There’s a common misconception that low-code platforms are best suited for simple, stand-alone, bespoke apps. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Such apps may be the sweet spot of certain no-code platforms, but in the enterprise low-code space, it’s a different story altogether.

What, then, are the primary uses of such platforms in real-world enterprises like banks, insurance companies, and other financial services firms? Here are the top three.

Clearing out the Backlog

As financial services firms proceed with their digital transformation initiatives, software becomes increasingly strategic and pervasive – which means they need more of it. Lots more.

The demand for new and updated applications and software infrastructure, as well as individual features and capabilities, is exploding. And yet, every such company is resource constrained, as professionals who are able to build and run such software are in short supply.

In the meantime, however, such enterprises have little choice but to add to their extensive software to-do lists. These backlogs, as the industry calls them, can get long and unmanageable – and the pressures of digital transformation combined with the perennial shortage of skills only makes this problem worse.

Furthermore, traditional hand-coding backlogs tend to focus on individual tasks and features, while the lines of business who drive the creation of the backlog focus more on applications. As a result, there is often a disconnect between what the business wants and what the application development teams can deliver.

Because low-code platforms focus on giving professional developers the ability to build applications more quickly while minimizing the need to hand-code, traditional development backlogs become less about features and tasks and more about applications – improving both the productivity and morale of the developers as well as the customer-centricity of the apps themselves, while simultaneously easing the ability to add such features and tasks after apps go live.

With improved productivity comes faster completion of applications in the backlog, and thus many firms are finding that low-code is essential to reducing the size of the backlog, or eliminating it altogether. In fact, low-code users were 12% more likely to say that their backlog had improved in the previous year, as compared to people who weren’t using low-code, according to The State of Application Development report from OutSystems.

Demand for Applications that Bypasses IT

Most large and many midsize financial services firms have formal processes for establishing the requirements for new applications and calling upon IT to deliver on those requirements.

However, in many cases, these processes date from the last century – and are thus agonizingly slow and bureaucracy-laden.

From the perspective of line-of-business executives, many of the applications they require don’t lend themselves to such an onerous, time-consuming process. Perhaps the need is too urgent, or in other cases, the underlying security or integration complexity doesn’t warrant following traditional application development procedures.

In the past, such business/IT misalignment has led to shadow IT: lines of business taking it upon themselves to create applications off the radar of IT. However, shadow IT leads to a number of systemic problems, including redundant applications, poor quality, and security and compliance breaches.

Enterprise low-code platforms like OutSystems can resolve this dilemma, giving lines of business an increased ability to call for new applications without requiring IT to follow every step of now-obsolete software lifecycle processes.

This approach, however, is not the shadow IT of old. The ‘enterprise’ part of the enterprise low-code story focuses on security, compliance, and integration – those areas where IT must still step up to the plate to ensure that such core non-functional requirements are still being met.

The end result is a new way of organizing the relationship between lines of business and IT, where IT empowers the business to take greater control over increasingly flexible application delivery, while still maintaining the necessary focus on security, compliance, and integration that everyone agrees are every bit as important as they always have been, especially in financial services.

Modularized Modernization

The larger the financial services institution, the more likely it’s burdened with a diverse portfolio of monolithic legacy applications. Furthermore, modernizing such legacy systems while replacing massive application portfolios with new, flexible applications is a priority for such organizations – but a goal that has largely been out of reach.

Low-code platforms like OutSystems can make this goal a reality. Moving from legacy, monolithic applications to a modern app portfolio requires a rethink of its architecture. “If you want agility, you need to break your architecture into smaller, more agile parts,” said Paulo Rosado, CEO of OutSystems. “Fully autonomous, multi-disciplinary teams can take several of these parts and organize them around goals like services.”

How, then, does a low-code development team modernize a monolithic legacy application? By targeting specific functionality changes that end-customers require and replacing that functionality with modular software.

Modularity has been a software best practice for decades, and the modern implementation of software modularity is microservices in containerized deployment environments. It’s straightforward to implement microservices in a low-code manner with OutSystems – but microservices aren’t the whole story.

The missing piece: without the proper architecture, implementing too many microservices leads to unmanageable interdependencies, exploding management overhead, and increasing brittleness.

This architected approach enables development organizations to implement complex enterprise apps at scale – even when they replace or interact with existing legacy applications.

The secret to making this approach work is how OutSystems deals with change in the context of interdependent software modules. OutSystems delivers safe and fast change to a distributed architecture, in spite of the fact that dealing with complex dependencies is difficult to achieve with microservices.

In this way, building applications with OutSystems is more than simply building modular apps and stringing them together. It also includes implementing complex enterprise applications that consist of many such modules – and doing so in a way that supports the goals of modern software development by resolving complex interdependencies automatically.

The Intellyx Take

Banking, insurance, and other financial services firms have long depended upon technology as the core of their businesses. While this dependence drives their relationships with their customers and ultimately their profitability, it has long impeded the ability for such companies to respond quickly to shifting customer demands and other marketplace pressures like globalization and changing regulations.

In spite of such inertia, digital transformation is as important as ever, as both business and consumer customers are demanding greater technology-empowered alignment with their needs from the financial services firms they do business with. In other words, technology that supports business agility is a bet-the-company investment.

Enterprise low-code platforms like OutSystems are an essential part of this critical wager. Low-code can help financial services organizations balance line of business needs with compliance and security requirements while shifting customer demands with inflexible systems of record.

The bottom line: low-code can be instrumental for moving quickly in a business environment that has always expected stability and permanence from its financial services institutions.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. OutSystems is an Intellyx customer. Intellyx retains final editorial control of this article.