My clients want to launch new technology capabilities that will rapidly deliver a competitive edge. Unfortunately, project backlogs and multiple priorities often slow the pace of innovation. Overworked and understaffed IT teams often compound this problem, resulting in employee turnover that makes it even harder for businesses to retain the best and brightest IT staff.
Ultimately, the cycle of pressing priorities and strained IT resources leads to a skills gap that causes many companies to lag behind.
And integration is central to this issue. These day organizations need to be extremely agile in how they integrate their applications and data to drive digital transformation. The volume and diversity of integrations necessary for running a digital business are growing exponentially. Social, mobile, analytics, big data, IoT and AI technologies all require integration into core business systems.
And integration is fundamental for any organization that wants to modernize its legacy systems and move to the cloud.
But the traditional approach of hand-coding integrations has become a major obstacle to digital transformation. Hand-coding can take months of costly and resource-intensive work. It diverts IT from focusing on genuine innovations that deliver operational efficiencies, new systems of engagement, and better customer experiences. Also, hand-coding introduces maintenance complications down the road.
In situations where organizations use legacy middleware, like an ETL (extract, transform, load) tool or enterprise service bus (ESB), a lot of time (years even!), resources, and specialized skills are required to make these complex on-premise systems work. And these old tools often lack native connectivity to the cloud applications that are vital to business today.
But there is a clear way forward for companies that want to embrace digital transformation. Rethinking how integrations are built and maintained now requires a low-code approach. With low code, organizations can dramatically improve productivity and deliver integrations at the speed of business.
The Emergence of Low Code
Low code is a hot topic across the IT landscape. I have seen the term “low code” gain traction over the past year as businesses focus on becoming more agile and developing a culture of working smarter rather than harder.
Low code describes an approach to application and integration development that minimizes or eliminates manual coding. In a low-code environment, developers utilize prepackaged templates and drag-and-drop tools in a visual interface to configure applications and integrations much faster than hand-coding.
“The overall benefit to low-code environments is speed,” according to an assessment from 451 Research. “In general, organizations can shave 50–90 percent off development time vs. using a coding language.”
Given this benefit, it is no surprise that vendors such as Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft and others tout low-code capabilities in their offerings to appeal to time- and skill-stretched organizations. Dozens of other low-code tools and platforms are now entering the market to address an array of software and IT challenges.
Questions About Low Code
Dell Boomi pioneered low-code integration when we introduced the world’s first cloud-native integration platform as a service (iPaaS) in 2007. Even a decade ago, we understood the challenges organizations were facing with traditional integration tools. This is why today organizations are turning to Boomi’s low-code environment to eliminate traditional development obstacles and accelerate digital transformation.
Business and IT leaders can see the benefits of Boomi’s configure-not-code approach to integration. But in my conversations with dev ops teams, questions often come up around the skill sets and team sizes needed to support the Boomi iPaaS.
This is because some dev ops teams can feel uncomfortable with a low-code approach. They might perceive it as a threat to job security, and they are naturally comfortable with what they know, including their skills and traditional ways of software development.
They can fear that low-code integration opens the door for non-technical “citizen integrators” to build connectivity with no IT involvement, rendering developers obsolete. But this is just the opposite of what low code brings to developers.
Certainly, a shift in mind-set is required to see that a low-code environment frees up developers’ time and allows them to focus on higher-level design and strategy, as well as move far faster to complete more projects.
Hence, low code lets organizations and project stakeholders evolve to a more efficient production model while improving the employee experience. This, in turn, makes it easier for a business to provide a better experience for customers and partners. In this way, a low-code approach drives benefits throughout an organization.
A Focus on Strategic IT
There’s no shortage of IT work at most organizations. And considering that the average mobile app has a lifespan of about 45 days, it’s clear that IT teams can’t afford to spend two months custom-coding integrations between apps and back-end systems.
Mobile apps are just one example. I’ve seen a number of IT organizations with dozens or hundreds of integration projects in the pipeline to support such business areas as customer relationship management (CRM), financial reporting, omnichannel commerce and more.
Getting those integrations built, tested and deployed faster and more cost-effectively puts the business ahead of competitors who are laboring for months with point-to-point coding. Business is simply moving too fast for development methods that drain time and resources.
Rather than posing a threat to developer job security, the citizen integrator concept promotes up-front collaboration between business and IT. It allows IT and business to walk in step with each other. That ensures requirements are met without long waterfall project timelines.
Low code gives semi-technical business people a degree of self-service, but it still falls on IT to guide integration projects and take the lead in setting strategy, vetting designs, and testing implementations.
Eliminating Maintenance Nightmares
Finally, low code delivers significant downstream benefits. In the custom-coding world, developers can build code hundreds of different ways to deliver the same result. When the developer who coded an integration moves on to a new job, the organization often has little insight into how the integration was built.
If that integration breaks or needs modification, someone else needs to unravel the code and figure out how it works. At some organizations, I’ve seen integration maintenance become an ongoing nightmare until the IT team adopted Boomi and gained visibility and clarity into their integrations.
A low-code iPaaS like Boomi radically simplifies maintenance. Developers have a common, easily understood interface that requires no specialized expertise in a particular programming language. This makes troubleshooting or modifying an integration far easier and faster. Everyone is speaking the same language.
Boomi sets the standard for low-code integration, resulting in numerous benefits for organizations. Our visual, drag-and-drop configuration interface is enhanced with pre-built connectors to more than 200 leading applications. If you’ve got a niche system or an ancient AS/400 application, we provide connectors for most any generic need (JDBC, ODATA, HTTP, FTP, etc.), as well as a software development toolkit to accommodate custom integrations.
And our recent acquisition of ManyWho extends Boomi’s ability to help our customers bring low code into their businesses. ManyWho is a cloud and low-code development platform for configuring and managing workflow automation. All combined, Boomi provides core integration with API, MDM, EDI and workflow management — all in a unified low-code development environment.
Rather than holding on to old software development models, it’s time for dev ops and their organizations to embrace low code as a way to build integrations at the speed of business.