“Brilliant. Witty. Heartwarming. Informative. It was everything I ever wanted in a conference keynote.”
—NextStep Attendee, September 15, 2020
A virtual welcome. CEO Paulo Rosado beamed into living rooms, home offices, and visibly altered office desktops. STEMCELL Technologies and the City of Oakland sharing recording space but not a stage. A new way of announcing what’s new in the platform. A team of actors with OutSystems day jobs showing the latest product innovations at their best. The NextStep 2020 keynote had all this and more. Let’s dive into the highlights.
The Heroes of Tomorrow
Keynote viewers received a warm welcome to NextStep from Alexandra Monteiro, VP of People at OutSystems.
True to her role and nature, Alexandra focused on the human aspects of NextStep, thanking our ever-increasing world of happy customers, announcing our Innovation Award Winners, and giving a shout out to all the developers who make the massive OutSystems community such a great place to be, calling them the heroes of tomorrow. She then closed her opener by thanking our amazing partners who generously gave time and sponsorships so that NextStep 2020 could happen, and then she introduced Paulo.
2020: What a Year
“Your web portal will not collapse when you go from one thousand users to one millon users.”
Have you attended NextStep in the past, seen videos of it, or read my recap of NextStep 2019? If so, you know that Paulo usually stands on a stage, huge monitors and screens behind him, and addresses a crowd. But this year, viewers got a more intimate glimpse of Paulo in situ, as he delivered his product vision from the OutSystems offices.
Paulo started off by thanking customers and sharing amazing stats, including the doubling of the number of live OutSystems apps and how our user base is almost twice the size it was in 2019. In a year of disruption and turmoil, OutSystems customers are achieving great success. And, he added, they are also “finding happiness.”
Then, noting that developer satisfaction is very important to OutSystems, he stressed that developers are essential to the success of our enterprise customers. Why? “To be competitive and differentiate in today’s world, you need to build software that is as unique as your business,” he said. “You always need to give your team the capacity to come up with a new idea and rapidly change what you have built to constantly be ahead.” He then reminded viewers that the mission of OutSystems has always been to help businesses innovate through software by giving developers what they need to build applications fast, build them right, and build them for the future.
What is Fast?
“Building fast can mean the difference between your business continuing to run or grinding to a halt.”
To demonstrate what is meant by fast, Paulo gave three examples. One was building the first version of a mobile app in one hour, sharing it with stakeholders, getting customer and user feedback, and changing it until they “reach absolute customer delight.” Another was completing a complex web portal to dramatically improve the efficiency of front-office teams in only a few weeks. The third was completely rebuilding, in less than a year, a massive, inflexible back-end system that has been preventing the launch of new products and services.
Then came the real-life example. Beatriz Clarke, Application Development Manager at STEMCELL Technologies, Canada’s largest biotech company, shared how they used OutSystems to address their big shift from working in the office to working at home. This included building an app in 24 hours to keep track of employee health, location, and equipment.
“OutSystems provided a really fast and easy way to create prototypes and deliver incrementally. I’m very confident that in the next few months, our team can help our employees adapt to this new normal,” Beatriz concluded. Get more of the STEMCELL Technologies story here.
We Also Help You Build Right
“The OutSystems platform does so much of the heavy lifting for us as it relates to the core infrastructure for digital services. Our developers and SMEs are free to focus on the important work of reimagining and optimizing business processes followed by the implementation of the service transformation.”
—Andrew “Pete” Peterson, CIO/CTO, City of Oakland
Building fast can make it really hard to build right. Paulo explained how OutSystems removes the complexity of ensuring your applications are secure and protected from malicious attacks and hackers, that they run smoothly and flawlessly on any device, and that they can scale up and out without affecting performance. In short, OutSystems helps developers “focus on the what rather than the how,” he said.
Andrew “Pete” Peterson, CIO/CTO of the City of Oakland provided the real-world view of building right. He shared how OutSystems enables the City’s digital modernization strategy. Digital experiences built with OutSystems can be expanded as needed to bring more services to citizens online. You can dig into all of City of Oakland’s accomplishments in this success story.
Building Software for the Future
Everything is changing all the time. Even when built fast and right, software cannot always easily adapt to the continuous introduction of new technologies, markets, business models, and ways of working into the world. Fortunately, noted Paulo, OutSystems is here to help with that, too. How? To answer that question, Paulo spoke of the customers who have been with OutSystems for 16 years, surviving four world crises and changing their apps hundreds of times.
“They did not know what the future was,” said Paulo. “But with OutSystems, they didn’t need to.” OutSystems enables customers to constantly adapt to an unpredictable future. You can’t do that with a tool or a collection of tools. It takes a platform approach. And that was his segue into the next part of the keynote—the product roadmap and demonstrations.
A Visual Platform That Gets Out of a Developer’s Way
“We want to make you and your team 100 times more productive.”
Going virtual gave Gonçalo Gaiolas, VP of Product at OutSystems, the flexibility to try a new way of showcasing our product innovations. To set it up, he reintroduced the platform and explained how specific parts of it address “build it fast, build it right, and build for the future.” He also stressed that our innovations have one main mission, which is to make OutSystems developers 100 times more productive.
He mentioned the tools, the Forge, and accelerators (called “builders”) that speed up application development. He zeroed in on the TrueChange™ engine, which, aided by AI, provides the automation to ensure applications work correctly and can adapt to change and disruption. He encouraged viewers to embrace change and then presented our own NextStep change: a product demonstration that turned rockstar OutSystems employees into video stars.
The demo tells the story of Neobank, a fictional OutSystems customer. Neobank is using OutSystems to automate the loan application process, build and update a mobile app, and more. Neobank is a global financial institution, has distributed teams, and serves 10 million customers. It has the same challenges as many other financial institutions. Branches are closing, but new digital opportunities are popping up. Neobank wants to take advantage of those opportunities with applications built fast, right, and for the future.
How Neobank Builds Fast with OutSystems
In the opening scene of the Neobank story, Patricia, a stressed account manager at Neobank, is looking over a new automated application process with Hisham. Hisham is a non-technical business analyst who is building the workflow process that will replace paper-based, in-person applications with the new Workflow Builder. Patricia confirms that the process needs a field for the date the company was founded. So Hisham brings up Workflow Builder and adds the field during the conversation. Patricia is delighted. (By the way, Workflow is available now.)
Meanwhile, the IT team is building a new version of Neobank’s main mobile app, which needs to be beautiful, easy-to-use, fast, and modern. The team is using the new OutSystems Experience Builder (available now). It lets them create and test prototypes in hours and generate production-ready code in minutes—with UX and dev best practices built-in. Hisham tells Riva, a rockstar OutSystems developer, that his loan application is ready to be added to the app. Riva makes the updates while she’s talking. They view the app in a simulator, and all looks good.
In the next few days, Riva makes changes based on in-app feedback from Hisham. She wires the app to core data and integrations, adjusts the UX and behavior, and publishes it to production.
“The real magic happens when teams work together...collaboration in real-time and not the time consuming back and forth that all too often slows the process down.”
How Neobank Builds Right With OutSystems
Skip forward a week. The app is gaining traction and needs to be ready to scale. An architecture and security review meeting is set up. In that meeting, Sezen, the scary enterprise architect, asks questions. How sound are the elements? Is the app connected to the data layer and core systems through integrations and how is it connected? What about authentication and monitoring?
Riva shows how she checked all that with Architecture Dashboard (now AI Mentor System), the new OutSystems technical debt monitoring tool. All elements that relate to Sezen’s questions are in green, which means that there are no issues detected or best practices that are not being followed. Sezen is surprised that she is getting answers so quickly. While Sezen looks for another list of questions, Joao, the serious security specialist, asks how Riva is securing the app. Riva looks flummoxed.
At this point in the story, Gonçalo stepped in to point out that app security is hard for developers--even though it’s critical. In fact, in its Avoid Mobile Application Security Pitfalls report (July 27, 2020, Dionisio Zumerle), Gartner suggests that through 2022, mobile application security failures will be the biggest mobile threat to enterprises. Gonçalo then introduced App Shield, which automatically adds additional layers of security during deployment to make applications even more resistant to intrusion, tampering, and reverse engineering. The story starts up again and Riva shares how her team used App Shield. The meeting ends earlier than planned, and Riva can go for a run.
Before continuing with the story, Gonçalo announced an additional innovation from OutSystems that would make Riva and her team’s lives easier and help teams build fast and right. It is yet another amazing accelerator called Integration Builder (now available as part of the OutSystems Early Access Program, aka EAP). Integration Builder provides a simple way to connect to and use your enterprise’s data in applications.
He also explained how OutSystems continues to invest in the OutSystems cloud by opening more regions and implementing protection against distributed denial of service attacks. And, now, back to the story.
How Neobank Builds for the Future
It’s a few months later. The mobile app and the automated loan application had a successful launch, easily responding to a huge increase in usage. But now the loan department is overloaded, and a solution needs to be found quickly. To compound matters, the original project team has been assigned to other initiatives. Although this is common, it creates a potential problem—onboarding a new team to ensure the continued evolution of the applications.
Good thing OutSystems offers effective training. The whole team built their own customized training with the OutSystems Training Planner (available now). And, the pros on the new team quickly get up to speed with new accelerator courses just for them (also available now). Plus, Artificial Intelligence is infused throughout the platform with powerful services, and helpful guidance from an AI assistant.
The business team is getting overloaded and loan approval processes are breaking down. Hisham meets with Roy, a backend genius, to see what can be done. In the meeting, Roy creates an AI model using Machine Learning Builder (coming soon to an EAP near you) to make approval decisions and quickly adds the model to the workflow. In just a few steps, ML Builder solves two of the toughest problems with AI: the lack of data scientists to build models and the difficult process of getting an AI model into production in an app.
Another tricky issue that’s popped up with the success of the apps is copying data from registration forms by hand because scanning software is not equipped to address the variation of forms from state to state. This manual activity introduces friction into the automated process. So, Roy is meeting with Taka, a front-end master, to see if there is a way to address this challenge during the team’s weekly innovation jam session. Roy uses OutSystems.AI Document Processor (available now from the Forge) to create a service that extracts key information from a photo of a document. At the same time, Taka prepares the front-end, gets the service, adds it to the app, and publishes it.
And there you have it, the perfect ending to a great story about building applications fast, building them right, and building them for the future. “We believe this is how team innovation should happen in every company,” Gonçalo said.
Mind = Blown
As if the Neobank story wasn’t mind blowing enough, Gonçalo had one more trick up his sleeve—big changes to the OutSystems IDE! Yes, Service Studio is getting a major facelift is modern and fresh. And, yes, developers will soon be able to work in dark mode.
Best of all, Service Studio is going cross-platform, so developers with Macs will no longer have to use a virtual machine. These changes were made because of suggestions from customers and the community. That’s right—OutSystems is always listening and always open to trying customer and community ideas to make the platform just the way you want it to be.
Absolutely Committed to Growing the Number of Developers in the World
"Anyone who wants to drive innovation in technology should have the chance to become a professional developer.”
The last part of the keynote featured Jen Lopez, Senior Director of Developers and Community. She spoke of the immense growth of the community in 2020. “In addition to having thousands of developers join our community, we have thousands who have been working hard to step up to the challenges we’ve all been facing,” she said. As a result, the community was able to build over 300 apps for responding to COVID-19. After that, developers from all over the world popped in to talk about their great experiences with OutSystems.
Jen then noted that a new generation of developers are coming from all different walks of life, with different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. “We live in a diverse world,” she said. “The technology space should reflect that.”
After explaining ways that OutSystems is working to turn those with development aspirations into developers, she also stressed that we want to make sure they have long, successful careers. And that led into the last big announcement of the keynote. OutSystems is now partnering with Women Who Code, whose mission is to inspire women to excel in technology careers. That led to an appearance from Joey Rosenberg, Chief Leadership Officer of Women Who Code.
Joey spoke of the mission of Women Who Code and how thrilled she is to partner with OutSystems to amplify the organization’s work to ensure women have the resources, education, and support they need to excel in technology careers. “We fiercely believe that tech is better when women and more diverse people have the opportunity to build the products that shape our world,” she said.
Join Us on this Amazing Ride
Jen and Paulo closed the keynote by encouraging attendees to get to know us and get involved in all our activities, at NextStep and beyond. Jen hinted at more exciting career development to come,and Paulo told everyone to enjoy the rest of NextStep.
Even if you couldn’t make it to NextStep, you can join us elsewhere on this exciting development and technology journey. Just click any or all of these links:
- Sign up for the OutSystems Personal Environment, it’s free and no credit card is required.
- Join the OutSystems community to share ideas, solve problems, become a mentor, and more.
- Drop-in to one of our virtual events and webinars.
- Get up to speed on the platform or add a new skill with OutSystems training.
- Evaluate the OutSystems platform unhindered by marketing speak in our Evaluation Guide.
- Join a User Group (virtually) near you or go to low-code school.
For more details on innovations announced in the keynote, check out these resources:
- Blog: Introducing OutSystems AppShield: Advanced Mobile App Shielding Protections
- Blog: What Is Technical Debt and How to Manage It
- Blog: OutSystems Workflow Builder: Build a Workflow App in Minutes
- Blog: OutSystems Experience Builder: How to Get From Idea to App in Record Time
- On-demand webinar: Experience Builder and What Happens Next
- Blog: Pragmatic Applications of Artificial Intelligence: A Story of the Power of AI