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Can low-code development benefit supply chain management?

The low-code/no-code movement is exploding as it puts app development into the hands of business users. One possibly overlooked area for this technology is the supply chain.

The short answer is that low-code development does have the potential to enable better supply chain management...

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With Forrester projecting the market value of low-code to reach some $15 billion by 2020, it's time that supply chain operations learn about this fast-growing technology and explore its possible uses. As market forces change, applications often fall behind and force staff to work outside existing applications to accommodate those changes. It's difficult enough for engineers to keep up with demands for new development, and low-code development makes it possible for nonprogrammers to create applications independently.

Low-code development, no-code development

The rise of low-code/no-code tools puts programming capabilities in the hands of citizen developers -- people who have expertise in their business segment but are not trained to develop apps. Arguably, these are exactly the people who should be creating the applications they rely on to operate their business functions because they have intimate knowledge of the issues. The availability of low-code/no-code tools that simplify the creation of special-purpose apps makes it possible, and even simple, for business specialists to create customized apps quickly and customize them as needed -- all without the delays and complexity of involving IT.

Supply chain managers face a continual set of changes to their operations and reporting requirements as the specifics of their work change. And existing applications that handle order processing tend to be rigid and dedicated to particular processes, meaning that tweaking them to accommodate short-term or immediate needs is unlikely. Low-code/no-code platforms put powerful programming tools in the hands of business professionals so they can transform their understanding of business processes into high-performing apps in days rather than months.

Low-code/no-code for better supply chain management

A possible supply chain application using low-code development would be a scheduling system that coordinates vehicles with maintenance schedules and repair facilities.

No-code tools let supply chain professionals create apps that usually don't connect to the enterprise's internal data systems. These apps can be used to track data and let multiple users view and update information. One example in the supply chain is scheduling of local resources and coordinating warehouse staff when conditions change rapidly. The graphic workflow interfaces typically presented by no-code tools make it possible to build a cloud-based app to coordinate across multiple locations and to make changes to the app as needed without the need to connect to enterprise data or interrupt IT engineers' work in progress.

Low-code development can include some connectivity to enterprise data resources and let business people use their expertise to quickly create solutions. A possible supply chain application using low-code development would be a scheduling system that coordinates vehicles with maintenance schedules and repair facilities. Existing enterprise data sets, like vehicle inventory, can be exposed for access by low-code systems so supply chain managers can use that data in their scheduling app.

Both low-code and no-code platforms can deliver powerful app development capabilities to supply chain professionals who understand the problems they face and can enable them to create sophisticated apps to address these problems. It's up to IT to provide the tools and appropriate access to data resources, but doing so will lighten the demand on IT and potentially make the company's supply chain more efficient.

This was last published in June 2018

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