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9 Critical Capabilities of the Best Low-Code Platforms

The popularity of low-code development platforms is growing year to year. Many corporations recognize these types of platforms as a perfect fit for the needs of their business. The cost of application development is significantly reduced while the process of software creation is accelerated many times over.

Gartner interviewed the top managers of companies that use low-code platforms (LCAP) and found that 95% of them are ‘highly satisfied’ with the services of low-code platforms and the possibilities they bring.

In our last article, “How to choose the right low-code software vendor for your business” we described the ways to choose the right low-code platform for your business. Today, we want to go beyond vendors and have a deeper dive into the capabilities of low-code application platforms. 

In its report, “Critical Capabilities for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms”, Gartner reviewed the 19 best low-code application development platforms and named nine critical capabilities, which should correspond to the best low-code vendors. We have compiled all of the most popular features and explained which standards low-code platforms should comply with.

What does “critical capabilities” mean?

Let’s start by figuring out what critical capabilities are.

Critical capabilities are distinctive features of products or services, their specific qualities and performance standards.

The Gartner Сritical Сapabilities report 2019 defines critical capabilities as a set of low-code development platformsfunctionality and the criterion for deciding whether to buy their license. 

The nine Gartner Critical Capabilities of 2019

1. App development without coding

One of the main critical capabilities for the low-code application development platform is the ability to develop without code. Almost all low-code platforms contain the necessary functionality for both professional and citizen developers. Some platforms even go further: they provide the necessary low-code functions for web studios.

Main features that support the best low-code platforms:

  • Support for various development styles (case-management-style applications, “model-driven” and “canvas app” approaches).
  • Development assistance functions (drag-and-drop approach, the possibility of apps ’reuse, strong low-code tooling, tooling for test automation and application analysis, proprietary expression language). 
  • Application components (libraries of possible activities, templates, process analytics, app accelerators).
  • Support for the development ecosystem (creation of simple departmental database apps, design of complex data interactions with PL/SQL extensions, AI-assisted development, support for multiple personas, the possibility to store in external repositories).
  • Easy to expand.
  • Descriptions of business logic and technological processes.

2. Unlimited third-party integration

Advanced low-code platforms support integration with local and cloud services via API and data sharing. This is one of the basic requirements for low-code platforms.

Today, call-in and call-out API access is a mandatory requirement for a corporate low-code platform. It is also important that the platform ensures that integration management and control.

Low-code platforms are constantly developing integration capabilities and pay particular attention to simplifying this process.

3. End-user experience comes first

Another one of the most important critical capabilities of low-code platforms is the creation of attractive and convenient mobile and web interfaces.

Some low-code platforms provide the basic capabilities for creating UI, while others allow you to create first-class interfaces.

Advanced low-code platforms add additional features to improve user interfaces:

  • support for mobile and web applications,
  • different mobile OS support,
  • smartwatch UI support,
  • chatbots,
  • interactive voice response (IVR),
  • customized UI frameworks,
  • predefined UI templates,
  • graphic designers,
  • Firebase for real-time displays support,
  • progressive web app (PWA) output,
  • face ID and fingerprint authentication support.

4. Business logic and app design process support

The best low-code platforms support the business logic of tasks and diverse processes within applications. For this, low-code development platforms provide such functionality as:

  • graphical screen flows,
  • input validation rules,
  • offline mode support with numerous synchronization patterns,
  • offline mobile usage for field operations,
  • design guidance for developers,
  • missing updates detection,
  • a set of controls and components to build UX,
  • declarative expression language based on Excel,
  • custom business logic and processes.

5. Back-end data, business logic & processes

Low-code platforms are unique because they automate business processes by supporting back-end data, business logic, and business processes. Many use cases of low-code platforms also include access to corporate databases and the ability to update them.

To support internal data, low-code development platforms provide:

  • a process flow designer,
  • scripted business logic support,
  • import of structures from other sources,
  • graphical schema design support,
  • processes division into microflows,
  • complex business processes through BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation),
  • Decision Model and Notation (DMN) support,
  • a process and data designer,
  • predefined application schema templates,
  • accelerators for data design including Excel import,
  • relational model designer.

6. Enterprise Systems Development Lifecycle (SDLC) support

Advanced low-code platforms are distinguished by the fact that they support mixed low-code apps and work with various software development lifecycle management tools.

Low-code providers must constantly take care of their platforms. They should update them, introduce new necessary functionality, software components and templates.

To meet SDLC support requirements, companies provide:

  • proprietary project management tools,
  • DevOps deployment support,
  • predefined dashboards to review development quality and test results,
  • frameworks that allow for the creation and scheduling of automation test suits,
  • the possibility to integrate to third-party systems (e.g. Jira),
  • APIs to access internal services and data,
  • possibility to automatically export app definitions and retain them in Git,
  • support of different types of code repositories (e.g. GitHub).

7. Advanced architecture support

An integral attribute of every leading low-code platform is its advanced architecture support.
Low-code platforms allow users to perform simple workflows while working on apps. This is a program assembly, data extraction, and adherence to business logic.

However, some business areas have much higher requirements and need to handle event flows, build IoT connectivity, connect cloud architectures, provide complex API interactions, and use machine learning.

Today, the best low-code platforms are starting to provide such advanced solutions to help users access even more functionality.

8. Cloud functions

All the best low-code platforms provide scalability of systems, as well as the delivery of cloud infrastructure.

To meet high development standards, low-code vendors support: 

  • both on-premises and cloud platform deployments,
  • hybrid servers,
  • multitenancy configurations,
  • SaaS deployment options,
  • scale-up, scale-down and scale-out approaches,
  • auto-scaling.

9. Enterprise-level service

The last, but not least, critical capability for enterprise low-code platforms is support for governance processes, data access, data security, and regulatory compliance.

To comply with these standards, low-code platforms must provide: 

  • authorization,
  • authentication,
  • data encryption,
  • SLA (Service Level Agreement),
  • various certificates.

Conclusion

The Critical Capabilities report by Gartner is just one of the instruments that can help you decide on the right low-code vendor. Don’t stop there, learn more about the vendor you’re going to collaborate with. And be sure to “try on” the functionality of the low-code platform for your business needs.

This article contains the basics of the functionality of low-code platforms, the cornerstone of their productivity. For more details, we highly recommend that you study the original Gartner report in-depth “Critical Capabilities for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms”.

In the next article, we will talk about application development using the low-code system. Stay tuned!


Sergei Artimenia

Director of Business Development

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