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Low code platforms the way forward

Low code platforms the way forward

Innovation can be as simple as drag and drop.

Do not get left behind in the low code revolution, and miss out on the myriad of benefits that low code platforms can offer your business, such as accelerating digital transformation, dramatically reducing application development costs by, in many cases, over 60%, decreasing software development time by up to 80%, accelerating the time to market of new products, services and business initiatives and reduce from months to days, substantially mitigating risk by testing a solution before investing in it, empowering faster ideation and innovation among employees, easily scaling systems to meet the constantly changing demands of business, out-of-the-box adherence to compliance and data privacy legislation and easy facilitation of remote working.

Keeping pace with the demands of business, magnified by the Covid crisis, is exerting huge responsibility and pressure on CIOs and IT managers of organisations of every hue. Business demands that time to market and time to value for new products and services is rapid, that business systems are secure, scalable, available and user-friendly and can be accessed by anyone at anytime from anywhere, that business systems can readily adapt to rapidly changing market conditions, that in-house technologies teams can upskill easily on latest platforms, that innovative problem-solving solutions and applications can be tried and test quickly without risk and little cost to the business, and all of the above is delivered within limited budgets.

“Low code platforms are a quantum leap forward in how software development is undertaken, and how business solutions are designed, developed, and deployed.” 

Padraig mccarthy , Sales Director, TEKenable

A huge ask? Yes, but there is a shining knight and lifeline in the form of low code platforms.

What are low code platforms?

For over the last 25 years, business systems were built using coding platforms, such as C#, .Net, JavaScript, that typically required in-depth knowledge of a specialist software developer. This approach relied heavily on the expertise and experience of the software developer who wrote software code, typically thousands of lines, for specific features and functions of the business solution. The development process took anywhere from months to years from design to deployment, and in many cases, following a fixed scope, high cost and potentially high-risk development (every line of code is a potential bug) methodology. These coding platforms were attributed the term ‘high code’.

Over the last five years, accelerated by the Covid pandemic, the emergence of ‘low code’ platforms has occurred. These platforms use a declarative approach with drag-and-drop capabilities, pre-built data models and components, templates, and easy to use editors to create and deploy highly functional and fit-for-purpose business applications. Low code platforms facilitate rapid application development by an order-of-magnitude of 5-10 times faster than the typical ‘high code’ approach and dismantles the barriers to innovation that ‘high code’ systems erected. This has a monumental impact on the time to value and money for new business applications and systems. Allied to this, low code platforms such as Microsoft PowerApps and Salesforce amongst others are built with the latest and most robust security built in, are cloud-based, highly extensible, easily integrated with mainstream software vendors thanks to a slew of out-of-box connectors and are continuously evolving to incorporate the latest technological developments thanks to the billions of euro R&D the large software companies invest.

The efficiency gap

The efficiency gap is defined as the difference between the rate of business change and the rate of IT change in helping facilitate and address the business change that occurs in an organisation. The diagram below provides an overview how, typically, this ‘efficiency gap’ widens between rate of business change and IT change over time.

As you can see from the above diagram, any new efficiency drive, market shift, or indeed a major global crisis like the Covid pandemic puts enormous pressure on IT to keep pace, invariably they cannot keep pace and that may result in lost revenues, disgruntled employees, loss of market share to competitors, and over-reliance on manual and excel-based systems.

Welcome the rapid application capability afforded by low code platforms. New system development, application or process changes are undertaken with minimum effort and costs by leveraging the extensibility, flexibility, and rapid application development capability of low code platforms, resulting in quick time-to-market and time-to-value for new systems that are required to address any efficiency drives imposed by the business or rapid market shifts that may occur.

Benefits of low code platforms

The benefits of low code platforms are manifold, these include, but not limited to, allow for rapid innovation and prototyping, allow businesses keep pace with consumer demand and market trends, facilitate the rapid automation of manual processes and help businesses achieve more in less time, allow for rapid application development with the consequent lower costs that confers, business users can, with minimal training, create their own applications without having to wait for IT and allows senior costly developers focus on more demanding projects, makes maintenance of applications a lot easier, as low code components are pre-tested to work together seamlessly and provide massive speed and efficiency benefits over and above high code platforms. Low code platforms are a quantum leap forward in how software development is undertaken, and how business solutions are designed, developed, and deployed.

In summary, the benefits of low-code platforms include:

  • Automation and modernisation of existing manual and paper-based business processes.
  • Replacing legacy on-premise applications and systems with a modern, secure, scalable, and resilient platform that is Web-based, easy to use, and that provides seamless integration with all the other components of the Microsoft technology stack and third-party systems.
  • Allow for the quick rollout of business initiatives, such as the seamless on-boarding of new customers or providing existing customers with ways to easily interact and engage in requesting or accessing information or services.
  • To rapidly develop and deploy production-ready line of business (process and data-centric) applications that can address, with minimum effort, business challenges – be they departmental or organisation wide.
  • Testing only required for business processes only.
  • Requirement of a citizen developer platform and for own staff to upskill and develop their own applications and allow your company untap the value and innovation of all employees, this is readily attainable via the declarative and drag-and-drop visual designers of the power platform.
  • Provision of informed, cogent, and insightful reports to staff to help them in their day-to-day tasks.
  • Allows for the quick and easy change of functional aspects of the application or the business process flows if required.
  • The low code platforms are already the bedrock of enterprise systems of hundreds of thousands of companies worldwide, so you can be ensured of the security and scalability credentials of the platforms.

Extensibility

Most companies have, invariably, IT estates that have a mixture of on-premise, public cloud, private cloud and third party systems that underpin and support the day-to-day operations from procurement, customer service,  financial management, manufacturing, inventory management, HR, operations right through to sales and marketing. Tekenable are readily aware that to rip and replace many of these systems is not viable in the near to medium term, and that any low code solution would need to augment and work with in-situ IT systems and applications. In that regard, low code platforms provide extensibility frameworks that help provide seamless integration points to on-premise, cloud and third-party systems, so that if you do encounter a scenario where you need to use a high code solution for a bespoke feature or integration with existing line-of-business or other cloud services, we have an option to do so, the platforms do not restrict your options as an organisation.

Example of Tekenable low code implementations

Tekenable was formed in 2002 and whose heritage is in the high code world of bespoke development. Clients of Tekenable include Zurich, The Health Service Executive, Weatherbys, Dairygold, Insurance Ireland, McDonalds, H+K to name but a few. Over the last five years, Tekenable has pivoted its business towards low code platforms, while leveraging our vast experience in high code development and system integration expertise to extend the boundaries, as and when needed, of the low code platforms to meet the complex process and third party system integration needs of organisations.

Tekenable is a Microsoft Managed Partner and a Salesforce partner, is accredited to ISO 27001, ISO 90001 and IS0 13485 standards. Tekenable was awarded Microsoft Irish BizApp partner of the year in 2021 and has been selected on the Deloitte Fast 50 three years running and awarded the Fast 50 high impact award in 2020.

Tekenable has leveraged the power of low-code platforms to develop enterprise-scale applications. Some of these solutions include the following example projects undertaken by Tekenable:

  • Health Service Executive: To design, build and deploy the national covid contact tracing system. The system was to be designed, developed, delivered, and live in two weeks. The system was built on Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 platform. A first iteration of the contact tracing system was rolled out by Tekenable, one of 15 systems developed by Tekenable for the HSE during the Covid crisis, in under two weeks.
  • Dublin City Council: To design and develop a public-facing portal and form to allow qualifying SMEs to submit their Re-start Grant application and to also provide a back-office application that would store the data securely and allow for the efficient, timely and secure processing of the restart grant applications. A minimum viable product based on Microsoft PowerApp Platform was developed by Tekenable in four days. Over €100 million in grants were paid out by DCC using the system.
  • Independent Trustee Company: A broker onboarding portal and back-office system that would eliminate the number of spreadsheets, amount of manual paper processing and the automation of over 40 processes in the onboarding of customers via ITC’s broker network. The system, developed using Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform, resulted in customer onboarding time being reduced from three weeks to two days.

Considerations in developing using low code platforms.

Like any approach to system development, it is imperative that a robust development methodology is defined, that security is by design and inherent in every step of the software development process, that clear governance and oversight is provided and facilitated to ensure that Shadow IT does not become an issue with a slew of unsupported applications mushrooming up across the organisation.

Concern has been raised in the past that low code platforms are not suitable for large-scale and mission-critical enterprise applications. Tekenable has demonstrated that is absolutely not true as evidenced by the development of the HSE Contact Tracing System, the Dublin City Council Restart Grant Application system and the Digital Transformation initiative undertaken by the Independent Trustee Company that has revolutionised its business.

Above text is reproduced from a news story first published in TechCentral on Thursday, September 16th, 2022.

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