The first thing business users want is to avoid any mention of the legacy system. "Can't we just work around it?" they ask at the start of every project. There is a perception that legacy systems somehow prevent innovation by standing in the way of rapid product development or quick fixes to address customer requests.
Legacy systems have a bad reputation among business teams. Start talking about legacy systems and their important role in keeping a business running effectively and securely, and you are sure to see eyes rolling and plenty of thinly veiled exasperation.
Legacy systems don't (always) deserve this derision. Still, they have come to be associated with everything that business users hate about IT projects: Long development schedules, delayed timelines, lack of data integration, and even an inability to deliver quickly on a customer promise.
What is needed is a way for legacy systems to be as agile as the marketplace, where innovation, responsiveness and integration are required for customer satisfaction and competitive differentiation.
Wait - an agile legacy system?
Isn't that counter to all that legacy stands for - solid, dependable, secure and fortified for the long term?
A low-code platform as the "competitive layer"
Low code could be the connective tissue that makes your legacy systems equally robust and agile.
A general purpose low code platform creates what we call a competitive layer between a set of tailored applications and your legacy ERP, CRM or BPM systems.
A competitive layer addresses the two vectors of business transformation - speed to market and improved customer experience; and does so while harmonizing the development cycle with growth goals.
In that competitive layer sits the collection of applications that allow your business to work efficiently and be innovative in providing additive or custom solutions for particular customers or a whole industry.
With this mind shift on the part of the application portfolio team, we can quickly meet business users where they want to be - innovating and testing new ideas.
Increasing digital speed and innovation power
"Changing one line of code in a legacy system is by definition complicated, so the key is to securely integrate an application sitting in a hosted platform layer for just the data required, and not touch any functionality in the base code," says Stefan Krusell, Head of Business Development, Digital Factory, Siemens Sweden.
"With this mind shift on the part of the application portfolio team, we can quickly meet business users where they want to be - easily improving functionality in existing systems and innovating and testing new app ideas.”
Defining the low-code market space
Consider a powerful competitive layer as the agile layer of your legacy systems. Using a single low code platform to host the layer will allow not just rapid prototyping, building and operation, but simplify maintenance and management, too.
The analyst firm Forrester talks about the rise of the low code industry in a recent Fork in the Road report as "a logical response to the extreme pressure for new, modern software to win, serve, and retain customers."
Forrester described "low code" solutions as designed for Application Development and Delivery (AD&D) professionals as those providing rich tooling and large scale:
"Products and/or cloud services for application development that employ visual, declarative techniques instead of programming and are available to customers at low or no cost in money and training time to begin, with costs rising in proportion of the business value of the platforms. (We use the term low-code because many — sometimes most — enterprise applications require some coding to complete.)"
Forrester finds that, "Pro developers value control and process as well as productivity, so low-code platforms for AD&D pros provide multiple design surfaces, tools for configuration of the platform itself, UX controls, integration tools, and data management features."
Flowfactory is proud to be the first "general purpose low-code platform" for large-scale business applications in the Nordic region, helping companies accelerate their digital journey.
General purpose low code platform versus "off the shelf" software
While many BPM and CRM solutions now offer "low code" options for integrations or customizations, there is advantage to using a general purpose platform to create and manage your competitive layer.
If you only have 1-2 similar applications, it might be manageable to build them inside existing software, if you can also still easily manage maintenance updates and product upgrades for custom instances.
Yet, what organization will ever by satisfied with just a couple custom applications that address only part of the scope of your legacy system? Frankly, why would a business even want to be satisfied with a limit to your inventiveness?
The market and customers don't stand still - neither can your application portfolio.
The power of collaborating on ideas in real time
This relentless demand on IT teams for faster and more varied and custom development is not going away. Forrester acknowledges that often, a business user will work with an application developer to bring new ideas forward quickly. This is, in fact, one of the most powerful uses of low code - the ability to collaborate on ideas in real time, rather than struggle through a time consuming business requirements documentation phase.
Are you ready to add agility and rapid development to your legacy systems? Could a low code competitive layer be an additional, agile leg of your ERP/CRM/BPM solution?
Download our free whitepaper about Low-code in Swedish. A guide to technology that can dramatically increases the speed of application development and at the same time enables harmonization of the application portfolio.