More Unfounded Objections to Low-Code Platforms – The Finale

“We’re going to buy an off-the-shelf app”

Buying off-the-shelf apps can be an ideal strategy when mobilizing highly specialized, industry specific workflows and processes. Often these are mobile extensions to legacy systems, and contain functionality and business logic supporting well-defined industry practices, including regulatory considerations.

As proponents of reuse and applying the right solution for a given problem, we agree that there are situations where deploying a purchased out-of-box application makes sense. Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to? There are trade-offs, however, that need to be considered when taking this route.

"The most important thing to realize when deciding to purchase an off-the-shelf app is that it is a point solution, not a mobilization strategy."

For example, this is not an inexpensive path. Subscription fees, implementation and customization fees and then the ongoing cost to maintain inflate TCO quickly. Also, more often than not, the elegance of the user experience is trumped by the functional necessity of the app. Also, one-size-fits-all approaches are often bloated – or insufficient for your specific edge cases. The former results in a subpar user experience that hampers productivity, while the latter leads to customizations which impact TCO, performance and maintainability.

The most important thing to realize when deciding to purchase an off-the-shelf app is that it is a point solution, not a mobilization strategy. Even if the app proves very successful, that leaves in the backlog the many other task-specific apps – known and unidentified – that could transform processes and the business. To take digitalization and mobilization seriously, a platform-level approach needs to be adopted.

“We do not want vendor lock in”

The adoption of any platform introduces vendor reliance for either technical reasons, litigious ones or both. Lock-in is the inability or infeasibility of moving off of a platform and ending the commercial relationship. We’ve all heard about or even experienced the downside of lock-in: a vendor’s platform falls behind the market technologically and/or functionally, its prices rise to unjustifiable levels, or even unfortunate cases where a vendor goes out of business or is acquired, dropping support. It’s understandable that we cringe when we think of vendor lock-in.

Yet if you think about it, there are many instances where the benefits of a given platform outweigh the cons of vendor reliance. Just look at common enterprise infrastructures from devices and the cloud inward, and you’ll see numerous examples of this. Low-code platforms are similar in that they deliver significant benefits that counter any risks associated with reliance on the vendor.

The vendor is responsible for maintaining support for the newest standards, technologies, devices and OSs. As you can imagine, the mobile device landscape is rapidly evolving, with hundreds and thousands of changing variables. Staying ahead of the curve as your employees, partners, customers and IT departments adopt new technologies is fundamental to the success of a mobilization effort. All too often we see companies underestimating just how complex this can be. The result is nearly always the same – they fall behind. As they do, their mobile app portfolios become outdated. Utility drops, the ability to compete is hampered, and customer and employee satisfaction are strained. With the right platform, these problems never come up. Updates are delivered regularly, and backwards compatibility is ensured.

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No matter how you produce your apps, some parts of your infrastructure are locked in. In each case you placed a bet that the returns enjoyed by a solution would outweigh the risk of lock in. Analysts like Gartner and Forrester agree that mobile app development represents a huge opportunity to optimize business processes. The right low-code development environment will provide a game-changing way for more developers to get involved in producing production-ready B2B and B2E apps, giving significant speed gains and better responsiveness to change. This seems like a great bet!

Remember: lock-in is primarily a function of how technically and litigiously feasible it is to move away from a platform. AppGyver does the following to minimize any downside risk of relying on Composer: The customer owns all app source code created with Composer. The client software that is created is standard HTML5 with native elements being accessed through widely adopted hybrid technology and PhoneGap plugins. If needed, the source code can be made available to the customer.

We routinely negotiate terms where ownership of app backend deployments (what we refer to as the app middleware) can be transferred to the customer if the relationship terminates at some point. The middleware runs on Node.js and Ruby on Rails, and is deployable with all major private cloud providers, as well as having the capability to run on-premise.

We use the term “vendor reliance” because it should be just that; reliance on a vendor and it’s platform to achieve significant benefit. AppGyver is sympathetic to fact the world changes, and with it so do priorities and investment choices. We therefore aim to minimize the risk of costly or unproductive lock-in.

“We need to find a project to get started”

Low-code development transforms the way organizations approach problem solving. The reality is that the speed and agility a good platform delivers allows customers to consider new possibilities without the old constraints. Including tech savvy business stakeholders in the process ensures and fuels more ideas. The key is to get started., even if the first app is for a smaller business case. The experience and results will increase your organization’s capability to design and roll out a truly transformative mobile strategy. Being able to start small on a platform, from a licensing perspective, is key in this scenario.

Customers often tell us it’s best not to wait for the golden opportunity with the biggest ROI. Ideal projects to start with are smaller apps: ones that can be delivered fast but provide measurable impact. These apps are often specific to a single task, data set or workflow.

Low-code platforms allow companies to tackle small projects like this fast, and iterate upon them just as quick. The approach allows you to identify, promote and develop further the apps that deliver the most value, while quickly sunsetting efforts that prove less productive – all the while incurring little or no additional expenses. No app is right from the get-go, but when you let them evolve based on user feedback, they’ll become very impactful. When apps are created this way, you will also grow and cultivate a library of reusable digital assets (app templates, modules, database connectors and components) that have proven to resonate with users.

An enterprise-grade, low-code development platform will also scale to meet the needs of the most complex apps. Companies are pleased when they observe acceleration effects increase right along with app requirements. One of the most common areas that can get tricky fast is in the development of complex human workflow related apps. The best low-code development platforms, like Composer, should provide a visual way to assemble these workflows with all of the associated business logic, user permissions, and varying interface requirements between workflow actors.

“There’s too much change on the client landscape to invest in a development platform”

This claim is certainly well founded. In just the past decade we’ve witnessed the market share of first generation of smartphone leaders (RIM, Microsoft and Nokia and Motorola) get disrupted by Apple. Soon after, Google’s Android ecosystem entered the fray, delivering devices in a dizzying array of form factors. The iPad ushered in the tablet era, and phones continue to get bigger. There’s an almost continuous spectrum of device sizes that developers need to account for.

“...Digitization is happening unevenly, and users with advanced digital capabilities are capturing disproportionate benefits."

Most recently, smart TVs have evolved into digital clients, and now the car, wearables, industrial sensors and machines and virtual reality devices are on the horizon. The rate of change for OS’s has followed suit. The following are a sampling of the OS’s that are adopted or sitting on the radars of big companies we work with: multiple versions of iOS and Android for phone and tablet; WatchOS, Android Wear, Microsoft Band and Tizen for wearables; tvOS, Android TV, ChromeCast, and WebOS for smart TVs; CarPlay, Android Auto, Windows Auto, Ford Lync and QNX for Smart Cars; and HoloLens, Oculus and Android Cardboard for virtual reality. Obviously, the companies are not pursuing all of these today, but it highlights the effort required to stay on top of things.

Executives will tell us they have ideas, even strong points of view, on which of the devices and OSs will emerge as a truly disruptive channel for them. But the reality is that they just aren’t sure. What they do know is that the channels that really matter emerge fast. They need to be able to react quickly. Many tell us they’ve made bets deeper in the infrastructure to accommodate this (adopting API platforms, developing microservices, employing mobile security and device management platforms, harmonizing authentication and identity) letting developers use the approaches and tools that best meet their needs.

But as discussed earlier in this paper, backlogs continue to mount, because no matter what tools, frameworks and languages developers use, the complexity and repetitive grunt work of coding apps remains unaddressed. Furthermore the opportunity for re-use is missed causing the same challenges and work to be done for each app. Low-code development platforms have matured and can finally deliver the promise of reducing the risk of change.

We have one mission at AppGyver, and that is to stay ahead of any technology changes (device, OS or otherwise) that are relevant for building impactful B2E and B2B applications. It is at the core of our success. We have the benefit of hundreds of thousands of developers and thousands of companies, who provide insight into what is important and what is coming. Agile methodologies with steady release sprints allow us to incorporate new capabilities based on this feedback quickly. Low-code development platforms like Composer are now developed and iterated upon in a way that ensures platform capabilities evolve at the same pace as important technologies and our customer’s needs. Furthermore, once incorporated into the platform, the learning curve on how to best utilize a new technology is dramatically reduced. As new OSs, devices, libraries and languages become critical to our customers and we add support for them in the platform, they become part of the familiar visual design experience. Our goal is to abstract the complexity of all relevant mobile technologies – those in use today and those that emerge in the future.

Or... Just ignoring the opportunity and continuing business as usual

In its recent report, “Digital America: A Tale of Haves and Have-Mores”, the McKinsey Global Institute observes how, “...Digitization is happening unevenly, and users with advanced digital capabilities are capturing disproportionate benefits. The companies leading the charge are winning the battle for market share and profit growth…”. Mobile is the spearhead of digitization and we observe this phenomena regularly with companies who are successfully mobilizing workers. The companies who’re succeeding, the “have-mores” if you will, are grabbing market opportunities quicker, responding to customer needs more quickly, solving problems faster. Bottom line they are becoming more competitive. The time is now. You can be sure your competitors are not sitting idle. A great low-code development platform should allow you to get started right away, with minimal financial commitment and no risk of vendor lock-in.

Jeff N Alonzo

Jeff Alonzo has been instrumental in bringing technology enterprise for over 20 years. Notably, his roles at AnyPresence and Apigee have added to his insight into mobile trends in the enterprise.