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Low-code for developers; or, why I wish my fence lines were Pega apps

Timothy Harfield,
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There is a common misperception that low-code is for people who can’t actually code. There is a belief, encouraged in part by the industry itself, that low-code is about democratizing development, lowering the bar so that anyone can create an app regardless of their technical ability. While this is absolutely true of many low-code environments, the Pega Platform™ is also designed with the needs of the seasoned developer in mind.

Pega helps developers automate the parts of their job that they hate so they can focus on the stuff they are good at and enjoy. Here are three examples of very real pain points that the Pega Platform addresses without also limiting the power or complexity of the applications that developers can create.

1. Managing Technical Debt

Developers spend 42% of their time maintaining legacy code. The result is an estimated $300 billion in wasted developer time each and every year.

Babysitting legacy code can also be soul-sucking.

Coders want to code. Developers want to invest themselves in challenging projects that solve significant business problems and deliver real value. They don’t want to spend their time keeping the lights on, and they don’t want to be distracted by dread as they wait for the next thing to break.

I live on a farm. I've been building a lot of fence recently. When a fence line is completed, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel like I've accomplished something. And I have. The new fence does its job, and it looks great.

But then I look at the fence that has been around for 20 years. It's falling apart and requires constant maintenance. The sharp contrast between old and new is a reminder that everything I build today is going to create work in the future. It's frustrating to think about how much time I spend just trying to keep stuff from falling apart, when all I want to do is complete projects that would make things better … and that I actually enjoy.

Low-code doesn’t mean “lacking in complexity.” There's literally nothing that a developer can do outside of Pega that they can't do inside of it. The difference is that everything created outside of Pega also creates work over the long run. Developing in Pega means that you can spend less time tethered to old code and more time on projects that provide strategic value. I wish my fence lines were Pega apps.

2. Doing the Grunt Work

To some developers, low-code approaches to application development can feel a bit like cheating. I totally get it. Bracketing the fact that every programming language is already an abstraction from machine code, I agree that there is huge value in coding, and that everyone should learn to do it. But once you know how to code, why wouldn’t you actively look for ways to automate as much as possible? That's low-code in a nutshell: a way to automate basic tasks in a way that saves time, reduces error, and decreases ongoing maintenance costs.

In a recent episode of Tech Talk Live, Sam Tremlett mentioned a number of new authoring tools in version 8.5 of the Pega Platform, including a drag and drop experience for making navigation changes for website and mobile apps, a templatized landing page creation experience, and native lists and swipe actions. There's nothing you can’t do in Pega that you can’t do in code. And that’s the point. If you could get the same job done in 30 minutes or in 30 seconds, which method would you choose? Let's face it, your time as a skilled developer is too valuable to be spent fiddling around with CSS.

3. Managing Scope

For a developer, one of the greatest values of the Pega Express Methodology is the fact that it provides clear guidance for managing scope. When we define releases in terms of requirements, there's nothing to anchor scope. A set of requirements is just a list and, as a list, there are no hard and fast criteria for including or excluding anything. As a result, the scope of a project can easily expand according to the whims of stakeholders, which, in turn, has an impact on delivery times and decreases the chance of success. “Runaway” is a major reason why approximately 70% of digital transformations fail.

Built around the Pega Express methodology, the Pega Platform reframes releases as Minimum Loveable Products (MLP). An MLP is not a list of requirements determined by a committee. An MLP is an application that is defined by a question: What is that minimum set of features that an application must have in order to delight a user as they complete a single well-define task (or “micro-journey”)? As long as every stakeholder agrees to start with this end in mind, then every requirement can be judged according to a common standard: Is this necessary to creating an MLP? Or should it be added to the backlog as something to consider as part of a future MLP? Such an approach not only limits the risk of scope creep and increases the chances of success, but it also ensures that products released actually address the business problems they were meant to address.

The longer an app takes to develop, the more likely it is to be irrelevant by the time it is finished. By starting with an MLP and rapidly delivering something of value, continued relevance is assured as a result of continuous improvement in response to the evolving needs of users.

Low-code is not just for business users and citizen developers – it’s for seasoned developers, too

As a toolset, the Pega Platform reduces the need to think about amortizing maintenance costs over the life of applications, it allows developers to employ their skill in more meaningful ways, and it makes it easier to align teams around a well-defined, user-focused vision. Our Tech Talk Live series has been diving into the exciting new features of Pega’s low-code platform, and the ways that these features are designed to promote a fast, easy, and open experience that fosters empathy and encourages co-creation. Check out the past episodes, mark your calendar, and subscribe to the Pega YouTube channel to be notified the next time we go live.

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Challenge: Business Agility Industry: Cross-Industry Product Area: Platform Topic: Low-Code Development Topic: Intelligent Automation

About the Author

Timothy Harfield, Ph.D., is senior director of community engagement for Intelligent Automation, helping to bring people, processes, and technology together to solve complex business problems.

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