One of the many interesting things about Nuxeo is its history. Nuxeo was originally founded as a professional services company in France in 2000 and, in its early years, was involved in a number of different document management projects working with some of the leading technologies of the time — like Documentum. Over the next several years, the Nuxeo team began experiencing frustrations with existing Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions and believed that, “there must be a better way.” And thus, the Nuxeo Platform was born and first introduced to the market in 2008.
This is where the story gets really interesting. In addition to being founded as an open-source offering, Nuxeo also began with a very different guiding principle: we were a platform that was purposefully built “by developers, for developers.” It was a platform designed to address many of the frustrations that the team itself had experienced in working with other technologies.
The team continued to iterate on the Nuxeo Platform, incorporating new, leading-edge technologies and bringing to market new tools to better enable the developer. And thus, in 2013, Nuxeo Studio was introduced to make the Nuxeo Platform a true, low-code content management platform.
Before I dive deeper into Nuxeo Studio, let’s talk a bit about low-code development. To begin, let’s start with a simple definition of low-code development, courtesy of one of the pioneers in the space, Outsystems:
Low-code is a software development approach that enables the delivery of applications faster and with minimal hand-coding. Using visual modeling in a graphical interface to assemble and configure applications, developers skip all the infrastructure and re-implementation of patterns that can bog them down and go straight to the unique 10% of an application.
This is a simple definition and manifesto: an approach that enables the delivery of applications faster and with minimal hand-coding. And low-code utilizes visual modeling to assemble and configure applications. But there is hidden depth here also — a larger goal — of enabling developers to “go straight to the unique 10% of an application.” While we can agree or disagree about the exact percentage, this is the true promise of low-code. It is not just about tools and visual design, it is about reuse, efficiency and, ultimately, agility.
The Third Pillar: Content Management
Low-code development platforms aren’t exactly new. Outsystems was founded in Portugal in 2001. Mendix, another low-code pioneer, was founded in 2005. Business Process Management (BPM) solutions, like Pegasystems and Appian, adopted low-code development approaches several years ago. But, low-code is a relatively new concept for content management and, I would argue, forms the third pillar of low-code development. For years now, you’ve had data-centric and process-centric solutions like the offerings referenced above. But there has been a critical gap: content-centric, low-code development platforms.
I mentioned above that Nuxeo was founded on the philosophy of “there must be a better way.” One of the critical challenges that we saw with ECM was that the development tooling was too rigid and too difficult to work with. As a result, deployments took too long and were prohibitively expensive. Another issue with these early ECM SDKs was that the user experience (UX) was fairly inflexible, leading to poor user experiences and reduced user adoption. In extreme cases, these development environments were so inflexible that vendors even offered different SDKs for document-centric and case-centric applications. The unfortunate outcome is that many organizations — over the course of several challenging ECM projects — simply abandoned their enterprise content management strategies.
One of the (many) critical differences between new Content Services Platforms (CSPs) and these legacy ECM suite offerings is a common, flexible design and configuration environment. Simply put, Content Services Platforms are exactly that: platforms. They were purpose-built to enable organizations to quickly and easily configure new content applications and the very best, like Nuxeo, have adopted a low-code approach.
But why use a tool like Nuxeo instead of one of these other low-code development platforms?
The answer to this question is straightforward. Many business applications today need content. In fact, they are entirely dependent on content. Low-code content platforms, like Nuxeo, provide rich content and document workflow functionality — out of the box — that simply isn’t present in data- or process-centric solutions. So, if your goal is to rapidly build content or case management applications, the obvious choice is to begin with a platform that is purpose-built for these use cases.
Low-Code vs. No-Code
One of the questions I often hear is, “Who uses Nuxeo Studio?” In keeping with our “by developers, for developers” heritage, the answer is simple: Nuxeo Studio is a tool for developers. But the answer is and should be deeper than this.
With Nuxeo Studio, we made a conscious choice between low-code and no-code. We felt strongly that, for the types of content applications that our customers demanded, a low-code development approach was more appropriate than no-code. With our low-code approach, Nuxeo Studio is both highly configurable — you can literally build a content application from scratch in minutes without writing a line of code — and wholly extensible, meaning that, when the need arises, you can easily extend our REST API with custom code without having to leave the Studio environment. We feel strongly that this approach gives our customers the best of both worlds: a highly efficient and productive design environment that can be readily extended to address even the most complex content-centric use cases.
Are these two approaches mutually exclusive? Absolutely not. And, in the not-too-distant future, we plan to introduce new functionality and user interfaces that will enable business users — often referred to as citizen developers — to interact with Nuxeo Studio in new and exciting ways to design and implement dynamic workflows and ad-hoc collaborations, all in a simple, point-and-click paradigm. A recent example of this is our new interface for Nuxeo Insight which was announced just this past July.
Nuxeo Studio - A Low-Code Development Environment
Nuxeo Studio has long been a powerful tool for low-code development. With Nuxeo Studio, developers can quickly and easily configure robust data models. They can configure search parameters and queries. With a simple drag-and-drop paradigm, they can configure workflows and business processes. They can even configure business rules and complex automation chains. All of this can be done without ever writing a single line of code.
More recently, we introduced a new visual design paradigm that enables developers to drag and drop web elements to quickly build user interfaces, addressing one of the key challenges that developers face in building new content applications. This visual designer makes use of a library of Polymer web components that encapsulate common functionality used in content and case management applications. Again, this environment is fully extensible, allowing developers to leverage common coding languages and Nuxeo’s rich API to develop their own web components.
And this is just the beginning. In Q4’20, we plan to introduce new, low-code functionality in Nuxeo Studio to enhance our visual designer. We will introduce a new grid system that will give developers even greater flexibility in configuring compelling user interfaces with Nuxeo Studio, enhancing the user experience to drive greater adoption and utilization of content applications. This grid system will enable a true, WYSIWYG design experience. We will also introduce a new templating system that will enable developers to easily save and reuse common configurations across different applications, further increasing efficiency and accelerating the development of new applications.
Enabling Digital Transformation
Now, let’s take a big step back. Low-code content platforms are the third pillar of low-code development and play a critical role in helping organizations rapidly build new content and case management applications. The benefits, in terms of efficiency and reuse are clear. But let’s also talk about agility, which I believe lies at the heart of digital transformation.
As I shared on a recent Aragon panel discussion:
Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. It’s about delivering a differentiated customer experience, quickly bringing new products and services to market, and leveraging information to make better, faster decisions and drive increased automation and efficiency.
All of this is an iterative process and the organizations that are better able to bring technology to bear, to quickly build new applications and deliver new and better services, are best positioned to thrive in a digital economy. And the organizations that recognize that content is a critical component in delivering these applications and services and quickly move to adopt a low-code Content Services Platform will gain a critical advantage in their digital transformation efforts.
To learn more about our unique low-code development environment, check out our recent whitepaper “Low-code development and its role in high speed content-based services”.