With the pressures of digital transformation weighing heavy for every enterprise leader, time is of the essence. And as you watch competitors adapt to industry changes, it’s easy to start rushing your digital transformation efforts.

This is why low-code platforms are gaining so much traction. But if your only focus is fast tracking digital transformation, you might be putting your efforts at risk.

Long-term digital transformation success means finding the right situations to use low-code platforms and leaning on custom development when necessary.

Low-Code Speed Comes at a Cost

You could list a few benefits of low-code platforms, but the main advantage is speed. When you’re delivering applications with low-code platforms, you don’t have to worry about coding rules for screen sizes, scalability, traffic routing, or any other time-consuming pieces.

Eliminating as much coding with out-of-the-box functionality means you can get to production faster. And for businesses, there’s nothing better than cutting a multi-year project down to just a few months- maybe even weeks.

However, you have to temper expectations when it comes to low-code platforms—especially once you get down to the differentiated aspects of your business. Speed is great, but keep these disadvantages in mind to avoid racking up unmanageable technical debt:

  • Limited Integration Options: You can’t look at low-code platforms in a vacuum. There are so many different tools and products that combine to define your digital transformation strategy. But when you rely heavily on low-code platforms, you’ll start to run into integration problems (especially with your legacy systems). For systems that are core to your business, you can’t sacrifice custom integrations just to move quickly.
  • Lack of Customization: Data integration is one thing, but the modular components of low-code platforms limit application customization as well. Once you get neck deep in a new system, you’ll want to customize a specific component to meet your specific needs. But instead of customizing the system, you’ll be forced to change your business to meet the capabilities of the low-code platform.
  • Security and Reliability Concerns: When you build a custom platform, you know you can rely on it because you know it inside and out. With low-code, you take on certain risks because you aren’t in complete control. What happens if you’re tied into a platform and the company gets acquired? You could end up with a tool you never wanted and have to manage many complexities you never expected. The lack of control also causes security problems. If a disgruntled employee at your low-code vendor decides to build a backdoor, your mission-critical system becomes vulnerable. This is a risk you can’t take when the system is part of your core differentiation.

Despite these challenges, low-code development can play an important role in digital transformation. They excel in proof-of-concept scenarios because you can execute an idea quickly before diving into more intricate development. Or, if you need a short-term answer to a business problem, low-code can give you a solution as long as you understand you may need to tailor a custom app to business needs down the road.

When you need a differentiated system, custom development is the better path—but that doesn’t mean it has to be slow.

Dispelling the Custom Development Misconception

There’s a common misconception that custom development is automatically slow. But custom engineering doesn’t have to take years. You can take advantage of agile processes to get an MVP in just a few months. Just like in the waterfall vs. agile debate, you can’t base your decision on speed—it has to be about business needs.

We found this out first-hand when we worked on ParkHub. The original ParkHub idea was built using a low-code platform. However, the main parking system idea started to come to form and we had to make a decision as we went to the next level. For all of the reasons we’ve discussed so far, we went with custom development. But it didn’t take us years to execute custom development for ParkHub. Within 3 months of development, we went from discussing taking the next steps to successfully parking our first event—the American Country Music Award Festival.

There’s a time and place for both custom and low-code platforms in your digital transformation strategy. The key is to take a look at your unique business needs and make the best decisions for the long-term success of your tech infrastructure.

If you want to learn more about designing a digital transformation strategy that makes the most of enterprise technology, download our free ebook, Enterprise Technology for Business Outcomes.

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