Understanding Low Code Development Platforms
Spreadsheets are the original low-code development platform. With spreadsheets, people who are typically directly involved in a work process can create applications that they need, quickly and normally without IT involvement. These people are not dedicated programmers, nor are they members of their company’s IT department, hence we refer to them as “citizen developers” (see Citizen Developers: Low Code Is Now Enterprise-Class). It is stating the obvious that the great majority of companies rely on Excel to maintain a competitive position in their markets.
There is now a growing class of software tools that is conceptually very similar to Excel – an agile, flexible and easy to use tool that requires little or no actual programming. They enable citizen developers to create custom applications for such things as databases, proprietary business processes and web applications, and these fall into this new low-code development platforms (or low-code platforms) class. The importance and growing use of Excel is very suggestive of the future of low-code platforms; the immense value of tools created by users – rather than by IT and software developers – cannot be over-stated.
EASA – a Unique Low-code Platform Offering
Virtually all low-code platforms offerings today are designed to quickly create new applications from scratch. In contrast, EASA is a low-code platform that uniquely focuses on web-enabling existing tools and models that have already been created with software such as Excel, MATLAB, R code and scripts, or software processes that include these tools. With EASA, the low code development is primarily involved with the creation of customized, fit-for-purpose user interfaces that then drive or interact with software or software workflows. With this emphasis on custom user interfaces, EASA enables existing tools built in Excel and other formats to become streamlined, intelligent and secure web apps which are vastly easier to use. So, while EASA can certainly be used to create new applications, the platform’s real strength is enabling existing tools to be “webified” and greatly improved upon. This also makes the effort of creating an app far faster and easier than creating a one completely from scratch as you are reusing and not rewriting the underlying logic.
A low-code platform, for…Excel?
Interestingly, tools built with the proto-low-code platform, Excel, are among the most common to which EASA is applied. The proliferation of spreadsheets has resulted in tremendous inefficiencies and problems resulting from issues such as version control, intellectual property exposure, inability to conduct analytics and challenging user experiences. By building a web app UI to front the spreadsheet, all the functionality of the spreadsheet is retained but access is conducted via a web accessible interface, protecting the native spreadsheet from ever being directly handled by users. Thus, downloading, copying or altering is no longer possible, eliminating the typical spreadsheet “chaos” while improving and controlling accessibility.
EASA enables you to retain the spreadsheet look and feel if desired, or you can create a highly polished web app that completely hides its spreadsheet roots. This can be particularly desirable for outward facing, web-portal type applications for use by external users such as customers, partners or suppliers. In many cases, far greater intelligence can be built into the interfaces, helping to create the best possible user experience, and making spreadsheets previously used only by a small in-the-know group into practical enterprise tools. The beauty of EASA’s approach is all your original logic is used directly – no translation of your Excel file, while pre and post processing is now taken care of with your web app rather than the often clumsy column-row UI used by Excel itself.
Common applications involve high value or critical spreadsheets that have a need to be shared, such as those involved in pricing, engineering configuration, insurance scenario modeling, and deal evaluation, and the related software processes that often involve databases, CRM and ERP systems, data analytics and the like.