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Achieving flexibility with no- and low-code applications

Why getting down into the app development trenches could be beneficial for business managers and enterprise developers.

July 6, 2022

Provided byNeptune Software

There was a time when digital transformation plans were mapped out over five years or more and implementation meant a slow, staged adoption. But then covid-19 hit, and the world changed overnight. The pandemic created more urgency than any business could have anticipated in their digitization journeys as companies were forced to quickly adapt to remote and hybrid working styles. Since then, rapid prototyping, flexible and evolving solutions, and the need for development alacrity have become vital for enterprises.

Likewise, enterprise application development has changed. There are still teams of programmers and IT professionals building solutions, but line-of-business (LOB) teams often need to provide their own solutions to meet tight deadlines. In the new landscape, LOB teams must improvise and innovate on the spot, adding technology where possible to save time or link teams and data.

It's not just about individuals and teams working from home. It's also about expansion into remote areas, where warehouse and field workers may not always have reliable connectivity. These workers need offline solutions that can connect with corporate systems and update back-end databases when connections are available. And it all must work together to ensure everyone stays on track, sticking to deadline and budget.

How complicated can it be?

When developers are assigned a project with a seemingly impossible timeframe, eyerolls along with comments like it’s a “mere matter of programming” are common. Unfortunately, business teams now need a constant flow of "mere-matter-of-programming" miracles to simply keep up.

These include custom solutions that work on mobile devices, and those that can integrate into corporate data centers, enterprise resource planning systems, Internet-of-Things-based networks, and deeply entrenched operations systems like SAP. The challenge is that programming these systems takes years to learn, and with programming teams already working at capacity, meeting the immediate and evolving needs of frontline workers seems impossible.

So, this is the conundrum: LOB teams absolutely need new and innovative applications right now. Programming teams just don't have the bandwidth. Yet, these are challenges that must be solved, because the new normal accepts no excuses.

However, what if the LOB teams could build their own solutions? Forget that coding skills are required for a moment—think about how seamless this could be. In a traditional setup, LOB leaders need to explain processes and guide coders in developing solutions. But if frontline team members could create their own software, there would be no need to pass the message down the line and risks of miscommunication would be eliminated.

Earning citizenship

This is where the "citizen developer"—employees with little to no coding experience that build applications with technology approved by IT units—comes into play, as LOB teams can build their own software. To be sure, some problems will require a qualified computer scientist, but citizen-developer toolkits enable laymen to manage simpler solutions on their own.

Many users who build their own solutions rely on "no-code" tools, which are usually sets of pre-built components and templates that can be combined for specific needs. They often start with a form or app builder, which enables the user or developer to capture information in a structured way that's unique to their business processes.

But no-code solutions are limited to their component parts and often lack fine-tuned integration capabilities. They'll interface with major cloud platforms, but not with production workflow environments like the full range of SAP offerings.

As it turns out, there's a middle ground between "build it from the ground up" and "build it by choosing a few menu items." That middle ground is called “low-code.” The idea is that much of the solution can be crafted by individual users without code, but there are coding "hooks" that allow more experienced developers to bridge these creations with back-end systems and even other custom applications from other LOBs. 

By combining no-code with application programming interfaces (APIs), companies get the best of both worlds: empowered users who can build custom solutions and IT management with oversight of critical back-end data systems. Such low-code approaches can also reduce months, and even years, from the development cycle, enabling custom solutions to be fielded at the pace of our new normal, which is to say, "fast."

One leading provider of low-code solutions is Neptune Software, a company founded by three experienced SAP consultants over a decade ago. The founders' SAP experience is embedded deeply in Neptune's DNA. Neptune DXP is the only low-code platform that sits within the SAP system and is certified by SAP to be compatible with SAP NetWeaver 7.X, SAP S/4HANA, and SAP BTP. The company's fully certified platform also includes SAP Solution Manager Ready functionality, and it works with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition, and RISE with SAP.

But all that compatibility wouldn't mean anything if Neptune Software didn't empower users to create, build, and develop. Fortunately, that's exactly what it does: it allows users to craft application interfaces, digital employee experiences, and user experiences that are appropriate to the workflow challenge at hand. Neptune Software provides online, offline, and mobile capabilities that can scale with SAP installation, bringing low-code capabilities to almost any project.

For more information, visit Neptune Software.

This content was produced by Neptune Software. It was not written by MIT Technology Review's editorial staff.

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