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By: on May 4, 2021
In recent years, implementing AI and IoT technologies has been top priority for many organizations as their leading-edge capabilities have become a requisite for digital transformation – but the speed of their adoption is greatly influenced by the flexibility of supporting software. Enter low-code, no-code programming and truly open APIs.
Low-code/no-code platforms are a promising alternative to traditional software platforms for non-technical business users; a more democratic approach to software development, built on either no or minimal code. The approach begins by minimizing external expenses and time required by outside developers or programmers as business analysts and line managers can now structure new process flows and functionalities.
This is coming into sharp focus, as the increasing need to get new applications to market quickly is coupled with a growing demand for digital transformation from the C-suite. But to access the benefits, organizations must ensure that their underlying software can integrate well with external systems—introducing application programming interfaces (APIs).
Analyst predictions have revealed an industrywide trend geared towards these platforms, as 60% of CIOs are set to employ low-code/no-code tools by 2025, with plans to bolster their output capacity. Other analysts expect to see 65% of all application development taking place in low-code/no-code environments by 2024. But, it is the openness of APIs that will determine the success of this software.
APIs have reached new heights since the early days of component-based architecture, but today’s APIs are still inspired by Roy Fielding’s Representational State Transfer (RESTful) API.
Some vendors will talk about how they have open APIs, but these are often limited and designed for specific, pre-determined integration scenarios. The application, in the meantime, internally communicates in a proprietary fashion that cannot be leveraged by external systems. To maximize the agility delivered by low-code/no-code tools, the entire application should be built on open APIs.
Enterprise applications can go a step further by relying on the ISO/ICE–approved OASIS Open Data Protocol (OData), making things even more interoperable with more choice, flexibility and capabilities for customers. When the application is built on the same set of RESTful APIs it exposes to other systems, it is even easier to access the precise spot in a value flow with which organizations need to integrate.
With the support of open APIs, there is an opportunity for companies to leverage low-code/ no-code tools and achieve crucial business returns in three ways:
A robust architecture built on RESTful Data APIs, documented according to the Open API Initiative specifications, gives organizations the ability to extend enterprise software on the outside to create task specific apps or connect to other systems.
This may simply be used for automating steps around onboarding a new employee; for instance, filling in a desk number in an office floor plan, initiating payroll activities and creating an Outlook account. It could also populate a serialized part structure from a machinery manufacturing process into the software that will be used to annually service that piece of equipment. Any data, action or event should be accessible in a clear and thorough API library.
With enough of these RESTful APIs, any number of low-code/no-code tools can be used to create targeted apps that interact with enterprise software and other systems running in a business. Commercial software offerings can be used to build an experience and drive processes in enterprise software.
The main benefit of using RESTful APIs is that an organization’s external and internal systems can automate processes, expand access to data, and create extensions to their enterprise software on the outside. Regardless of whether an internal process automation (IPA) tool or external low-code/no-code process orchestration software is used, their ERP system should offer transparent access to the part of the system supporting any given integration or process automation.
Here’s where a low-code/no-code approach helps to develop new solutions and industry specific functionalities that can be built faster, cheaper and with higher quality. Integrating a low-code domain-specific language (DSL) into solutions not only helps create value faster, but also insulates organizations from future technology changes. The DSL describes the intent of what a component in the application (for example, an API) should do, rather than how it is technically done.
Low-code/no-code tools are also more commonly used to tailor how enterprise software works internally, giving organizations more control over their software. Software providers might currently offer the ability to extend the data model or to tailor the user interface and user navigation flow through a process to an organization’s specific needs, using no-code tooling. But this is not enough.
Enterprise software platforms should offer intuitive low-code/no-code tools that will not only automate process steps or actions, but add machine learning capabilities for intelligent process automation. This democratizes the creation of intelligent systems by putting it within reach of business analysts and line managers—a simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get.
With the IPA capability embedded into software, any additional input needed from users can be captured automatically. These capabilities can then be further enhanced with intelligent parts, such as AI and machine learning models, to make choices inside the automation about what to do next (branching decisions), or predicting values to be filled in.
As the need to digitally transform continues to surge, enterprise solutions based on open APIs, strengthened by low-code/no-code programming, will become fundamental business tools—speeding up deployment times and delivering business value when it matters most.
Filed Under: Blogs, Business of DevOps, DevOps Practice, Low-Code/No-Code, Low-Code/No-Code/Digital Transformation