Believe! The magic of low-code platforms
With so many service lines needing digitisation, some councils including Croydon are now exploring the new marketplace of "low-code platforms" to rapidly create new apps and digital services at scale.
If you’re like me, you may view low-code and no-code platforms in the same way you view unicorns. You’ve heard of them, but you’ve never actually seen one, so you can’t be sure they exist…
The promise of these low- and no-code platforms is that they like boxes of Lego bricks, each brick being a capability within an app or a service. You can drag and drop them into different combinations to make an app in a rapid and scaleable way. For a local authority, where we have a broad spectrum of services that need apps, the idea of a tool to rapidly build and iterate digital services is something of a holy grail. Or, to avoid mixing my metaphors, a unicorn.
I’ve seen some that come close on first glance, but when I approached them, it became apparent that they were actually just horses with a fake horn stuck on. Fine strong horses, but not the full unicorn. They were rapid application development platforms, but they still required the use of code to be truly flexible.
Well that may have just changed.
Croydon Council has just entered into a contract with Netcall to trial their Liberty Create platform. Liberty Create is one of several comparable platforms on the emerging low-code market, and it happens to be the one we picked after going through the procurement process. This isn’t intended as a sales pitch for Netcall as it could apply to any number of the platforms out there – but Liberty Create is the one I can speak about from experience.
In the past we have perhaps struggled in Croydon to get the balance right between the user journey and the requirements of our organisation. We’ve tended to tailor our online solutions more towards the council’s internal teams than the customer. I believe tools like Liberty Create, and the great improvements being made with the new website project, will allow us to really meet our user needs. User-centred design is after all at the heart of what we want to do in Croydon.
I came away from these training sessions with quite a few ideas about how the platform could be used in Croydon. It’s still early days, and work is underway to ensure we make the best use of the platform. But the future is looking bright.
Whilst I was in training, some of my colleagues were in Bedford at the first Liberty Create developer forum. They met with other local authorities and private companies already using the platform, alongside Netcall’s own developers. They saw presentations from Adur & Worthing and Cumbria, demonstrating whole line of business applications and how to create simple integrations with Department for Transport, DVSA and Google services. Talks of collaboration echoed around the room and many LinkedIn invites were sent. Paul Brewer from Adur & Worthing has already written an excellent post on what the future holds for our 2 councils. There is so much potential for sharing knowledge, designs, capabilities and applications.
I have seen the light, I know that low-code platforms do exist. It can surely only be a matter of time now before I see a unicorn.