Low-code business process company Appian has detailed its current updates and future road ahead as part of its annual Appian World user and customer conference.
Essential a mostly graphical visual drag-and-drop software tool designed to help build business ‘case management’ applications to track behaviour and task status, Appian apps are composed of elements of the business that can be pinned down to be consistent, measurable, enforceable and auditable.
Appian was recently named a leader in the Forrester Wave: Cloud-Based Dynamic Case Management Q1 2018 report. A report that is, arguably, comparatively narrowly focused on cloud platforms that work in the case management arena. Other firms in this space include TIBco, IBM, Hyland, Pegasystems, Newgen and bpm’online.
Appian integrates systems, data, and digitised processes to create what the company calls a unified omni-channel management across customer touchpoints by drawing from a mix of integrated cross-channel, cross-product and cross-service data.
So this is all fine, but what really defines low-code? What characterises this type of software application construction and what makes these applications functionally productive?
7 pillars of low-code
1. Visual modelling tools
Appian says that at the heart of a low-code application, we find visual modelling tools. These are the controls that the user (often the citizen developer) will touch to building, launching and changing enterprise applications.
2. CRUD functions
The core of a low-code platform will allow the user to perform CRUD functions: Create, Repeat, Update, Delete. These are the four basic actions we wish to execute upon data which exists in ‘persistent storage’ i.e. that layer of data storage in any device or machine which still exists when the machine is powered down.
Low-code platforms should typically offer drag-and-drop interfaces so that users can reduce the amount of scripts they have to build manually. Ultimately this should move from low-code to no-code options where all the artefacts, data orchestration and integration functions that an application needs are encapsulated in pre-defined functionality that exists in the platform.
4. Agile iteration
Low-code development means you can iterate apps and release them as soon as functionality is built – so this is Agile (with a CAPS A) iteration. Since change is fast with low-code development, Agile transformation is made easier, well – in theory at least.
5. Instant mobility
Build once, deploy everywhere. With the explosion of mobile devices like smart phones and tablets, applications must have cross-platform functionality standard in their design. With true low-code development, it should all happen behind the scenes automatically, with no extra effort, coding, or resources.
6. Declarative tools
With low-code software, declarative tools are implemented through visual models and business rules. Appian says that removing the need to write custom-coding for these mitigates the difficulty of future changes or additions and speeds development times.
7. Security and Scalability
Appian admits that low-code development has had its knocks…mainly when it comes to security and scalability. While initially, low-code development was focused on smaller, departmental and less critical capabilities, today’s low-code should be enterprise-grade. The right platform has all the necessary security certifications in place, and proven experience with large-scale initiatives as well.