Low-code breathes new life into legacy software packages

Written by Aad van Schetsen, International Channel Manager at Thinkwise

Many established software package vendors and ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) are looking for new development tools with which to modernize their software. While the technology is often outdated, these packages are usually very complete in terms of functionality. Users are eagerly awaiting a version with a modern GUI, cloud deployment and support for Windows, web and mobile. Low-code seems to be the most sustainable and fastest solution to resolve this issue. But how do you select the most suitable development platform?

Technologies come and go and this means that the choices you make today eventually become outdated. For example, development environments such as Uniface and Progress were extremely popular during the 1990s, but now they can no longer match up to modern development platforms. They continue to fall behind in their support for mobile devices, web interfaces, modern APIs and cloud deployment. Furthermore, the speed of development is far too slow compared with what you can achieve with modern low-code platforms today. Low-code software-development has greatly increased in popularity during the past six years, mainly because it enables you to build software applications very quickly. But is low-code also suitable to allow ISVs to modernize their often extremely comprehensive software packages? The answer is ‘yes’, but the software vendor must closely examine which low-code platform is the most suitable for their application, which often has a large number of function points and tables.

Low-code for core systems

Amongst all the various no-code and front-end low-code platforms that are available, the ‘low-code for core systems’ variant is the most robust. You can build very complex and comprehensive business critical applications with more than 10,000 function points, thousands of tables and thousands of users. These are low-code solutions that you, as an ISV or package vendor, can rely on and develop software that always remains technologically up to date. However: there are a number of important conditions and requirements.

Vendor lock-in

No matter which low-code development platform you choose for your application, the danger of vendor lock-in is always present. After all, you are placing the future of your company in the hands of an external vendor. How do you know whether the continued existence of this company is guaranteed? And to what extent will there be continued development of this platform? And what about the license fees and those for your customers?

Certainty about a company’s future is difficult to predict, but you can ask questions about their current customers, about their growth and how long they have been in business. When considering the sustainability of the development platform, you can make an assessment on the basis of the openness and flexibility of the platform. It is vitally important that the platform provides as much support as possible for open programming languages, such as SQL, .NET, Java and Python. Each low-code platform naturally has its own model and methodology, but the fact that you can define crucial business rules and specific functionality in one or more of these languages, considerably reduces the risks of vendor lock-in.

Open API

Another important requirement is that the platform can be easily linked to external systems by means of open APIs. In this way applications can be effortlessly combined with other solutions and even act as a central hub between these applications and tools.

Research agencies like Gartner expect that in the coming years, on average, organizations will use 4 to 5 different development tools to satisfy their application requirements. Low-code platforms, which can be easily integrated with other systems, will be the most suitable solution for the long-term.

Graphical upgrades

A last requirement for a suitable low-code platform that I want to highlight is the exchangeability of the graphical user interface technology. This graphical component is a fixed element of many low-code platforms and it is not easy to upgrade to a more modern option. If, as an ISV, you want to provide a solution for your customers that will stand the test of time, then select a low-code platform where the process model is disconnected from the underlying technology. This enables the low-code vendor to periodically renew all elements of the platform, including the graphical user-interface. Your application could then be easily provided with a new user interface without additional coding or other major modifications to the low-code model.

By using a low-code platform for core systems, which satisfies these properties, your software application can flexibly adapt to new technological developments and will always be compatible with all devices and screen formats that are current at that time. In addition, you can rapidly deliver new functionality, because the development process will be at least a factor of 10 faster. These are sustainable benefits for the ISV, but more essentially they are a major bonus for the users of the product.

If you want to know more about low code development for software vendors check out the webinar.

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