Category 13 September 2019

#3 Life in Low-code // Forrester Wave for AD&D Pros with Richard Billington & Richard Farrell

The Forrester Wave for Low-Code development for AD&D Professionals is here!

And we’re delighted that we have made it into the top 13 vendors featured in the report. Louise Wright is joined by Low-code CTO Richard Billington and Netcall CTO Richard Farrell to discuss the report and provides some more context around the evaluation four platforms received. The great news is that Netcall caters for both professional developers and business users – so what does this mean for Senior IT and business leaders? Listen to this episode to find out.

LB: The latest report is an evaluation of Low-code platforms that are for Application Development & Delivery (AD&D) professionals; it features 13 platforms and we are delighted that MATS Low-code has made it into this Wave. Richard Farrell, you work closely with a number of analysts, can you give us more background on this wave and what it means?

RF: Forrester conducts a very rigorous process, for their waves. It is a long-running process covering lots of technologies. This particular one had 28 criteria and also included a full demonstration, which was really interesting as well. There were lots of interesting areas to address and because this was for the AD&D pro wave, these were different questions to ones we have encountered before. The typical audience that Forrester expects are people that are evaluating different vendors, who have an idea that they want to move into Low-code but they don’t know who is in the marketplace, it’s a new field for them. The Wave gives them a really good overview.

LB: Richard Billington, we’re no stranger to the Forrester Wave reports as we were included in The Forrester New Wave™: Low-Code Platforms For Business Developers, Q4 2017 report weren’t we?

RB: That’s correct. The Waves are mutually exclusive but we have recently transitioned from the Business Dev to the AD&D Pro Wave after Forrester evaluated our functionality and determined that recent additions, such as the Code Studio, aligned us with the AD&D community. That’s not to say that we have moved away from our business dev heritage at all. Actually, far from it. My view is that every low-code platform has to cater for that community otherwise are you really a low-code platform at all? If you need developers, have you got enough in your business? We have spoken before on the podcast about the digital skills shortage, you need to be able to involve Business Devs to complement your delivery teams, our platform is very much designed for both.

Forrester actually stated in our evaluation that “the firm’s expertise in tooling for business developers makes it a potential choice for clients seeking a single platform for both professional developers and business experts.” For me, that is amazing! That is exactly where we want to be. Providing a platform that the whole business can use to build apps for their customers/citizens/patients. No longer relying on IT to deliver for them. They can get stuck in alongside IT, to deliver transformational change programmes.

They also mentioned that customers reported that the product requires very little training to produce meaningful apps. Again, that’s brilliant! If it’s really difficult to use, then how can you expect business users, that don’t have that traditional development background, to contribute? It has to be easier. And our customers are reporting that it is. We are hugely proud of that. When you consider the names that we are evaluated alongside, such as Microsoft, Outsystems, Mendix, Salesforce and ServiceNow, and some of those that didn’t even make the 13. They’re much larger organisations that we were alongside.

RF: What we are also seeing is that business leaders are moving more and more towards platforms and platforms as a service (PaaS). In fact, the view is that platforms as a service will be the predominant architecture for business applications moving forward, which is great. This dual-use between IT users and business users is really at the heart of where low-code can really add value. You need low-code to involve the citizen/business developers, to remove the IT shortages, to get closer to the business. But at the same time, you need integrations, you need IT governance. Sometimes, you do need some code. This is where catering to both the business developers and AD&D Pros genuinely gives us some unique advantages.

LB: That all makes a lot of sense. We are clearly pleased to be recognised as one of the top 13 vendors. How does our platform stack up against other vendors named in this report?

RF: We’ve got a really strong story to tell. Out of the 28 evaluation criteria, we received the highest score possible in four of those, and most of them we are, in our opinion, on par. The particular areas where we believe we are strong, are areas which are really important for our customers, and I think there is European focus on that because we are strong in IT security, we are stronger in access control and security certifications, so we think we have a stronger offering. Also, we consider our tools for digital process automation to be superior, and this is again where we are talking about the business getting involved and automating the process.

Finally, which we thought was really interesting, we were among the highest scores in the vision and strategy criterion. In our opinion, we’re not just in a brilliant place at the moment, but we’ve got a solid plan for the future of the platform. And our innovation is delivered as well. So, it’s not just a nice powerpoint, it’s our track record of actually delivering what we say we will. Those areas are crucial to our customers, especially in Europe, especially for GDPR and other data protection and security. To differentiate in those areas is the hardest thing to do. It is much harder to have IT and security and certification than it is to knock up another feature.

LB: Definitely some points to be proud of.

RB: I totally agree. I love the paragraph in the summary section that stated “offers comprehensive functionality. Its reference customers, in particular, give its process automation facilities high marks.” We have always had the business process at the heart of the platform. Version 1, all those years ago, was built to manage financial service application processes on the web when applying for anything on the web was a new concept. Everything that we have added has been built around that core concept, you don’t have to have a process of course, but the vast majority of solutions created do because everything that a business does should be process-based really.

As a web vendor, we have to take security seriously, so it was great to receive the highest score possible in the security audits and certifications criterion. Probably because of our financial services and pharmaceuticals background, we have always had to consider security first; we think the score reflects that. You can imagine the IS (Information Security) reviews we have been through as a result of working with organisations in those sectors. Nowadays, everything on the web has to be security first and we have baked that into the heart of the platform. We also got the same score in the identity and access control tools criterion as well, and we think for a similar reason. All in all, it was a great evaluation.

RB: I was involved in some of the demonstrations to Forrester, and we were able to step through the scripts and deliver on each criteria. It was great to see that our roadmap is aligned with what the analyst community wants to see from a low-code platform. The challenge is to keep that up. It is a challenge: as well as the analysts, we have our current customers to consider as well as attempting to future proof the platform so that when a customer needs a new feature, it is already there. It is a juggling act, but hugely rewarding when Forrester validates, in our opinion, the journey we have been on in the last 18 months. I am really proud of what the team has managed to deliver.

RF: On privacy and security, one of the long-standing concepts in application design has been privacy engineering, this is now a requirement under GDPR. It’s something you have to do. I think that if you’re a vendor that doesn’t have that mindset of security first, then you end up with problems further down the line. A vendor that released a low-code platform about 6 months ago have now caught up and released some logging for it, so for 6 months, you were running blind, not knowing what was happening on the platform. It is essential that is built in as a fundamental principle.

We are the only UK vendor to be mentioned, which is great for all of our UK customers. It’s not just that we are based in the UK with offices here, our development, our support, sales and marketing teams are all based in the UK. That means that we can be closer to the customers, we can react promptly. If a customer request comes into us, it doesn’t sit underneath thousands of other requests in a distant office on the far side of the plant, we are on it, here in the UK.

In terms of where we can do better… as we have made the pivot into the AD&D Pro world, there are some features and functions that we need to improve and we are already working on that, they are in the roadmap. To some extent, this is more around the way that AD&D Pros do business, rather than what the platform can do. It is about integrating with standard operational procedures, rather than being a standalone entity. It is about getting closer into that AD&D world really, not anything fundamentally on the platform.

For our customers, it means a lot. It means that we are looking at this from an outside-in approach. It is very easy for a technology firm to get carried away with the latest hyped-up technologies – people ask me about new technologies all the time – but what do our customers need today and how do we deliver that? That outside-in approach, with clients and with analysts, means that instead of us looking at technology out, we look at our customers business needs and then develop our solutions to match that.

RB: The ‘big new thing’ is all well and good, but it has to be built on a structured foundation. This is really what these reviews are attempting to evaluate. Does the platform have everything that is needed to deliver enterprise-class solutions? And: Yes we do! We’ve been evaluated and we did a mop-up exercise having received the review to consider whether there were key functionalities missing. Broadly, the answer was no. Of course, we’ll always have a roadmap, there will always be changes to make, but we have everything that is needed to allow you, the IT or the business development community, to create solutions on the platform.

LB: As a closing point, Forrester’s recent webinar supporting the report features Rob Koplowitz & John Rymer, John shared with the audience, “They’ve got a rich product, they’ve got good solid feature set. One thing that’s really different is they began their life, their journey, as a company focussed on empowering business people and then they pivoted to developers. And they understand how to foster collaboration between developers and business people really, really well and they’ve built it into their platform and a lot of their materials. They’re really good at that if that’s what you’re interested in.”