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by Semi Rantanen, Solution Specialist

Solution Specialist experience: low-coding and AI’in in IT

Modern digitalization presents challenges for decision-makers requiring significant time, resources, and specialized skills for software development. This often leads to lengthy projects and ongoing maintenance. However, low-code platforms are emerging as game changers. According to Gartner, by 2025, 70% of new applications will utilize low-code technologies. Unlike traditional coding, which can take months or even years, low-code platforms enable rapid development, allowing applications to be created in days or weeks. This approach streamlines the development of modern digital services, making it faster and more cost-effective. In this article, Ill discuss the benefits of low-code development and AI for our customers and us as developers, enhancing our skill set in driving digital transformation. 

 

Six months ago, I hadn’t even heard of Nortal. Yet, inspired by a headhunter’s outreach at just the right time, I decided to explore what the company stood for, its projects, and the tech-savvy environment it fostered. The recruitment process was smooth, and the interviews revealed a collaborative and consultative team culture. It felt like the perfect fit for me to advance my career and work on exciting tech projects. And here I am – collaborating with tech-savvy peers on the latest technologies. 

Now, I’d like to discuss the benefits of today’s game-changers – low-code development and AI – and what they offer for both our customers and us as developers. These technologies enhance our skill set in driving digital transformation. 

Low-code: the magic wand for digital transformation 

Low-code has been likened to a magic wand for software development, offering a swift and efficient approach to creating new applications with minimal coding. Using purpose-built tools, low-code platforms empower developers like us to build applications quickly, leveraging pre-built components and integration services through a user-friendly visual interface. This approach reduces the time and effort required for application development, enabling us to easily configure workflows, implement business rules, and build functionalities. Moreover, low-code platforms facilitate rapid adaptation to changing legislation and operational requirements, providing the agility and cost-effectiveness essential for companies in today’s dynamic market. Furthermore, emphasizing the value to the customer, low-code solutions expedite time-to-market and enhance user satisfaction by swiftly addressing their evolving needs and delivering tailored, high-quality applications.  

Now, because of the low code, you might be wondering: is the need for traditional software developers going away? The answer is no. Contrary to popular belief, low-code development is not just for simple, limited solutions; its equally adept at handling large and complex implementations requiring application development expertise, such as integrations and additional functionalities. However, it’s important to note that low-code is not a silver bullet for all problems, and there is still a need for custom software development when tailored solutions are required. 

In my current role as a Solution Specialist at Nortal, this is precisely where I’ve been able to be involved. Rather than being confined to the role of a traditional Developer tucked away in a corner, my responsibilities span a wide range of activities within interesting and complex customer engagements. From designing and architecting solutions to data modeling, integrations, and low-code development, I take full ownership of solving our customers’ business challenges. We collaborate with leading Finnish public sector organizations and major industrial companies to automate processes, enhance employees’ everyday experiences, and improve business transparency. Leveraging Microsofts low-code toolset, specifically, the Microsoft Power Platform augmented with pro-code capabilities, we develop solutions to advance technology and directly impact end-users lives. 

For example, Nortal’s Space Resource Management solution for the healthcare sectors Space Resource Management solution for the healthcare sector exemplifies the potential of low-code development for complex projects. This solution includes multiple integrations, such as the medical record system, making it a comprehensive undertaking. Despite its complexity, low-code implementation enabled swift and agile development. Working closely with end-users, features requested by pilot users from medical staff were implemented and rolled out in a matter of weeks, showcasing the power of low-code development in delivering efficient and tailored solutions. Additionally, the solutions portability is worth noting, making it easy to transfer and customize for various purposes. 

When working on complex projects like this, a passion for problem-solving and a readiness to adapt as needed are central to this role. Our customers’ success doesn’t rest in some distant corner – it’s squarely in our hands. 

Driving innovation and continuous improvement with a dynamic Power Platform team – and the clients 

The Power Platform team I work with is a dynamic and rapidly expanding group within the organization. Despite its relative newness, or perhaps because of it, the team thrives on a culture of shared responsibility. Here, every member, irrespective of their title, is empowered to take initiative, continuously learn, and excel. In this environment, roles are not rigidly defined but flexibly adapted to meet the unique requirements of each customer engagement. 

Collaboration is at the core of our team ethos. We actively share experiences, challenge one another, and readily seek guidance from experts within our ranks when our knowledge reaches its limits.

This collaborative spirit fosters a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, ensuring that we deliver the most effective solutions to our clients while also nurturing the professional growth of each team member. 

The same applies to customer projects we work on. According to our experiences, it is beneficial to educate and support end-users to participate in this agile development path to get the most out of low-code development. This means involving end-users in the development process and using rapid prototyping to make it easier for users to provide feedback and suggest improvements.   

During the development phase itself, it is also essential to consider the maintainability of the application and establish a model and approach for continuous improvement. The more complex the solution, the more important it is to have a plan for ongoing maintenance and improvement. Moreover, it’s worth mentioning the new low-code ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) features of the Power Platform, which further reduces complexity by allowing deployment pipelines to be set up with minimal configuration. 

For these reasons, our partner of choice has been Microsoft. Microsoft Power Platform’s rich integration interfaces and more than 900 ready-made connectors have enabled connectivity to a wide range of backend systems, allowing a multi-vendor ecosystem and providing a gateway to automation. Their flexible and agile tools will allow us to build reports, dashboards, desktop and mobile applications, and automated workflows that ensure an instant feedback loop from insights on the backend to actions on the ground.

Empowering myself and others with AI

It’s beginning to be quite clear that low-code development really provides several benefits that make it an attractive option for specialists and organizations looking to develop modern, digital services. When one of today’s highlighted trends, AI, is added to the picture, it offers several benefits when empowering myself, others, and our clients. 

AI in low-code development integrates artificial intelligence capabilities into platforms, automating tasks like code generation, data processing, and UI design. This automation frees up developers to focus on higher-value activities. Features like Natural Language Processing enable chatbot creation for intuitive user interactions, while predictive modeling provides valuable insights from data, optimizing system performance. Harnessing AI in low-code development streamlines system building, meeting customer needs with agility and innovation. 

Moreover, beyond the benefits it offers on the project side, AI can facilitate self-learning. We, developers can utilize AI-powered tools and training resources to grasp AI fundamentals. We have the opportunity to experiment with AI models, integrate AI functionalities into applications using low-code platforms, and seek guidance from AI experts. This continuous learning and experimentation with new AI techniques not only enhance developers’ skills and productivity but also capitalize on the efficiencies of low-code development. 

AI’s transformative impact on application development, encompassing both low-code and pro-code approaches, presents an exciting opportunity for our team to adapt and empower each other. While Microsoft’s Power Platform Copilot is still in its infancy, other AI tools have already assisted me in brainstorming ideas and providing daily coaching on development tasks and customer interactions. Alongside our daily work, we actively explore new AI technologies, welcoming ideas for utilizing innovative tools. Licenses for these tools are readily available upon request, fostering a culture of experimentation and learning. After successful pilot experiments, decisions are made to scale up the adoption of new tools. For instance, licenses for tools like GitHub Copilot are now granted upon request following successful pilot experiments. We need to promote the continuous and open sharing of experiences and learnings, as AI and tools like Power Platform and GitHub Copilot will eventually revolutionize the application development scene.  

At Nortal, we guide the use of AI in customer projects by prioritizing adherence to the client’s policies and guidelines. In addition, we believe in serving as trusted advisors, challenging any doubts or fears clients may have regarding AI technologies. While some may view large language models with skepticism due to perceived unpredictability or potential risks, they can offer significant value when utilized correctly and safely. Specifically, they can streamline the learning process for new technologies, ultimately saving both time and money for project teams and clients. However, it’s important to avoid falling into the trap of AI hype, where AI tools are applied indiscriminately to tasks that offer little real value merely for using AI. As advisors in AI implementation, finding the right balance between leveraging AI effectively and avoiding unnecessary hype is essential.

Own your future and growth

Low-code and AI offer a multitude of benefits for developers and customers alike, including accelerated development, enhanced user involvement, improved integrability, automation opportunities, self-learning, and cost-effectiveness. Like these technologies, the extended cultural benefits are also evident in my current employer’s operations. 

I greatly value the autonomy I have to shape my own path. Despite my relatively brief time here, my future aspirations have been thoughtfully discussed and planned in regular development meetings. Personally, I aim to accelerate my professional growth by delving deeper into AI and low-code technologies. With this clear goal in mind, I’ve been allowed to start incorporating these disciplines into my customer projects. 

While remote work is increasingly common in many organizations, the idea of Digital Nomads remains primarily associated with freelancers rather than full-time employees. At Nortal, however, every full-time team member can embrace the lifestyle of a ‘Nortal Nomad.’ Perhaps one day soon, I’ll have the chance to pack my bags and work on my low-code projects while enjoying the perpetual Spanish summer. 

You’ve come to the right place if you’re an experienced Dynamics and Power Platform consultant, specialist, or architect seeking a fulfilling career opportunity. I would be delighted to welcome you to our team as a valued colleague. In just six months, your dedication and willingness to tackle challenges could be met with the same rewarding experience I had: receiving exceptional feedback from a critical customer about the success of your project.

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