Written by Nick Pike, OutSystems VP of UK and Ireland
The first industrial revolution (1700-1800s) was, by any measure, a massive leap forward in history.
At the heart of almost every invention in the period was a desire to do something faster and better than before, something we are seeing now at the early stages of what the World Economic Forum calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is the period whereby we extend the Third Industrial Revolution (aka, the Digital Revolution), and begin developing new digital technology to change business processes and alter our social interactions.
Disruptive technology levels the playing field
When the steam locomotive went commercial, the impact was massive. Suddenly, information was able to reach far distances at unthinkable speed. Raw materials, previously unavailable to many, were now obtainable, and people could safely travel from one place to another for business or pleasure.
Low-code may not have the exact effect, but low-code application development does the same ability to disrupt. Small businesses are harnessing low-code’s ability to build powerful apps that integrate with and outperform enterprise legacy systems. When they then deploy them in a software as a service (SaaS) model, they force large organizations to rethink how they do business.
Let’s put it this way: Sure, you’ll eventually reach your destination if you continue to use the equivalent of outdated covered-wagon caravans and employ a global team of drivers, stable hands, gunslingers, and carpenters. But you’ll have to consider the time the expedition takes, the management of a large team, and the security risks. Alternatively, you can buy a train, hire an engineer to drive it, and be done with it, which allows you to be concerned with future destinations as opposed to whether you’ll make it to your present one. See, the terminus is the same, but the vehicle getting you there opens the market to anyone with a great idea.
Data: API-ness is the truth
Those great ideas today revolve around coming up with creative ways to use the vast amounts of data every human generates simply by interacting with the world. We all have data in spades, and we all produce at least as much data as we consume, but it’s useless without being tagged, bagged, and, more importantly, shared. Despite the conglomerates gatekeeping so much of our personal data, there is still plenty of untapped legacy data in storage. There are few organisations that wouldn’t benefit from accessing and leveraging a little more of it.
Enter APIs. APIs are the locomotion of modern times (the Internet being the tracks). With them, we can monetise our existing data, access others’ data, and share information for the simple purpose of improving our understanding of the world. However, global commerce—the goal of most software apps and systems—is not easy. Application development using traditional programming languages is even more difficult.
Whether you are building a B2C app and exploiting publicly available web services or building a private blockchain that needs secure communication access in and out of your systems, APIs are the link that unlocks the value of data. Using built-in APIs—like those offered by the OutSystems platform—makes it easy for developers to manage integration without having to write time-consuming custom code. A business requirement that would take longer than six months (and maybe even years) to see the light of day can be completed in a few weeks. This significantly reduces time and effort, and it eliminates errors.
Easy integration—bearing the weight of history
The ability to integrate new applications seamlessly with legacy systems and databases is critical. In contrast with earlier industrial revolutions, businesses today are not starting with a blank canvas. Instead, a weight of historical investment in technology and systems can act as an anchor dragging on the speed of progress; ignore it at your peril! While speed might be your primary driver for adopting low-code, you don’t want to find your project stumbling due to integration issues.
Therefore, if you are looking for a low-code or no-code development platform, integration, as a checkbox, might not be on your list of things to consider. However, it should be. For organisations that want to externalise their systems into a SaaS model, it is crucial, both in the cloud and at the enterprise level. It’s important enough that Gartner evaluates it in its Magic Quadrant for High-Productivity Application Platform as a Service vendors.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
High-productivity low-code platforms have the potential to speed up the rate of change significantly, helping to drive the fourth industrial revolution. But, the applications they create must effectively stand on the shoulders of the technology that has gone before, unlocking the power from legacy databases and integrating easily with internal and external legacy systems. That way we can get the train on the right tracks and heading firmly in the direction of a future where everyone with a great idea has free rein to innovate and advance the way we live and do business.