The first industrial revolution (1700-1800s) was, by any measure, a massive leap forward for industry. In just a relatively short timespan, we saw the invention of the spinning jenny (it made yarn), the discovery and early use of fossil fuels, the practical application of steam to power locomotives, and electricity! No other time in history has everyday life stepped up as quickly.

At the heart of most every invention in the period was a desire to do something faster and better than before. The idea of taking something that was outdated and repetitive and finding new ways of doing it faster, making it better, and then expanding its practical uses drove the Trevithick and Hargreaves of the world. Some inventions were better than others. For instance, I think we can all agree the world wouldn’t be any worse off had Edison not invented the talking doll (creepy!), although that howling Star Wars Chewy mask was pretty sweet.

We are now at the early stages of what the World Economic Forum calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a period in which we extend the Third Industrial Revolution (aka, the Digital Revolution) and begin developing new digital technology to change business processes and alter our social interactions.

High-productivity low-code platforms have the potential to speed up this rate of change significantly. And, if history is any indication, then certainly there are some things we can take from it and apply to the low-code movement.

Disruptive Technology Levels the Playing Field

When the steam locomotive was put into commercial use, consider how it impacted the world around it. Suddenly, information could be reliably shared. Raw materials, previously unavailable to many, were now obtainable. People could move from one place to another, making it possible to travel, safely, for business or pleasure.

The world was changed forever.

We’re not saying low-code will have the same effect, but low-code application development shares the same ability to disrupt. How long do you imagine it took the original Wells Fargo executive team to understand that their armed-wagon safes probably had just a few more years of usefulness once railroad tracks were everywhere? It’s likely they quickly realized that instead of being a cross-country transportation solution, they were going to have to get local and turn into a “last-mile” transportation and storage solution.

Similarly, giving small businesses the ability to quickly build powerful apps that can do the same things as legacy systems in enterprises and then deploy them in a software as a service (SaaS) model, forces large organizations to rethink how they do business.

Sure, you could still employ a global team of drivers, stablehands, gunslingers, and carpenters, or you could hire an engineer to drive the train and be done with it. The terminus is the same, but the vehicle getting you there opens the market up to anyone with a great idea.

Data: Clap Along If You Feel Like API-ness is the Truth

Einstein said, “Information is not knowledge.” Every business has information. Strike that—every person has information. Just by moving and interacting with the world, we generate, well, nobody has a concrete answer as to how much information each person generates each day, but it’s a lot. I saw an educated guess of, “tree fiddy” in an online forum where the question was asked. That’s probably low.

Point being, we all have data in spades. We all consume at least as much data as we produce, but it’s useless without being tagged and bagged and more importantly, shared.

Enter, APIs. APIs are the locomotion of modern times (the Internet being the tracks). With APIs, we can monetize our existing data, access others’ data, and share information just for the simple purpose of improving our understanding of the world.

But global commerce, the goal of most software apps and systems, is not easy. Application development using traditional programming languages is even more difficult. Whether building a B2C app and leveraging publicly available web services or building a private blockchain needing an API for secure communication access in and out of your systems, OutSystems makes it easy for developers to manage integration without having to write a lot of custom code.

For added simplicity, OutSystems includes a substantial library of built-in APIs that support business processes, client-side behaviors, databases, monitoring, security and more, all so you can extend your applications and integrate them with external systems.

“Real Artists Ship” - Steve Jobs

Author and speaker, Scott Berkun, talks about the myth of the perfect design. His theory is that you can never simultaneously satisfy all of the possible objectives for any created thing. Or in layman's terms, you can’t please everyone. He also suggests that due to uncertainty, the more you noodle with a design, the worse it becomes.

Perhaps there’s a middle ground; one where you build something great, and then rationally and strategically improve it. On our Community Ideas page, members have suggested more than 100 new ideas just in the last 30 days for improving or adding functionality to our platform. There are currently 169 ideas or discussions going on just about “integration.”

No design is perfect, but there are universal goals every design hopes to satisfy: efficiency, simplicity, safety, and accessibility. OutSystems has to be concerned with three of these, at least until our AI Center of Excellence activates Project Turing; at which point, we will have one heckuva smart, low-code development platform, or it will become self-aware and go all Skynet on us. Chances are, let's say 50-50--No. More like, uh--like 70-30 or 80-20.

For organizations who want to externalize their systems in a SaaS model, integration is crucial, both in the cloud and at the enterprise level. Most SaaS solutions are providing more than just raw data in an analytics wrapper. They are touching multiple data points, layering in governance and compliance, adding some level of analytics, all of which has to be dashboarded in a UI. Operationally, this all requires a deep understanding of open-standards-based protocol and data handling, security, a DevOps approach to the SDLC and, oh, maybe a smattering of documentation.

Everyone will tell you they’re good at integrating; everyone will also tell you they are outdoorsy and love to go hiking on the weekends, but there’s no better proof than, well, proof:

It’s all there.

Integration, as a checkbox, might not be on your list of things to consider if you are looking for a low-code or no-code development platform, but it should be. It’s important enough that Gartner evaluates it in its Magic Quadrant for High-Productivity Application Platform as a Service vendors. OutSystems was named a “Leader” in both the 2017 and 2018 reports.

Integration will always be a focus for OutSystems. Despite the conglomerates gatekeeping so much of our personal data, there is still plenty of untapped legacy data in storage, and new apps going live daily, each collecting some bit of usage data. There are few organizations that wouldn’t benefit from a little more of it.

In our recent funding announcement, OutSystems CEO, Paulo Rosado, talks about our plans for investing in the company in the near-future. There’s a little something for everyone there, plus a surprise that we will announce next quarter. Check it out.