How to get more out of your own data with low-code
26.01.2022A guest post by Johan den Haan*
Data is considered the oil of the 21st century. However, non-transparent structures often prevent the correct use. How low-code technology makes it easier to include data in application development by making it discoverable and editable company-wide.
The amount of data is constantly increasing, but many companies cannot use it profitably. With low-code, on the other hand, it should be easier to process and integrate data without expert knowledge.
(Image: public domain // Pexels)
Commodities are making headlines these days, especially due to their scarcity. Wood, steel, metals or paints are missing at all ends and thus pose problems for the production processes of numerous industries. As probably the most prominent example, the ongoing semiconductor shortage is constantly putting obstacles in the way of electronics and automotive production in particular.
With all this, one raw material even exists these days in massive quantities: data. Due to increasingly networked production environments and the increased use of sensors, IoT applications in particular are generating ever larger quantities of them. The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimated in a study that it will be 90 zettabytes per year by 2025. This corresponds to the capacity of 22 trillion DVDs, which, stacked on top of each other, would reach to the moon and back several times.
Data must first be prepared
With regard to data–supported applications – for example in the field of predictive maintenance or the virtualization of production environments – this wealth of data seems promising. But it alone is not enough to optimize production processes: just as petroleum must first be refined, data must first be processed in order to create added value. This applies in particular to the data from networked production environments, which are often very heterogeneous and are available in different formats – be it values for temperature, humidity or pressure within a machine.
In order to convert the flood of data into usable information, it must be stored, processed and analyzed. In addition to their sheer quantity, another challenge lies in the organization of production data: only if they are easy to find and accessible can a company use them effectively at all. This is achieved by companies merging the relevant data into a single view after processing and making it available.
Data integration has been a matter for experts so far
However, conventional solutions for such data integration are usually highly complex. Their use requires the knowledge of experts. However, many companies lack specialists who have the appropriate know-how or could develop the programs that would be necessary for this. Thus, this process step often proves to be a stumbling block on the way to implementing data-supported processes.
One solution can be a low-code platform, which is offered, for example, by the Siemens subsidiary Mendix. The low-code technology works with a visual, model-based logic and allows apps to be assembled according to the modular principle. Thanks to this intuitive approach, even employees without programming knowledge can participate in app development. By contributing your domain knowledge, you contribute to designing particularly solution-oriented applications. Ideally, this relieves the developers and accelerates the provision of required software solutions overall.
How to facilitate data integration with low-code
In this way, low-code also facilitates the creation of applications with which data can be collected and used. But even with low-code development, searching, editing and providing the required data still account for around 30 to 40 percent of the time required.
To speed up this process, a data virtualization service can be used. In addition, business users and developers should be able to access all data and digital resources of their organization and edit them if necessary or write new data. The data hub offered by Mendix relies on three components:
- The Data-Hub-Catalog should provide an overview of all resources on a meta level. As in a library, the existing company data are noted in it, catalogued and thus easier to find. In this way, users should identify, view and analyze relevant data.
- The Inclusion of external data is the second component of the data hub. With the help of over 60 connectors, users can access external data sources during app development as if they were stored locally. You can select the relevant data by drag-and-drop and integrate it into your applications. ERP systems or databases such as SAP-HANA can also be integrated via it. In addition, users can share newly gained data insights via this integration and make them usable for other employees.
- The Data Hub also includes Tools for central data management. They help to understand who in the company accesses which data sources, which dependencies exist and which are sensitive data that need to be specially protected.
Democratization of data usage
With such solutions for data virtualization, low-code platforms contribute to democratizing data usage within companies significantly. With their help, even users without data expertise gain insights into existing resources and relationships that would otherwise only be revealed with great effort. In the worst case, they remained completely hidden, and the associated potentials unused.
Especially in view of the constantly growing amount of data through IoT applications, solutions that enable such a structured overview and editability are becoming increasingly important. After all, they also strengthen the quick-wittedness of a company: a transparent data situation allows employees to develop a better understanding of the processes in the company, and the organization as a whole to act more purposefully. Appropriate data insight can be used to optimize processes and increase your productivity. In addition, IT solutions can be developed faster due to the easier retrievability of the required data. This allows companies to react more flexibly to requirements and become more agile overall. A more efficient use of data with low-code is therefore also the key to higher competitiveness.
Better protect data with low-code
In addition, low-code can contribute to a higher level of data protection. On the one hand, the greater involvement of the specialist departments makes it possible to specify which data is needed for how long for the development of a particular IT solution. On the other hand, the faster provision of tailor-made applications counteracts the use of shadow IT. These are unauthorized applications that users often resort to for lack of efficient solutions. In addition, some low-code platforms also offer data protection modules, which the developers can then integrate into their applications via drag-and-drop.
Competitive advantage through efficient use of data
As the amount of available data grows, it is becoming increasingly critical to find ways to efficiently integrate it into business processes. Features such as a data hub help companies to make data available for software development. The approach must intuitively support low-code technology and business users should benefit from it as well as professional developers. In this way, the company as a whole becomes more agile and can convert the potential of this valuable raw material into a sustainable competitive advantage.