A low code approach has emerged as a way to deploy applications faster and more cost-effectively. Popularized in the private sector over the past few years, its use in government is gaining momentum. One such use case is the Department of Veterans Affairs. Its mission is to serve Veterans, their families and caregivers. When VA information technology systems delay the delivery of those benefits, something needs to change. That’s exactly what VA did by adopting a low code approach to quickly deliver software applications for Veterans — and that change is catching on.
Low Code Produced Results in VA
VA supports caregivers of Veterans seriously injured in the line of duty through the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. From 2011 to 2019, the department struggled to create an IT system to track the growing number of caregivers’ benefits applications. Then, in 2019, VA’s Office of Information & Technology (OIT) switched gears and adopted a new low code approach to developing software, and finally, delivered a functional and scalable tracking application. This low code approach proved so successful, VA has since implemented it in hundreds of other applications.
What is Low Code?
Low code software development is a way of developing software applications using a graphical drag-and-drop method rather than typing in computer instructions by hand, making it easier and faster to create applications. Developers don’t need to be specialists in specific computer languages, database technologies or operating systems as low code uses “point and click” to customize applications.
The Benefits of the Low Code Approach in VA
Benefit #1: Reduced Time to Deliver Benefits to Veterans
VA can deliver most apps within weeks/months because of the capabilities that make low code programming much faster than the conventional approach, such as:
- Developers can leverage the drag-and-drop functionalities and visual guidance to rapidly build apps and automate workflows.
- Performing app maintenance can be completed much faster by using pre-built templates and single-click application updates.
- Use of low code standardized off-the-shelf Application Programming Interfaces (API) eliminates the time-consuming maintenance and regression testing associated with custom point-to-point interfaces.
- VA developers focus on Veterans’ outcomes with fewer distractions. By reusing software-as-a service (SaaS) platforms such as Salesforce, Pega and Microsoft, developers don’t have to worry about the development environment and tech stack upgrades, security and maintenance.
Benefit #2: Slashed Cost to VA
Recruiting skilled programmers is difficult to do — and expensive. With the development project’s cost and maintenance in mind, these can become costly fast. With a low code development approach, VA can save money and time when developing specific applications.
Benefit #3: Lower Risk of Restarts and Reinventing the Wheel
By reusing SaaS platforms, VA mission capabilities and technical integrations can be built once on the platform and reused an infinite number of times with little to no additional effort.
In VA, this reuse is a huge win because it’s available to all contractor system integrators (SIs) as a platform versus the old model where SIs would keep their work to themselves, and VA couldn’t take advantage of already paid for and completed work that could be reused. SaaS platforms at VA are centrally managed by the OIT Digital Transformation Center, which provides governance and standards for applications built on the platform. Implementing lessons learned from past projects is extremely helpful in improving delivery, and in enforcing standards to ensure the platform is configured consistently by all SIs to streamline O&M.
VA now uses low code platforms to accelerate delivery of benefits to Veterans. Taking a low code approach is more efficient, faster and cheaper than previous “ground up” development methods.