How Lidl & Kaufland Leveraged Low-Code to Build 100+ Apps, 75% Faster

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Jacek Pietsch

Jun 27, 2024 • 7 min read
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“Low-code is 75% faster in development compared to high-code, using languages like Java, Go, .NET, PHP, etc., is not just a marketing message; it's something we validated in two projects.”

Zdenek Prochazka, Head of Rapid Application Development within Schwarz IT, gave us this insight into their low-code efforts during our Disruption Talk. This made me think - is low-code the future of development?

According to Gartner, by the end of 2024, 75% of large enterprises will be using at least four low-code development tools for both IT application development and citizen development initiatives.

In my role, I've observed significant pressure from business leaders on the CIOs to drive digital transformation strategies. They demand solutions that offer real-time data access to customers and end-users.

To meet these expectations, our IT teams must develop, orchestrate, and iterate processes and applications swiftly. Low-code development tools are proving to be a game-changer, enabling us to achieve the necessary speed and flexibility to keep up with the demands of our business environment.

What is low-code development and why is it important?

Low-code development refers to various solutions that simplify creating applications and workflows. These solutions provide pre-built components that any IT professional can easily assemble into functional applications without extensive hand-coding. This abstraction of code allows us to quickly develop and deploy business applications, enhancing our agility and responsiveness.

Today, the pace of business demands more speed and flexibility than custom scripts can provide, and specialization often hinders the cross-platform processes that are now common. There are few developers with expertise across all tools involved in end-to-end processes.

Low-code platforms, with their visual editors and reusable actions, allow us to develop new processes and applications rapidly. This means we can quickly assemble, test, and deploy solutions without needing deep expertise in every technology involved, ultimately accelerating application delivery.

Traditional application development involves many people with specialized roles. For instance, we need business analysts to create functional requirements, technical analysts to translate those into technical specifications, a database administrator to design the schema, UX/UI developers to create wireframes, and developers to code the application.

Once built, the application goes through testers, operations managers for deployment, and project managers to oversee everything. This process is lengthy and often lacks collaboration, resulting in applications that may not fully meet business expectations.

On the other hand, low-code development holds numerous benefits, such as:

  • Improved agility
  • Cost savings
  • Higher productivity
  • Improved collaboration
  • Better customer experience
  • Effective risk management and governance
  • Faster integration

Lidl & Kaufland experience with low-code development

Schwarz Group, the parent company of Lidl and Kaufland, picked Mendix over OutSystems due to its superior scalability and cloud-native architecture. Mendix's microservice-oriented approach ensures better flexibility and scalability as complex applications grow, making it an ideal choice for a large organization like Schwarz. Additionally, Mendix's integration with STACKIT and its support for ARM architecture were crucial factors.

Schwarz also utilizes the Microsoft Power Platform for citizen development and simple workflow automation. This dual-platform approach allows the company to leverage Mendix for professional development while empowering non-developers with Power Platform for less complex tasks.

For the initial enablement of Mendix, several components were necessary:

  • Identity Provider (IdP) integration
  • Single Sign-On (SSO) setup
  • DevOps automation
  • Establishment of a Center of Excellence (CoE)
  • Development of a UI template
  • Comprehensive training paths for developers

The adoption of Mendix resulted in significant benefits for Schwarz Group, both in terms of cost reduction and improved operational efficiency.

Schwarz Group realized a cost reduction of €4.7 million.

This includes savings from replacing legacy systems such as Access, VBA, Domino, OutSystems, APEX, SP Nintex, and AppWorkx. Specific savings include €3 million from retiring OutSystems and €0.5 million from phasing out Nintex.

Additionally, the effort required for high-code development has been drastically reduced, with projects like Self.EDI and PRIA demonstrating substantial efficiency gains.

During a conversation I had with Zdenek Prochazka, Head of Rapid Application Development at Schwarz IT, he noted that beyond cost savings, Mendix has enabled faster application delivery, with over 150 apps built 75% faster compared to traditional high-code development.

The platform also ensures better governance and standardization across applications, improving security, quality, and compliance. This rapid delivery capability has allowed Schwarz to respond more quickly to business needs and market changes.

The initiative to adopt low-code development at Schwarz started as a top-down strategic move. Recognizing the limitations of their existing tech stacks, the decision was made to find a modern, scalable solution that could meet the demands of a large, dynamic organization. An MVP was delivered within a few months of signing the contract with Mendix, focusing on DevOps automation, authentication, and initial training.

The rapid development capabilities of Mendix have transformed the organization's software delivery process. While some initial projects were migrations, Schwarz quickly moved on to more complex applications, leveraging internal teams and external partners.

Training and development have been key components of Schwarz's low-code strategy.

The company uses the Mendix Academy and certification programs to ensure developers are well-equipped to build and maintain applications.

While citizen development is reserved for the Power Platform, professional development in Mendix is handled by dedicated software engineers responsible for the entire application lifecycle.

“With Mendix, we can quickly train new developers, ensuring sustainable operation of the technology. Additionally, having development teams across different countries allows us to share solutions efficiently. Good ideas from one country can be scaled and implemented internationally,” Prochazka added.

Is low-code the future?

I believe it is.

Modern computing, after all, is founded on the principle of abstraction. Binary code is abstracted into programming languages, which are then abstracted into operating systems and GUIs.

Low-code solutions continue this tradition by abstracting the code that connects operating systems, databases, and enterprise applications (from BPM to BI, CRM to ERP). As IT environments grow increasingly complex, the need for such integrations will only intensify.

With the low-code market expected to reach an impressive $187 billion by 2030, organizations across various sectors are recognizing the potential of these platforms.

This shift could lead to:

  • Business users and domain experts rapidly translate their ideas into functional applications
  • Collaboration and creativity are fostered by bridging the gap between business needs and technology solutions
  • Reducing reliance on IT departments, accelerating time-to-market for innovative solutions

The impact of low-code is evident, and as we move forward, its significance will only grow.

In today's business world, the ability to stay quick and agile is crucial, and low-code platforms provide the tools needed to do that.

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Jacek Pietsch

Principal Mendix Expert at Netguru. Jacek leads the low-code/no-code initiative by shaping the new...
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