An Introduction to No-code / Low-code Technology
- Posted by GM, Digital Solutions
- On June 17, 2021
How and When to Use Low-Code Platforms Effectively
No-code / low-code development technologies are becoming more popular every day.
Back in 2016, Forrester bullishly predicted the low-code market would surpass $21 billion by 2022, representing ~50% year-over-year growth. While the market hasn’t quite kept up with Forrester’s expectations, it is still on pace for a strong 2021 – Gartner forecasted in February that the low-code technologies market would increase by 23% to $14 billion by year-end.
Several ongoing trends are contributing to the rise in low-code technology usage. Companies today are exploring ways to accelerate digital transformation and custom software development. Many are also trying to empower non-engineers to build custom solutions for their businesses.
Together, these factors have contributed to the widespread adoption of no-code and low-code application platforms. The question many leaders are asking themselves now is whether these platforms are worth the investment.
In this post, we discuss the value of using a no code / low code approach to development in the digital age. We’ll also touch on the common pitfalls and shortcomings of these technologies, so that you can make an educated decision on whether this approach is right for your business.
What Is No-code / Low-code Development?
No-code, or low-code (NC/LC), development refers to the practice of building and executing software without having to write original code. Companies do this through software design systems that enable users to map out business logic and implementation processes within simple interfaces.
NC/LC platforms typically enable users to drag and drop pre-assembled code blocks around blank workspaces and create connections between different functional components. When designed well, these code blocks and connections form logical workflows and, ultimately, software applications that would work in the real world. NC/LC tools also often come with database and server-side applications, making it easy for companies to run their data through these platforms.
A Typical integrated development environment
Low Code platform demonstrates a workflow diagram
Advantages Of Using Programming Technologies
One of the more compelling use cases of NC/LC platforms is developing proofs of concept (PoC) and minimum viable products (MVPs). NC/LC platforms simplify the process of bringing an application idea to life that can then be tested with end users. In other words, they reduce the development time and costs associated with developing early prototypes, which lowers overall project risk and informs future iterations.
Because NC/LC platforms are designed to be accessible to non-technical staff members, or “citizen developers,” companies don’t have to invest in hiring highly skilled engineers until they are ready to move forward with a fully vetted solution. Leaders can test software PoCs and MVPs to validate their hypotheses before recruiting the skill needed to scale up new offerings. NC/LC platforms can mitigate risk and lower costs during the early stage of digital product development.
Furthermore, these platforms give companies another way to plug gaps in their app portfolios and automate operational processes essential to serving customers. NC/LC platforms complement IT’s internal application developments and can be sanctioned as tools that enable business units to create working software without having to secure IT resources. Net-net: they can be leveraged by broader resources and accelerate operational efficiencies that enhance the company’s digital transformation. According to Gartner, “41% of businesses have active citizen development initiatives and 20% of those who don’t are either evaluating or planning to start citizen development initiatives.”
The Shortcomings of No-code / Low-code Development
While NC/LC platforms are valuable for modern businesses, there are some disadvantages.
Even though low code platforms are designed to be accessible to non-technical users, they don’t eliminate the need for programming. This is an important distinction between them and no code platforms. Customizing out-of-the-box low-code components, integrating applications with third-party services, and developing ideal UI/UXs still requires coding time and skill. Low code platforms are effective for testing solutions but are not always the best path for getting to the version of a product that is ready for market-wide adoption because you may find limitations that result in your product being competitively disadvantaged.
Learning Curve with Low Code. Unlike no code platforms, there is still a learning curve when it comes to using low-code platforms in particular, because they offer greater integration capabilities, which can be an attractive means to extend your digital product. Training up citizen engineers within an organization takes time, and there is no guarantee that low-code programming will yield market-quality results versus outsourcing work to a software development firm or hiring new people. It merits doing an internal assessment of each option to weigh the costs and risks before starting on your own.
Compliance. Low code platforms also don’t produce applications that are inherently compliant or secure for use in all industries. Attention to detail about compliance remains an important consideration whether you’re using NC/LC or fully developing a project. So any no code or low code project should include input from your legal and regulatory team to fully understand requirements and whether these platforms can meet the need.
Scalability. A common reason for companies not using no code or low code platforms is concern over a lack of scalability. While each NC/LC platform vendor is different in their individual abilities, Outsystems has done some interesting analysis on common applications of low code, which might help you ascertain its applicability to your environment.
Research analysis by Outsystems.
In summary, low-code is useful for testing and proving new product ideas, but it may not always be well-suited for large-scale deployments in all cases, and there are many considerations for your decision-making process.
It’s No Silver Bullet, But It Is Valuable
To summarize, there are strong reasons to incorporate no code and low code technologies and capabilities into your enterprise.
Being able to iterate rapidly and test MVPs is a huge advantage in our ever-changing digital world. You can mitigate some of the risk associated with the global software engineering skill shortage and readily vet new ideas before making significant investments.
At the same time, these platforms aren’t always sufficient for building, scaling, and managing complex applications at enterprise level. It takes significant experience and resources to compete in today’s world, which is why it makes sense to fully analyze the applicability of NC/LC platforms for your development needs.
At Daitan, we can help you understand the tradeoffs of using NC/LC platforms and come alongside your engineering team or even your “citizen developers” to help you scale up low-code PoCs that resonate with customers. We can also serve as a long-term thought partner, working with you to achieve your most ambitious software development goals.
To learn more about how our team can supplement your low code strategy, get in touch with us today.