Application programming interfaces (APIs) have become the cornerstone for modern-day Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) – providing greater agility in maintaining, upgrading, and scaling their software in addition to enabling them to tap into the partner ecosystem for domain-specific expertise.
The development of a complex system that exchanges data between multiple APIs requires close collaboration between those who understand the business, and developers who understand API integration. With low-code development, those who understand the business needs but don’t have high-level programming skills – AKA ‘citizen developers’ – can configure these systems easily. There has been a steady growth of low-code adoption due to their effectiveness in enhancing and democratizing the development experience and speed to market.
Creating custom integrations (connectors/extractors) usually take months – but with low-code, that time can be reduced to weeks. At Avalara, we’ve embraced the benefits of low-code development to enable easy integrations with partner applications such as ERPs, marketplaces and ecommerce platforms. Partners no longer need to understand the nuances of APIs and can use low-code to build an integration through a guided, UI-driven approach. 60-70% of the development process including deployment is automated and the platform allows for custom configurations and mappings between the partner application and Avalara’s services.
Low code platforms can be a strategic value driver for ISVs, with a few considerations in mind to make them successful.
Creating a framework for low-code adoption
Companies looking to embrace low-code development must make sure to create proper resources, training, and policies for all involved parties. This includes involving “citizen-developers” more in the development process and adapting the development process accordingly to ensure quality.
Breaking down silos
Workflows play a major role in a low-code platform. They bring together capabilities from different parts of the organization so developers can easily coordinate between them with the help of automation. It is important to create consistency in how these different capabilities can plug into the low-code platform to maintain the ease of use and effectiveness of workflows.
Offering an extensive set of capabilities
The value of a low-code platform increases as it brings together more capabilities. Creating a healthy portfolio of capabilities that developers can integrate using a low-code platform is critical for success. Companies looking to promote low-code platforms should invest in expanding this set of capabilities through integrations into multiple internal and external services. Some of this can be accelerated through a vibrant developer community and an application marketplace. It is important for the low code platform to stay ahead of the development needs of the products built on it and not become a constraint for the product teams.
Addressing security and governance
As a platform grows and citizen developers build new applications, governance will become increasingly important. The need to maintain consistent levels of security across the organization should be of the utmost priority. Proper authentication and access controls, automated security scans, and testing of the platform and code deployed using the platform are critical.
Automating code lifecycle
The majority of efficiencies associated with a low-code platform come from a high degree of automation in the backend. Automating the lifecycle of code created using a low-code platform is critical in driving adoption and capturing value. Companies should invest in building automation in the platform for the build process, testing (unit and black box), security scans, deployment to various environments, as well as monitoring and alerting.
Adapting to new levels of agility
Low-code platforms enable easy changes to applications. The turnaround time is low and results are quick. ISVs can identify changes in the market and react to them with greater agility. To capitalize on this agility, it is important that all functions involved in bringing a product to market are able to match this new level of agility. As an example, product management teams may need to scale to define requirements quicker or marketing teams need to adapt to a faster GTM cycle to keep up with the faster development turnarounds.
Finally, while low-code development enables ISVs to act quickly and get solutions to market quickly, it is not a substitute for the fundamentals of good software engineering practices. Solutions created with low-code frameworks must still be well versioned, have proper branching strategy, and have proper testing approaches. There must be proper designs before you start, and the output must be created with a specific purpose in mind.
At Avalara, we are seeing significant benefits in extending our partner ecosystem using a low code platform and believe other ISVs can take advantage of this secular trend to accelerate their businesses as well.