Company polishes its portfolio as support grows for low-code tools
Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat famously paints a picture of a world shaped by globalization, moving faster than most can keep up with. In a global and increasingly digital economy, organizations that wish to excel must place a high value on learning and on the means for being innovative.
To this calling comes low-code and no-code development and tooling platforms. Together they offer a path to achieving innovation at speed and with discipline that’s open to a broader range of participants. They enable roles including business professionals, knowledge and task workers that are new to software development to create software consistently and in harmony with employees possessing more-traditional coding skills.
Such tooling environments mask the complexity of coding for the myriad technologies, business and operating models that define the digital economy: from cloud services and mobile apps to cognitive operations powered by artificial intelligence like chat bots and automated decision control.
Salesforce has rightly tuned into the trend of low-code development as companies seek to speed their digital transformations to meet the changing needs of their workforce, partners and customers. This acceleration has been made more pertinent with the move to remote operations forced by Covid-19. These factors have heightened the appetite for secure digital operations and automation to make businesses more resilient.
Saleforce’s push for low-code tooling and development support plays well with the sizeable market reach of its portfolio of as-a-service solutions. Its customers have long appreciated the flexibility it enables thanks to the deep-level configuration framework underpinning many Salesforce services. Customers now also want the capacity to easily extend such services with added-value capabilities devised by any user. They’re not alone in this endeavour.
Low-Code Investment on the Rise
It’s clear from any brief look at the applications used by numerous businesses that there’s a broad spectrum of developer types building apps. In fact, many companies are recognizing the importance of empowering their workforce to build new apps or extend existing ones with new features. Our Senior Leadership IT Investment Survey, 2020, which questioned 736 respondents from mid-sized to very large organizations from several functional areas — IT being the largest — and industry sectors, highlighted the wide adoption of low-code solutions. Already, 46% of organizations use low-code tools as part of their application development processes, with 37% of respondents expecting investment in low-code development to increase over the next 12 months, rising to 49% in Germany.
A significant hurdle for enterprises is how to ensure that app development involving non-professionals is done in ways that embody agreed policies and regulations, and, just as importantly, within a secure and scalable framework with appropriate governance measures.
What Makes a Good Low-Code Platform?
Organizations want to transform into smart digital operators capable of delivering apps and innovations that can help them to both fight and nurture disruption, and achieve returns that sustain growth and long-term survival. This calls for a controlled app delivery function able to match the cadence of app production that many expect to determine successful digital operations.
When it comes to building apps, many cite the importance of integration, security and usability. In fact, the applications that users find the most effective and with which they interact more are those that place a high value on the user experience and incorporate best practices for engagement. They see integration with and extension of back-office systems, workplace support, process improvement apps and management dashboards as the means to deliver the levels of productivity synonymous with digital operations.
In Rapid App Delivery: A Digital Imperative for Low-Code, No-Code, we outline a 12-step framework for low-code platforms that addresses qualities such as the right structure, governance, culture, training discoverability, monitoring, security and privacy, user experience and usability. Each of these qualities forms the basis for organizations to assess the structure and strength of a provider’s offering.
To this extent, the Salesforce Lightning portfolio of low-code tools lays a solid foundation for customers to innovate in many of Salesforce’s core application services. This means being able to develop additional productivity functions for services such as Salesforce Customer 360, which connects Salesforce apps, building a single view of a customer profile.
The Energy Bolt of Salesforce Lightning
In keeping with the broad goals of users of low-code tooling platforms, Salesforce Lightning offers a unified framework with a set of distinct services for administrators (Lightning Framework), developers (Lightning Developer Services), business users (Lightning Experience) and IT teams to collectively build apps more productively and releasing them faster at lower costs. The range of resources are shaped to address the specific needs of each role group in context. This sees greater focus being placed on user experience and ease of use to reduce any friction in the delivery process, while allowing developers to easily reuse code and maintain customizations.
The Lightning platform forms the hub of Salesforce’s low-code capabilities, providing a range of programmatic and declarative tools to automate complex business processes through apps. The main components are Lightning Flow for creating, running and managing flows and processes; Flow Builder, a no-code tool for building flows; and the Flow app for automating business processes. Together, these components make up the powerhouse services for taking action, integrating with internal and external data systems and automating and extending workflows visually. They also enable the addition of rules to ensure compliance and support approvals.
With privacy an imperative in widely connected operations, Salesforce Data Mask brings in support for anonymizing or deleting personally identifiable information in sandbox environments to protect confidentiality and maintain regulatory compliance. The security features of the service can apply different levels of masking protection according to the sensitivity of the data. It’s an irreversible process to ensure that data isn’t replicated in a readable or recognizable way into another environment. And as it’s a process that doesn’t affect the original production data, creating a new sandbox with fresh data from production allows users to modify masking configurations.
Salesforce Einstein Analytics offers deep insights obtained through measurement and analytical support to ensure that all users can maximize the value of data held within their Salesforce systems. Common with analytical services that focus on broadening and easing access to powerful analytical processing, Einstein encompasses facilities that help to automate the discovery of insights for complex inquiries. The ability to explain what action was performed and why, and to better understand its impact and what can and should be done about it is a value-added capability that aligns with calls for greater depths of explanation.
The analytical services offer a typical menu of capabilities that allow the automation of actions from insight and operation, a unified view of data from multiple systems and support for personalization and context. The added benefits of Salesforce’s Dynamic Forms and Dynamic Actions bring to the forefront Einstein Prediction Builder. With this feature customers can build their own prediction model and configure a flexible page, customized for different users and devices.
Salesforce provides in-app guidance for Lightning App Builder to cement common practices and standardized strategies that can be easily interpreted and put into action. The inclusion of Trailhead, Salesforce’s online learning platform, with its recognizable achievements and success rates in training and broadening the Salesforce community, points to a rounded portfolio of low-code tools.
Raising the Profile
The host of different organizations using the Lightning low-code tools to build new value-added services quickly and confidently and to design new experiences are evidence that Salesforce’s collection of services is hitting the mark. The out-of-the-box service delivery ensures always-on availability, scale, and built-in security and identity and access management, enabling customers to extend their Salesforce services in a variety of ways.
Scientists from the Innovative Genomics Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, repurposed their labs to support testing for Covid-19, providing a HIPAA-compliant app using Salesforce Shield that let people request testing. The new lab is able to process 1,000 patient samples a day.
In mid-2020, Salesforce released a swathe of new features supporting the free deployment of Lightning on mobile devices. Many other innovations, such as the open-source Automation Components that add a range of building blocks to speed app design and development, are helping to reinforce Salesforce’s competitive profile in the low-code arena.
Our survey of senior leaders places Salesforce Lightning as the third most used low-code platform, although some way behind Google’s App Maker and Microsoft’s Power platform. That said, Salesforce’s range of low-code services goes a long way to tackle five of the biggest barriers to and scepticism of low-code environments, according to our study: lack of security, cost of adoption, lack of skills and lack of flexibility in development.
Crucially, Salesforce has shored up its low-code portfolio, an effort that should be commended as it will certainly improve the experience of Salesforce users in measurable ways.
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