What is Low-Code?

05 Jun, 2024
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Hello! I am Craig St. Jean, an OutSystems MVP based out of Ohio in the United States. I am a dedicated Xebian driven by a high degree of intellectual curiosity and a desire to share what I’ve learned.  

Today, I want to tell you a little about what low-code means for developers, what it means for your architecture and tools, and a success story. Then, I want to touch on market demand regarding job opportunities and career growth in the low-code space. 

What Does Low-Code Mean for Developers? 

To me, low-code means being able to spend time coding what’s important. I refer to myself as a developer, but I used to call myself a coder. I loved writing lines of code. I love checking out the latest JavaScript framework. I still kind of do, but my goal is to deliver as much value as possible for my business partners as quickly as possible. And that’s why I say I’m a developer, not necessarily a coder, because I don’t feel constrained to the paradigm of writing lines of code. I want to deliver IT solutions. Low-code tools allow me to develop things for my business very quickly that will be significantly impactful while cutting down on the things I don’t really want to spend my time on. If we consider an insurance company, you probably want to spend time implementing actuarial models, integrating with credit or geocoding services, or finding the best ways to give someone the proper rate for what’s appropriate for their risk. You probably don’t want to spend much time finding the best way to put a pixel on a phone. This is what I mean when I say low-code allows me to spend time coding what’s important. 

At this point in my career, I do not want to spend time coding mobile and progressive web applications. When it comes to mobile, do you use the native stacks of each platform (Java on Android and Swift or Objective-C on iOS)? Or do you choose an option targeting both platforms, such as Xamarin, Cordova, or React Native? There are so many different things that you have to learn and take into consideration to target these various platforms, and I honestly find it tiresome. I want something that will just do it for me. And that’s what low-code tools such as OutSystems have afforded me. 

On the progressive web application side, have you ever had to make a manifest that tells your browser all the different files, JavaScript assets, etc., that it needs to cache and when? Then, when you make a new version, you must update the manifest. That’s just not what I want to spend my time on. I want to spend my time delivering things, and that’s precisely what I can do with OutSystems. 

I also don’t want to spend my time learning all these intricate details of how a technology works behind the scenes or changes between versions. If you’ve worked through version upgrades of React, how much fun was it learning the difference between componentDidMount and useEffect when you migrated to a new version? Like me, many people initially thought that useEffect was the replacement for componentDidMount, but then realized it really isn’t because they have different lifecycles and do different things. To migrate between React versions, you need to think about building your app differently instead of just changing the name of a function. And that’s just one of many examples of what I don’t want to do. I just want to click upgrade, and then my application’s using the new version. That’s precisely what I get with OutSystems – when OutSystems targets a new version of the React framework and there’s a new release, I just upgrade the platform, click re-publish, and move on so I can spend my time delivering value instead of banging my head against my wall, trying to figure out why useEffect isn’t doing exactly what I want it to. 

What about backend migrations? Migrating from .Net 4.5 or 4.7 to .Net Core is not too complex of a migration, depending on what you’re doing, but there are differences that you must learn. Some features are in one version but not the other, some versions of libraries are compatible only with .Net Framework and not .Net Core, etc. I don’t want to deal with that anymore. I want something that gives me effortless capabilities to make a mobile and web application, define business logic, batch processes where needed, expose and consume APIs, and just deliver value as quickly as possible. 

What About Tools? 

Obviously, a different paradigm means different types of tools and ways of doing things, but it doesn’t necessarily mean losing things. If you come from a high-code background, you might be used to working with static code analysis tools to look for security vulnerabilities, performance issues, etc. Tools such as PMD, Sonar, or Coverity—do you lose those if you move to low-code? With OutSystems, it just means using a different tool with a different name. 

OutSystems offers many different tools that are simply included. AI Mentor Studio is your static code analysis tool to find security, performance, maintainability, and architectural vulnerabilities. I’m sure you know someone who has dealt with an SQL injection attack because a developer used concatenation on an SQL query instead of a parameterized query. OutSystems and AI Mentor Studio will identify that and tell you right out of the box, "Hey, you’re not properly encoding this, and it will be vulnerable to SQL injection attacks." 

Want to easily integrate with SAP, Salesforce, or an external database? See Integration Builder. There’s the Case Management Framework if you want to build a ticketing system. There’s BDDFramework for behavioral-driven unit testing. If you need some other specific integration, OutSystems has something called the Forge, which I like to call "GitHub for OutSystems." It’s basically a huge open-source community full of applications, components, connectors, and tools that you can just install in your environment, look at the code, decide if you want to use it, and then be on your way to delivering value. 

What About Architecture? 

With low-code, we still have to consider architecture, just like any other method of building things. I recall Bjarne Stroustrup’s (inventor of C++) statement, "C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot; C++ makes it harder, but when you do it blows your whole leg off." Going to a low-code tool is certainly not that dramatic, but you can still improperly do things and introduce technical debt. That’s why architecture and code reuse are at the foundation of OutSystems with the Architecture Canvas, which tells you how to properly abstract your code to maximize code reuse and not fall into these "blow off your leg" scenarios. Combine that with the vast amount of free documentation and training videos at Whether a junior developer or a senior developer, you can quickly provide value to your business. 

Real-World Examples 

Enough marketing speak. What about a company that’s actually done all this?

I have countless examples, but let’s start with Lendr Online. They had a large .Net application that they were integrating with Salesforce, but they needed to move faster. They had a technically minded business analyst who was up for the challenge, so they evaluated various low-code platforms and purchased OutSystems. I worked with their business analyst, and in two weeks, they had their first OutSystems application in production, integrated with both Salesforce and their existing backend. The application allowed their internal business departments to make difficult changes, such as merging customers into other customers within Salesforce, copying all their child objects, etc. 

Within a year, Lendr Online had five applications in production, and they decided to move all of their production applications from .Net to OutSystems because it was just that much easier. When they wanted to make a change, they could just go in and get done what they needed to do and move on. 

This was all possible because of training. Training is essential to both OutSystems and Xebia. If you go to, you will find tons of training material, boot camps, classrooms, and so on. Here at Xebia, we also help with this, being the top-rated Global Training Partner of 2022. 

One of our customers is a large global insurance carrier who wanted to be trained in OutSystems. After two weeks of training, they were already saying, "Okay, I want to start building some of this stuff on my own now." 

The last example I want to mention from a success story perspective comes in the form of productivity and time to market that you can get from a low-code platform. OutSystems was working with a large telecommunications carrier on a legacy workflow platform. They wanted to migrate 26 applications from the legacy platform into OutSystems by the end of the year, which was already half over at this point. The urgency was because the legacy platform was up for a license renewal at the end of the year, and they had a longer-term vision of moving to OutSystems. 

How quickly could you move 26 production-grade applications from small to immense complexity from one technology stack to another if you were using high-code? If you take just one complex application, that might be a year, it might be more, and they had 26 applications to migrate. So, OutSystems Professional Services started working with them to bring that list down by migrating applications. Then, they pulled us in because of the number of applications that needed moving. We started November 1st, and before the holidays in December, had completely migrated the remaining 11 applications, got them through testing, user acceptance, and deployed to production. No legacy platform license renewal was needed. It’s really quite incredible just how much you can get done using OutSystems and how quickly you can do it. 

Job Market Demand 

There’s a huge incentive for businesses to migrate to OutSystems, or at least start including it in their practices, but what about developers? What is the incentive? What is the market demand? Fabrizio Biscotti from Gartner Research said: 

Globally, most large organizations will have adopted multiple low-code tools in some form by year-end 2021. In the longer term, as companies embrace the tenets of a composable enterprise, they will turn to low-code technologies that support application innovation and integration. 

I definitely agreed with him back in 2021, and, in 2024, we continue to see significant growth in low-code tools. 

Straits Research said: 

The global low code development platform market size was worth USD 16.3 billion in 2021. It is estimated to reach an expected value of USD 148.5 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 27.8% during the forecast period (2022–2030). 

That’s just massive growth, which means jobs, opportunities, and the ability to start learning other new things as the industry begins embracing things like AI and machine learning. With everything out there, you’re going find something that you would personally like to be a part of, and by using low-code, you work toward it while still producing value for your business. 

Low-code market demand is exploding, and it’s not going to stop.

Learn about Xebia’s Low-code services >>

OutSystems MVP, solution architect, and developer with significant experience in enterprise applications on traditional Java stacks, .NET, and OutSystems. Technical leader who has led large and small scale projects to drive business value. Mentor and Pluralsight Author.

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