to code it from the ground up.
Low-code is the intermediate option. Both professional and citizen developers can effectively use low-code development platforms, but the way they use them may differ. Engineers can leverage the prebuilt assets as a foundation for their project, and they can expand upon them by writing their own custom code blocks. This gives them the ability to incorporate complex logic and retain the flexibility that they are accustomed to with high-code programming.
On the other hand, low-code can also be a good option for citizen developers, especially when they do so in conjunction with a professional who can create reusable components for them. It’s possible to use low-code tooling without writing a single line of code, but the fact that the option is there lets them go beyond what is possible with no-code platforms.
At the end of the day, it’s really about the end application and the primary purpose. If speed of development or ease of use are most important, than no-code or low-code platforms are a great option because they both include the visual modeling interface. For more complexity, it’s better to choose low-code or even high-code development.
It may be tempting to jump right in and start exploring just what’s possible with low-code, but we recommend starting by taking a step back and thinking about strategy.
Start by asking yourself this crucial question: what problem are we trying to solve?
It’s not worth investing the time and effort into a solution that’s looking for a problem. Instead, develop a clear vision for what it is you want to accomplish and how a custom application can do so. That’s why we recommend focusing on common internal applications such as:
The possibilities are only limited by your own imagination. This is the time to think big and start to get a picture of how your organization can run on custom tooling that’s developed with a low-code development platform.
The next step is to reign it back in. Especially while you take time to master low-code development, it’s important to start small and build outwards. Instead of aiming to develop an entire suite of process automation, for instance, pick one or two that would give the biggest return on investment. Once you’ve programmed those features, do some testing, and not just on your own personal workflows. Ask co-workers to try it out, listen to their feedback, and iterate from there.
What we are essentially describing is the Agile methodology. This approach to building functional, user-friendly software is just as important in a low-code environment as it is in traditional software engineering.
The program doesn’t have to be perfect from the start, and it doesn’t have to include every feature that you want. It’s more important to get up and running with a usable application, see how it works, and then build on top of that foundation. As your skills in low-code programming grow, so too will the functionality of your applications.
Our world is quickly changing. Organizations that thrived in the pre-digital era but haven’t kept pace now find themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage. Without using digital tools to improve operational efficiency and drive better customer experiences, especially for today’s digital natives, companies face a massive uphill struggle.
Low-code development accelerates digital transformation.
Digital transformation goes well beyond investing in a B2C mobile application or a new SaaS product. It’s a major shift in how business gets done, how teams collaborate, and, crucially, how data is collected, shared, and stored. If data is the new oil, then digital transformation is about building the engine to harness it.
This kind of overhaul, however, can be astronomically expensive and drawn out for a long time if approached with high-code development by professional software engineers. That’s why a low-code approach and strategy to digital transformation is the best path forward.
“Low-code development platforms are emerging as a key strategy to accelerate app delivery to support digital business transformation,” writes John Rymer at Forrester. “And they have the potential to make software development as much as 10 times faster than traditional methods.”
In addition to the cost and time savings, low-code for digital transformation has a host of other benefits. Cloud integration is another pillar of digital transformation, so a key advantage to low-code is building cloud-native tools in a low-code environment that’s purpose built to that end. This means that they’re ideal for the scalable environments found in the cloud. Designing secure applications is also essential to maintaining a proper security posture, and low-code does just that.
Digital transformation is bigger than just technology though. A company is made up of people, and a true digital transformation requires a culture-shift as well—not always the easiest ask for seasoned employees who are used to the way things have always been done. Low-code development propels this culture shift by empowering ordinary people to build the tech they need, understand how it works, and genuinely want to use it.
Not only does this make tech more approachable, but it also taps into the psychology of the Ikea Effect. People love their self-assembled furniture, even if it is a little crooked, because they put it together themselves. They take pride in their work. “It’s the fruit of your labor,” says Daniel Mochon, a marketing professor at Tulane University. “And that is really the idea behind the Ikea Effect.” Empowering citizen developers with low-code harnesses this power to win users' hearts, get them to buy into the digital transformation, and ultimately enables the organization to see the adoption rates that it needs for the initiative to be a success.
Research from Microsoft's Low-Code Trend Report 2022 shows this effect in action. “82 percent of low- or no-code users agree that technology helps provide an opportunity for software users to improve their development knowledge and technical skills,” they explain. “In addition, the use of no-code or low-code platforms or apps is shown to have led to an 83 percent positive impact on work satisfaction and workload by users, and an 80 percent positive impact on morale by users.”
Once business developers begin creating their own apps with low-code and integrating their technologies in various ways, the door also opens to even great capabilities. Data scientists and professional developers can then use those emergent data pipelines to build stronger analytics with machine learning and big data technologies. As one of the main endgames of digital transformation, these capabilities improve the organization’s ability to make forecasts, understand their customers, and glean insights about new ways to improve the business.
If we aren’t careful, increased digitalization can also mean an increased risk profile. We’re sure you’ve seen the headlines—organizations must take cybersecurity seriously if they don’t want to become a victim of ransomware, corporate espionage, or worse.
In an article titled Low-Code Development Requires A Security Rethink, Forrester analysts explain that “low-code security is not well understood,” and asks us to think seriously about how we can ensure our low-code applications are properly secured. “Applications built on low-code platforms can be more secure than those built with more traditional coding methods,” they write. “Low-code vendors take on major responsibilities for securing their platforms on their ‘own’ clouds and ensuring the technical quality of applications built with their tooling.”
The problem, they say, is when low-code developers begin to deviate from what comes pre-built. “Application-security risks rise when developers build parts of their apps outside the native tooling of the low-code platform,” they conclude. “For example, by building a service using custom code or coding a custom user interface, developers risk reintroducing some of the security weaknesses that low-code platforms are designed to eliminate.”
What this means is that low-code development needs the same attention to security as high-code when we start writing custom code or deploying it in a custom environment. A business developer who purely uses low-code’s visual modeling can be confident that their application is secure by design, but, beyond that, every application should go through the same quality assurance checks that any other program needs to pass.
A corollary to secure development is compliance. Whether you’re building a financial app that needs to adhere to PCI compliance or a healthcare app that will handle personal health information (PHI) and therefore require HIPAA compliance, it’s critical to make sure that you’re taking the right steps to avoid severe penalties.
If you’re working on an app that is going to touch sensitive data, take time to understand what needs to happen to stay compliant. That can mean encrypting data in transit, using proper measures to secure sensitive data, building mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access data that they’re supposed to access, etc.
Your low-code development platform should go beyond making this possible. It should make it as easy as it can be.
That’s why we built Blaze.tech. We saw the problems that other low-code platforms have, ranging from the difficulty of maintaining HIPAA compliance to even fulfilling common use cases. Too often, we encountered low-code solutions that only had a narrow scope of what was possible to build, and they often required learning a new language to use.
We knew it could be better. So we created a tool that’s intuitive to use yet powerful enough to handle even the most complex workflows. Our low-code platform is smarter than those from past generations.
These are the main reasons why.
First, Blaze is easy to use. Even if you’re including advanced mathematical calculations or detailed workflows, there’s no steep learning curve in Blaze.
Second, we’re blazing fast! We empower you to build apps more quickly than ever before.
Third, we offer power and scalability. Blaze gives you all the tools you need to build exactly what you want, and our cloud support guarantees the ability to scale quickly and reliably with your business.
Fourth, Blaze is secure. Security has been our top priority from day one, so you can trust applications built with Blaze.
Finally, we offer outstanding customer service. Our comprehensive Resource Center and Knowledge Base helps our users get up and running and provides answers to any of their questions in their process. Beyond that, we also provide hands-on, super fast technical support so that you can achieve your goals with Blaze.
We’re just at the beginning of our low-code journey. As more companies adopt low-code development platforms like Blaze and see the ROI for themselves, we’ll see a new wave of digital transformation take hold.
Customers will enjoy better service experiences, employees will achieve new levels of productivity, and professional engineers will have more time and better data to build the custom applications that will take their organization to the next level.
Ready to get started with low-code programming? Get started with Blaze today!