Over the last 6 months I’ve had the opportunity to work with some low code/no code platforms and have been very impressed with the capabilities.
The concept of no code isn’t a new one, but in the past, business applications often touted it as “configuration” vs “customization. Products like Exact Synergy or Microsoft SharePoint offered tools to allow businesses to do things like create documentation, establish business process flows, and capture data that wasn’t being tracked in their other business systems. While these tools are robust and allow for a lot of flexibility, they didn’t offer the depth and breadth to solve every business problem. The plus side with these products though was that with a little bit of training you can be up and running very quickly.
In the past few years, applications like Quickbase and AppSheet (among many others) have been penetrating the business market by offering an application that gives you the tools to create basically anything you want (within reason of course). These sorts of apps give you the building blocks and then you craft something from there. This of course can be a double-edged sword. The pros are that you can do anything. And the cons are that you can do anything…
The term “no code” can be a little misleading. It’s 100% accurate in the regard that you aren’t going to have to sit down and start hammering out code. However, the same sort of planning needs to go into one of these projects as a full blown custom development project. When using a no code platform you will still be creating relational databases and screens that link to one another etc.
What these tools really do is allow someone with a skill set comparable to a Business Analyst or Business Process folks that understand data and how that data relates to functional workflows. It removes the barrier of needing a hard-core application programmer, but it doesn’t remove the need to have someone who intimately understands the business need and how to translate those requirements to an application.
Below are the pros and cons of using no/low code applications to solve your business challenges:
Still need some level of development acumen to effectively use
Usually do not have direct access to the back-end database which may make integration to legacy systems challenging
There are still going to be limitations to what the application can do
Does not require full on coding skills to be effective
Development cycle will be significantly shorter than traditional custom coding projects
When the no/low code provider makes product enhancements those will be available to use with minimal effort
The advent of these solutions is already allowing businesses to transform and digitize their processes in areas where cost and/or resources may have been a barrier. There are still scenarios where custom solutions and apps will be necessary, but these types of no/low code applications are changing how small and mid-sized businesses can scale and do business in very positive ways.