Low-code software development is not the right choice for every application or organization. But when the approach is like this, teams need to take certain steps to ensure the implementation goes smoothly.
Low-code tools have become more and more popular in software development. This change can open the floodgates for IT departments to build and maintain their own applications. However, some standard programming practices – like version control, bug tracking, and requirements management – might be too cumbersome or too nuanced for low-code tools.
Businesses need to set some ground rules for how and when to use low-code tools. These rules should apply to everything from staff and tool selection to design processes and code releases to production. These four low-code best practices can help organizations get started.
1. Start small with low-code tools
Before implementing low-code tools and platforms, identify less complex projects that match the potential benefits of low-code. For example, simple, quick-to-win projects—such as those with isolated data—are well suited to this style of development.
Low-code tools typically work with isolated software backed by an internal database. Select a proof of concept that is a real representation of future projects, but a stripped down version. This approach allows you to test low-code tools to ensure they deliver business value before scaling to larger deployments.
Start with no more than two projects at a time, and avoid multiple projects entirely if possible. Once programmers get down to four or more projects, it’s easy to spend so much time switching focus that they basically make no progress at all.
2. Employees by suitability, not by knowledge
Self-taught programmers often struggle with complex applications and dreaded spaghetti code. Low-code tools produce different types of applications, e.g. B. those that have a visual or database representation, with limited code around rules. For example, these rules can be as simple as validating a social security number or predicting a delivery date.
Low-code software tends to have less code than its alternatives and is organized into well-packaged functions. Such applications also perform more isolated functions. Since there is limited code, self-taught programmers are ideally suited. For example, someone from the business side of the organization with limited programming experience might be a good fit for a low-code project.
However, don’t just rely on a self-taught programmer who holds the keys to the realm of low-code tools. A single programmer creates a single point of failure. As another low-code best practice, ensure that at least two people—preferably three—can use the tool and understand the entire build process.
3. Choose tools that support the project complexity
Software tools are designed to address almost every possible problem a technical team encounters. There are tools for planning, bug tracking, continuous rebuilds, and metrics—plus IDEs that bring all of these functions together behind one interface. Your team may or may not need this level of capability.
An important aspect of low-code is integration. Modern applications typically use APIs to communicate and collaborate. For example, a low-code application might have an employee tracking function that needs to communicate with a low-code inventory manager. In this case, the app requires some higher-level tools and features. Likewise, if the IT department has written a traditional inventory manager for this low-code tool to connect, it may make sense to find out the underlying technology and buy a low-code tool from the vendor that supports that architecture was developed.
Another approach is to use a low-code programming tool and then slowly add free, open and cheap software engineering components. For example, if an organization uses a low-code project only once and it requires little maintenance, teams could define requirements with a word processor and track bugs with a spreadsheet.
Decide which tools to pair with low-code applications based on budget and usage. A simple rule of thumb is that projects that require more than one employee or take a year or more likely require more sophisticated tools.
4. Have a clear vision and timeline for low-code projects
When development teams create a project timeline, they want to find a happy medium. You can’t spend a month breaking down every hour’s work on a Gantt chart. And you can’t just give the team general direction with a deadline and hope for the best. Ideally, your IT project management follows the rolling wave planning mindset.
An important low-code best practice is to clearly define the vision for a project. Use previous project schedules to estimate the new project length. Then plan to work in one to three week increments, with demos of the working software at each step. Before the next increment, fully define the current work, plan the next increment – with some wiggle room – and make sure there is a common theme for the following few increments. Also allow some time for refinement, possibly during a 15-minute daily check-in.
The product owner is responsible for the end goal of the software, while the programmers handle the development and implementation. Start with plans to complete the entire project two-thirds with a built-in buffer. Define in a document what is created during each increment. This structure ensures that a project has time to develop and grow, but also sets reasonable deadlines for its final completion. Because low-code development is typically faster than traditional, manual development approaches, it’s possible for teams to complete low-code projects sooner. If this is the case, you should shorten the project steps.
Tips for getting started quickly with low-code tools
Start small with low-code tools. Do this especially for small, technically representative projects. Before you expand into more complex projects, stop to consider and calculate business value. Also avoid the trap of multi-project work.
Personnel according to suitability, not knowledge. Hire and retain employees with a mix of expertise (skills) and traditional computer science skills. And make sure several team members have the necessary know-how; Don’t introduce a single point of failure.
Choose tools that support the project complexity. Be sure to understand an app’s integration requirements to choose an appropriate tool.
Have a clear vision and timeline for low-code projects. Develop a planning strategy that combines easy documentation with room for advancement. And work with IT to create test environments and a robust rollout process. Schedule save points before moving the code to production so you can revert to previous working builds.