Boomi Flow: The Ideal Low-Code Platform for Both Professional and Citizen Developers

August 1, 2019
Boomi Flow: The Ideal Low-Code Platform for Both Professional and Citizen Developers

As we discussed in our last post, one of the most important components of a low-code development platform is its architecture. Boomi Flow uses an API-first architecture to increase flexibility for replacing, improving and extending application services. Its user interface and tools are built as layers on top of the platform and interact with the platform through APIs.

But before we explain how this open, flexible platform and its architecture make life easier for a range of users, let’s spend a minute looking at how CIOs view the emerging popularity of low-code development platforms. For them, low-code development has several dimensions. Of course, they’re eager to gain the most obvious business benefits low-code development can offer:

  • Faster delivery and lower barriers to entry for creating business applications
  • Reduced time to deployment
  • Increased productivity
  • Greater profitability for companies if done correctly

From quickly updating the user interface (UI) for legacy applications to functional micro-apps and portals that support end-to-end business processes, CIOs want low-code platforms that can scratch tasks from their developers’ to-do list, so the team can focus on innovation at scale.

So, what’s the problem? Two words: technical debt.

What’s the Connection Between Low-Code Development and Technical Debt?

Before we answer that question, let’s establish a working definition of technical, or tech, debt. We’ll use Wikipedia for that: “Technical debt (also known as design debt or code debt) is a concept in software development that reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (limited) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.”

CIOs worry that low-code development will create tech debt as IT organizations try to manage and maintain an explosion of micro-apps created via the low-code approach. They feel that without integration, low-code development will be a tech debt “expander.” And because low code environments are often delivered as SaaS, just having APIs doesn't fully address the integration challenge.

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why Dell Boomi's low-code offering is part of a full-featured integration platform with robust API management. The Boomi Platform lets organizations build applications rapidly with data that's persistent in source apps, while also offering the ability to present holistic business processes to stakeholders.

This cloud-native, low-code platform fits the needs of both highly technical developers who live and breathe code and also business users who just want a simple way to automate routine, day-to-day tasks. And Boomi's ability to provide integration natively can reduce tech debt across the organization, help eliminate data silos and make it easier for IT to govern the proliferation of apps without becoming a barrier to business results.

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled programming. First, we’ll explain how Boomi Flow fits into the requirements gathering process.

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Requirements Gathering

For anyone building an app, gathering requirements is an essential first step in ensuring a successful project. Regardless of whether developers are using a low-code platform or a traditional development environment, they will still go through this process.

Boomi recognizes that developers will have their own requirements gathering and analysis tools. They may use a popular tool such as Aha, Trello or Confluence, or they may have created specialized custom tools. That’s why in Boomi Flow, we don’t recreate a requirements management system. We can work with whatever tools are in place, including those already built into Flow applications.

Developers can also capture requirements as part of a flow and invoke Flow APIs to bring them into a requirements tool. This kind of openness allows customers to select best-of-breed apps for managing development processes. That’s why we didn’t build a requirements management tool into Boomi Flow.

Boomi Flow also allows “pro-code” and citizen developers to take advantage of model-driven development, which we'll explore next.

Model-Driven Development

Model-driven development replaces traditional methodologies with a drag-and-drop canvas that lets developers construct a model of the application using pre-built components. This model is converted into an automated process at run time. The output becomes the same as if the application was executing a piece of code.

Boomi Flow makes model-driven software development easy. Flow developers create these models or “abstractions” using the platform’s built-in tools and pre-built components as building blocks. These components can be connected by configuring their properties. This could be something as simple as including a form within an application that has a drop-down menu and a way to navigate between form fields.

Flow also uses the concept of services. So, for example, if a Flow application needs to connect to Salesforce or SharePoint, Flow provides built-in services that let the developer quickly make these connections, so Flow can seamlessly interact with these and other third-party applications.

And since Flow is part of the unified Boomi Platform, with its rich connectivity ecosystem, Flow application developers can connect to just about any endpoint via Boomi connectors.

Boomi Flow's Model-Driven Development Processes

Support for a Range of Developers and Skill Sets

Boomi Flow epitomizes a development approach that puts simplicity and the user experience first. But this doesn't mean Flow lacks power. It is used by one of the most successful investment management firms in the world, which, by the way, adheres to a committed cloud-first IT strategy. As a low-code platform that can be employed to create applications from simple to complex, Flow's core tenet is to help its users create the applications they want in the most intuitive way.

Technically-savvy developers can interact with Flow by calling many of its capabilities via APIs, which are available directly within the platform. For developers creating advanced applications, Boomi's entire API ecosystem and Git repositories are at their fingertips for manipulating data and connecting to any endpoint. In addition, these advanced capabilities mean developers can easily create custom components using the various macros, libraries and scripting options in Flow.

Citizen users, on the other hand, want simplicity. They don't want to deal with code repositories. They just want a simple application that can accomplish a routine task like moving Excel data to Salesforce, Workday or ServiceNow. For those common scenarios, Boomi Flow's drag-and-drop interface and built-in functionality are ideal.

So, that’s how Boomi Flow delivers capabilities for different personas.  Regardless of the type of applications being built, the connectivity or the hooks needed in other platforms, or the complexity — or simplicity — of applications, Flow can help.

In our next post, we'll take a deeper dive into the ways in which Boomi Flow satisfies the demands of professional developers while simplifying life for citizen developers.

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About the Author

Manoj Gujarathi is director of product management and engineering at Boomi.