For ages, there have only been two options available to organizations for application development: either purchase ready-made apps from an outside vendor or create and customize them from scratch utilizing specialized developers and coders. However, low-code/no-code (LCNC) development options are now becoming more and more sophisticated, bringing the power of application development even to users without tech skills.
Low-code or no-code technologies will be used in 70% of new applications created by businesses by 2025, up from less than 25% in 2020. The thing is, low-code platforms eliminate repetitive and tiresome tasks like dependency management, code validation, and complex builds. Developers can concentrate on the creative effort that adds value to their applications and the company in general.
Outsystems report that 70% of IT executives choose the LCNC platforms to complete their digital transformation successfully. These alternate approaches to app creation make use of an easy-to-use graphical user interface (UI) to empower people to easily create applications and automate business procedures without having to write lines of code. Greater user accessibility is promised with the adoption of LCNC technologies.
In this article, IntelliSoft will look at the meaning of this technology, why it is beneficial to use it, and in what situations.
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A New Approach to Product Release: What Are Low-Code Development Platforms?
The term low-code originated in 2014 thanks to John Rymer, VP at Forrester Research. The concept covered areas of development where minimal “manual” programming could be included. However, the idea of developing applications with fewer lines of code goes back to the 80s: at that time, the fourth-generation languages, 4GL, began to be used.
In fact, these languages opened up the possibility of creating software products for non-programmers. Unlike other languages, they require fewer commands and reduce the amount of code. Later, the term RAD was introduced to denote a similar approach. It made it possible to compile desktop applications in environments like Delphi visually. But the development was not available to ordinary users, for example, marketers or managers, because Java code was still used.
These technologies were the forerunners of modern citizen development. Low-code solutions are often referred to as the successors of 4GL. This approach demonstrated that programming is possible without coding knowledge. Using a low-code platform, an ordinary user becomes a citizen developer and can independently configure applications and set logic. The main thing is to understand business processes. According to Gartner, 41% of employees who customize or create tech solutions are not IT-related.
With low-code platforms, a user assembles application components, including logic and data, in a visual space, using the drag-and-drop principle. It can be compared to Lego: the software components are dragged with the mouse like digital cubes. But even here, you need to write code snippets, for example, for accessing old systems or preparing reports.
What a low-code application platform consists of:
- Typical functionality. It includes blocks for customizing business logic, managing databases, AI support, and integration with other services. The functionality can be ready-to-use or require minor modifications (based on API).
- IDE. All actions are performed in an integrated visual environment: the user works with logic using ready-made blocks, such as the drag-and-drop method.
- Writing code manually. These components are based on API and are used in specific cases. Knowledge of coding is indispensable here.
If a user has basic coding skills, they can add the necessary functions using scripts or high-level languages at any time. As you can see, the need for manual coding rarely occurs, while traditional programming is completely based on it. The classic approach means that developers first write code and turn it into a functional application.
Note that low-code is often used as a synonym for no-code. The point is that the first approach requires a minimum amount of code, and the second eliminates the need for it because all functions are already built into the platform. But is everything so simple? Experts from Gartner consider no-code as a marketing ploy since code and software always exist. So it is the same as low-code.
Let’s look at when it is beneficial to use such platforms and what you can create with them.
When Should You Use Low-Code Development?
The primary purpose of LCAP is to make development simple and accessible to all business users, regardless of whether they are familiar with IT. It empowers companies to launch products and meet customer demands promptly. Experts predict that there will be four times more citizen developers than professional ones by 2023.
LCAP can help you in such cases:
- Creating websites with static content, i.e., when there is no need to work with HTML, PHP, and CSS.
- Application integration with third-party services, connection via API (professional help is needed here).
- Development of solutions for business intelligence and dashboards as part of corporate software, for example, ERP or BPM.
- Optimization of routine processes, including collecting and organizing customer data, exchanging documents with suppliers, and others.
- Building a basic version (MVP), which should help to decide on improving the functionality.
As you can see, it is a valuable tool both for expanding current projects and creating essential business solutions. Moreover, it can be used for basic product versions. If we are talking about building a large-scale project with maximum performance, which will require long-term maintenance, it makes sense to choose custom development.
IT professionals with extensive coding experience often use this approach. Why? In fact, the IDE and many integrated features allow you to make creative solutions for any task. Low-code technology accelerates work on software products dozens of times since there is no need to write and debug code.
With low-code, it is convenient to create:
- Enterprise-level apps for personalized communication with clients.
- Programs for automating operations, for example, in marketing, HR, financial data processing.
- Client applications of web or mobile format with user-friendly UI and simple logic.
- AI and ML-driven solutions for data processing and analytics.
- Electronic forms or applications for data collecting.
According to Gartner, in 58% of cases, the technology is used to develop programs for data collecting. It helps create functional solutions for process management (49%), communications, and workflow. For example, replacing e-mail and tables (42%) or improving the UI for current on-premise apps (22%).
The most famous platforms for application development are Outsystems, Mendix, Microsoft, Salesforce, and ServiceNow. In addition, there are individual solutions tailored to the requirements of a specific industry or niche.
For business users, LCAP is a simple tool for achieving business goals and creating adaptable solutions. For IT departments, it increases productivity, which is especially useful in a time-limited environment.
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Six Key Features of Low-Code Development
Fast product release
It is perhaps the main advantage of low-code platforms. Due to the minimal amount of code, the need for manual programming is almost eliminated. The user just needs to understand the procedure and follow the modular principle. Numeric blocks are connected in any order, and some AI-driven platforms offer hints for their logical placement.
According to Mendix, most developers complete projects in 2-3 months, thanks to such tools. It applies to cases where the traditional approach would double the time spent. After all, there is no need to research and then write and test new scripts.
Components are reusable functions to model applications. Users get an extensive set of tools, from templates, widgets, and additional modules to ready-made blocks.
All of these components can be used repeatedly in other projects. Reusability is one of the main factors affecting release speed and saving your employees time and resources.
LCAP-based work requires less knowledge and skills, so you don’t need to hire additional specialists for your team. You can even exclude programmers if your tasks are typical, for example, creating a simple website. But for connecting via API, automating complex processes, or introducing new functions, you will need professional help.
High speed also affects costs positively: the sooner a product is released, the less investment it requires. Overall, it is one of the most effective ways to achieve a high ROI.
Today’s customers have strict requirements for products and services. Your task is to learn how to adapt to them. And it’s better to do it quickly since market changes are very frequent. With LCAP capabilities, you deliver the perfect CX.
First and foremost, it helps release applications on time and provide quality services to users. Working on existing projects, you can keep up with CX trends and quickly update your apps following them.
Advanced platforms have all the features you need to improve security. They offer robust administration tools, control access to projects, and recognize threats in time.
By following all industry regulations, LCAP eliminates fraud and hacking of your application. In addition, if the product is created by the same company, there is no need to exchange information with third parties and use third-party tools, which reduces the risks.
The ability to adapt is not only about customer needs. It is also connected with regulatory requirements. It is important when you release a product for a specific niche or narrow audience. You can make necessary changes to meet new industry requirements without extra coding.
Instead of a Conclusion, or Low Code vs. High Code
Our Intellisoft team is often asked: which of these approaches is the future? We answer honestly: LCAP capabilities cannot completely replace traditional developers in complex and non-standard projects. However, this technology can empower ongoing projects and automate day-to-day tasks. With its help, you get accelerated digital transformation and innovation.