Low code platforms have brought about a seismic shift in business tech operations, forcing executives to take the big leap and adopt low code. Bruce Buttles, Digital Channels Director, Humana, in an exclusive interview with CIO Applications for a special edition of Low Code Platform explains that "Business leaders and teams tend to crave the innovation at a pace that comes from low-code and are often driving their IT counterparts to get on-board with low-code."
1. In the light of your experience, what are the trends and challenges you have witnessed happening in the low code space?
Main trend is that adoption of low-code is certainly on the rise without question. I subscribe to the recent Gartner study that states, by 2024 large business will have at least four low-code platforms and that across the board, 65 percent of all app-dev will be low-code by 2020. Tech and business leaders are constantly looking for efficiencies and competitive edge turning to popular topics like cloud and AI that (rightfully so) consume much of the industry press oxygen. Fascinatingly, low-code firms like OutSystems combine the two and add a lot more like multi-channel, business process, and robotic process automation and more.
However, low-code introduces a seismic shift in business and tech operations that are challenging many executive tech leaders to make a big choice: “protect your kingdom or lean in to low code innovation.” Unfortunately, some tech leaders view low-code as a threat to hand-coding techniques, are operating with dated low-code perspectives or unwilling to invest the time required to understand low-code. This also applies to front-line developers—but only those that truly love writing code. Developers that are more energized by outcomes tend to lean in to low-code very quickly and embrace it with fervor. Conversely, business leaders and teams tend to crave the innovation at pace that comes from low-code and are often driving their IT counterparts to ‘get on-board’ with low-code. Further, business teams tend to go into it alone (when IT resists or is slow to adopt low-code) adopting a citizen developer culture powered by low-code SaaS solutions like OutSystems.
2. Could you talk about your approach to identifying the right partnership providers from the lot?
I was starting a non-profit and two for-profit companies when I leaped into low-code in 2015. Out of necessity, I knew I had to take a radically new approach to innovation leveraging automation to generate code rather than human hand-coding. Our business models simply would not support the initial build and on-going cost or timeline associated with hand-coding. As a software engineer and business executive, I have been watching app dev automation for over 20 years and knew something like ‘no-code and low-code’ were coming and was thrilled when low-code hit its stride about 10 years back. Going back to 2015, the low-code market had matured and Forrester, Gartner and others had been regularly analyzing vendors for years.
Developers that are more energized by outcomes tend to lean in to low-code very quickly and embrace it with fervor
That was my first step—market research. I selected the top five vendors at that time but to be transparent I really could not tell which one would be best for our three new companies. Thus, the second step was to do the impossible: ‘Five-Way Bake Off!’
We literally built things five different ways for about three months. Good news is that two dropped off quickly but we did build three different ways with three different platforms for a couple months. In the end, we selected OutSystems for three main reasons:
a. Worked: We could not ‘break it,’ never had to go outside the platform and custom-code even on mobile apps, and the team velocity and output was between 5x and 10x traditional methods.
b. Quality: The performance of the .NET and SQL code that was generated was amazing—far faster than anything we could hand-code and the built-in best practices was like cloning your very best developer.
c. No Lock-In: OutSystems was unique in that we own all the code that is generated from the platform and did not require a license to run. Thus, if we decided to part ways with OutSystems, we could still run all of the apps that we had created to date.
3. What are some of the points of discussion that go on in your leadership panel? What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?
Continuing to focus on the real-world results of our first low-code initiatives and team is quite compelling. In smaller companies, I am experiencing up to 10x value for investment. In large enterprises, I am experiencing at least 4x values for investment. Further, that applies proportionally to time-to-market as well … 10x and 4x faster time-to-market with small and large companies respectively. Lastly, the continuing shift to ‘API-first and ‘SaaS as a preference,’ is a common topic as we adjust our mindset to embrace new platform operation options. For example, we discuss the benefits of a vendor SaaS including ‘zero-effort upgrades’ where upgrades to operating systems, databases, and low-code platforms are done almost invisibly to our business and tech teams not only drastically reducing labor but more importantly resulting in a much more dependable platform that feels more like we are plugging into and electrical outlet rather than running a huge complex technology factory.
4. How do you see the evolution of the Low Code space a few years from now with regard to some of its potential disruptions and transformations?
We are without a doubt at a tipping point with low-code. As mentioned in question above, Gartner’s 2024 prediction is solid. Actually, outside of the U.S. my observation is the industry will reach their prediction earlier in perhaps late 2021 or 2022. Outside the U.S. the ratio between “drive for outcomes” vs. “regulatory constraints” tends to favor outcomes more so than in the U.S. Thus, the reason for my prediction is that non-U.S. low-code adoption will outpace the U.S. low-code adoption. Lastly, low-code platforms will continue to embed AI within their platforms and evolve their SaaS options further driving the distance between low-code and hand-coding hitting a veritable escape velocity for low-code as well as no-code platforms. Hand-coding simply cannot catch up and will be reserved for very unique edge-cases OR for creating low-code platforms. My advice to young software engineers is to either join a platform company creating low/ no code solutions or lean into automated software engineering with low/no code.
5. What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to a fellow or aspiring professional in your field, looking to embark on a similar venture or professional journey along the lines of your service and area of expertise?
Run Don’t Walk. Do not take another job or promotion where low-code is unwelcome. Two years ago, I interviewed at my current employer and inquired of the C-suite execs if they would be open to such ideas as low-code. Innocently I asked “… do you think we would be open to robots generating code and designers working from pre-built templates and components?” They seemed open minded and curious to learn more. I ended the thread with “… okay, great to hear and to be transparent if the company is not ready for such transformation, please do not offer me the job as this is a prerequisite for my career move.” I have tasted the sweet nectar of low-code and simply will never go back. Well, they offered me the opportunity and have spent the past two years as an ‘intrepreneur’ transforming from the inside out. So, my single advice is this: RUN DON’T WALK into low-code, it will transform your business, career, and frankly your job satisfaction and life.