Tech to Watch for FY18: Low-Code Development Platforms

Federal IT leaders are staring down several major challenges at present. From flat budgets, to greater demand for digital services, and the hiring freeze, it’s a difficult environment in which to deliver on the mission.

While some agencies seem almost paralyzed by the conditions others are using the opportunity to shift mindsets and test out some newer, yet proven methodologies to keep delivering services to citizens and other stakeholders.  Recently we read an interesting article about how the USDA is using a low-code development environment to improve the speed of delivering crop insurance to America’s farmers.  Insurance is one of those service functions where being able to respond quickly to citizen need is vital.  According to an article in GCN the USDA “saw a 75 percent drop in the time it took to insure a farmer’s crop after revamping the after revamping the USDA application that farmers used to apply for insurance using a low-code platform.”

So how does a low-code platform drive change like the USDA experienced?  First of all, low-code platforms take pressure off an agency to find – and pay for – highly skilled coders.  Routine processes are automated negating the need for custom development and dedicated coders.   Instead ‘citizen coders,’ or non-technical employees, can step into what would have previously been a role for traditional developers.  As Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian, noted in the article “[w]e can’t make all that many more developers. We’ve got a certain number of schools, and the developers get made at about the same rate they always used to,” Calkins said. “One of two things has to happen to bridge the difference. Either we’re going to have to make the developers we’ve got much more efficient, or we’re going to have to get some people who are not developers … to make software.”

While some caution that using citizen developers can expose the application development process to risks, such as data security and integrity, or unintended consequences such as an inability to integrate with other applications, the latest low-code development platforms address these issues by creating a modular environment that enables citizen developers to plug and play.  Calkins compared this to a Lego-like approach to development where the IT team specifies the parameters to mitigate the common concerns highlighted above and then the citizen developers can “put the pieces together.”

While low-code development is an emergent tech tool for federal agencies, FTI sees this as an area of growth over the next year because of the hiring and budgetary constraints that most will be dealing with in FY18.

Interested in learning how to find a low-code develop platform that meets the needs of federal agencies?  You can find more information here.

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