Have We Reached the Limits of Low-Code BPM?



Chintan Jain
10/10/2018

The world of low-code gets more interesting by the day. With major acquisitions and huge funding rounds, it seems that low-code application platforms are on everyone’s radar.

While many of the top players are general purpose platforms, low-code seems to have its finger in nearly every software pie, including BPM. Low-code for BPM lets you make quick process applications without needing to hand-code the entire program. It uses modules and drag-and-drop building blocks to assist the developer.

But while some see low-code as the next great venture, others think it has already peaked for some use cases. Particularly in the world of BPM, there is cause for hesitation when you see all the new players coming into the space.

Here’s a look at how far low-code BPM has come, and if it has any more room left to expand.

Have We Reached the Limits of Low-Code BPM?

Low-code is growing like it’s tomorrow already

Low-code platform vendors haven’t been sitting idly while new technologies pop up everywhere. These vendors are doing everything in their power to ensure their respective low-code platforms are staying at the top of the technology heap.

Low-code BPM platforms aren’t just about automating tasks and reducing the number of emails. Modern technologies like AI and blockchain are forcing everyone to rethink how their business is structured around their business process management.

By including these easy-to-add modules in their platforms, low-code platforms are hoping to become the one-stop-shop where you go to create any kind of app, no matter how simple or complex. Want to add machine learning to an app? Just drag it in. Looking to harness some new augmented reality options? It’s just a click away.

These modern technologies aren’t just for the tech-savvy and the code junkies. Now, even basic level developers can create very advanced applications, and use the latest technology to do it.

Speed has never been more important

As IT continues to be the golden child of the business world, the workload and project queue will keep increasing. IT has done a fantastic job meeting the pressing needs of the business, perhaps in a more transformative way than any other department.

Rather than letting IT rest on its accomplishments, business units have more requests than ever for custom applications, including many BPM-related applications. What works for one department will quickly be requested for another.

And business units won’t back off on the pace at which they need these applications; everything needs to be done yesterday. But IT teams still need to sit down and create these applications that will run the entire organisation as it pushes towards digital transformation.

Low-code’s value is that it is supposed to allow developers to make these applications extremely quickly. Programmers might be able to reduce their speed of producing apps by half or more. They don’t need to sit and test every line of code, and the software should be less buggy since most of the modules are prebuilt.

When faced with an ever-growing list of applications to create, IT teams will take all the help they can get, including using low-code platforms.

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Low-code fills a talent gap

Good developers are always hard to find, and even more expensive to maintain. Although there will always be a need to have them on staff, hiring more developers every time there is an increase in the amount of software that needs to be coded is less efficient and more taxing on company resources, something low-code platforms offset by being able to create applications faster.

If you have a company that cannot afford to hire a talent pool permanently, low-code is a cost-effective and usable solution. Considering all of these factors, low-code has a real-world demand that doesn’t look to be going away soon.

The rise of the citizen developer

But low-code isn’t just about supercharging developers. It’s also about opening up the entire process of app development to a broader group of people.

Most low-code platforms are still technical in nature and require at least a modest level of knowledge about how applications work and are built. This is especially true for general purpose low-code platforms, where the end result could be nearly any app imaginable.

But there is a large corps of business users out there who have a basic familiarity with app building. These users, called citizen developers, can use a low-code platform to build the application they want on their own. While low-code may mean speed and ease for an experienced programmer, its main advantage is simplicity for a citizen developer.

For example, a citizen developer could create a BPM application on a low-code platform and deploy it for his or her entire department. More than likely, he or she would still need to have a ‘professional’ have a look over the process and help with some specialty connections, but 80-90 percent of the work would be done by the end user.

The citizen developer paradigm completely changes the game for how IT approaches app development. If IT can offload the bulk of development back to the business user for something like a BPM application, then it can dramatically reduce the backlog of projects.

But Low-Code May Not Be the Future

As companies grow, they must eventually choose a path when it comes to low-code development. To stick with the general purpose platforms means to double-down on the strength of the IT team to build apps along with some peripheral help from citizen developers.

But if the citizen developer route is actually the way an organisation wants to move, a general purpose low-code platform can’t be the answer. It is still too complex to welcome the next and much larger wave of citizen developers who want to create their own apps, but don’t know programming basics.

The answer for this path is to move to no-code.

When you put it in the context of BPM, the picture is very clear. Because BPM applications are relatively similar (forms, workflows, logic, integrations, etc.), it’s possible to create a BPM platform that still has all the needed functionality, but contains no coding at all and is easy enough for anyone to use who knows the process. No-code does away with code entirely, providing users with a platform where all they effectively need is the idea of the application they have in mind.

No-code BPM platforms make it as easy to create a business process application as it is to create a new spreadsheet. Just build a form, design the workflow, add connections, and let it run.

For IT, no-code is a way to offload all the responsibility of app development. Instead of building the apps, IT provides the platform to build it on. The best cloud-based no-code solutions take care of updates, improvements, functionality, and product support.

Low-code at the crossroads

Low-code isn’t at risk of dying anytime soon. There’s a lot of life left in low-code, and it will keep proving itself to be a valuable addition to organisations everywhere.

However, as it continues its course, it will create a lot of questions and changes. Should IT leaders continue to invest in tools that make it easier for developers to make quick applications for the business? Or should they instead invest in platforms like no-code BPM that allow any business user to create applications on their own? The choice isn’t obvious for every organization. But as you look at specific applications of low-code such as BPM, a more specialised approach seems to be an obvious answer.

Low-code has progressed so much that it makes you wonder what is around the corner. Will it continue to try to serve the needs of the entire digital spectrum? Or will it fragment, as different use cases pursue more no-code solutions? Only time will tell, but technology will continue to be the major driving force in the organisation of the future.