Low-code platforms have the potential to be the future of business application development. But only low-code platforms with the right set of core attributes or system fundamentals built in can really fulfill that vision.
We’ve noted here previously how all business applications are the same, in the sense they are created from common building blocks that have certain attributes. But today, times are changing, and enterprises are no longer locked into the old build-versus-buy paradigm of software development.
Modern low-code platforms support digital transformation efforts by empowering business users to create their own workflow process automations. Organizations get exactly the software they need without the downsides of old-fashioned custom software development: long, expensive development; the need for hard-to-find skilled developers; and maintenance challenges.
Using drag-and-drop tools, business users can create precisely what they need. There are no extraneous features, no unwanted complexity, and no forced upgrades. With the capability to assemble technology that does exactly what the business needs in the way employees want to do it, enterprises have the freedom to never buy a business application again.
But not all low-code platforms are created equal. If you want a platform that will enable you to build process automations that will stand the test of time—or put another way, if you don’t want to have to toss out everything you’ve done in a couple of years and start over from scratch—make sure your platform incorporates these 17 core system fundamentals or “-ilities.”
The 17 Core System Fundamentals for Low-Code Platforms
1. Securability: The inherent ability of a system to prevent malicious activity or unapproved access. It includes the ability to set permissions and access rights on a granular and individual level, and verify users. Without strong security built in, a low-code platform is worse than useless…it’s dangerous!
2. Scalability: The ability to scale a system up or down, i.e., to make a workflow process work as well for 10 people as for 10,000. It’s obvious why a system should be able to scale up, but it’s just as important to find one that will scale back down as well (for example, following a surge in seasonal demand) so that resources aren’t needlessly locked up.
3. Flexibility: The ability for all the building blocks (forms, portals, workflows, etc.) within a platform to be laid out in different ways, with conditional branching and multiple options for integration, so that workflow automations can be tailored to business processes, rather than forcing processes to be changed to fit the tool.
4. Integratability: The ability to connect forms and workflows with other systems in order to import data or write data back into those applications (that is, to “play nice with others”). This is vital to enabling your enterprise to have “one source of truth” for every data element, and avoid duplicate data entry and the risk of mismatched data elements in different systems.
5. Testability: The ability to create multiple live versions of a workflow process and compare the results, i.e., to do structured A/B testing.
6. Supportability: The ability to create and document processes in such a way that users can get questions answered and issues resolved through normal help desk channels and resources, without having to go back to the original developer of the workflow process.
7. Visibility: The ability for a process or system owner to track activity within the system, such as how many requests are in process, complete, or past due.
8. Version-ability: The ability to develop multiple versions of a workflow process, identify them, and run multiple versions in parallel. This enables graceful migration of business process change.
9. Reportability: The ability to expose metrics to dashboards or reporting tools for measures like total number of requests, the number of requests by type or category, average resolution time, and other aggregated process metrics.
10. Traceability: The ability to see what’s happening at any time within workflows and check the current status (e.g., has a request been approved, or if not, how long has it been waiting), as well as to track transactions across systems.
11. Monitorability: The platform provides system-level monitoring for the operations team, for example disk space used, memory consumed, performance, and uptime.
12. Debug-ability: The platform provides built-in help enabling citizen developers to find and fix errors in their processes; for example, access to appropriate log files.
13. Audit-ability: The ability to review transactions after the fact, with documentation or log files to verify what actions were taken, when, and by whom.
14. Recoverability: The ability to gracefully recover from backup for failover in the case of any interruption (power outage, server goes down, network connectivity lost) so that the process completes properly with no data loss.
15. Agility: The ability for IT or citizen developers to add or modify steps in an existing workflow process over time in response to business, regulatory, technology, or other changes in a timely manner.
16. Expandability: The ability to integrate with systems outside / external to the business as well as internal, e.g., to vendor or customer systems for managing supply chain processes.
17. Isolatability: The ability to create and test new workflow processes in a sandbox environment, without impacting any live corporate data or activities.
The End Result: Manageability
When all of these attributes or system fundamentals are built into a low-code platform, the result is one final and very important “-ility”: manageability. Your platform and environment are highly manageable as a result of having scalability, flexibility, testability, and the other attributes above.
And that means you have the capability to not only solve the problems you face today, but also the ones that will crop up tomorrow you can’t yet foresee or anticipate. So you can continually improve, and rapidly respond to competitive or market changes, with the confidence your platform has all of the vital “-ilities” you need, built in.