What is a ‘Low Code’ Development Platform?

Low code development platforms enable ‘lite’ business applications to be written quickly by less experienced software developers. Low code development platforms achieve this trick by providing graphical configurators that shelter the developer from the challenge of dealing with ‘real’ code.

What does ‘lite’ mean? ‘Lite’ means anything other than large scale transaction processing, such as ERP – these are typically departmental systems like case management or applications that are designed to be self-evident and used on an occasional basis by many people within an organisation – like purchase requisitioning.

Low code isn’t new. Early examples have existed underneath a number of business applications to enable easy customisation of these applications. C/AL that underpinned Navision was, arguably, one early example. Many companies used early versions of Microsoft CRM as a low code platform – developing any number of interesting solutions – from Student Record Systems to asset tracking systems that manage fighter planes and tanks. However, it took Salesforce and their Lightning platform to bring low code development out from the shadows to really create a new category, at which point the market really hotted up.

Microsoft quickly gave chase with their Power Apps platform. Amazon have seen the threat and have just launched Honeycode. This morning I was quietly drinking my coffee and heard something called ‘Appypie’ being advertised on Sky News.

There are other more established vendors – Mendix, Pega, Appian, Outsystems amongst them – all of which have mature products that have been around for a while. However, I’d suggest that this will be a three or four horse race. Lining up in the stalls are:

  • Salesforce with Lightning
  • Microsoft with Power Apps
  • Amazon with Honeycode
  • Oracle with Apex/VBCS

Who will win? No single vendor will own the market. The addressable market is huge. There will be more than enough room for a number of vendors to be successful. Competition will be intense. Vendors will spend lots of time and money making their case. Customers should not allow themselves to be confused.

  • The cost of a low code development platform is less relevant than the cost of the professional services required to make great use of it.
  • The cost of the professional services required is directly related to the extent to which skilled resources are widely available.
  • The number of days professional services required is directly related to the range and capability of pre-packaged connectors to other applications.

It is on this basis that we think Microsoft and Power Apps are well placed.

Microsoft has a very large public cloud platform (Azure), business applications (Dynamics 365), personal productivity apps (Office) and a very large partner community with 1,000s of staff to exist to serve small to mid-size business (SMB).

As for the others, Amazon has a very large public cloud platform (AWS) and a fast-developing channel of SMB partners. Salesforce has some business apps and a limited SMB channel. Oracle has business apps and almost no SMB channel.

Whilst Amazon, Salesforce and Oracle all can and do integrate their low code platforms with Microsoft Office – nobody does this as well as Microsoft.