Low-code development platforms are software development tools that allow users to build applications using visual, template-driven interfaces. Low-code platforms present key application development concepts at a higher level of abstraction, so users require little to no knowledge of traditional programming languages. The combination of drag-and-drop for common concepts with a way to “open up the code” and make “out-of-the-box” adjustments or connect to more complicated functionality makes them a desirable option in the broader digital business landscape.
Stratascale views low-code development platforms as existing within a broader ecosystem of productivity tools and platforms, all of which are aimed at making it easier for a wider range of people to deliver digital business capabilities for themselves, their departments, and their enterprises.
Development platforms fall on a spectrum based on the level of programming expertise they require of their users. Stratascale has grouped these platforms into ‘no-code’, ‘low-code’, and ‘pro-code’. All these development platforms share a common goal: to improve the ability to create custom business functionality in support of digital transformation and increased digital agility.
|Accelerators||No Code Platforms||Low Code Platforms||Code generators, SDKs, and libraries|
|Typical use case||Knowledge workers improve productivity for themselves and their immediate teammates||Junior developers create internal applications for business units||Professional developers compose enterprise-wide systems that create a business advantage|
|Scope of app||Personal & Team||Departmental||Enterprise|
|Business workflows||Best suited for simple workflows||Ideal for sequential and standardized workflows||Best suited for proprietary workflows|
|Integrations||Simple integrations possible||Standard API integrations can be done||Proprietary integrations require pro-code|
|Customizability||Constrained||Unique configurations||Customization and extensions|
Enterprises should look to the particular use cases to determine which kind of platform is most appropriate. They should also look to standardize around as few development platforms as possible so as to maximize efficiency and reduce complexity.
In this report, we will separate some of the hype from the value and help you plan low-code rapid application development as part of your digital agility roadmap.
Low-code platforms can help increase speed, improve efficiency, lead to higher quality, and reduce risk. To address various business challenges, vendors are positioning themselves differently in the marketplace. Here are criteria that help you evaluate your options.
Digital agility: The current talent shortage is overloading existing software developers’ plates, and many organizations are forced to get by with fewer developers. In some use cases, low-code platforms can ameliorate this talent shortage problem by making it easier and more efficient to build apps. When looking for a low-code platform, map skill requirements to your current staff abilities.
Change management: Applications need to scale across the enterprise and be easy to maintain. Platforms often come with professional best practices baked in. Decision makers who are evaluating low-code platforms’ change management capabilities may want to begin by examining their existing software development best practices and considering or planning their desired future state.
Customer experience: Organizations face the challenge of accelerating the development of applications for customer use (not just for internal employee use). Customer-facing applications call for customizable design and styling to support your branding and user experience strategies. When evaluating low-code platforms in the customer experience space, organizations should place high value on the quality of user interfaces created by the platform.
Integration: Many other technology pieces (other systems, legacy apps, data silos, etc.) must fit in the bigger digital business puzzle for enterprises. Organizations need to consider the larger ecosystem around their low-code platform — therefore, their platform choice might be dictated more by the ecosystem that it is a part of (such as ServiceNow or Microsoft) than its features.
Low-code tools allow enterprises to take advantage of advanced technologies like machine learning and Internet of Things, which would otherwise be out of reach or require large, dedicated development teams.
Internet of Things, commonly referred to as IoT, refers to traditionally “dumb” devices (such as kitchen appliances) that now have compute and network connectivity.
IoT allows organizations to connect and harness data from several sources to make actionable insights for their business. McKinsey predicts that by 2030, IoT “could enable $5.5 trillion to $12.6 trillion in value globally.” Low-code platforms will undoubtedly play an integral role in the future of IoT, as they enable the rapid development of IoT software and applications.
IoT development is typically a complex process because it incorporates inputs from several different, unrelated sources. Low-code enables the quick connection and analysis of IoT data.
The inclusion of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) features in low-code platforms can assist in generating code, optimizing workflows, and integrating data. Some low-code platforms operate smarter by integrating ML model configurations that make suggestions as developers build applications, and by automating the integration of an AI model into an application.
Low-code platforms can also be used to create proof of concepts (PoCs) without pouring too many resources into their development. After demonstrating the prototype’s business value, developers can then create a fully customized application with traditional coding methods.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Business Process Automation (BPA), API orchestration, AI and ML, and customer software development are all associated with the buzzword “hyperautomation.” The term holistic automation encompasses the integration of these technologies. Organizations would benefit from including low-code platforms in a larger holistic automation strategy.
In the chart below, we present a variety of categories, encompassing different attributes of low-code platforms. We encourage readers to consult the chart for help narrowing down vendor options for further exploration.
The first factor to consider when looking at vendors is the longevity and support of the platform. You should be thinking about the vendor’s financial position and their commitment to the platform, because your business applications will be directly relying on the existence of the platform you build them in.
We ranked each vendor by the following categories:
a. Ease of development: good documentation, secure by design, pre-built templates, and easy to test.
b. User interface: intuitive to navigate and straightforward processes.
c. Ecosystem: the platform is part of a larger family of products.
d. Advanced technology: supports leveraging emerging technology (such as AI, ML, and IoT) within your applications.
e. Platform scalability: the ability of the platform to integrate with external services.
Overview: “We founded Mendix to solve our personal frustration with the complexity of custom software development, which is siloed, slow and consistently fails to deliver intended business results. We believed deeply we had to fundamentally reimagine and elevate the traditional roles played by Business and IT teams in the app development process. In a world hyper-obsessed with inputs and processes, we wanted to create a new way so teams could rapidly and continuously translate their ideas into real business value. So we created an app platform that allows your whole organization to participate and collaborate in the application development process, enabling you to unleash your best ideas quickly with software.”
Funding: $38 million
All-in-one Low-code Platform
Create better software faster by abstracting and automating the development process with Mendix, the all-in-one low-code platform.
Overview: PowerApps empowers both citizen developers in the business, that feel at home visually wiring applications together, as well as professional developers that are eager to jump into writing code. Microsoft Flow automates workflows between apps and services to manage approvals, synchronize files, collect data, and more. The Common Data Service an enterprise-grade data platform built into the Power Platform that includes rich business logic, security models, and developer extensibility. In addition, Power BI provides robust business analytics and data visualization.
Funding: Not applicable.
Capabilities: Microsoft defines PowerApps as a “low-code tool with helpful prebuilt templates and drag-and-drop tools.” It’s a part of their Power Platform, which combines low-code app development, workflow automation, AI bot development, and data analytics. It’s also natively compatible with Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics 365. Many organizations already pay for this and therefore don’t need to spend an extra dime to build quality low-code applications for their enterprise.
Enterprise IT platform
Overview: Appian is a low-code automation platform for building enterprise software applications, faster. They help you automate and transform your business by creating new apps from scratch, or by connecting and enhancing legacy applications – all up to 20X faster than traditional development. With Appian, you get the speed of low-code development with the power of intelligent automation in one trusted and unified cloud platform.
Funding: $10 million
Full-stack automation. A fully unified platform delivering the right technology for the right job. Only Appian natively unites all the capabilities required to deliver impactful, end-to-end processes across your organization. Now you can build more powerful apps and dramatically increase productivity.
Data anywhere. Unify your data into a single interface with zero-code integrations—not migrations. Get the flexibility you need to bring data together from across your organization into a single interface, so action can be taken when and where it’s needed. You control your data. No migration, no lock-ins, and no transaction or storage fees.
Low-code. Develop and deploy up to 20x faster. Drive innovation at unprecedented speeds. We don’t just say it, we guarantee it. Design apps with a mouse click, using reusable components to build quickly. Our apps run even the most mission-critical and complex processes.
Overview: The Pega low-code factory approach allows anyone to develop enterprise apps. Business users, developers, and IT are able to collaborate, innovate, and deliver critical applications from one inclusive environment – so organizations can build apps faster and smarter.
Funding: Not applicable
Build quickly: Achieve incredible value fast.
Automate intelligently: Bridge gaps and transform processes.
Scale with confidence: Stay in control of your future.
Key features of Pega Robotic Process Automation:
Award-winning case management and BPM for continuous operational excellence.
Additional Product Features:
Overview: Tray.io provides a cloud-based software integration platform for automators. Tray.io believes that any organization can and should automate. With the Tray Platform, citizen automators throughout organizations can easily automate complex processes through a powerful, flexible platform, and can connect their entire cloud stack thanks to APIs.
Funding: $95.57 million
Gain flexibility to make anything possible: Like snowflakes, no two processes are alike. They deserve the flexibility of the Tray Platform, which lets you configure the most complex workflows, integrate any application, and add customized logic for strategic competitive advantage.
Make a deep connection with any web service:
What’s your first move? Authenticate securely, quickly:
Powerful enough for enterprise: The Tray Platform gives power users the flexibility to integrate apps and automate processes using preferred languages and tools.
Re-invent processes with flexible logical operators:
Dev friendly capabilities:
Scalable for mission-critical processes: Never outgrow the Tray Platform. Build on an enterprise-ready platform and never incur switching costs.
The Tray Platform is built to scale:
Coming from a background in conducting original ethnographic research, Mary-Kate brings a humanities lens to the technology she writes about. She’s passionate about using her background in primary and secondary research to bring innovative solutions to clients in both the digital experience and automation spaces. Outside of work, Mary-Kate enjoys both traveling and hiking.