Organisations want to launch new technology capabilities that will rapidly deliver a competitive edge. Unfortunately, project backlogs and multiple priorities often slow the pace of innovation. Overworked and understaffed IT teams often compound this problem, resulting in employee turnover that makes it even harder for businesses to retain the best and brightest IT staff.
Ultimately, the cycle of pressing priorities and strained IT resources leads to a skills gap that causes many companies to lag behind.
And integration is central to this issue. These days organisations need to be extremely agile in how they integrate their applications and data to drive digital transformation. The volume and diversity of integrations necessary for running a digital business are growing exponentially. Social, mobile, analytics, big data, IoT and AI technologies all require integration into core business systems.
And integration is fundamental for any organisation that wants to modernize its legacy systems and move to the cloud.
But the traditional approach of hand-coding integrations has become a major obstacle to digital transformation. Hand-coding can take months of costly and resource-intensive work. It diverts IT from focusing on genuine innovations that deliver operational efficiencies, new systems of engagement, and better customer experiences. Also, hand-coding introduces maintenance complications down the road.
In situations where organisations use legacy middleware, like an ETL (extract, transform, load) tool or enterprise service bus (ESB), a lot of time (years even!), resources, and specialised skills are required to make these complex on-premise systems work. And these old tools often lack native connectivity to the cloud applications that are vital to business today.
But there is a clear way forward for companies that want to embrace digital transformation. Rethinking how integrations are built and maintained now requires a low-code approach. With low code, organisations can dramatically improve productivity and deliver integrations at the speed of business.
The Emergence of Low Code
Low code is a hot topic across the IT landscape. The term “low code” has gain traction over the past year as businesses focus on becoming more agile and developing a culture of working smarter rather than harder.
Low code describes an approach to application and integration development that minimises or eliminates manual coding. In a low-code environment, developers utilise prepackaged templates and drag-and-drop tools in a visual interface to configure applications and integrations much faster than hand-coding.
“The overall benefit to low-code environments is speed,” according to an assessment from 451 Research. “In general, organisations can shave 50–90 percent off development time vs. using a coding language.”
Given this benefit, it is no surprise that vendors such as Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft and others tout low-code capabilities in their offerings to appeal to time- and skill-stretched organisations. Dozens of other low-code tools and platforms are now entering the market to address an array of software and IT challenges.
Questions About Low Code
Dell Boomi pioneered low-code integration when we introduced the world’s first cloud-native integration platform as a service (iPaaS) in 2007. Even a decade ago, we understood the challenges organisations were facing with traditional integration tools. This is why today organisations are turning to Boomi’s low-code environment to eliminate traditional development obstacles and accelerate digital transformation.
Business and IT leaders can see the benefits of the configure-not-code approach to integration. However, within dev ops teams, questions often arise around the skill sets and team sizes needed to support something like Boomi iPaaS.
This is because some dev ops teams can feel uncomfortable with a low-code approach. They might perceive it as a threat to job security, and they are naturally comfortable with what they know, including their skills and traditional ways of software development.
They can fear that low-code integration opens the door for non-technical “citizen integrators” to build connectivity with no IT involvement, rendering developers obsolete. But this is just the opposite of what low code brings to developers.
Certainly, a shift in mind-set is required to see that a low-code environment frees up developers’ time and allows them to focus on higher-level design and strategy, as well as move far faster to complete more projects.
Hence, low code lets organisations and project stakeholders evolve to a more efficient production model while improving the employee experience. This, in turn, makes it easier for a business to provide a better experience for customers and partners. In this way, a low-code approach drives benefits throughout an organisation.
A Focus on Strategic IT
There’s no shortage of IT work at most organisations. And considering that the average mobile app has a lifespan of about 45 days, it’s clear that IT teams can’t afford to spend two months custom-coding integrations between apps and back-end systems.
Mobile apps are just one example. I’ve seen a number of IT organisations with dozens or hundreds of integration projects in the pipeline to support such business areas as customer relationship management (CRM), financial reporting, omnichannel commerce and more.
Getting those integrations built, tested and deployed faster and more cost-effectively puts the business ahead of competitors who are laboring for months with point-to-point coding. Business is simply moving too fast for development methods that drain time and resources.
Rather than posing a threat to developer job security, the citizen integrator concept promotes up-front collaboration between business and IT. It allows IT and business to walk in step with each other. That ensures requirements are met without long waterfall project timelines.
Low code gives semi-technical business people a degree of self-service, but it still falls on IT to guide integration projects and take the lead in setting strategy, vetting designs, and testing implementations.
Eliminating Maintenance Nightmares
Finally, low code delivers significant downstream benefits. In the custom-coding world, developers can build code hundreds of different ways to deliver the same result. When the developer who coded an integration moves on to a new job, the organisation often has little insight into how the integration was built.
If that integration breaks or needs modification, someone else needs to unravel the code and figure out how it works. At some organisations, integration maintenance become an ongoing nightmare until the IT team adopted Boomi and gained visibility and clarity into their integrations.
A low-code iPaaS approach radically simplifies maintenance. Developers have a common, easily understood interface that requires no specialised expertise in a particular programming language. This makes troubleshooting or modifying an integration far easier and faster. Everyone is speaking the same language.
Rather than holding on to old software development models, it’s time for dev ops and their organisations to embrace low code as a way to build integrations at the speed of business.
About the author
Venkata Narra is a solutions consultant based in Australia for Dell Boomi which is a member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of out readers. Membership fees apply.