Business tools can make a significant difference in today’s highly competitive market. Organizations previously had two options when it came to business instruments. They could either use premade software or create a customized application.
In contrast, the low-code and no-code (LCNC) development approach is now available to accelerate innovation. Moreover, The demand for hyper-automation and IT modernization has increased, but businesses have needed more developer talent to align themselves with these trends.
Due to a deficiency of resources with specialized technical skills, many IT projects are placed in the “pending” folder. Consequently, operational inefficiencies persist, and time-to-market, a crucial factor for businesses to maintain competitiveness, is compromised.
In response to these challenges, low-code and no-code software development options have emerged as viable and time-saving alternatives to the conventional development process.
What is low code?
Low-code development is based on nearly identical premises to drag-and-drop user interfaces. The only difference is that manual integration between the different Lego pieces you use might require a developer. Passing information from one point to another and manually coding the bridges where data is exchanged is required.
Moreover, Low-code is a rapid application development (RAD) method that allows for automated code generation via visual building elements. Because of this automation, low-code users can concentrate on the differentiator rather than the common programming standard.
An example of low-code development is Not Real Twitter, a platform that functions identically to Twitter. It was created using the Bubble drag-and-drop tool (a low-code tool). Because Bubble is minimal code, some integration work still needs to be done. However, it is possible to complete this task using a collection of drag-and-drop tools.
Examples of low-code applications are business process management platforms, digital banking, website and mobile app development, cross-department tools like appraisal management software, and cloud-based next-generation technologies like machine-learning libraries.
What is no-code?
No code indicates that there is no coding at all involved in the overall development process. You will instead construct your application using drag-and-drop tools within an interface.
During development, these UIs provide a visual modeling experience: you can visualize your app’s structure at every stage. This drag-and-drop method is comparable to building with Legos. You will have the ability to connect numerous interlocking pieces. You can connect your application to every tool, including Slack, Twitter, and a payment system like Stripe.
Self-service applications for business users, e-commerce, mobile and web applications, content management systems, and data pipeline builders are applications suitable for no-code development.
No-code is ideal for quick-to-build standalone apps, simple UIs, and basic automation. It is used in calendar planning tools, facility management tools, and business intelligence reporting apps with configurable columns and filters.
How do low-code and no-code work?
Traditional software development involves programmers writing lines of code to generate the features and functions of a computer program or application. For this reason, programmers need to be well-versed in not only their chosen programming language but also their chosen development environment, deployment procedure, and testing protocol.
Platforms with low and no code encompass all the work behind the scenes. To build the desired automated process, users select and visually connect reusable components that stand in for individual steps or capabilities (and contain the actual code).
Users can make applications flowchart-like rather than having to write each feature manually. These platforms also generally include features that facilitate experimentation, prototyping, testing, and deployment.
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This type of application development is sometimes referred to as point-and-click development or click development.
Evolution of low-code/no-code tools
In the past, rapid application development (RAD) tools like Excel, Lotus Notes, and kissflow similarly put some development-like capabilities in the hands of business users (i.e., non-IT professionals).
However, to construct capabilities with those tools, users needed in-depth knowledge of the business apps and their respective development environments. In contrast, the drag-and-drop functionality of low-code and no-code alternatives requires no prior familiarity with the tools above or development in general from its users.
Furthermore, development with RAD tools typically resulted in capabilities only used by the individual who created the functionality or a small group of users affiliated with the creator. On the other hand, apps created using low-code or no-code platforms are robust enough to be used throughout the enterprise, across departments, and even by external users like clients and business partners.
Low-code and no-code automation
A low-code application platform (LCAP) includes an integrated development environment (IDE) with features such as APIs, reusable modules, code templates, and graphical connectors to automate a substantial portion of the application development process. LCAPs are typically offered as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud-based solutions.
A low-code platform is based on reducing complexity through visual tools and techniques such as process modeling, in which users use visual tools to define workflows, business rules, and user interfaces. The entire workflow is automatically converted to code in the background.
Professional developers primarily utilize LCAPs to automate the generic aspects of coding to refocus effort on the final stages of development.
These user-friendly interfaces automatically generate all necessary code in a no-code development platform (NCDP). Professional programmers and non-technical users or people without programming experience use NCDPs.
Low-code and no-code: Similarities and benefits
Both low-code and no-code aim to abstract the complex aspects of coding through visual interfaces and pre-configured templates. Both development platforms are available as PaaS solutions and use a workflow-based design to define data flow. Because of their common approach, they share many benefits:
Quick customer feedback
Before investing substantial resources in a project, low-code/no-code enables developers to obtain customer feedback by showcasing simple-to-build prototypes. This moves the go/no-go decision earlier in the project’s timeline, reducing risk and cost.
Enhanced Integration Capabilities
Standalone legacy applications can inhibit a company’s ability to expand. LCNC platforms feature the same integration capabilities as conventional custom app development. Using LCNC platforms, citizen developers can collaborate with a technology team to build and maintain efficient systems or integrate business applications.
Provides access to emerging technologies for SMBs
With LCNC platforms, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can easily leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and machine learning. For emerging technologies, LCNC platforms provide a variety of drop-and-drag components and connectors. A domain expert, for instance, can use the data science tools of a low-code platform to build AI solutions.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and LCNC growth complement process automation. RPA is the process of creating bots that mimic human actions to automate repetitive business tasks. As it allows developers to rewrite business rules, LCNC provides limitless process automation capabilities.
Because it eliminates the need to hire developers with advanced programming skills, LCNC is a cost-effective development strategy. Companies that use LCNC no longer need to keep an in-house development team.
The citizen development strategy assists business teams in launching innovative ideas and removing process impediments swiftly. It permits citizen developers to collaborate with development teams to combine traditional and low-code development approaches for complex projects.
How is low-code different from no-code?
Despite subtle feature distinctions, there is a great deal of overlap between the two approaches, which is impacted by the unclear positioning of low-code and no-code platform vendors. Nonetheless, there are significant distinctions to consider:
Low code is geared towards professional developers to prevent duplication of basic code and make room for the more complex aspects of development that contribute to innovation and rich feature sets. Automating the formal aspects of coding and employing a syntax-agnostic approach enables developer reskilling and the expansion of the talent pool.
No-code is designed for business users with extensive domain knowledge who may be tech-savvy but need help writing code manually. It is also beneficial for hybrid teams composed of business users, software developers, small business owners, and non-IT teams, such as HR, finance, and legal.
No-code is ideal for front-end apps with rapidly designed drag-and-drop user interfaces. Excellent candidates are user interface applications that retrieve data from sources and report, analyze, import, or export data.
In addition, no-code is ideal for replacing tiresome administrative duties such as Excel-based business report creation. Such projects are not readily prioritized by IT, but they could save the lives of business teams. It is also suitable for internal apps that do not require extensive functionality and small-scale business apps with a smaller development budget.
With a comprehensive component library, low code can be applied to applications with complex business logic and scaled to enterprise levels. In addition, low-code is preferable to no-code for integrating with other applications and external Interfaces, connecting to multiple data sources, and building secure systems that require the IT lens.
Low code requires additional training and time to integrate, develop, and deploy because it offers more customization options. However, it is still significantly quicker than conventional development.
Since it is highly configurable and plug-and-play, no-code requires less construction time than low-code. Additionally, testing time is decreased due to the low risk of potential errors ordinarily introduced by manual coding. Here, the focus is on properly configuring the configurations and data flow.
Open vs. closed systems
Low code is an open system that enables users to extend functionality via code. This implies greater adaptability and reusability. For example, users can construct and reuse custom plugins and data source connectors tailored to their use cases. However, it is mentioned that more recent LCAP updates and patches require testing with manually added code.
No-code is a more confined system that can only expand through pre-defined feature sets. This results in limited use cases and access to boilerplate plugins and integrations. Still, it is simpler to maintain backward compatibility because no manually created code could break future versions of the NCDP.
Shadow IT risk
While this has been a concern with both low-code and no-code platforms, the risk of shadow IT is greater with no-code, which requires minimal or no IT team intervention. This could contribute to an infrastructure that needs to be more closely monitored, resulting in security vulnerabilities and technical debt.
However, the fact that low code remains within the scope of IT teams can facilitate improved governance and control.
Low code is superior to no code in terms of scalability and cross-platform compatibility support. The addition of custom modules and code enables a wider variety of implementations and the use of multiple platforms.
No-code is less extensible and has limited potential for integrating with legacy systems and other platforms. Therefore, it addresses a limited set of use cases and has limited scalability.
There is no doubt that these technologies are revolutionizing companies and providing them with the competitive advantage they require to meet today’s market demands. However, as with any business transition, incorporating citizen-user solutions necessitates a strong dedication to change management, communication, and breaking down barriers.
When deciding whether to use LC/NC growth, remember that it does not have to be a binary choice. Companies can use these tools to create apps when security, performance, and accessibility aren’t as essential and expert-generated code when they are. The ability to go in either way gives organizations greater flexibility and, as a result, greater power to create, innovate, and service customers well.