SER Blog Innovation & Technology
The no-code way to new business apps
Shorter development cycles and reduced costs: Low-code and no-code platforms are replacing traditional programming projects in more and more companies. Small, agile teams with experts from internal departments are developing business applications up to ten times faster than traditional software development projects.
The figure is impressive: According to a study by the market research firm Forrester, the market for no and low-code applications is expected to grow to 15.5 billion euros by 2020. The low-code application trend is also reflected in the current Forrester Wave for ECM content platforms: Forrester sees an increasing need for flexible platforms with app and user interface design and development tools to tailor apps to the needs of users.
Development environments that enable IT professionals, as well as employees from individual departments, to create apps and workflows provide clear benefits: Instead of complex programming languages, they focus on graphical modeling methods such as visualized standard elements that can be used conveniently and intuitively with drag-and-drop functionality. This is a clear competitive advantage when it comes to quickly meeting business requirements.
For example, Raffinerie Heide developed what is known as an obligation workflow to regularly provide financial partners with the required documentation in a fast and timely manner and to verifiably document compliance with various regulatory requirements. But more on this later.
It’s no surprise that app kits are gaining popularity in companies and gradually replacing development with traditional programming languages. When deployed properly, no-code and low-code apps make companies more agile and therefore more productive: First, they significantly accelerate development and deployment times for business apps. Second, they reduce the costs of project planning, employee training and IT app development. Since low code and no code are usually offered as a platform as a service (PaaS), companies also no longer need their own development infrastructures.
More agility, higher productivity
No-code tools are used primarily to map simple tasks in an app that are required by an individual department. Typically, they cannot be rolled out across an entire company, as they aren’t highly scalable or capable of wide integration. In addition, they are usually available only as a cloud service without an on-premises option. In addition to scalable architectures and open interfaces (APIs), low-code platforms generally offer flexible delivery models from the cloud and on-site. They are well suited for more complex, cross-departmental business processes which are integrated with other applications, databases or systems. Compared to no-code, low-code provides companies with a much wider field of applications – without considerable time or expense.
Low code: Focus on usability and functionality
Low-code platforms contain a set of visualized elements and logics. They also enable professional programmers to design added features for apps or workflows. As a result, applications are ready to launch much more quickly than in a traditional software project. In addition, experts from individual departments – so-called key or power users – can easily be included in a development team: They do not have to master a programming language to configure an effective, practical application.
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Reduce costs and save time
Using the low-code principle, companies can master their manifold challenges and provide the right digital solution as quickly as possible to meet customer and stakeholder requirements. Companies ultimately need to be able to develop and run new applications and services more rapidly and to adapt to new requirements at any time. To accomplish this, a traditional multi-stage software project is usually too complex and too slow, especially when differing philosophies meet: When software developers work in teams with colleagues without programming skills – such as software testers, designers and employees from other departments – communication problems often arise. As a result, new updates and development adjustments are needed time and again, which quickly exceeds the budgeted cost and time frame. Even minor updates to the program code require new tests each time and eat up time. Last but not least, experts with know-how in traditional software development are in high demand - and are correspondingly expensive.
Quickly implement new ECM requirements with low code
Agile methods of software development such as low-code platforms are subsequently also a proven means of implementing new requirements quickly and cost-effectively in an enterprise content management system (ECM). With modular components, individual ECM applications and workflows can be implemented without coding expertise. Individual departments can thus design their own applications to meet their needs, as usability and functionality define the development process – not the code.
Most of the elements and components are already ready for deployment and do not have to be programmed, only configured once. Typically, new applications can be ready for all devices and operating systems in just a few hours or days. This significantly reduces the times for testing, launch, potential modifications, and updates. Low code also has a positive impact on the bottom line, as companies no longer have to rely on expensive external development service providers – and potentially spendy software customizations – and it also reduces maintenance costs. Furthermore, an ECM low-code platform provides uniform management: if all core ECM applications rely on the same elements, such as metadata and permissions, compliance requirements are easier to meet.
Design client with a range of features
To design and launch ECM applications, companies such as Raffinerie Heide use the Doxis cubeDesigner from SER. This core design client for Windows, web and mobile systems supports both no-code and low-code development. The graphical user interface à la Microsoft makes it easier to get started and work with the software, even without programming skills. In addition to numerous preconfigured features for dialogs, hit lists and other standard elements, the design client offers extensive options for customization and an integrated scripting engine for customer-specific applications and functionality. In addition, a standardized user interface is available for all areas of an ECM and BPM application. Any ECM project can also be rolled out to other divisions via a convenient transport mechanism. In addition, Doxis allows you to, say, set up low-code applications for workspaces to collaborate with external users in virtual project rooms. It is also possible to configure individual approval workflows with several steps, e.g. with a multi-reviewer approach, and these can be rolled out across all clients, including mobile devices.
Expanding digital reporting with low-code solutions
The example of Raffinerie Heide demonstrates how compliance-based reporting for financial partners can be expanded using low-code development: The SER customer based in Hemmingstedt, Germany works with numerous financial partners – whether for loans, working capital financing or factoring. This is a complex undertaking for the oil refinery: Overall, the mid-sized company has to fulfill 265 obligations for financial partners, including a quarterly report on funding and proof of contract compliance. In order to provide these records on time and as efficiently as possible, the refinery implemented an obligation workflow. The new workflow is extremely important strategically for the company: Every step of the workflow, including documents stored, is logged and permanently recorded centrally. To create reports, employees can access the required documents and information directly via Doxis contract management and the obligation eFiles.
"We now have a fully operable and secure daily reporting system that traceably archives every step," says Rainer Hass, Team Lead in Accounting at Raffinerie Heide. This establishes security and creates a win-win situation for everyone involved:“Raffinerie Heide ensures its information validity, and its financial partners can rely on the company to uphold its end of the contractual requirements. IT and other departments can custom design, configure and maintain any application – under their own remit and without the need for time-consuming programming.
What does an ECM low-code development platform have to provide?
- User-friendly design environment: Configure rather than program
- Wide range of standard elements and options to quickly create your own components
- Flexible workflow engine to support ad hoc tasks ̶ from hybrid processes to case management
- Easy integration with third-party systems such as ERP, CRM & portals
- User-defined & uniformly definable metadata
- Option to directly implement new apps for numerous clients i.e. Windows, web &mobile devices
- User-friendly rights management that takes existing authorizations into account
- Integrated transport system: Easy adjustments & roll-out of apps and updates
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