Insight

No-Code & Low-Code: An Introduction

Richard Brown

26 Sep 2020 · 5 mins read

No-Code & Low-Code: An Introduction

One of the biggest challenges for businesses today is balancing the need for accelerated digital transformation with finite budgets and time plus a major software development skills gap. With customers and employees increasingly demanding mobile software that automates and advances processes, IT departments are creaking. Or simply saying no.

Traditionally, there were two solutions to this problem. Secure more money and throw additional resources at your projects. Or make difficult choices between competing priorities and offer compromises that please no-one.

But when budgets are tight or have run out completely, you have limited resource and package solutions on offer are too complex for your needs, you need another way to progress. Because failure to digitise at the right speed, in the right way, means you’ll fail to meet customer and employee needs and fall behind your competition.

Now there’s an alternative solution.

No-code platforms empower anyone in your organisation to become a developer without any programming skills. This means you can expand your pool of developers, accelerate smaller software projects and free your IT team to focus on other priorities. All at a low cost while reducing risk for your business.

What is No-Code?

No-code platforms provide users with intuitive visual modelling and drag-and-drop functionality which enables the rapid creation of applications without any coding expertise.

By removing the need for manual programming, no code empowers individuals to take on responsibilities they otherwise couldn’t, creating ‘citizens developers’ throughout your business.

This reduces your company’s reliance on hard-to-source, expensive developers. And it also massively accelerates the phases involved with producing a new piece of software, saving your business time and money.

The Difference Between Low-Code & No-Code

No code exists on one end of a spectrum with no manual coding and no developer required. At the other end is low code which also speeds up the production of software but still requires intervention by a programmer because a degree of coding will be needed.

The further up the spectrum you go, the greater the depth of programming knowledge required. In fact, some low-code platforms require such a degree of manual programming skill to deliver complete products that they require full - and very expensive - development programmes.

There’s sometimes confusion between no-code and low-code because there can be a degree of overlap between the two, making it difficult to identify where one starts and the other stops.

Where do Low-Code & No-Code Tools Fit?

No and low code tools sit in a middle ground between things like spreadsheets and office documents at one end of the spectrum, and large-scale ‘off-the-shelf’ and bespoke systems at the other.

Office Documents: For many business processes, spreadsheets and office documents provide benefits in being a fast and flexible solution. However do still present risks in poor governance, with issues around security, versioning and distribution.

Core Software Products: On the other hand, ‘off-the-shelf’ products are an option for certain challenges, providing a powerful solution to automate key business processes. However, these are often aimed at large audiences and can be hard to rapidly adapt with limited project and team specialisms.

Bespoke Application Development: And bespoke software can be an ideal solution for solving complex challenges when software products on offer are not fit-for-purpose. However, it can be difficult to justify the time and cost required in a bespoke approach for smaller projects; as well as the need for specialist technical and management skills.

It’s important to note that it can be quite difficult to clearly define what a low or no-code tools is, and the low and no-code spectrum is considerably vast – from tools that allow you to quickly build apps online without needing to write a single line of code, to applications that compile C# and come with large, developer-style Integrated Development Environment’s.

The History of No-Code

One of the big questions around no-code and low-code platforms are whether they are the future of development, or simply a rebrand of something that has been around for years.

For example, James Martin, who after finishing a degree at Keeble College, Oxford, went onto work in software development at IBM, wrote a book titled ‘Application Development Without Programmers’ back in 1983. Driven by the simple fact that computers that can run software and people with a need for software were growing faster than the people who could produce the software.

However, the major difference is historically these platforms, such as Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE) tools, have focused on the production of underlying source code for software – they were often simply code generation tools.

But this is not a concept that went away and didn’t come back. For example, take Microsoft Access (first released in 1992). It is the ultimate no-code tool in enabling non-technical people to take a step up from one dimensional spreadsheets to the multidimensional world of relationship databases, with lots of tables.

Adding in users executing functions and routines, as well as some Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) then moves this into a low-code platform.

The Move to No-Code

With a significant increase in new software requirements, it’s the following challenges that see businesses turn to no-code:

Slow and expensive software development - programmes often take significant periods of time and resources to manage and implement effectively. Research shows the average cost to develop an app is $270,000 and 76% of IT professionals say it takes at least three months to do so.

Legacy systems - existing platforms are viewed as a major obstacle to achieving digital transformation. 84% of organisations report digital projects have been cancelled, delayed or reduced in scope due to legacy system limitations.

Programming skills gap – expert programmers are difficult to find and therefore expensive to hire, resulting in 51% of IT leaders reporting a skills gap in software development.

No code offers enterprises a way out. A rapid, cost-effective solution to develop simple software that compliments legacy systems without the need for programmers.

If your business isn’t using no-code yet, you’re not alone – but you soon will be.

Businesses in the US and the UK are already using no code to push the pedal on digitisation. By 2024, Gartner predicts that 75% of large enterprises will be using at least four no-code development tools. And 74% of IT leaders plan to push app development to the business.

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