C&F is in partnership with the ITwiz report on Low Code, which highlights the transformative power of low-code development platforms in accelerating business application delivery and driving innovation. In an insightful interview featured in the report, Manoj Nair, our Head of Digital Transformation, shares his expert perspective on the importance of low-code technology in addressing today’s IT challenges and driving efficiency, especially in regulated industries. His discussion underscores the critical role of low-code in reducing development time and costs, and increasing agility within the IT landscape.
We are glad to share with you the English version of Manoj Nair’s interview, originally published in the report, which is available below.
This interview provides key insights into the benefits of low-code platforms, including their impact on developer productivity, the potential for customization to meet unique business needs, and their strategic role in modernizing legacy systems and facilitating digital transformation.
Key takeaways from the report and interview highlight the growing adoption of low-code solutions across industries, driven by their ability to streamline development processes, reduce technology debt, and quickly respond to evolving business needs. C&F’s commitment to innovation and excellence in low-code development is further demonstrated by its successful partnership with OutSystems to deliver secure, scalable and efficient solutions to its customers.
INTERVIEW ENGLISH SUBSCRIPTION:
Today, during Low Code conferences we talk primarily about application delivery speed, says Manoj Nair, Head of Digital Transformation at C&F. It’s the quantum leap in application delivery speed – and therefore developer efficiency – that is driving Low Code’s growing popularity, including in heavily regulated industries.
Szymon Augustyniak asks:
From C&F’s perspective, is the current wave of Low Code platform implementations a groundbreaking one? Has their time come because of the shortage of employees in IT, the digitization of work environments and business processes, or the demand for a space where rapid change, implemented also by the business, is possible?
I think there are even more factors that make Low Code solutions attract the interest of companies. We have been working with this technology for 8 years now, and indeed, the rate of software development is always mentioned among its main advantages. But Low Code is much more than that: far lower implementation, licensing and maintenance costs, and a much simpler way to manage changes and updates, which is a great answer to technology debt.
Incidentally, it is these observations that had originally prompted our company to undertake a search for an alternative to solutions developed in traditional, high-code programming languages. Our search eventually resulted in our cooperation with OutSystems.
What sets this company’s offering apart?
A complete, polished product and a focus on building applications quickly – so that businesses can use their ideas while they are still fresh. Thus, such a differentiator is, among other things, the radical acceleration of the so-called Time to Market. OutSystems also made it possible from the very beginning to build applications that are secure and scalable, which is standard in the Low Code category today, but 7-8 years ago was not so obvious.
However, the most important thing about Low Code is still the speed of application development…
Definitely. With the help of such solutions, applications are built 4-5 times faster than with traditional tools and programming languages. If one wanted to maintain such speed with traditional methods – and if it were even possible – the subsequent stages of the application’s life, i.e., maintenance and development, would consume incomparably more resources on the part of the IT team. In short – there would not be enough developers and maintenance specialists.
Perhaps, then, it would be even better if, instead of Low Code, we bet on No Code?
Not necessarily. The No Code concept has a more limited application. After all, it is hard to imagine citizen developers producing a major mission-critical system. It’s also hard to imagine that suddenly process fragments or even entire processes embedded outside the framework of a defined, sustainable, and secure architecture will start being created en masse. Low Code is meant to make developers more efficient, not to anoint as developers people who are neither competent nor have the time to become so, because they are already performing other tasks. The moment of truth also comes when such products are tested and integrated – applications created in Low Code are integrated practically automatically and instantly.
How is this improvement perceived by the developers themselves?
Resistance within the company is sometimes stronger at first than that against external competitors offering a different solution. Programmers fear that the Low Code platform will take away their work. However, quite quickly this environment proves to not so much take away work, as simply drastically change it. As a rule, the change is for the better, because it eliminates repetitive and tedious elements of developers’ daily routine.
Are these just concerns about the loss of work, or also about the ability to exercise control over software development and, as a result, the loss of security and consistency by the whole?
Of course, the concern is also about the risk of chaos that Low Code can cause with too much speed of application development. On the other hand, we often meet with disbelief that it is possible to produce, for example, a system to support several hundred thousand users in this tool.
In order to convince potential customers of Low Code’s capabilities, we always seek permission to run a Proof-of-Concept project to verify that the indicated task can be done, and in what time. I remember many PoC projects when we were able to present a solution in just a few hours that would have taken several days of work to produce with a traditional approach, and we implemented any proposed changes in scope as we went.
On the basis of such conclusions, we can quickly resonate with experienced programmers. For them, it will be a tool for automating work, speeding it up, but also a way to bring younger developers into the team. What’s more, working with Low Code is also a way to spread your wings in new areas, such as building web and mobile applications, hosting new applications in the cloud, or creating Cloud Native applications without additional full-time positions for network, cloud, or security specialists.
The Low Code approach also naturally supports the concept of DevOps, and the various Low Code platforms most often make it possible to easily manage solutions developed with their help, as well as monitor their performance. The ability to quickly identify potential bugs and fix them to improve performance is the essence of the Low Code approach.
Many companies, however, expect to be able to tailor solutions to specific, often unique needs. How does the Low Code approach measure up here?
It does very well. When it comes to the ability to customize solutions to the needs and ideas of the business on a modern Low Code platform, there are practically no limitations. The basic elements can be freely coded to suit your own needs. This is not so in the case of No Code, where the platform manufacturer usually provides a severely limited number of templates for a given service.
What determines the effectiveness of the Low Code approach?
There are several such factors, but the most important is the scale of use. Please remember that IT projects, and application projects are such, are all about getting the best possible return on investment. In the case of Low Code platforms, the ROI makes sense when a certain scale of use is achieved. For example, it doesn’t make sense to harness a Low Code platform to build and develop a single application. The benefits begin when you embed this technology into your application environment development strategy, specifying, for example, that the majority of internal applications are to be built in the Low Code model. At the same time, it should be remembered that applications built in Low Code should handle internal processes well, automate areas of manual work, increase the productivity of the internal customer and their level of self-service. On the other hand, their task should not necessarily be, for example, to improve customer experience levels.
Are Low Code platforms suitable for upgrading and integrating critical systems based on legacy technologies?
Of course – and they are often used for this. For good reasons, too. Please note that business software vendors are increasingly deciding to move their solutions to the cloud and are encouraging, and sometimes even forcing, customers to move to a cloud computing model. Customers are put up against the wall in this situation, and on top of that, it turns out that the migration is not seamless – because it never is. The costs skyrocket.
Low Code offers an alternative here. This is because it makes it possible to easily copy functionality and integration into new applications. A year ago, we completed a project for a client who had more than 15 SAP installation systems worldwide and needed to migrate them to the SAP HANA environment, recreating connections to dozens of key systems for each SAP instance. After calculating the time, cost and resources required to complete such a project in a traditional approach, it was decided to envelop a standard SAP HANA implementation with in-house applications developed using a Low Code approach, providing the necessary business-specific functionality and integrations. As a result, it was possible to significantly reduce project implementation time. Significant savings on SAP licensing costs were also achieved.
Low Code applications in this way often replace functional clusters made up of multiple systems, often outdated, built over the years to handle some process. They are also often used to implement innovative ideas that are not yet a finished product. A Low Code application is created quickly and thus has a greater chance of turning into an actual product, getting there in time before the competition does, and fitting into the market timing.
Presumably, the cost of such product experiments is also lower – as is the fear of them being shut down if they fail…
That’s true. This is generally the attitude. With the Low Code approach, it is also possible to change the cost structure in application environments.
The old budget structure for system implementations was to allocate 80% of funds to maintenance and support, and only 20% to application development. Today those proportions are reversed, in part due to Low Code. Innovation has become crucial from the client’s point of view.
Can applications built on the Low Code concept be ported between different platforms?
This is a requirement that is important for large organizations, which need scalable applications that can be easily customized and developed from scratch in a container or cloud architecture. Platforms that cater to similar needs are in high demand on the market today, as they allow you to focus on the business logic of the application rather than making sure it will work in a given environment.
In the discussion at the CXO HUB meeting, an accusation was raised that Low Code platforms have a short lifespan, so there is a major risk of choosing one whose development will end in a few years. How many reliable, stable Low Code platforms are there on the market today to choose between?
Currently, we can talk about a few stable – and most prosperous – solutions, which are also mentioned by Gartner: OutSystems, Mendix, Microsoft, Salesforce. These platforms have been on the market for more than 10 years and have an ever-growing customer portfolio.
What scale of increase in developer productivity can be expected from Low Code solutions?
An application that takes 6-12 months to develop in the traditional way can be completed in 2-3 months in Low Code. Of course, even over such a short period of time, the end customer demands may change before the project is completed. Low Code manages such project dynamics very well – the implementation of single changes takes minutes, while the creation of a new functionality is a matter of hours, weeks at most.
How complex is the process of updating the Low Code platform, on which, after all, business applications are based?
More conservative companies, which decide to use the Low Code platform in the on-premises model, decide for themselves on the timing and mode of any upgrades, with the support of the vendor, of course.
The situation is much simpler when dealing with a Low Code platform running in the cloud. Then, maintenance is completely negligible, and the customer – and we, as the deployment partner – only receive information about the upgrade deployment schedule. If we don’t have any reservations, the relevant change will be automatically implemented at a certain time.
At the same time, should a problem arise after such an update, you can immediately roll back to a backup from before its deployment.
These features are paid for in the cost of the license – they do not require additional fees or the stress of a big migration. Usually, a new version of the platform comes out once every 1-2 years, but then upgrading it is not very time-consuming or risky either – it takes an average of 12-24 hours. This is a completely different time scale than standard software migrations.
However, to me any migration is associated with risk. How can systems built in Low Code mitigate it?
There are always risks, but in Low Code there is also the possibility of immediate response. The platform itself identifies areas and elements that have migrated badly to the new version and need to be fixed. Most often, these are simply areas and elements that were created outside the template and therefore require manual intervention.
This approach definitely reduces the time and problems associated with migration – any errors are handled practically on the fly. More difficult changes can also be escalated to the manufacturer, but this is still an incomparably smaller burden than with the traditional approach. In fact, we also do not test application code as such, but entire business processes.
Aren’t the biggest competitors to the Low Code approach today solutions based on generative AI? Why should a programmer use a Low Code platform when a virtual assistant can generate application code for them?
In my opinion, the future is Low Code plus AI. Artificial intelligence is already very good at helping Low Code platforms build applications. It hints at the ready-made fragments the app should contain. This speeds up work considerably, especially for novice developers. It also makes it possible to maintain full control over exactly how the application works.
What is Low Code definitely not suitable for?
It is certainly not suitable for game development. Nor will it help in creating advanced data management solutions. Nor does it make sense to create AI models and tools themselves in Low Code – although applications created in Low Code naturally work with such solutions.
What can you say about the approach to the Low Code concept in Poland?
My impression is that the possibility of using Low Code is being pursued especially by companies in highly regulated sectors. For example, particularly after the experience of the war in Ukraine, we see a lot of inquiries about using Low Code in the cloud from the banking sector.
This is important because Low Code makes it possible to quickly produce applications that will be native in the cloud. This brings a double benefit. First, it is the ability to quickly produce working tools that will take over functions from aging monolithic on-premises systems. Second, putting new applications in the cloud helps negate the risks of business interruption due to, say, sabotage of the data center infrastructure.
The pharmaceutical, medical markets – even more heavily regulated than banking – are also getting more experience, and there are more and more Low Code requests from them. In their case, the Low Code approach means an opportunity to catch up with the delays in digital transformation.
Interestingly, the Polish market is getting more and more inquiries about Low Code environments integrated with AI. We are in talks with clients from the food and beverage industry, who are looking for interesting use-case scenarios for such solutions.
All this only confirms Gartner’s forecasts for the Low Code market, which is expected to grow from about $15 billion five years ago to as much as $50 billion in the next 2-3 years. There is a market for this, including in Poland.
What new competencies related to the Low Code approach are needed to effectively use this approach?
As a provider, we deliver the platform, help build the first application and support the local team. This may be the beginning of the road to launching their own Low Code competency center, but we can see that Polish companies are not interested in maintaining emerging applications in-house. Therefore, a large team or special competence is not needed.
In the beginning, all you need is an experienced programmer who knows the architecture and one or two developers at even junior level. Practice shows that after a few months they will be able to deliver and maintain applications on their own, de facto replacing a whole sizeable software department.
Efficiency, which is the hallmark of Low Code, has two faces. On the one hand, it is definitely a greater speed of application delivery, and on the other, a much greater ease of maintaining multiple applications by even a single programmer.