Point of View

Adopting Low Code or No Code solutions can help business and technology users adapt workloads and data to more efficiently meet their needs

May 21, 2021

Low-code and no-code (LCNC) solutions accelerate data and workflow contextualization for business users and citizen developers while helping software development teams reduce backlogs and turn rapidly changing business requirements into sustainable continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines.

LCNC is part of a more significant application and data modernization trend taking companies from monolithic, server-based infrastructure silos into the cloud-native world of agility, cloud-first, and co-development. If you are a technology leader, you must lead the discussion around implementing these tools for the business. They can add speed multipliers to innovation, customer service, planning, and decision making if appropriately deployed.

For business teams, attempting to adopt LCNC solutions without partnering with internal technology teams may limit you to tinkering within the confines of systems and data you already have, thus optimizing tasks rather than genuinely innovating for business and customer good—and possibly creating more technology debt rather than technology wealth. To get the most of LCNC and your data collaboration and co-creation is a best practice.

Is LCNC just the latest marketing hype? Or can it add value to the business?

Software vendors have been hyping LCNC solutions as a panacea for co-innovation and the citizen developer’s enablement. Vendor marketing engines are blasting a narrative that business users can quickly assemble data, insights, or workflows in the context of their job and extract more customer value from quickly pre-configured applications or dashboards. Further, lacking LCNC as part of application modernization efforts slows reactions to business needs as “classic code” takes time to develop, test, and implement. It is important to note that LCNC is not a means to create just-in-time applications; instead, it’s a powerful tool for assembling data to drive outcomes for the business and quickly construct a proof of concept for sustainable application development.

With nearly every software company adding LCNC features to their products, the real benefit is that they are making data and insight manipulation accessible to a greater number of people, particularly non-developers, thus improving productivity, speed, and costs. Where replicable business value occurs, these tools can make it easy for software development teams to build robust, sustainable solutions for innovation. To ensure you are pursuing LCNC the right way, HFS suggests that your teams jointly address these fundamental questions:

  1. Do LCNC platforms and solutions help the business user?
  2. Do LCNC solutions complement, replace, or replicate existing DevOps value streams?
  3. How will developers’ roles change with a growing digital fluency and citizen development competencies?

LCNC brings the business closer to solution development

In simple terms, LCNC solutions provide a visual development approach allowing users or developers to “drag and drop” visual blocks of existing code for rapid application development to deliver contextualized, role-based data and insights.

Low-code solutions engage visual and declaratory methods instead of traditional coding methods. Low code provides a faster environment to test and experiment with data and workflows. Success with low code is predicated on access to data and the ability to adapt, manipulate, publish, or discard outputs quickly. Low code is attractive because it helps a growing digitally fluent population make better decisions in the context of their role in the company and the service they are delivering to their customers.

Getting the most from low code may require tweaks from developers as users discover dependencies or needs for access to additional data repositories to further enhance their functions. From a developer’s perspective, low code allows a developer to present options for how users can fine-tune how they consume or produce information.

The difference between low code and no code is how rigorously functions are defined and the flexibility of connecting to more than one data source. A no-code solution mostly caters to a business crowd that does not know any programming languages and does not have any formal development training. Most of the no-code application development tools tend to be data-centric and support departmental productivity enhancement solutions, such as form-based data inputs, simple reporting and dashboards, and simple back-office automation. These kinds of solutions are simpler to develop with no-code tools than with Excel or Access, which require Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). No-code solutions are designed to solve functional use cases.

LCNC benefits the DevOps value stream

LCNC promised to meet the growing demand for both application modernization and data accessibility. LCNC solutions help developers build applications rapidly and deliver faster, low-cost workflow applications with citizen developers. They also can boost customization, new requirements, and modifications to applications built using microservice architectures. With both the business and technology teams able to use LCNC solutions, CI/CD efforts can become more agile and shorten the journey to achieving the value the business desires.

When adding automation tools and additional APIs, LCNC efforts can lead to co-development where business and technology teams can build, test, and implement how they create applications from legacy solutions or across multiple data repositories. DevOps teams can leverage time put into low-code applications to wireframe more complex development and functional improvements. LCNC applications complement the overall development value stream by substantially improving software development speed and capacity.

The potential alignment between the software and citizen developers to enlist support and co-innovation

The initial stage of every new technology is often beset with many challenges, but it reveals benefits, too. For software developers, the key benefits are speed and agility. Low-code solutions help develop the minimal viable product (MVP) and allow for user testing. Enterprises are attracted to these solutions to let a growing number of casual business-side developers work within sandboxes to become entrepreneurial in developing, analyzing, and crafting experimental workflows. Testing ideas in a business context with the target departments and users allows dedicated development teams to focus on legacy and complex application priorities.

Our recent discussions with multiple enterprises and service providers’ technology teams revealed a few challenges. One of the key challenges is the selection and deployment of LCNC solutions. Whether adopting built-in LCNC solutions in existing software or choosing dedicated platforms from companies like Unqork or Pega Systems, new licensing costs can undermine these applications perceived short-term benefits. Moreover, poorly executed requirements gathering, a culture of “what does the business know about software development,” and a lack of integration with other enterprise applications and datasets are some of the factors technology leaders should address before availing their teams or the business of these solutions.

While the hype promises LCNC is easy as 1-2-3, adopting these solutions can be time-consuming, require executive vision and support, and depend upon best practice approaches. However, demand for digital solutions, triggered by the pandemic, has accelerated LCNC adoption, and software vendors are leveraging the momentum to get their position in the market.

The Bottom Line: LCNC platforms are highly useful for enterprises willing to allow employees new data and visualization capabilities and drive a culture of co-innovation and application modernization.

The future of software development is about the modernization of monolithic technology stacks and transitioning from an information management mindset to a consumption-based paradigm. LCNC, combined with automation, AI, and analytics, can reward business and software developers with the speed needed to solve issues critical to the businesses during and after this transition.

Additionally, with LCNC solutions technology and business teams can more effectively adapt data and workflows to meet their immediate user needs without having to develop custom code within their legacy or modernized systems. The key will be working together to develop scenarios for taking successful LCNC efforts and baking them into how their company continues to develop, innovate, and foster a digitally native approach to software development.

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