Let’s start by distinguishing between low-code and no-code. Simply put, with the former, the need for programming is minimized, with the latter not having it at all. And the effect in the form of an application is created. Both types of solutions are graphic tools, which makes working on them convenient and intuitive.
With no-code you can build something very quickly and easily, by assembling the application from ready-made components like blocks. The advantage is therefore a low entry cost and no technical skills required to get started. Tools of this type are well suited to business requirements only in the context of specific, narrow applications. However, the price for this is their limitations, which cannot be bypassed – the components available for use have been predefined, therefore it is not possible to create non-standard functionalities or introduce customizations other than those allowed.
Low-code platforms are more complex, but therefore more universal. They allow you to build virtually any applications and business processes.
How do low-code platforms work?
Low-code platforms accelerate software development by allowing you to build an application skeleton in graphical mode for further customization. These types of solutions reduce the need for coding, but programming skills can still be useful. To use them effectively, a basic understanding of information systems architecture and data models is useful.
There are already modern low-code platforms on the market that allow for a gradual transition from the simplest use cases to complex corporate solutions. Often, prototypes of modules or complete applications are available in such tools, which makes work easier because you do not have to start from scratch. Instructional videos and personalized training sessions can also help.
How are low-code and no-code solutions different from BPMS and RPA tools?
BPMS (Business Process Management System) tools are designed to manage the workflow and workflow between employees. In this respect, they actually allow for very easy definition and development of processes without the need for programming, so it can be said that they are low-code class tools. However, if we want to build an application that is different from workflow (e.g. the emphasis is on data processing or calculations), BPMS reveals important limitations. The universal low-code platform does not have such barriers anymore.
In the case of RPA (Robotic Process Automation), both such tools and low-code platforms have the same goal, which is to automate business processes. For this reason, many people put an equal sign between them. However, this is a big mistake, because while the goal is similar on the general level, the ways of achieving it are radically different.
Imagine a situation in which we have an old IT system that requires tedious entering customer data. They are available in electronic form, but the system cannot import them, and its modification is unprofitable. The use of an RPA class tool will eliminate manual data entry by simulating a human entering them into the application. It is a quick solution, but we still stay with the old system and additionally have another maintenance tool.
The use of the low-code platform will allow us to efficiently create a new system that will enable data import and will retain full flexibility in adapting to business needs. So in the case of low-code, we can talk about the introduction of a target solution, not just ad hoc automation.
Why the use of low-code solutions can change the business?
Low-code tools are an interesting proposition for all companies and organizations that have an IT team, but lack or lack developers. These can be both organizations that need applications for their own needs, and IT suppliers who would like to create solutions for their customers.
The low-code platform allows you to create various types of systems on your own. Most importantly, by creating applications with its use, you can strictly customize them to your own needs. This is a unique feature that gives low-code solutions an advantage over ready-to-use software.
In addition, the low-coding technique allows you to reduce the involvement of experienced developers for the benefit of people who are not programmers (whether through changes within the organization or recruiting new employees). Often, a person who connects two worlds – has some technical knowledge and at the same time a business knack – is called a citizen developer. Thanks to this, it can create solutions on its own using the low-code platform. Contrary to a traditional developer, such a user does not need to know the secrets of programming, but certain areas of IT knowledge may not be alien to him.
When it comes to simple applications, all you need is a general knowledge of how systems are built, what the data model is, and basic knowledge of SQL. In the case of more complex projects, it is worth knowing the algorithmics or performance aspects.
The role of a citizen developer can be played by, among others: business analysts, implementation consultants, business owners of systems, as well as programmers who do not want to program anymore, but only operate in contact with business. Everything indicates that this group of employees will grow, replacing the traditional division into IT and business. The value of this approach is a broader view of the project and the possibility of achieving much better results.
– The analytical company Gartner indicates that in 2025 70% of new applications will be developed using low-code and no-code platforms, while in 2020 it was less than 25%. This is global data on the most developed markets. In Poland, knowledge of the use of low-code platforms is still relatively low. However, there is a dynamic development ahead of us in this area – emphasizes Tomasz Adamczyk, product owner of the Polish low-code VSoft archITekt platform.
What are the types of low-code platforms?
The tools called low-code today differ in purpose, functionality and history. Therefore, the market can be divided into several segments. The first area is business-oriented solutions. They allow to extend their functionality to some extent. Most of the time, they focus on delivering turnkey business solutions and configuration is an essential part of their added value. Examples include Contact Center, CRM, Document Management platforms.
The next segment will be platforms specialized in selected areas. Such tools are best in class, but in specific, very narrow areas. Examples include native mobile applications or platforms for data integration and processing.
There are also general-purpose low-code tools. They allow you to provide a complete environment that allows you to build independent business solutions in all the required aspects. Their strength is that they are independent of the type of business and are used in various business processes of the organization.
Regardless of the type of low-code platform – just like any tool – it is always worth implementing in stages. It is best to start with a small project that will show the value of the new approach and gain evangelizers in the organization, and then automate more and more complex processes until the platform meets all the assumed needs.
What to consider when choosing a low-code platform?
Experience with popular mobile applications means that we pay attention primarily to the speed and intuitiveness of building solutions. However, it is also worth checking to what extent a given platform is a promising solution and how it will deal with the complexity of the systems that we will develop in the future.
The best way to make the best choice is to answer a few questions:
- What exactly are your business needs?
- Is it building completely new systems, extending or maybe just the integration of already functioning solutions?
- What is the maturity of the platform and the support opportunities offered?
- Does the supplier have sufficient experience and potential to effectively support the product?
- What budget can you afford?
- Does money play a role and you can afford one of the world’s “giants”, or is it better to look for a local supplier that will be cheaper, but not necessarily worse?
- What kind of app do you need?
- Is it about CRM, a mobile application, or a specific area, such as document management?
- Who will build the app?
- Will they be business people, citizen developers or maybe even programmers?
- What implementation model do you prefer? Should it be a cloud, or should it be implemented on your own servers?
These are the key issues to consider when looking for a low-code solution that will match the needs and capabilities of your organization.
It is worth remembering that regardless of whether you are a businessman testing an application idea or an advanced programmer bored with repetitive code fragments, you will find tools that will make your daily work easier.
The growing need to create applications in combination with the availability of programmers, which is too low in relation to the demand, results in better and better tools, whose task is to enable building solutions with a strong reduction or even elimination of the need for programming.
“The future of programming is not to program at all,” said Chris Wanstrath, CEO of GitHUB. Thanks to the innovative low-code and no-code tools and the further development of artificial intelligence, it is possible.