There’s an old saying (well, old in technology terms anyway) that today’s new application is tomorrow’s legacy.

In our recent articles, as part of this series, Intellyx president Jason Bloomberg and I have been exploring the various ways that low-code can help organizations overcome thorny challenges associated with modernization efforts.

Modernization efforts, however, are just a fancy way of saying that organizations need to deal with the technical debt that accumulates as so-called legacy systems age—which, like a new car driving off the lot, begins the moment a new system goes live.

While this has been a persistent challenge for IT organizations from the earliest days, the increasing pace of change and the growing breadth and complexity of the technology stack has now made this an urgent issue.

Rather than merely dealing with modernization efforts in perpetuity, enterprise leaders are now searching for ways to break this cycle and avoid future modernization efforts altogether.

Just as low-code platforms have provided a much-needed assist when it comes to dealing with the modernization of legacy systems, they also offer leaders a pathway to reduce the amount of legacy they create in the first place.

Ah, That New Car Smell

I remember my first new car.

Opening the door, sitting down, putting my hands on the steering wheel, and breathing in that new car smell. It was glorious.

Somewhere around the time that the first thing went wrong with my car, however, it dawned on me. I still loved my car, I loved driving it, I loved both the practical and extrinsic value it delivered to me—but at that moment the reality set in that I was going to have to maintain this machine for a long time. I had bought myself a liability—a beautiful and useful liability, but a liability nonetheless.

New applications follow a similar trajectory for both development teams and the business owners of the application.

During the design and build process, there is a rush of excitement and anticipation (most of the time, anyway). Yet soon after the initial release, that excitement wanes as the application continually changes, creating greater complexity and more difficult management with each subsequent change.

Eventually, it joins the ranks of technical debt that IT struggles to maintain.

Organizations have attempted to address the problem of dealing with technical debt and maintaining higher levels of agility. The adoption of modern microservices and other modular architectures, DevOps collaborative practices, and the use of continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices have all helped.

But none of these approaches can overcome one of the most significant sources of technical debt: hand-coding.

Why Low-Code Equals Low-Debt

Conventional wisdom holds that organizations accrue technical debt when they take shortcuts in the code, trading sustainability for expediency.

However, it’s not that simple; because it’s not just bad coding that creates technical debt.

In truth, virtually all coding creates debt. With every subsequent change to the code and additional integration, it becomes increasingly difficult to make the next change or integration. The code becomes more complex and the interactions with other systems more intertwined, slowly hardening the joints of the application until it is rendered nearly immovable.

Even using things like modular architectures and microservices, you still end up with a spider’s web of moving parts. It’s easier to maintain but harder to comprehend.

Low-code development platforms, on the other hand, offer organizations a way to reduce the accruing of technical debt.

These platforms abstract the development process from the point of code creation and decompose application architectures into business-meaningful and easily maintained components. Meanwhile, a visual management layer makes the logic understandable in both business and technical terms.

Moreover, this same abstraction layer allows organizations to manage things like integrations and even the adoption of new underlying technologies discretely. In turn, this reduces debt pile-up and makes it easier for organizations to continually adapt applications to changing business needs.

The Intellyx Take: Avoiding the Legacy Trap

While it is unlikely that any organization will ever entirely eliminate their technical debt, that doesn’t mean there is no hope. The key to reducing it, however, is abstraction. By separating business logic from code and code from underlying technology frameworks, organizations take a crucial step towards an architectural model adept for the future. A model which allows innovation of new applications and the continual maintenance and adaptation of existing application portfolios to keep pace with changing demands.

Low-code development platforms, such as OutSystems, provide just this sort of abstraction layer. They enable organizations to separate the act of logic creation from code creation and separate both from the integration necessary for an application to function in the modern enterprise.

In so doing, they enable organizations to strike the balance they need to increase the speed of development, to continually adapt existing applications, and to ensure that portfolios remain performant, reliant, and secure. Low-code platforms are no panacea and will not magically make technical debt disappear. But adopting them is a smart first step for any enterprise if it hopes to avoid the legacy trap.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. OutSystems is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper.