Low-Code and No-Code platforms - What are they?
You might have heard both terms already. What they refer to are platforms that allow the user to create tailor-made applications and IT support. With the help of graphic interfaces and visual aids like drag-and-drop as well as templates.
But there's more: A Low-Code platform also allows you to add additional layers of configurations, adaptations, and automation through codes and scripts. This enables the user to perform more advanced solutions compared to No-Code platforms. The important thing is that both Low-Code and No-Code platforms make it possible for non-developers to come up with applications etc that contribute to both digitalization and business development. The platforms make it possible to create tailor-made IT support without having to involve the IT department on a daily basis. Instead, they can sign off on the broader strategy,
Low-Code platforms can help professional developers and IT departments as well, Using these tools they can create applications 10-20 times faster, compared to when they develop on their own or adapt business systems. And it's more efficient to develop on a Low-Code platform since it comes with its own operations, support, maintenance, and development.
* By platform we mean a platform for applications. It's commonly delivered as a cloud-based service, a local installation, or a combination of the two.
How Low-Code came to happen
The dream of being able to create applications without code began in the 1990s. Thanks to the model-driven design, visual developments, and automatic code generation the concept has evolved and advanced in recent decades.
The ability to be able to develop applications without having to code offers a lot of profit for companies and organizations. With it, they can increase time-to-market for new applications and increase the speed of digitalization. It also becomes possible for people throughout the organization to develop their own IT support, which cuts down on errors, mistakes, and manual workarounds.
Low-Code represents an enormous market for growth, with analysts like Gartner, Forrester, and Aberdeen predicting an increase of more than 50% until the year 2022. Currently, the Low-Code category has an expected turnover of USD 2,6 billion. If adjacent technologies are included, this amount grows substantially.
One important reason for this impressive growth is that so many companies and organizations are using manual workarounds and experience gaps in their processes that cost both time and money. With the help of a Low-Code platform, the people involved in these cumbersome and costly processes can create applications and automate tasks that solve their problems.
We have noticed that in particular companies with complex operations, spanning for example both manufacturing and retail, often rely on tools like Excel or even e-mail to solve all or parts of their internal processes. The reason for this is that what they do is so complex and complicated that existing business systems can't handle it all, and the standardized systems that supposedly can do this are not able to tackle all the complexities. The problem is entirely avoided with Low-Code platforms that can align with existing systems and processes to improve ways of working.
Besides Low-Code there are a number of solutions that are closely related - and most likely will be consolidated into new combinations of systems. Here are a few examples:
- Rapid Application Development (RAD)
- Business Process Management (BPM)
- No-Code (No Code application development platform)
- High Productivity Application Platform as a Service (hpaPaaS)
If we instead look at the business side, they have a number of critical issues that need solving. The following examples are important to all types of companies and organizations. However, no one needs to solve these issues more than companies that have to find consistency in a complex situation, like Manufacturing Retail Hybrids:
- Increase speed of innovation
- Improve the customer experience
- Align the business with important processes
- Decrease lead times
- Increase transparency as well as ensure that regulations are followed
- Lower costs
And the IT department will find life easier with the following initiatives:
- Increase the speed of digitalization
- Improve internal priorities. If the business can create applications and automate workflows on their own, developers can spend their time on more complex issues.
- Speed up delivery of new applications
- Move applications to the cloud
- Consolidate the number of applications
- Modernize legacy systems
- Reduce the need of developers as well as decreasing backlog
Low-Code, No-Code, RAD, and BPM - what's the difference?
All of these platforms can be used to create applications and workflows, aided by graphical interfaces and more or less advanced logic. It's mostly the background, technology, and target audience of the supplier that separates them. Some examples of backgrounds are mobile development, database development, process development, and case management.
Low-Code for mobile applications
There are a number of suppliers that build apps for iOS and Android. Their work takes place on an environment created for this, with set frameworks and modules. Their solutions are very useful for marketing- or communications department that want to launch a new app quickly and connect it with existing IT systems and portals.
RAD - a work tool for IT departments
Rapid Application Development (RAD) platforms are popular shortcuts used by IT departments when they are creating or developing applications for the business. They contain frameworks, modules, more or less proprietary language, and can sometimes also offer the running of the new application. Professional developers and IT departments often prefer to work with RAD platforms.
Low-Code with BPM
For large companies and organizations that want to digitalize business processes and automate manual tasks, BPM systems have often been their tool of choice. In particular, if their ambition has been to speed up the work and change their ways of working to get rid of repetitive jobs. By embracing Low-Code as a concept BPM suppliers can become a partner to the IT department at the same time as they continue to deliver measurable value to managers in the business. Like improved lead times, increased transparency, compliance with rules, and lower costs as soon as the system has been implemented. Low-Code BPM differs from RAD in that they often include service, user interface, and developed functionalities. For departments responsible for business development and IT in companies and organizations, BPM systems are a perfect fit.
No-Code for smaller companies
For smaller companies or departments within a bigger organization, there are No-Code platforms that enable you to create workflows and light automation for everyday office tasks. These platforms are commonöy cloud-based and consist of a number of pre-configured modules that can be combined in different ways to support everyday activities. For example, handling vacation requests, ordering office supplies, and so on. The target groups for this kind of platform are business developers or an employee with a lot of IT experience that enjoys working with Excel or Acess.
Which applications are suitable for Low-Code?
Depending on the focus and target audience, there are several differences between the different Low-Code suppliers,
Complex Low-Code suites
The upside of these platforms is that they are equipped to handle everything, offering a lot of depth and width in what they can do. You can also use them to develop a complete business system. The downside is that the license fees are substantial. In addition, the implementation will take time, and the platform will require a lot of developers. It's not uncommon that entire IT departments (sometimes hundreds of people) have to be trained so they can handle development projects. Furthermore, a number of partners or consultants will be involved, and there is an ecosystem of supplementary products. For testing, user experience mockups, and so on.
Basic No-Code platforms
These are commonly web-based with smart interfaces, easy-to-learn user guides, and a number of ready plugins to popular systems like Slack, Dropbox, and G-suite. Platforms like this can be used to create simple administrative flows to decrease the number of emails, replacing Excel and other minor applications. The upside is that you can get started quickly, the downside is that there are limitations in how much they can be adapted, how secure they are, data control as well as a local delivery organization. It is important to keep in mind that the bigger your organization is, or the more complex your operations are (like a Manufacturing Retail hybrid) a platform like this will not be able to provide enough options or solutions.
BPM platforms with Low-Code opportunities
Suppliers of this kind of solution are more accustomed to working with the business, not the IT department. Their focus is mainly on process orientation, improving processes, and digitalizing business processes. Indeed, some analysts prefer calling these applications "process apps". Commonly they are used to improve different types of case management or process flows to achieve greater efficiency. For example application processes, internal approval flows, product development processes, order-to-delivery, administrative workflows as well as deviation management. Take a look at Barium's Low-Code platform for process automation to learn more.
Changing the technology isn't enough when improving how you work with digital development in-house. You also need to look at your strategy, competence, and culture. Our guide provides you with a lot of insights and learnings around Low-Code that you need to be successful.