Programmer by himself - author's column by Pavel Ershov

27 May 2021

Freesoft continues its column "Author's Columns". In this article, Pavel Ershov, the founder and president of Directual, explains how the market of corporate IT is changing with the arrival of low-code platforms. Spoiler: the release of the open cloud version of the Directual platform in autumn will allow almost every user to create complex digital products not only from ready-made blocks, like Lego.

The time of rapid response is probably the way to define the situation in which the whole world and every individual business live today. For IT solutions, on which businesses are built, this means this: in the era of digital transformation, demand for them will increasingly depend on their adaptability. Companies will have to be more and more flexible, and respond to market changes several times more often than before, and unfold their business processes by almost 180 degrees - and IT systems must keep up with these changes.

Can IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and other IT-monsters' corporate products be quickly reconfigured?

Theoretically, yes, but practically, it requires months of programmers' work and millions of lines of code each time. Hence the explosive growth of low-code products is understandable. It is an explosion; Forrester Research predicts that the low-code market is growing at about 40% a year and will reach $21.2 billion by 2022.

For businesses, the speed of change today is literally a matter of life and death, confirms Paulo Rosada, head of OutSystems, one of the top 10 developers of low-code. Every day we learn about companies that either died or went out of business because they couldn't adapt quickly enough to the market. For example, launching their online store quickly. And low-code allows you to get a digital solution much faster and outpace your competitors.

What are the advantages of low-code platforms?

In brief - in simplification and acceleration of development, and subsequent adaptation to business needs. The skill of coding and, accordingly, the services of programmers are required to a minimum. I often use the analogy: you do not need to be a qualified mechanic to drive a car, it is the same here.

What to look for when choosing a low-code product provider for a company:

1. Reputation. The vendor should have a proven track record of successful implementation of their platform.

2. Functionality. Each low-code platform usually covers a specific area. For example, small business or enterprise environments. Make your choice with your goals in mind.

3. Simplicity and usability. It's not just about the user interface. Choose a vendor that offers training during implementation and good support afterwards.

4. Sharing. Look for a low-code platform that allows not only the individual user to use its applications, but also a team of employees.

5. Integration. Better if the low-code platform you choose can work together with applications you already use in the company.

What can you quickly do with low-code tools?

- Create internal applications. They help improve your company's core functions - HR, sales/marketing, and financial reporting.

- Create client applications. And quite sophisticated, with rich user experience, security, and mobile capabilities.

- Replace legacy applications. Many companies' IT environments retain huge swaths of old code. With low-code, these systems can be upgraded to meet modern requirements.

Take our Directual platform as an example. In essence, we've removed backend programmers and devops administrators from the development process. Integration, data storage, and processing scenarios are all locked away "under the hood." The logic of the IT-system is adjusted not by programmers, but by business analysts (in the West they are called citizen-developers) with the help of universal visual tools created by us. With a minimum of manual programming, as if you are assembling Lego cubes.

As a result, the speed of development increases manifold, the chance of bugs is reduced (all elements are tested many times) and flexibility of the system increases, and therefore the ability to adapt to changes.

Thus, the platform allows you to save on the services of IT-specialists and quickly create IT-products. One of our clients was losing several million rubles every month on sub-optimal logistics. We created a solution in three weeks that helped eliminate those losses. Without the Directual platform, such a system would have taken three to four months to program.

In Russia, the potential of low-code was one of the first companies to see the potential of MTS, which became our first major client in 2016. We created an auction trading platform for them and, in addition to money for further development, earned real experience that allowed us to bring the Directual platform up to the level of serious corporate IT in terms of functionality, reliability, and security. After our successful work with MTS, the IT service of PIK, the largest construction company in the country, became interested in the product. For them we have created a document builder based on our platform, which has several times speeded up the work of the legal department of this developer.

It is now clear that PIK is the future "gold standard" for business. In particular, Tejas Gadhia, the "evangelist" of the Zoho platform, believes that low-code solutions will become the main working tool and will become part of the current "standard set": email, chat, text editor, spreadsheet, presentation wizard, which is commonly used by any company employee. In this we see our mission: with the help of the low-code platform to give more people the opportunity to create digital products themselves. That is why we are preparing a release in the fall - the public cloud Directual with a free access version.