Report: Legacy software problems are driving new ‘low-code’ development approach

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The rise of cloud computing has made enterprise software more accessible than ever before, but the quality of code and its ability to streamline daily business operations still falls short.

That’s according to a new vendor survey, which finds that as a result of that shortfall, an emerging agile software development technique known as “low code” is getting rapidly adopted by developers. The survey, Enterprise Software and the Wave Ahead, was conducted by TrackVia Inc., a maker of mobile workflow management solutions.

“Low code” software development involves minimizing hand-coding of applications, instead configuring existing functions from other platforms and applications quickly to speed up development. More specifically, PC Magazine defines “low code” software development as “creating applications using program generators or languages that tie pre-written functions together.” Appian, Microsoft PowerApps, Salesforce Lightning and Zoho Creator are a few examples of low-code tools that allow developers to build apps with little or no coding.

One of the best examples of a company that relies on low-code software development is Uber Technologies Inc. The popular ride-sharing app is built on a combination of other company’s technology platforms, including Box Inc.’s storage, Google Inc.’s Maps, Braintree’s payment services, Twilio Inc.’s messaging tools and SendGrid’s email. As ZDNet made clear in an article last year, Uber didn’t build any of those services itself. It simply brought in the application programming interfaces from other platforms and added its own business model on top.

The approach allows it to reconfigure applications quickly, modify logic flows and deliver new user interface elements as needed. In addition, its developers can rapidly take advantage of new features and APIs to deliver better performance and more features without investing in new infrastructure or software.

Frustration fueling low-code adoption

Those advantages could be helpful to a wide swath of enterprises across multiple industries, TrackVia reckons. The company’s survey of 500 information technology executives and chief technology officers reveals that just over two-thirds believe their organization’s growth has been slowed by the limitations of current application software. That’s chiefly thanks to a lack of customization and integration options, prompting the company to conclude that legacy software is hindering growth across a range of industries.

“Vendors are not the problem,” TrackVia said in its report. “The lack of advancement in software is.”

A further three-quarters of respondents said the shortfalls inherent in legacy software had prompted them to replace it with software programs that can’t be updated or customized by vendors.

“The last significant shift in enterprise software was the migration from on-premises to off-premises software, which addressed some of traditional software’s distribution and pricing challenges, but did comparatively little to address the needs of the people who actually use the software to do their work,” Charles Var, TrackVia’s marketing vice president, said in a statement.

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Source: TrackVia Inc.

As such, TrackVia pitches the low-code approach as a way to address many of these concerns, and claims that its survey is proof that interest is growing rapidly among developers. The company found that 29 percent of IT execs polled were already using the agile software development framework, while 43 percent said they were “interested” in it.

The biggest benefit of the low-code approach was customization, respondents said. Other advantages include faster application deployment, updates and maintenance. Overall IT productivity increases and compatibility with legacy software and applications were also cited.

TrackVia also cites a Forrester Research Inc. report from last year that predicted 68 percent revenue growth in the emerging enterprise software development market by 2019. The market will be worth $10.3 billion annually by that time, Forrester said.

“The market for these [low-code] platforms is growing fast, but selecting a platform that actually delivers without creating a [fourth-generation programming language]-like orphan in the software portfolio isn’t easy,” Forrester added in its report.

However, Forrester also warned of certain risks that come with the low-code software development approach. They include “dozens of small vendors selling outside of tech management, and customers with little consensus about how low-code platforms fit into their broader portfolios.”

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