This paper will examine the low-code/no-code development environment, identify some potential use cases, explain why Katalyst Technologies selected OutSystems as our low-code/no-code platform of choice, and highlight some of Katalyst’s experiences in this exciting component of today’s rapidly-evolving enterprise information technology environment.
The pace of change in today’s highly interconnected and rapidly evolving business environment is a significant challenge for developers and managers alike. From CIO Magazine on September 6, 2018:
Needs are changing, requirements are changing, the development environments are changing, and resources are tight. One approach to coping with the enormous pace of change is the adoption of low-code/no-code platforms for development, either for internal use, external facing systems, or both.
A low-code development platform is a way to develop programs and systems with little or no handcoding. A low-code development platform is a tool that experience developers can utilize to deliver results faster, with better functionality, and fewer errors than would be expected from a conventional development environment and allows business analysts or other less-experienced developers to create their own fully realized and highly sophisticated programs without being bogged down in the details.
It is no wonder that low-code/no-code development platforms are seeing explosive growth:
Indeed, Forrester has predicted a nearly tenfold increase in the adoption of low-code/no-code development platforms between 2015 and 2020. We are right in the middle of that cycle now.
Katalyst Technologies evaluated 15 different low-code/no-code development platforms in dimensions of comprehensiveness, ease of use, customizability, cost, and scalability including the development of a proof of concept application.
Here is a sample of the available platforms and how they rank in Forrester’s “Magic Quadrant”:
We chose OutSystems. OutSystems provides best-of-breed features we need to be able to offer to our customers:
Digital transformation refers to the process of optimizing an organization’s ability to respond to change and putting the ability to respond to change in the hands of those closest to what is changing. The process begins with a single low-code development team and progresses to encompass a complete digital enterprise.
The OutSystems platform is a vital component of that process.
When requests for changes or new development arrive faster than your IT department can make the changes or develop new programs, you can either expand your IT department or optimize your IT department using the OutSystems low-code platform.
It is well known that expanding an IT department does not necessarily result in an increased output from the department. This principle was first articulated by Fred Brooks in his foundational book, “The Mythical Man-Month”: “Adding human resources to a late software project makes it later.” There is a good reason for that: the additional communications and reporting requirements of adding resources may exceed the additional productive capacity from adding resources.
One solution to this problem is rather that adding more developers to make your existing developers more productive by adopting the OutSystems low-code development platform
Some companies have capped development resources but due to circumstances are unable to cap the demands that are placed on developers. Making your developers more productive or expanding your development resources beyond the IT department to business analysts and others nearer to the actual needs by using the OutSystems low-code development platform is a good way of dealing with this issue
Enterprises have a way of accumulating legacy software much in the same way that a ship accumulates barnacles with much the same effect. Operations are slowed down. Using Excel spreadsheets to transfer data between incompatible legacy systems or to compensate for the omissions in these systems is a solution that adds additional complexity to an already complicated IT environment.
OutSystems’s unparalleled ability to integrate with external software enables enterprises to tie the disparate threads of their IT environment together in a coherent way and provides a more systematic, more controlled method for handling the deficiencies in legacy software.
The shrink-wrapped software can result in cost savings but at the expense of control over your own IT destiny. For some enterprises retaining that control is a primary objective. OutSystems can help you do that by allowing you to implement complex functionality quickly, obviating the necessity of shrink-wrapped software.
The very first app we implemented was our proof of concept app, a mobile with the following features:
Here are some sample screens from the app:
Notice the rating system (hearts in the upper right corner). The catalog may also be sorted in descending order of preference, cf. the pull-out menu on the left side of the screen. When individual styles are selected, are larger graphic is displayed and the colors and sizes that are in stock are refreshed dynamically based on inventory (lower right quadrant).
The percent of budget remaining is displayed in the upper right-hand corner of the catalog screen.
This application including integration with an external ERP for inventory information was developed in approximately three weeks by a developer who had no prior experience with OutSystems. With the knowledge gained during the exposure it could now be implemented in a week. This is a fully functional mobile app, native to either Android or iOS which can be put on the Google or Apple stores and downloaded from there.
The following screens illustrate how the catalog app looks to the developer when opened in the OutSystems development environment, Service Studio.
This is the Service Studio’s Interface tab which allows the user to create, change, view, or delete screen layouts in a straightforward point-and-click manner. This is the catalog screen.
This is the Data tab which allows the user to create, change, view, or delete entities (database tables) and their attributes (fields). In this screen capture the Style Catalog entity has been expanded.
This screen capture illustrates how a user enters, changes, or views the business logic that supports screens. This is the UpdateFavorites action, part of how the app’s user is able to identify favorite styles (hearts).
We have developed a procurement system for internal use
This screen enables a user to enter a procurement request.
This screen illustrates guiding a user through the procurement process using a wizard.
This screen shows the status of various procurement requests.
We are in the process of implementing a complete ERP for a customer to control their entire business process.
Beginning with just a single OutSystems developer, Katalyst now has 10 trained OutSystems developers. Most are certified OutSystems Associates. By the end of the year, we should have at least 20 trained OutSystems developers with most certified and at least six certified as OutSystems Professional Developers.
Whether an enterprise is beginning a complete process of digital transformation, wants to develop complex mobile or web apps presently beyond the bandwidth of their present resources, or needs a coherent method of bridging the gaps among the legacy systems they presently use, the OutSystems low-code development environment is an excellent choice that we at Katalyst can offer.