Article | 22.2.2022
What is the benefit of using Low-code & RPA together?
The demand for visual and quick to deploy tools within organizations is ever increasing. As services and customer interactions, even internal workflows, become more and more digital at a higher pace of change there is a natural search for solutions outside the traditional IT governed development protocol.
The promise of low-code / no-code platforms to “enable the business user” has been around a while now. It is interesting to discover that despite the obvious benefits of these agile platforms the rate of low-code adoption in enterprise processes is much slower than, for example, Gartner has predicted. In this article we look at a few aspects of this phenomenon and suggest a way forward.
What is low-code?
Low-code essentially allows non-programmers to rapidly build custom applications with user interface that connects to various data sources and to visualize business insight. Low-code platforms come with visual drag-and-drop editors, helpful templates (desktop and mobile) and ready-made data connectors that facilitate development without writing actual code. Some examples of these platforms include Microsoft Power Platform, Mendix and Outsystems.
Low-code application development enables business generalists who really understand the business processes to build custom productivity apps without relying on IT department or experienced developers’ time and resources, which empowers organizations to transform their business faster and in a much more cost-effective way. Even developers can build applications with low-code in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take.
These platforms offer varying degree of developer friendly features to access and troubleshoot the underlying code and business rules. This enables adding slightly more complex logic and scaling the applications further which require more technical expertise. Ideally when business users and software developers work together in fusion teams, it allows utilizing diverse skills and multidisciplinary experts in an effective manner. This agile development supports organizations’ rapidly changing needs.
How can RPA and Low-code be used together?
Low-code and RPA both address similar enterprise challenges, like manual routines across legacy systems or budget and time constraints to deliver a solution. Indeed both have a place in the enterprise toolset and have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Applied wisely low-code and RPA together make a powerful combo.
In our experience low-code offers quick and scalable front-end UIs for human interaction, connects organization’s existing data and applies business rules and workflow controls with just a few clicks. This may suffice for simple apps or tasks, but often low-code needs additional functionality ideally suited for RPA e.g. to scrape data from external sources or emulate user’s data entry into legacy systems like ERP. Complementing low-code frontend with RPA in the backend achieves much more together.
Using these two in tandem enables flexibility also. For example, an app running on user’s desktop may trigger a cloud bot automation. Or low-code “action center” app may act as a process orchestrator for RPA bots running on different fit-for-purpose technologies such as Uipath or Python.
Benefits of using Low-code and RPA together
The use of low-code application platforms democratizes application development, and with RPA, it can be taken one step further. Most importantly, business users can automate their own tasks themselves and design custom applications easily. With low-code a larger group of people can make new applications, and RPA further enables doing more complicated things with those applications. This creates countless possibilities for use cases.
Utilizing both tools accelerates the organization’s digital transformation in a comprehensive manner. Having both RPA and Low-code in your tool kit opens new opportunities to develop integrated solutions and enables unlocking cross-business value quickly. These tools support delivering powerful hyperautomation by enabling citizen development. Both tools should be part of an organization’s digital transformation strategy to increase optimization and get the best of these agile, cost-effective tools.
Challenges and risks of Low-code
Although Low-code entices with its many possibilities, there are some challenges to recognize. The ownership of low-code app development may often be unclear as in many cases it is not governed by IT, but neither by business. Moreover, although Low-code application platforms might be fairly easy to use, integration and data transfer to other (external) systems is not as straightforward and involves consideration for architecture as well as data security.
The simplicity and user friendliness of low-code platforms may sacrifice maintainability and performance. Dependency on 3rd party components, codebase and features that are often hidden from the business user, or even difficult for a developer to troubleshoot, may cause unintended downtime. Something to consider when using these platforms for critical processes. Also low-code apps that require regular updates and maintenance will need additional effort in regression testing to make sure no dependencies underneath breaks in the update.
Low-code doesn’t always mean low cost. Be aware of hiking license prices, depending on the platform pricing model. You may start with one app for single user purpose, and over time the complexity grows with custom components like connectors and sharing to other users may result in significant license cost. A way to mitigate this is to set up governance and share the best design principles to everyone in the organization with access to low-code platform.
How to proceed with Low code implementation
As a process automation pioneer, we work with companies to discover and identify possibilities with low-code and help make intelligent use of the full toolset. To ensure safe citizen development, it is important to offer support and training to the selected personnel. Providing no support for citizen developers over time is unsustainable. We have extensive experience in facilitating citizen development programs and mentoring.
A powerful and secure digital transformation is done most effectively together with an experienced partner and hybrid teams that involve both business and IT representatives. Low-code application development encourages cross organization co-operation between business, IT and software development. But ultimately IT must have ownership of the development for ensuring proper governance, security and compliance.
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