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Low-code is rarely a legacy killer

A new report from Forrester about Low-Code Development Platforms for AD&D Professionals shows that 23 percent of developers world-wide were working with low-code platforms in 2018. Another 22 percent indicated that they intend to start using these platforms within the next year. So the future looks bright for low-code development platforms. Unfortunately, many platforms appear unsuitable to replace legacy in a sustainable fashion.

One of the reasons for the increased popularity of low-code is that companies want to deliver software faster, for instance, to improve their internal processes or the services to their customers.

And at the same time, you see that the current suppliers of low-code platforms are removing many of the old limitations and restrictions that used to hinder the adoption of low-code.

Papering over the cracks

However, not all low-code platforms offer a structural solution for the legacy problem. There are, for instance, low-code platforms available in the market that organizations are using to build thousands of apps, which are subsequently linked to their existing legacy ERP system. These apps then serve, as it were, to paper over and solve the limitations of this outdated core system, but the legacy software itself is not replaced. The result is that the core of your IT landscape remains technically outdated and inflexible. An additional disadvantage of these low-code apps is that they also become outdated themselves, which means that in time these “papering over” solutions, will become legacy as well. And this process is continuing to accelerate, especially for front-end technologies. This cannot be the intended goal, as the whole point of using low-code is to remove legacy and make your IT landscape flexible.

Low-code customization?

So, why don’t we replace the core of the problem with low-code? Simply, because the development productivity from commonly used low-code platforms is often too low to achieve this without high costs. It is indeed cheaper than traditional programming, but it is still not a reasonable alternative to configuring and customizing an off the shelf solution. And if you would try to replace a legacy core system with such a low-code platform, then problems will occur, for instance, whenever large-scale modifications are required to the processes, software and interfaces. This is particularly true for larger applications, where a change might lead to modification of hundreds of screens. This is so labour-intensive, that the resulting software often more resembles traditional custom programming, than a flexible low-code foundation for business software.

Phased replacement

A platform that truly lives up to its low-code references, does not result in hundreds of apps that have to be redeveloped every three years. The ideal platform must be able to do more than just create a shell around the legacy. After all, as an organization you want to use as few different software solutions as possible and be able to integrate as many processes as possible into a single low-code environment.

In my opinion, this is what real low-code platforms should be aiming for. By developing software in a model-driven integral manner, you create a flexible foundation for business software that is independent of technology. Incidentally, this foundation does not need to be created in one go. You can also replace the core system in phases. An increasing number of organizations, for example in the manufacturing and logistics sectors, have made the strategic choice to construct their business software and process support in this manner. They are gradually replacing their legacy software by a flexible and modern application landscape, that mainly consists of visual models instead of millions of lines of code.

Forrester Wave

This year, Thinkwise was mentioned for the first time in Forrester’s research. Forrester describes Thinkwise as a solid platform for transactional ‘core’ business applications with web-based user environments. Our unique focus on the modernization of legacy applications was also emphasized in this research. We are extremely proud of this recognition. Forrester expects that in the coming years we will make the transition to Leader, provided that our strategy of transforming from a project-driven organization to a pure low-code platform supplier bears fruit, and that we quickly increase our brand awareness abroad, particularly in Germany and the USA.

If you would like to read the entire Forrester report then please download it here.