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Should a low-code platform generate code?

Two of the most common reservations against low-code adoption are:

  1. Such platforms are not useful in building complex applications

  2. No ownership of the source code

Both these observations are correct to a certain extent.

There aren’t many platforms that allow complex enterprise grade application development. Most of the existing low-code platforms focus primarily on drag and drop functionalities to build simple applications.

However, there are platforms that offer features to develop scalable, microservices-based high-performance systems.

The value of low-code platforms lies in the speed and ease of use in building applications. Not everything needs to be built from scratch. The power of such platforms lies in orchestration. In most cases, low turnaround times, ability to easily change and upgrade, scalability and performance are the main objectives. If these are met, ownership of code is not of primary importance.

Owning code can be important for some organizations. In such cases, low-code should not be used.

Expecting a low-code platform to generate code negates the very reason for choosing the platform in the first place. A low-code platform simplifies application development by providing prebuilt encapsulations that reduce the development time and effort. Such prebuilt components are necessary to allow the application developer to focus on solving the problem at hand without worrying about the technology involved.

Enterprise products like SAP and SalesForce have been accepted by organizations even when they do not get to own the underlying code. It is the value these products bring in that matters.

Some low-code platforms allow writing and embedding code in the applications being developed. If you want to embed R routines, you can do that in the platform as part the application you are developing. Such an approach helps in focusing on the core task, leaving the simple, repeatable ones to the platform.

It does not make sense to code for components and services that are readily available.

Just as building an application from scratch by writing code is challenging, so is its maintenance.The task of IT does not end with writing code for an application. Maintaining the code and regular upgrades are equally important. Maintaining source code requires expertise in the programming language and getting skilled programmers is expensive. This is one of the reasons why building and maintaining an application using a low-code platform without having to know a 'language' is gaining traction.

We developed our website using WIX. It was a matter of a few weeks to build it ground-up. We know that we do not own the code. We are locked in but it suits us well. We are able to focus on activities that are core to our business. We do not need expert coders to maintain our website. It is easily maintained by our marketing team!

What organizations would rather own are their processes and logic. How that is implemented is not important in most cases. The insistence on owning code is legacy thinking. Expecting a low-code platform to generate code and then setting up a team to understand and maintain the code is a costly exercise. The advantage of low-code technology is lost.

You are better off owning the process and logic and letting the system take care of the implementation.

If you have a different view on the topic, we would like to hear it.

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