Platforms In A Nutshell

March 24, 2021

Significant advances in IT software delivery technologies over the past decade have resulted in a robust marketplace of “low-code/no-code application delivery platforms” a.k.a. “Platforms”, that enable practitioners to design, build, test and deploy application software through graphical user interfaces instead of traditional manual or IDE based programming.  This model for application delivery enables developers, architects and even business users to create applications with intuitive visual tools and model-driven logic.  These platforms can produce fully operational applications while only requiring a minimum of additional coding for specific non-standard situations.  Through this model of development, teams can produce applications more quickly and with fewer resources while enabling a high degree of reuse from previously built programs.  The remainder of this article introduces the reader to Platforms in more detail.


The Low-Code/No-Code Platform

“Low-code/no-code application delivery platforms” a.k.a. “Platforms”, enable practitioners to design, build, test and deploy application software through graphical user interfaces instead of traditional manual or IDE based programming.  This model for application delivery enables developers, architects and even business users to create applications with intuitive visual tools and model-driven logic.  Platforms can produce fully operational applications while only requiring a minimum of additional coding for specific non-standard situations.  Through this model of development, teams can produce applications more quickly and with fewer resources while enabling a high degree of reuse from previously built programs.


Key Characteristics of Platforms


  • Browser based administration/configuration – The primary day to day tasks of any developer, tester, administrator or other role are performed through a web browser to create and maintain user roles, workflow configurations, data object modifications, UI screen designs, testing/debugging, API/database connections and many other functions. 


  • Drag and drop process modeling - Allows developers to model workflows, whether they are manual, system or a combination, by using a graphical representation of each of the steps and transitions between steps.  Conditions for moving between states in a process model are set through dialog boxes.  For example, “Send an alert to a user if the workflow has been in its current state for more than 30 days”.  Workflow conditions can include simple scripting that may not be available out of the box (usually in the form of JavaScript).   


  • Reuse – One of the most powerful capabilities provided by platforms is the ability to build components that can be easily reused in future applications.  Most of the configurations in a platform can make use of this such as user interfaces, data object extensions, workflows, notification rules, workload routing and many more.  The advantage of this reuse results in applications that can be built ever faster as time goes on while reinforcing standard components.  For example, a workflow that is written to obtain approval for a case management activity conducted by a technician can be reused across multiple types of case management activities – or even other application types.


  • Standards based application integration – Though platforms can deliver applications in isolation from existing systems, the vast majority of implementations require integration with other applications to complete the business process.  Any modern platform worth its price provides integration points to connect with older systems through a variety of modern computing standards.  Examples include but are not limited to RESTful APIs, SOAP, WSDL, XML, J2EE, etc.


  • Standards based data integration – Along the same lines as with application integration, platforms also must be able to access data stores across a wide range of technologies.  Typical standards include JDBC, ODBC, SQL, NoSQL, stored procedures, delimited text files, etc.


  • Adaptability to an existing organization – Over the decades, enterprises and agencies alike have grappled with the forced process or organizational changes that commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions often demand.  The rigidity of such solutions generated underperforming results or even outright failures.  Platforms provide us with the opportunity to make the software conform to organization and its current/envisioned processes.  This flexibility ensures that application deployments are more successful more often.  This also allows organizations to more gradually change their processes over time.


  • MI/BI instrumentation – By design, platforms capture an array of metrics associated with every part of an application.  The advantage of this approach is that analytics and reporting of an application can be easily configured as part of the project itself and delivered as a dashboard without having to expend extra development cycles or building an analytics solution against application data after that fact.  


  • Drag and drop user interface design – Many of today’s enterprise applications are delivered through internal web portals.  Platforms enable application developers to build those portals using drag and drop methods for text, images and controls including setting field validations, formatting, etc. The advantage of this approach is that development teams do not have to build a separate web tier implementing new applications.


  • Mobile ready – Further accelerating value is the ability of platforms to provide mobile ready applications either through responsive web design or with the operational infrastructure needed to offer applications directly through app stores such as the Apple App Store or Google Play.


About Digital Forge

Digital Forge, LLC advances digital design and transformation of enterprises into world-class, high performing organizations ready to take on the challenges associated with an ever-accelerating emergence of new technologies and increasingly hard to meet customer expectations.  Our integrated digital design and transformation framework encompasses a holistic digital strategy combined with low-code/no-code application platforms and state-of-the-art networking capabilities to ensure your business outperforms competitors and pleases customers for years to come.  With decades of experience in strategy, management and IT consulting experience, our team of highly skilled practitioners partners with clients to achieve new levels of success. 


About the author

Chip Taliaferro is the Founder and Chief Digital Guy at Digital Forge.  You can connect with him on LinkedIn or directly via email at chip.taliaferro@digital-forge.io