The Shrinking MultiValue Marketplace. How Did We Get Here? How Do We Get Outta Here? – Part 2, Why Can’t We Be Just Like the Other Guys?

My wife was using the Amazon app looking at authors. Under one of her favorite authors, she found a book title that looked interesting. She clicked on it. The system returned information about the book including the following, “You purchased this book on February 27, 2018”. OK, those may not be the exact words. Amazon provides a customer experience that makes it easy to buy from them.

Many companies that rely on MultiValue applications have the data and programming logic to engage their customers just like Amazon but believe their MultiValue applications do not have the capability nor do they have the technicians to create those apps – or so they believe. Customer engagement means that the point of contact between the company and the customer is via mobile phone, tablet or watch – some senior citizens might prefer the desktop (I can say that, I am a senior citizen)!

When you engage with a company via a mobile device the odds are pretty good that you are using an app.  MultiValue systems do not provide apps, more on that later. To quote myself from Part 1, “MultiValue applications were developed to run a business. MultiValue applications do little to contribute to company innovation, create customer loyalty, gain new customers or contribute to company growth and higher profits.” They just enter data, manipulate data and then generate reports from that data.

The management of companies that use MultiValue are aware of what the rest of the world is doing. They want to present more than just a pretty face to the world. They most definitely want the increase in business and profit that comes from customer engagement. They are probably not aware that they can.

Most MultiValue IT departmental activity focuses on enhancing the old applications and fixing bugs, innovation be damned. There are few new applications delivered and IT is a cost center within their companies.

Companies that rely on MultiValue have invested millions of dollars in their legacy applications. If you have had your applications for over 25 years you have invested many millions of dollars. Modernity means a whole lot more than just making the old applications look pretty. It means being able to leverage that investment in MultiValue and use it to create new business opportunities

Some negativity before a whole lotta really good stuff. People within the MultiValue marketplace spend most of their time looking inward. They love what they do and they do it exceptionally well. They do not seem to want to investigate or learn about new technologies because, for the most part, they think they cannot use them or that they are a “sham” brought about by MBAs! They are not aware of the trends within the software industry.

For the MultiValue industry, the end of the 20th century brought competitive comparisons of how data was entered into the terminal. The world was using GUI screens and Pick was using green screen. I think the word “Pick” was still being used in the early 2000s to describe the MultiValue marketplace. Pick people used to say that you can enter data much faster using a green screen than you can using a GUI screen, nice rationalization. That was the beginning of the modernization movement within the Pick marketplace. Pick Value Added Resellers (VAR) were being outsold because the competition had prettier presentation layers even though the Pick applications may have had more features and functionality. Some MultiValue users and application Resellers began looking for ways to keep their Pick back-end but modernize the presentation layer. 

The MultiValue vendors (suppliers of the MultiValue database) are telling their users that they can save MultiValue by integrating the back-end via RESTful services with the web to modernize the applications. Ya know, putting on a modern face via the web. That scenario is like putting lipstick on a pig and my apologies to pigs everywhere. Putting a modern front end via the web to a MultiValue application is costly in time and money. It is a step in the right direction but a very small step. What benefit does the company get for the monies spent to “modernize”? They get lipstick… And yes, some companies will keep their MultiValue application much longer because of their “modernization”. Today modernization means significantly more than just making old application look pretty! Companies no longer want just pretty; they also want their software to contribute to their bottom line.

Let’s go back to an earlier statement of mine, “Companies that rely on MultiValue applications have the data and programming logic to engage their customers but do not have the capability”. To compound that rational, the IT department (heads down in application modification and bug fixes) may not be aware of the power they have to contribute to company growth and profitability.  

Why is the MultiValue market disappearing? Boy oh boy, does that take-in a whole lotta stuff. It used to be that users of MultiValue applications only wanted a GUI front-end instead of a green screen. If the IT department could do it at a relatively cheap price why not. If IT could bring the old stuff to the web, how cool was that! If the cost to modernize was too large why not look at replacing the old with an application from a new vendor. Another problem is the shrinking of the MultiValue technical workforce with little replenishment from the pool of younger technicians.

Low-code platform adoption is becoming the norm; Forrester forecasts that by the end of 2021 75% of all companies will be using a low-code platform. That does not mean that 75% of all programmers will be using low-code but someone in 75% the world’s companies will be using it. It all leads to new concepts and solutions as to how old software can be the foundation for a Digital Transformation. Is MultiValue digital. Yes, but it is old, it is very very old digital technology; it is 40+ year old technology. Here is what Wikipedia says about Digital Transformation:

Digital Transformation is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology.

Subscribing to Digital Transformation causes a company change to respond to 21st century markets.

Low-code allows for the creation of apps. Apps run on mobile devices as well as the desktop. When an app runs on a mobile device it is used to engage the user (forget games and websites). It makes little difference if the business is B2B or B2C; it can even be B2E. The low-code platform is the backbone of Digital Transformation; the data and legacy business logic are its guts! Digital Transformation also means that company management, IT and other company departments must change their thinking to become customer centric and that my friend takes balls. IT will become innovative and actually be involved in revenue generation. Oh, they may still be doing some maintenance and bug fixes on the old code but their focus will now be in creating a customer experience leading to higher profit and company growth.

That leads to other words that carry new meanings in today’s software world; words and phrases like “agility” and “customer engagement and experience” and “DevOps” and “strategy – talent – time – cost” (please note they are in one set of quotes because they are all related) and do not forget about “no-code”.

The software world outside of MultiValue engages in those concepts and platforms all the time. Google any of them and please include MultiValue. Never mind I did it for you and here are a few examples:

  • MultiValue returns 701,000 results
  • Digital Transformation returns 525,000,000 results
  • Low-code returns 3,330,000,000 results

Let’s start with the easy stuff. A MultiValue company wants to modernize. They want to get rid of green screens. You can play with RESTful services as advocated by the major MultiValue vendors. Now the users also want the applications to run on mobile devices that adapt for the available real estate. They also want the app to run within all available environments, Android, iOS, Window, the **ixs. Let’s get more specific, those evil users want the software to run on all available devices in native mode – on desktops and phones and tablets and watches and smart TVs. Holy ****, who will define the strategy, how we get there? Do we have the talent to do the work? How long is it going to take? What is it going to cost to do all that? Well, there goes RESTful service because it is only the pathway to modernity and not the actual creation of it. And what happens when there is a change in market requirements, the introduction of new hot technologies or customer behavior (big change due to covid-19)? Back to who defines the strategy. The strategy is defined by the company employees as a team (management, IT and departments) that responds to market conditions and customer requirements.

The reason that the low-code platform is so popular is that it can handle all that. Did you ever wonder what are the benefits for users of low-code platforms? Loaded question, here are only a few of the benefits offered by low-code platforms:


  • Develop once/deploy everywhere for most mobile devices; most desktops; operating environments (Android, iOS, *nix, Windows), native, hybrid and web…
  • Elimination of programming backlogs because of the decrease in app development time
  • Decreased development times lead to decreased development costs – see below
  • No requirement for technology specialists or outside consultancies
  • Apps can be written off as an expense; there is no need to capitalize
  • Low-code developed apps provides for customer centric experience (engagement) leading to customer retention and new customer acquisition leading to higher profits and company growth

Competitive Advantage

  • Apps can be modified, enhanced and deployed quickly to reflect customer, market and technology changes and advances – Agility
  • Leverage legacy applications as the foundation for low-code development – Modernity as a by-product of Customer Engagement
  • Development done by current staff that knows the business. No need to hire technicians familiar with modern technologies
  • Elimination of risk

Time to Market

  • Exceedingly fast development times – days not weeks, weeks not months, months not years to create and deploy apps
  • Incorporate 3rd party components and component libraries into an app, for example Chatbots, Artificial Intelligence, IOT, Web Services, Maps, Graphs, Product Identification, etc. No need to reinvent the wheel, they exist, use them
  • Improved quality
  • Uses drag and drop, point and click, option select to develop an app instead of long hand coding
  • No-code option for citizen developers (Google no-code – never mind, it returns 4,320,000,000 results)

Stop focusing on making the software look pretty. MultiValue can use their back-end data and code as a foundation to create software that engages their customers. During the past ten years the focus of software has evolved from providing information (reports) to generating revenue and growing companies. Making the applications look pretty is a by-product of customer engagement!

How can MultiValue be saved? The foundation is there with the data and business logic. The low-code platform will build upon it. The work is done by people that know the application, both technician and end-user. There is no need for hiring technical expertise or outside consultancies. The time it takes to learn the platform is less than a month part-time. The cost to deliver and maintain an app is significantly less in time and dollars than long-hand coders writing code and everything created is GUI. If you work for a division or department of a public or non-public major company that uses MultiValue (I do not quite know how to define “major company” but you get my drift), the odds are pretty good that other divisions with Oracle, SQL databases and the like are using a low-code platform. There is so much more that I want to say but my fingers are getting blooded by all this typing.

My opinion; the low-code platform when applied to MultiValue applications provides a customer experience that will enhance company profits and grow companies while modernizing the MultiValue applications. Low-code changes company focus from maintenance to innovation! One more time, the foundation exists to deliver a customer engagement that will increase profits while modernizing that old stuff at the same time. Modernizing via web applications can only take a company so far.

There is only one low-code platform that supports MultiValue, that platform is Evoke from BlueFinity International. Oh, and Evoke supports SQL and Oracle and DB2 and…

Why Can’t We Be Just Like the Other Guys? WE CAN!

In Part 3 I think I will discuss my thoughts on why MultiValue…leaves it pretty open, doesn’t it.