Building line of business applications with a low-code development platform

Abigail Lavarias  |  April 27, 2021

building-line-of-business-applications

For decades, line of business (LOB) applications have fueled the operations of enterprises. Whilst there has been an explosion of pre-packaged software, particularly with the advent of SaaS, it is not always possible to source an off-the-shelf line of business application that serves the unique processes of a business. In that case a company may create a custom line of business application which is tailor made to accomodate an organization's proprietary systems and processes.

What are line of business applications?

Line of business applications are software applications which are used to facilitate the unique requirements of a team, department, company, or industry. In contrast to productivity applications, such as spreadsheets, which are common to most organizations, LOB applications are specific to the needs of a smaller group.
For example, a real estate company may use a LOB application to analyse recent sales data, identify properties and/or locations that are in demand, or research a neighborhoods culture, trends, and the environment.

In a study conducted by Forrester it was found that businesses prefer using custom systems and applications over packaged software. These custom-built systems allow them to drive innovation, as they will fit the needs of the organization better and will provide the ability to differentiate themselves from competitors.

However, creating these custom applications has traditionally been easier said than done.

The cost of developing line of business applications

According to a survey by industry analyst Clutch, the median cost for an enterprise to develop a custom mobile LOB application is in the range of $40,000 to $730,000.

Forrester reports that apart from funding, developing these custom LOBs requires thorough planning and research, which typically involves finding the right platforms, talent, and consulting firms to work with.

This wouldn’t be the problem for large scale enterprises who would usually have dedicated IT teams working on their LOB applications, not to mention the funding to back these types of projects.

On the other hand, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) typically have fewer resources, limited IT budgets, and often have to use the development resources that they have available at the time.

That’s where accessible, low-code application development comes in.

How can low-code application development help in creating LOB applications?

Creating custom LOB applications is becoming more accessible with the rise of low-code application development. Gartner predicts that by the year 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity.

Low-code development replaces the traditional way of developing applications, involving writing thousands of lines of custom code, with a more modern approach using visual development tools and reusable components to build applications.

Low-code application platforms reduce the development costs and deployment time by requiring minimal coding and allowing developers of varied experience levels to create applications without writing thousands of complex code. These platforms provide organizations with compelling productivity gains for professional and citizen development.

How Toro Cloud facilitates low-code development of custom LOB applications

Toro Cloud offers solutions for full stack low-code application development including the application frontend, the APIs that the frontend application interfaces with, and the backend services that implement the operations of the APIs.

Toro Cloud’s products Bellini, an API centric development environment for creating web based applications, and Martini, an iPaaS for application integration, API management, and microservices, both leverage low-code application development.

Bellini simplifies the creation of custom LOB applications by allowing developers to create the user interface (UI) of web applications using a drag and drop framework of reusable AngularJS components.

With Bellini, developers start by importing an OpenAPI or Swagger schema for the API (or APIs) that their application will consume. Once imported, Bellini will create services for each of the operations in the API and make those operations available to the components within the application.

Bellini provides a library of reusable components or developers can create their own custom AngularJS components. Components are dragged and dropped onto a canvas and then bound to one or more operations from the API. Say, for example, the developer wanted to display a table of contacts from the organizations CRM system. By importing the API schema from the CRM system, the developer can bind a table component with the getContact operation from the API. All without writing a single line of code.

Bellini complements Martini, which can be used to design and mock the response of an API. Using Martini a developer can design an API, mock the response of the API, and apply security to the API without writing any code. A web application created with Bellini can then consume the mocked API to ensure that the design works as intended.

Bellini extends the API first design methodology supported by Martini to the frontend application layer. As a consumer of the API the application design in Bellini can undergo several iterations with stakeholders until both the API design and the application design are finalised.

Only then does work commence on the implementation of the API. Martini facilitates a low-code implementation of the service layer using a language called Gloop. Gloop is a low-code visual language used to create API centric application and integration microservices.

Gloop makes it easy to perform common development tasks such as mapping and transforming data, iterating over arrays, executing if-else and switch-case logic, invoking external code, running jobs in parallel, and more without writing a single line of code.

Sometimes, however, a developer may need to write a script to execute some custom business logic. Where required, Martini enables the developer to write custom scripts in the language of their choice including Java, Groovy, JavaScript, Python, and Kotlin.

Conclusion

Low-code application development is easing its way in all the areas of building unique, efficient, and affordable applications that SMEs appreciate.

The technical and business community are now working closely together in innovating solutions such as drag-and-drop framework, model-based development, prebuilt modules, and cross-platform accessibility. Low-code offers flexibility with the various features and functionalities that platforms provide.

Building LOB applications can now be done in a shorter timeframe with more users participating to meet the specific requirements of enterprises.

Low-code development is proving to be the future of digital transformation and data integration. This approach continually paves the way for developers and business users to work in a more accessible environment, allowing them to collaborate and develop LOB applications with ease.

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