OutSystems 11: Dealing with the dull stuff

OutSystems 11 is released today. It majors on features and capabilities that aren’t necessarily sexy, but will make dealing with large, complicated application delivery programmes easier.

Application delivery backlogs faced by enterprise IT departments have been the hook that OutSystems has hung its proposition for at least the past couple of years. But whereas the focus of the prior major OutSystems platform release was very much on ticking all the right boxes relating to enterprise mobile app development, the focus for OutSystems 11 is much more on making the platform a natural option, even when large digital transformation initiatives are in play:

  • Support for deployment of applications as groups of microservices – but more importantly, paired with solid change impact analysis tools, together with improved runtime monitoring that can show performance across portfolios of applications and services – aims to give delivery teams the tools they need to release at higher velocity.
  • More sophisticated access controls around application and service lifecycles provide native capabilities to support larger, more distributed delivery teams where groups play specialised, permission-controlled roles across the delivery lifecycle.
  • Support for increasingly popular container technologies provides more flexible one-click deployment options – there’s now support for AWS ECS, the Azure Container Service, Pivotal’s PAS as well as deploying Docker containers on-premises.
  • A new UI framework provides more sophistication around the design and reuse of UI templates, components and patterns, with a large collection of prebuilt templates and components designed around common application types and use cases – making it easier for specialised design teams to enforce design guidelines while application delivery teams work fast in delivering multi-modal applications.

OutSystems is navigating in interesting waters: on the one hand its message is confidently “low-code”; on the other, as it seeks to help customers with larger programmes of work, it needs to deliver more and more features and capabilities that help IT teams – even though parts of those IT teams might remain ambivalent at best about the value and appropriateness of low-code approaches.

The company has a smart pitch, though, which is to acknowledge this dynamic as part of a larger story, which is about the rise of polyglot programming – the shift away from organisations being ‘all in’ on either .NET or Java, and towards organisations embracing a wide variety of tools, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. By getting teams to think more about business outcomes than about specific stacks, tools or approaches, low-code application development becomes just another choice.