When Brad and I started GTconsult we did so under a “No Code Philosophy”. We had both lived through consultancies who knew no better and as soon as they had a project would pull out Visual studio and start C#ing as much of the project as possible, irrespective of whether the SharePoint Platform they were building on had the inherent functionality already included or not. We saw the problem with upgrades requiring expensive refactoring projects. We lived through trying to support these platforms. We knew this wasnt the right approach, and so we allowed only Front-end code on SharePoint, making our solutions transportable. This approach allowed us to tranfer our skills quickly to Office 365 development on SharePoint Online. This story resonated with clients who enjoyed this approach. These same client got to using SharePoint and Azure and got used to provisioning quick solutions to solve business problems, they demanded more and they demanded faster turnaround, whilst the requirements specifications got vaguer as they realised that they could make the tools work for them.
It was then we realised the need for Low Code solutions, the ability to rapidly develop a solution on the platform that could work like the phone apps of old, as a MVP (
Minimal viable product) and then expand the solution from there.
The accessibility of the APIs in SharePoint and the use of frameworks allowed us to achieve this approach successfully. It was no surprise to use when the SharePoint Framework was introduced essentially provisioning this capability and at the same time making it a new best practice for SharePoint.
So how do Low Code Frameworks work. –
- In our case we have become proficient in using the SharePoint Rest API along with JQuery frameworks to quickly deploy responsive interactive and good looking frameworks onto SharePoint to build an application. The frameworks allow us to utilise the latest bootstrap and add-ins whilst quickly turning around solutions.
- In other circumstances we rapidly develop solutions using Nintex Workflow and Nintex Forms to drag and drop / configure a solutions quickly and easily
- We use OOTB technology like Azure Bot Services, MS QNA maker to generate intelligent applications
- We use the likes of PowerApps, Flow, and other workflow solutions like Nintex Workflow Cloud to generate turnkey low code solutions
What are the benefits of this approach –
- The first and most obvious is Rapid development, meaning a quicker turn around to the client and the ability to gather requirements as you build and experience with the client
- Low cost proof of concepts
- Near instant show of value to clients
- More engaged clients / partners – and this I need to stress, the moment you are working with the client to product a product, you are no longer seen as that external consultant, but part of the team helping them meet their objectives
- Your own teams skills dont necessarily need to be hardcore development skills, that knowledge is never bad, but in the SharePoint game its difficult to find those skills and to keep them, with Low Code development the skills can be easily learnt and passed on.
Whilst these arent the only benefits they pack a punch. we believe that this approach is the new way of working in the fast moving “digital transformation” world that we find ourselves in. The good old days of being given a specification, working through a large project for a couple of months in a waterfall approach to deliver a product that might no longer be relevant are gone. That is not to say you shouldnt plan what you are doing, in fact you should spend more time planning the best configuration of your low code solution, so that once you have amazed your client and are extending the solution it is stable and well architected.