Low code development is flourishing. There are many different platforms that allow you to create software faster and more effectively than conventional development methods.
John Rymer of Forrester wrote that low-code offers the potential to “make software development as much as 10 times faster than traditional methods” and, when creating software, time-to-market can become one of the most important advantages you can have.
At Objectivity, we’ve had the opportunity to develop different size applications created for clients from various sectors using the low-code approach. Each of them brought new challenges and experiences that helped us to understand and use the potential of low-code solutions.
Regardless of the platform you’re going to use, there are a few rules that will help your organisation to utilise low-code development to its full potential.
Low-Code Best Practices
1. Familiarise yourself with the platform and its power.
After deciding on which low-code platform to use, make sure that you and your team will spend time getting to know it. The most valuable approach involves enabling all team members, including Business Analysts and Product Owners, to do so. Time spent doing this will not be lost – it will be well-invested, as it will later increase the value of the solution.
The example I can highlight here concerns the time we offered our client the possibility to generate a mobile application from a web application. As the web application was created in the Responsive Web Design (RWD) approach, we were able to generate a hybrid mobile application which can be used on Android and iOS with just the click of a button. The client was satisfied as the solution can be used by more potential customers, and the cost of achieving this was very low.
2. Avoid customisation where it isn’t necessary.
One of the main advantages of low-code platforms are their predefined components. They’re built to be universal but of course not all of them will fit your business requirements. In this case, the customisation or creation of your own components will be necessary. This will probably increase the time you’ll have to spend on development. Being familiar with the predefined components gives you the power to use them, thereby decreasing development time. On the other hand, the components can give you more value than you defined at the beginning.
I would like to share another example here. One of the business requirements for the abovementioned client-requested mobile application was to create a list view with filters. At the very beginning, when all of us were just learning the platform, we proposed a solution where the filters would be placed on separate pages. After a discussion with the development team, we realised that the solution was a customisation and that the ‘out of the box’ approach would be to use an expanded section on the page with a table. The customisation would have required additional development effort, whereas the low-code solution was almost cost-free. Having realised this, we managed to keep the functionality and decrease the time and cost.
3. Build an open-minded and goal-oriented team.
Having the right people working on the project will help you take the best advantage of the low-code platform. If the technical part of the team is goal-oriented and willing to support your discussions with the client, you can discuss the requirements in the context of low-code platform possibilities. This helps to save time by shortening the communication chain. In some cases, the actual development can take place during the discussion, which allows for the verification of ideas in real-time.
On the other hand, when composing a team, make sure that the people you’re going to ask to cooperate can handle the speed and amount of work that will be waiting for them. It will be a challenge, but also a great experience for all roles.
4. Make the entire team aware of the project’s use case.
Your team can help you, but remember to treat them as partners and to make them aware of the business need you’re going to fulfil.
At the beginning of the project, try to understand most of the high-level requirements. Discuss them with the team and try to identify similarities across the whole system, e.g. 30% of the application will be a list view with a search and a filter, etc. This will allow you to start the development with a wisely selected component, which can be reused.
5. Plan application features in advance.
Representing the business side of the project, you should always be a few steps ahead of the development team. You may associate this suggestion with the waterfall approach, but it will help you avoid development downtime. The best practice is to have at last 2-3 fully prepared iterations that will serve as your safety cushion. For instance, we created a user story map divided into features, iterations, and dependencies to ensure we’re well-prepared. Based on this, we were able to have effective refinements and give the Product Owner a heads up regarding what will be expected from him in the next steps.
6. Take it easy with UX/Visual Design.
Low code platforms provide prepared UI libraries, which can be quickly and easily used in projects – their great advantage is that all their components are consistent.
From our experience, UX Specialists and Visual Designers bring great value at the beginning of the project when the flows in the software are being defined, and when we’re discussing the first elements of the UI. With time, the support that is required from these roles decreases significantly. After the first phase of the project, the low-code development team should already be familiar with UX and Visual Design guidelines for the rest of the scope and that should satisfy their needs. It may happen that there will be a situation later on in the project where UX and Visual Design support will be required. In such a case, these experts can be asked to contribute on a ‘as needed’ basis, rather than as part of ongoing support.
7. Notify the Product Owner that they’ll need to be engaged at all times.
The speed of delivering the scope of the work lies in defining the speed with which requirements should be prepared. Discuss this with your Product Owner at the beginning of the project in order to emphasise how crucial their availability will be. Remember that the communication between the development team and the business stakeholders needs to be smooth and fast.
In one of our projects, we needed to collaborate with two Business Analysts to fully prepare the scope of work needed for 5 low-code developers. As a result, we always had a lot of questions, topics, and meetings between us and the Product Owner – hence, they always had their hands full of work. In cases where the Product Owner isn’t able to find the time to clarify the requirements, development effort could be stalled.
8. Let business stakeholders test the solution as soon as possible.
With low-code’s speed of development, you’ll be able to create the first functionalities really quickly. Of course, normally, you would present the business stakeholders with a demo of completed work. But, from our experience, it is only when someone starts to play with and test the solution that they’re able to give overall feedback on your work. It may happen that after testing you will have a list of changes that need to be implemented – and remember that the faster you can implement them, the more time-efficient your project will be. Nobody likes having to incorporate changes during the user acceptance testing phase at the end of the project as this entails making other changes as well (domino effect).
9. Look to the low-code community and the help desk for support.
If you’re stuck with your development, you can always ask for help on community pages. People active on such pages are passionate about low-code platforms, meaning that they might have already have solved your problem and would be willing to share the results. The low-code community also creates components that may be used to achieve certain business needs.
Another way to receive the support you need would be to contact the help desk. As low-code platforms are still developing, it may happen that the next version of your component will include the feature you need.
10. Stay positive and don’t be afraid to try low-code
If you’ve never tried to build software applications using a low-code platform, this can be a huge change for you, for the team, for the client, and for the organisation. As such, you’ll first have to invest some time to learn the ropes, but when you finally discover how to effectively use low-code, it will pay off.
According to Gartner, in 2021, market demand for software development will grow at a rate at least five times faster than IT has the capacity to deliver. Low-code platforms are created to support companies in increasing the efficiency of development, but in order to use their potential to the fullest, you need to be well-prepared. Our toolkit is built to help organisations plan their software development strategies ahead of time and to take advantage of low-code best practices, enabling them to decrease time-to-market.
For more information, download Objectivity’s latest white paper on low-code: “Gain more by doing less”.