The world of application development is changing, and it’s changing fast. Traditionally, embarking on the app development journey meant hiring a team of developers to write every single line of code or settling for limitations imposed by commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. However, today more and more pharma companies are opting for a faster, easier and more affordable solution: low-code platforms.
The trend is widely spread and recognized as one of the most significant changes in the programming world, with Gartner’s predictions of 65% of app development starting on low code solutions by 2024.
Why are low code platforms gaining traction?
Low code development provides a visual design interface that allows users to create applications from scratch with little to no coding experience. Instead, the platform relies on visual editors, drag-and-drop builders and predefined functionalities to provide a simple process for creating complex and custom solutions for various industries. In addition, an agile platform is available from any smart device, enabling quick reactions and easy adaptation to the users’ needs.
Low code programming opens up the world of application development to anyone who has access to a smart device and an internet connection instead of remaining an exclusive club for programmers and coding veterans.
Low code development platforms do not entirely remove the need for programmers but rather simplify, streamline and speed up the process that usually takes months, if not years, to complete. That is why over 41% of existing enterprises already use low-code platforms, which is only expected to grow. As a result, these enterprises enjoy the benefits of reduced IT costs, increased flexibility when deploying software solutions and improved team productivity.
Low code versus high code: attractive innovation breaking through the traditional coding world
The most attractive feature of a low-code application development platform would be its drag-and-drop functionality. It is so simple to use that even citizen developers, as people with no coding experience are affectionately referred to in the coding world, can create apps to suit their business’s needs.
Instead of depending on a developer to manually write code, an app can be developed by simply choosing the elements it should contain, dragging them from the menu of options and dropping them to the appropriate section. Next, one can define the visual workflow that includes the steps of the process and required approvals, team members’ roles, and responsibilities for clear communication of expectations. The learning curve is steep — most citizen developers take only a few weeks to master a low code platform, compared to traditional programming that can take years to conquer.
While high code apps are synonymous with bugs and errors that need to be resolved daily in the development stages, low code platforms use pre-built widgets, reducing the chance of anything going wrong.
An app can be developed up to 10 times faster than traditional methods, with an expected ROI (return-on-investment) within three months.
Compare this to a traditional, high-code application development process where a developer (or a team of developers for more complex projects) can be occupied for months writing code, editing and perfecting it, debugging problems and then testing and refining until the product is ready for deployment. Instead, low-code platforms can reduce application development time by 90%.
Overcoming limitations of COTS products
COTS products entered the market as one-size-fits-all solutions that overcome the price tag and long development time usually attached to custom applications. COTS product development companies offer their clients ready-to-use products that can be promptly implemented into existing processes without hiring external consultants or conducting extensive team training.
However, COTS products have their own set of limitations, led by modest customization. As the name suggests, with COTS product companies get off-the-shelf solutions that often do not fulfill their specific requirements, nor can they swiftly adjust to ever-changing market needs.
Using low code platforms to create COTS solutions allows much more freedom in customizing the product without sacrificing the speed of delivery or functionality. The IT overheads are significantly reduced as low-code platforms do not require extensive (and costly) teams of programmers. Furthermore, by speeding up the process of app development, COTS product vendors gain a significant advantage in reaching the market faster and introducing innovative products on a more regular basis.
How the pharma industry can reap benefits from low code platforms
The greatest benefits of using low code platforms to produce COTS solutions are evident in industries suffocated by drawn-out manual processes. These are usually necessary from a regulatory standpoint yet taxing for the internal quality management teams.
The pharmaceutical industry has a sharp focus on data collection, paperwork and process tracking. Life science industries will demand high standards in assessing and tracking the quality of products being released to the market, but manually processing all of this information quickly becomes a bottleneck for every pharma company, no matter how big or small.
Preparing yearly product quality reviews requested by the FDA for every medical product, for example, can routinely take several months, thus paralyzing the quality management department. Using a low code platform, pharma companies can develop an app that supports automatic product quality reviews (APQR) that can decrease manual labor and the time required to prepare these reports. In addition, by creating an APQR as a COTS solution through a low code platform, the vendor reserves the possibility of customizing the product to best fit the client’s needs.
Why low code platforms are a good fit for startups
Another application for low code platforms would be for companies in competitive industries rushing to put their solution to the market and therefore prove their business model: startups.
Any startup following the lean model would create a prototype that can be tested out in the market to provide the proof of concept. The prototype or the minimum viable product (MVP) should be created as quickly and efficiently as possible to shorten the cycle of testing and receiving user feedback. Accomplishing this objective is often impossible with traditional programming that can force startups to take up to a couple of years before entering the market.
Low-code platforms allow startups and their founders to create prototypes of COTS products without extensive coding or high-running costs due to hiring an experienced IT team. As a result, the MVP is ready for deployment faster with a smaller initial investment, and the proof of concept is much more easily attainable.
Furthermore, the low code platform allows for quick iterations based on customer feedback, which further translates into a faster journey to reach the final product that can be rolled out onto the mass market. Plus, the low-cost software development allows for the entire process to be done in a budget-friendly way, keeping the investors satisfied and the startups’ burn rate more manageable.
AmpleLogic’s low code platform was designed with such considerations in mind. In addition, developing COTS products on low code platforms allows seamless integration with other systems and more flexibility in adding desired or removing unnecessary features. Finally, COTS developers can adapt to market changes by offering better customization to their clients.
For example, let’s consider a company looking for a new learning management software to improve its training and development processes. After researching several different vendors and comparing their offers and benefits, they choose a provider that can offer them a product to fit their immediate needs. However, six months down the line, the client company expands its business into a new geographic market. All of a sudden, the existing learning management product no longer suffices. Having a COTS product developed through a low code platform allows for a quick iteration of functionalities to offer scalability, adaptability to different locations and increased workforce, integration with new automation systems, compliance with regulations for that specific region, etc.
The future of application development lies in agile and flexible solutions
Rapid application development is quickly becoming a necessity in today’s world of rising demand for sophisticated software solutions. With 70% of users taking less than one month to learn how to develop apps through low code platforms, it is clear that reducing coding efforts to a minimum and offering a streamlined, visual tool is the winning recipe for app development.
Organizations across different industries worldwide now choose low-code platforms to develop COTS products. This way, enterprises can exchange the one-size-fits-all products for fully tailored software that can supplement their core systems, allowing them to evolve with the speed of developing markets.
What we expect to see in the future is low-code platforms penetrating all industries, from startups to mammoth production facilities, to introduce speed and agility into traditionally expensive and drawn-out undertakings.
Manne V. Chowdary is the CEO and founder of AmpleLogic