Rebuilding Legacy Apps: 6 No-code Must Haves

replacing lotus notes and mainframe applications

Replacing Legacy Apps (Mainframe Apps, Lotus Notes, Custom) with No Code Platforms

Many organizations are looking to give a face lift or do a full replacement on their legacy applications.  This can be a daunting task, especially when confronted with the costs for a full rewrite.  I am seeing more and more organizations using low/no code platforms to accelerate the process, reduce costs and leverage existing data assets.  When looking at no code, there are some key requirements, “must haves”, and below is a quick list:

Adaptable Data and Integration Layer – providing no-code integration with an existing set of data is a critical requirement.  You should have a broad set of existing integrations that you can leverage immediately to jump-start your project.  An example?  Last month we worked with a large law firm looking to replace a custom built set of applications to run their firm.  All the data was housed in SQL, and they leverage several tables and stored procedures.  With smartobject technology, the integration was point and shoot, with the table structure and SPs being auto-discovered and available in the designer immediately.   Want to move the data to a newer line of business system?  Having a selection of SQL, Oracle, DB2, and many others can help you rebuild or redesign a data layer quickly.

Data Integration Software
Smartobject Integration Layer

Flexible Web-based UI – With the broad range of devices workers leverage today to complete tasks, applications need to work on desktops/laptops, phones and tablets.  Building an app that can span all these devices can be challenging.  Leveraging a platform that can provide a responsive, modern web-based foundation can eliminate work, and the requirement to build separate UI for each independent device.  The UI needs to be standalone, and able to deliver without a dependent technology.

Mobile Apps No Code
Mobile Adaptability is Key

UI Rules Engine – the ability to build rules based on form or user interface actions can help with automating data entry, provide seamless integration with line of business systems, and create a dynamic, responsive user experience.  In addition, this can be key in mobile development where managing the limited real estate with regards to screen size and usability is paramount.  The ability to do all of this without code can save days or weeks from build time.  This functionality can also deliver validation,  and prevent the entry of bad data.  An example would be a triggered data pull from multiple back-end systems when a  field is toggled.

Rules for web forms
Dynamic Form-based Rules

Business Logic Process Engine – having an engine behind the scenes that can coordinate the flow of information, control human to system interaction and perform process automation is a critical facet.  Some key items here include: automatic assignment of actions based on directory hierarchy (Active Directory/LDAP), “flow” based rules to control branching, and complex workflow pattern capability.  Example: the automatic routing of an inbound referral based on a specific UI field.

Business Process Rules Engine
Control Flow with Rules

Reporting/Dashboard Components – pre-built reporting components that tap into specific app data and process information can accelerate the process of gleaning insight from application activities and events.  Typically, these components are just easily accessible modules within the web UI, and can be instantly added via the design interface.  In addition, support for embedding 3rd party reports is necessary to facilitate and all in one report experience.

Application Reporting Dashboards
Pre-built Reporting Controls

Complete SDK – no matter how many features you add to a “no-code” platform, there are still requirements for the extension of the platform.  A framework for extending the UI, the data layer and process engine are required, as well as a well-formed method for tapping into these using custom code, or other applications.

SDK for bpm
Extensible No Code Platform

Just a quick set of “must haves” when looking at platforms to rebuild you legacy apps.  Thoughts?

BPA Platform Value: The Before

No-code Platforms Deliver Rapid Returns

This is the first in a series of posts that will present the benefit and value across 3 distinct phases of the BPA Value chain: before, during and after.  Let’s start with the “before”, or the phase from idea inception to deployment, or really the solution development.

It might seem to be quite obvious the value and benefits no-code business app platforms , obviously no-code implies speed to production.

That’s true, but I think its necessary to take a deeper look at how BPA can transform solution delivery.  IT departments today are becoming custom dev shops, and when you look at any of the top business platforms today (Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, SharePoint) they meet a decent percentage of an organizations needs, but there is always customization required.  Those projects can be complex, and require substantial investments in both dollars and time.

No code Business Application
The IT Project Logjam

So, how can no-code App Platforms help?

With core components that can be leveraged by dev and IT all together, or as separate building blocks for specific purposes.  These building blocks are:

  • Integration (smartobjects)
  • UI (forms)
  • Workflow
  • Reports
Business Process Application Components
BPA Building blocks: Forms, Workflow, Data and Reports

An example would be K2’s data integration layer, or smartobjects, which allow configuration-based integration to all your line of business systems.  That layer can be configured once, and then reused over and over, and can be surfaced as a web service for other apps in your organization.  Robust BPA platforms provide separate design canvases for all types of personas.   You can enable your “citizen” developers with a simple designer, or perhaps leverage an embedded SharePoint capability to take some load off and push apps to the business, but you can still leverage advanced, deep designers for complex and advanced work.

Beyond reuse, and broad design capabilities, here are some core benefits:

  • Shorten time to “market”
  • Reduction in backlog
  • Simplified, rapid integration
  • Extension of delivery capability
  • IT automation
  • Agility (change management)
  • Platform for the future

Just a quick overview of some of the key values.  Did I miss any?

Removing the IT Log Jam: 4 Keys to Faster Project Delivery

Forms, Workflow and Integration with no code

No Code Platforms Are the Key

Today, it is a common theme:  IT departments are understaffed and have a massive backlog of projects to deliver.  Last week, I was engaged in a customer panel discussion, and one of the folks, an IT Manager, stated that their IT project backlog put many of the projects out to 2020.  I thought to myself, how can you even plan that far ahead in the technology space?  Every 3 years it seems there is some kind of disruption that changes strategy and direction.  So the real question is how can you deliver faster results for the business and remain agile?

Forrester put out a great report last year on the emergence and popularity of No Code Platforms (see it here: Forrester No Code), and leveraging them to change the way you deliver results to the business.  It is all about delivering smaller, quick, No code applications to immediately provide solutions to problems within departments.   Using these platforms, IT can create quick wins, eliminate backlog pressure, and focus on larger projects with free resources.  Forrester states in one large customer, over 15,000 apps were deployed to meet all different types of needs, a feat only possible with a no code framework.

So what are the key pieces these platforms provide, and how can they help?  See below:

  1.  Forms/UI – In the customers I work with, forms are a very popular request item, and are typically a key backlog component, as most are built with custom code, or on a legacy forms product like Microsoft’s Infopath.  No form request is ever simple, and add data and integration requirements, and a small forms project can blossom into a full-blown dev engagement requiring custom integration, custom web-based code and pieces of workflow.  With no-code platforms, forms can be built in hours, not days, through drag and drop design.  Below is a great video put out by K2, called Easy vs. Hard, where an expense claim app is built both in K2’s no-code platform, and through custom code.  The results were amazing, and no-code was the winner built at 8x faster than hard coding.

2.  Data/Integration – Ah, the pain.  Seamless access of data across your line of business systems seems to be a “pipe dream”, and integration efforts typically take the most time across any app project.  With no-code platforms, a true integration bus that provides configured integration is one of the most valuable components, and can add massive value.  Spanning line of business systems through point and click integration, takes away a massive dev burden and will provide acceleration of any project.  This “smartobject” layer can also be re-used across projects, and provide easy access to SharePoint, SAP, Oracle, SQL, Web Services and any other system.

3.  Workflow and Logic – Even the most basic application requires some type of logic, flow or back-end handy work.  A robust workflow engine can provide simple functionality, like an email notification or a document routing, but can also provide complex functionality usually reserved for custom code.  Eliminating the need for custom work in this realm can also provide great benefits, and reduced delivery times.  This layer can be easily coupled with any forms or data projects to extend functionality, and drive value.

4.  Reporting – Reporting is all about the data, and most organizations will use a separate reporting platform to deliver on requirements.  This usually leads to engaging separate resources, and sometimes a second project to provide what the business needs.  Wouldn’t it be nice if reporting and dashboards could be automatically generated for the specific app, form or workflow?  This is what the Business Process App platform brings, a truly coupled reporting engine.  Most platforms also provide access to their data layer for additional extension of reporting capabilities.

So the best thing about the no-code platforms?  You can combine any of these pieces, in any way, to deliver on business requirements without the need for custom work, or the engagement of your dev department.  Did I miss anything?  Thoughts?




No Code Dev Platforms for Customer Facing Apps

No low code platform

Driving Fast External Apps with No/Low Code Business App Platforms

She sits in her office, and stares at the calendar.  “There is no way to get all these projects done on time,” she mumbles to herself.

Enter the life of today’s development manager.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day, days in the month, months in the year.  With IT departments struggling to keep pace with the speed of their internal and external customers, low/no code app platforms are quickly becoming necessary in all aspects of business.  Of particular importance are those apps that are customer facing, driving interaction with products and services, as well as personnel from sales, marketing, support and operations.

“Low-code platforms are a converging category, not a new one. Most vendors of these products established their technologies with internal-facing applications. Customer-facing applications are quickly becoming a popular new use case for these platforms because these types of applications demand rapid delivery and evolution.”

Forrester Whitepaper: New Dev Platforms Emerge for Customer-Facing Apps

So how can these platforms be leveraged?  See below for some key benefits:

  1.   Quick Web and Mobile Integration with Line of Business System Data – The bane of any CIO’s existence is integration and cross system communication.  With no/low code business app platforms, integration and surfacing data is a snap.  An example would be K2’s smartobject technology for line of business integration.  smartobjects take away the pain of integration, and make integrating with any line of business system, whether on-prem or in the cloud, a snap.   No more code…just “point and shoot” through configuration.  Imagine surfacing SAP or Oracle data in a web form in hours, not days, and making it available on a vendor portal, or to a partner ecosystem.
  2.   Use Powerful Forms Technology to Save on Dev Time – imagine a powerful component-based technology that gave you a library of form controls, a form rules engine and fantastic data capabilities at your finger tips.  Just use powerful wizard driven interfaces to auto-build components, and customize further through an intuitive drag and drop design canvas.  When you are all done, embed the form or view into any web page.
  3.   Create Once.  Reuse Often. – reusability is a core theme to no/low code platforms, and one of the biggest benefits.   Over time, organizations can create a set of forms, data, reports and workflows that can be utilized as an accelerator in any application project.  No more reinventing the wheel, over and over again.

The above are just a few of the benefits.   Below is an overview of how an organization can leverage a no code platform to deliver functionality in short order for external users: