Low-Code Platforms

Andy Slote - Director of Customer Success for ObjectSpectrum

October 1, 2021

There is much recent attention to low-code software platforms. A deficit of programmers is a catalyst for some of these ventures in addition to the potential benefits of lower solution development cost, quicker time to market, and components that are potentially easier to understand and maintain.

Of course, lower solution development costs can result from the cost enhancements to the platform spread across all paying users. Often these changes are a part of recurring maintenance fees, giving customers a predictable expense. Low-code providers also shoulder the cost of vendor changes to components underpinning the platform, such as operating systems, legal requirements, and updates to critical tools.

However, just like any relationship with a software vendor, you are at their mercy when any change (core or vendor) is of high importance to you. A capability they need to integrate may become a reality months later than you prefer when they decide to wait due to risk, resources, their level of importance, etc. When evaluating a vendor, make sure they can demonstrate a solid track record of implementing enhancements.

These platforms strive to simplify programming tasks, but they are not “no-code.” If the provider creates a front end or abstraction layer requiring a level of expertise, training your staff may still be costly and time-consuming. If the skills necessary are very platform-specific, it may be more challenging to bring in employees to become experts on a platform where the skills acquired are not highly marketable. Make sure you understand the technologies in use and their positions in the tech universe. 

When there is a limited degree of uniqueness and variety with these platforms due to simplicity and quickness to market, your solution could be very much like other customers. When software is a potential key differentiator, launching an application with a very similar “look and feel” to a competitor’s maybe a significant negative. Showcasing your application everywhere, from a website to videos to live demonstrations when the “wow” factor is non-existent, hurts your sales pitch. Your “low-code” platform of choice should provide more than just bland simple visuals, or you may end up looking like a low-tech offering. 

When creating a low-code platform, there are abstractions of underlying technologies, which may often put you at the mercy of the solution provider to correct something that is either indecipherable or off limits for you to alter due to the structure. When problems occur, there can be a degree of frustration, waiting too long for a resolution. It can be quite annoying when the problem is obvious, and support seems to be taking “the scenic route” to arrive at a fix. 

In many companies’ support environments, the experts evolve into complex roles, leaving less-experienced staff to handle initial problem research. Your team can quickly become disenchanted with a help desk that consistently provides contacts with less knowledge of their platform than they have. When evaluating a potential vendor, ask detailed questions about the support environment, staff credentials, and escalation path.

The world of application software is, in many cases, evolving to an open architecture. Platforms rarely operate in isolation, and ones that do can be a significant impediment to where your evolution takes you. Beware of offerings with limited capabilities for integration with the rest of the world. Suppose new integrations take forever to become a part of the platform. In that case, you can go for long periods with unnecessary costs, missing capabilities, and manual processes that could seriously detract from your success. In worst case situations, a critical integration may only be possible with compromises. Your objective is to understand open architecture and how your candidate platforms support it before you make a choice.