The low code approach promises software development of new applications largely without standard programmed code. Thus, the « clicking together » of software components via test or graphical user interface can, at least in part, replace traditional programming and the necessary programming skills. Does the increased use of low code have an effect on the development and operation of complex software systems in the public sector?

The demand for new digital services in the public sector is constantly on the rise and needs for the fast creation of digitally enhanced business services is increasing.

From standardized IT applications to flexible tools

A key drawback of standard applications is that, even for tasks that are actually quite simple, it can be difficult to find a function that exactly matches one’s own ideas and requirements. To tackle specific needs, extensive additional configurations of existing applications are required by developers.  However, this often turns out to be costly and tests need to validate that the new application is interoperable with existing software.

The low-code approach offers a way out of this conflict. Programming is kept as simple as possible and integration into existing IT infrastructure is automated. Moreover, low-coding can also be used to develop complex customized software solutions similar to those used in municipalities for very specific fields of business applications, such as population management, finance and taxes, waste handling, etc.

When using low code, the programming is divided into the programming of a low-code application platform by experts for programming or traditional software developers.  The low-code environment is provided by a dedicated IT department or an external IT service provider like cloud computing and directly usable business applications are coordinated by technical experts with their knowledge of business processes and their formulas and rules.

Public sector empowered by low-code applications 

All of this aligns with the low-code ethos that we endorse here at SIGI. A public administration should be empowered to drive their own digital projects and that’s what low-code can deliver.

We believe that to drive public sector digital transformation, municipalities should be empowered to be involved in their transformational projects from start to finish. Our ambition is clear: create more collaborative, streamlined, digital inclusive and responsive applications by using a domain specific language (DSL) based on low code.

The public sector is defined by a set of legal rules and regulations, determining their business procedures. Hence, the development of low-code applications for specific processes in public administrations simplifies the design for applications characterized by a sequence of processes, easily achieved by combining software components. Furthermore, the flexibility and the speed of low-coding gives municipalities the opportunity to customize solutions to their specific needs.

With its new Administrative Resource Planning (ARP) SIGINOVA, SIGI’s approach is to base digital public services on the needs of users, using open standards to ensure integration, rather than being compressed by incompatible legacy technology.

In 2019, SIGI has developed a proprietary DSL language, which provides us with a completely different approach to developing solutions for our customers. Our 40 years’ experience and deep-seated knowledge of the municipal sector guided us in the development of this simple language based on only 15 verbs combined with objects and activities. Furthermore, our low-code framework is enriched by in- and outbound APIs and an extensive set of specific functions such as blockchain, electronic signature as well as numerous others.

By applying this language, our business experts can now fully adopt a customer-centric approach involving the customer right from the beginning on the digital development journey.

Each business application development process starts with a technical council in which key civil servants and local politicians can contribute directly as subject matter experts in defining their business solution. With their knowledge and experience, they are able to develop customized business solutions in very close collaboration with the experts of SIGI by using our low-code based language. Furthermore, they are part of the solution achievement process as they roll out their own solutions amongst colleagues and citizens.

A major convenience of the public sector is that municipalities are not in competition with each other. This means that when one business application developed in a municipality resolves a business issue, this learning and result can be shared with others, meaning the ROI for the public sector as a whole is increased.

This is not just a change in coding but a real change in tradition.

Risk is lower when public administrations develop business applications with low-code, and ROI is higher.

That’s the true impact of low-code platforms and we’re only just scratching the surface of what these platforms can do.

I am fully convinced that with low code we are at the edge of democratizing software development.