RPA and Low Code development environments share several similarities but rarely do users of one understand the importance of the other.
Inexplicably, these two communities rarely overlap and when questions do arise, they demonstrate a lack of understanding of the strengths of using the alternative technology.
Earlier this year, Mendix hosted the Largest ever low-code conference ever globally, held in Rotterdam, it boasted around 5000 visitors across 2 days. So what is low-code, what has it got to do with RPA, and should I care?
First, the Similarities
Low-code generically speaking is an approach to development that uses visual modelling and configuration instead of traditional programming to create applications. Many RPA tools are referred to as low-code, as are many of the ecosystem products such as Appian or TrustPortal, because they follow this same principle.
Reinforcing the similarities even further, the target users for these products are often the business and not IT. Mendix refers to this audience as Citizen Developers, and similarly to RPA benefit from business experience above a technical background.
The Low-Code and RPA markets are similarly buoyant with predictions that low-code alone will reach $21 Billion market size within the next 3 years. It seems surprising that there hasn't been more recognition of these similarities sooner.
Low-code and RPA also provide high levels of integration between separate applications so you can understand at first why there may be an assumption that they do the same thing. But, the devil is in the detail, and it is at this point Low-Code Application Development Platforms (to use the full title) and Robotic Process Automation diverge and become powerful in their chosen areas of operation.
Strengths of a Low Code Application Development Platform
Low-Code delivers fully developed applications across a variety of platforms, include the ability to build entire databases, and have strong change management, version control and application deployment capabilities as a core component. Building entirely new applications at 10-times the speed of traditional programming tools is the wheel-house of low-code development.
Low-code development also provides the ability to deliver solutions across multiple platforms, such as mobile, for the delivery of their solutions.
Strengths of Robotic Process Automation
In contrast, RPA mimics human interactions to provide a digital-human, underlying systems have to first exist for RPA to work its magic.
Activity is focused almost entirely on windows and browser-based applications, using the data from underlying applications, and orchestrating the actions of your team of digital workers.
Why Both is Better
While the development approach and target audience have many similarities, there are many benefits from having both low-code and RPA at your disposal to deliver a comprehensive programme of digital transformation. Utilising each tool for its own strength will open up new opportunities to develop integrated solutions.