Rapid Application Development (RAD) has existed over a decade and originally describes a process of application prototyping and iterative development. High-productivity platforms now take this to the next level, by combining the latest technologies such as Cloud and PaaS and methodologies like Agile into integrated cloud platforms focused on speed of delivery.
What Defines a High-Productivity Platform?
High-productivity platforms essentially accelerate the entire Software Development Life Cycle, while shifting from a developer-centric approach to a business-centric approach. They enable both quick prototyping as well as delivering complete and innovative enterprise applications.
One of the strengths of visual modeling, a common characteristic of high-productivity platforms, is that the technical complexity stays more hidden from the developer as it is managed by the platform itself. It allows developers (e.g. business modelers) to focus more on the business value rather than overcoming technical hurdles. Although I am a software coder by nature, the latest generation of model-driven platforms are really worth taking a closer look at.
Some of the typical characteristics of a High-Productivity platform are:
|Visual modelling||Create application using a visual modelling language instead of coding. Easy to understand for both Business and IT, the platform itself takes care of the technical details|
|(a)PaaS||application Platform as a Service|
|Apps, not Applications||The need for agility and innovation generally favors a collection of simple and modular Apps over larger monolithic applications|
|Agile methodology||Value-driven, iterative, and collaborative development|
|Enterprise AppStore||Share and reuse assets such as Apps, modules, and widgets|
|1-click deployments||Automated deployment processes to rapidly release software to production.|
Where to Position Within the IT Landscape
The ‘pace-layered architecture’ from Gartner works well to explain where these platforms can deliver the most value. High-productivity platforms are best suited for ‘Systems of Innovation’ but also make a good fit for ‘Systems of Differentiation.’
Systems of Innovation require fast time-to-market and typically have the shortest lifespan due to their intent. Systems of Differentiation also benefit, but do require more considerations on how speed-of-delivery may affect the solution in the long term if not carefully designed and governed.
More recently this pace-layered architecture is also used in Gartner's 'Bimodal IT' approach that promotes two separate modes of IT within an organization. High-Productivity platforms are a very good fit for mode 2 which emphasizes on Innovation and Differentiation.
A specific type of PaaS
Many Cloud platforms provide some of the characteristics to support high productivity, but do not necessarily combine all to qualify for a High-Productivity Platform.
For example in the Gartner ‘Enterprise aPaaS Magic Quadrant’ you’ll find the more common PaaS vendors, as well as ‘pure play’ High-Productivity Platform vendors that leverage a model-driven approach such as Mendix and OutSystems.
Forrester provides a different segmentation of PaaS, by making a distinction in their ‘Enterprise Public Cloud Platforms’ reports between DevOps Pros, Coders, and Rapid developers. Platforms that support the ‘Rapid developer’ type are a good fit for high-productivity platforms. It provides a more business-centric approach, while many of the DevOps and coding aspects are running for the developer underneath the surface.