With little to no coding experience required, low-code application development has grown rapidly. Driving the adoption of low-code development platforms are unprecedented pressures on enterprise IT departments to create more custom software that complies with organizational guardrails and empowers business users to be “citizen developers” or “makers” within a continuous improvement / continuous delivery (CI/CD) process. There are many benefits to the low-code app dev approach, however, adopting a low-code platform alone will not ensure success.
To integrate a successful low-code app dev strategy into an enterprise, leaders should take the same approach as for any other project: first, determine the outcomes you want. Ask: “How can our development team evolve to better align business and IT?” “Are we confident we can scale from one app to 10 or 20 or 500?” Without combining the right platform with the proper strategy, an enterprise could easily find itself perpetuating a siloed approach to development.
At Pega, we’re helping some of the world’s largest organizations rethink the way they’re automating application development – empowering them to achieve both business and IT buy-in and taking standalone apps and processes (think Excel or SharePoint) and transforming them into intelligent enterprise-scale apps that get work done. As a company founded on the mission of making powerful software that’s accessible to business users, we have more than 35 years of experience supporting enterprises around the globe with low-code app development. And we’ve learned a few things along the way.
Low-code app development
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Building your enterprise low-code factory
Winning at low-code takes more than tech. It takes strategy.
Below are our 10 best tips for low-code success based on knowledge gained from hundreds of completed projects:
- Find the “low” hanging fruit. Take an “App Factory” approach, bringing together tools, training, and guidelines, to empower business and IT teams to quickly and collaboratively build applications in a repeatable and successful manner. To establish the framework for an app factory, first identify the best functional business use cases that are good candidates for this development methodology, then get consensus from all stakeholders on a small set of projects that can be addressed in a short amount of time to meet a key business deadline. Often these are “get-stuff-done” projects in the business that are being stop-gapped with spreadsheets, email, Microsoft Access, or even paper sticky notes. They are also projects that are critical for a specific team or department, but won’t get prioritized by IT.
- Don’t boil the ocean (of complexity). Aim to solve a focused challenge in a single remote office, department, or functional organization where the challenge is contained within that group. Start with a process that doesn’t have highly sensitive information or integration requirements, at least initially. Starting small and simple in scope can allow the team to find some success and iterate without creating any risk to the business out of the gate. Often, these applications grow, connect, and become more business-critical over time.
- Identify the key business SMEs (citizen developers). Your subject matter experts are business and data analysts and operations leaders with the right skills, attitude, and hunger to take a more active role in solving everyday challenges. Outline and document roles and responsibilities for the team, including all the stakeholders. Once you understand the roles and personas involved, identify the business builders and makers who have the appropriate process knowledge, and in some cases, the appropriate technical skills required. Allow employees to start building without constant oversight or barriers to innovate.
- Iterate apps in short intervals for maximum impact – fast. Succeeding with low-code innately means adopting an agile software development mentality. Drive multiple feedback sessions per week after your initial release. Then deliver configuration of what was discussed (via mockups, logic sessions, working prototype, etc.) to show and tell how the application operates and get immediate field feedback. Don’t wait to take a fully-baked application into production. Divide the application into meaningful pieces or modules that can go into production on their own.
- Gain IT support and provide visibility. It’s critical to have IT participation in the areas of integration and policy management. Most business makers aren’t application builders by trade, so IT can provide best practices around application development to reduce risk and increase speed. This allows the initial business to run fast while providing IT visibility and oversight into the process.
- Map security and governance levels to application value. Not all low-code development or applications are created equally. At the same time, the last thing an organization wants is data integrity compromised due to a lack of control. Balance the value of the application and risk with the level of controls applied to the data. Applications that contain PII or sensitive IP and connect to transactional systems should be more highly governed than single purpose, standalone apps. Every organization should map out its own set of criteria and appropriate levels for governance and oversight. IT can build governance processes for different kinds of apps around access to sensitive data, performance, security policy, and integrations.
- Choose a platform that scales with your digital transformation initiatives. Many platforms have sweet spots in one of two core areas of digital transformation. One offers a simple authoring environment that excels for small departmental apps but lacks the features and tools required to scale to more meaningful enterprise deployments. The other creates a runtime environment for Pro Developers to assemble Tier 1 transactional applications faster but comes up short with business builders trying to get work done. The reality is that digital transformation is on a spectrum and many projects overlap between the sweet spots. Choose a vendor that offers a uniform platform to build along the full spectrum of use cases, skill sets, and ecosystem requirements, and that scales with your digital transformation roadmap.
- Support your makers. Create a safe space for business users to experiment and build out their ideas with guidance. Offer the flexibility for makers and citizen developers to learn at their own pace in the format that works best for them. Keep in mind that business users may also need further assistance regarding design, data architecture, naming conventions, testing, governance/access controls, and security and policy compliance.
- Scale with a plan. As projects and tasks grow you'll need to establish a set of governance guidelines to support agile methodologies and ensure consistency across applications. Some may refer to this as a Center of Excellence (CoE), some a Guild – regardless of name, the goal is to establish a cross-functional team of experts in their functions, empowered by best practices and tools. Here you’ll include everything from the reuse of best practices to key application artifacts. This keeps all reusable assets in a centralized location and will allow all subsequent low-code applications to inherit functionality and promote a continuum of efficiency and innovation.
- Make more makers. Successful makers are empowered not only through initial training but sustained enablement. It’s key to remember your end-users are not developers by trade, so quality support is critical. Consider creating certification programs, implementing badging and awards, feedback channels, and self-service learning to empower and further engage your makers. With experience, it is expected that citizen developers will become more and more independent. In the long run, experienced makers enthusiastic about the program can themselves become great coaches for new makers.
If implemented correctly, low-code makes app development simple and accessible to everyone who touches enterprise applications. The right software combined with the proper strategy brings people, data, and insights together, empowering your organization to build scalable enterprise applications better and faster together.
- Learn how to build apps up to 12x faster with low-code
- Download the roadmap for building your enterprise low-code factory.
- Watch a 3-part webinar series on building enterprise apps faster with low-code
- Watch our Tech Talk on how low-code helps boost technical team productivity.
- Listen to our clients’ candid insights from a PegaWorld panel discussion on low-code innovation in the enterprise.
- Try Pega for free and discover how low-code lets you deliver apps faster.