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Why are ‘no code’ and ‘low code’ software development platforms on the rise?

Software
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors)

Organizations wanting to improve their software development capacity are having to find new ways of developing software for applications and websites. No code and low code platforms are the current disruptive technology industry trends that are set to greatly enhance this capability.

In recent years, there has been increased discussion around the industry disruptors low code and no code platforms. These software development industry disruptors are hailed as an opportunity for improving the industry’s challenges: limited efficiency and slowed innovation.

Senior management are turning to low code and no code platforms to help improve the delivery of customer-centric solutions. Soren Kaplan, Author of the Invisible Advantage, writing for Inc stated: “unlike other transformations that destroy existing markets, low-code and no-code software promises to make software itself even more ubiquitous than it is today.”

This article will explore why low code no code has risen in demand and what organizational challenges are contributing to the increased adoption of these tools.

What are low code software development platforms?

Low code platform Mendix defines low code development as a visual approach to software development. Mendix states that low code abstracts and automates every step of the application lifecycle to enable rapid delivery of various software solutions. According to a 2019 Forrester report, the low-code market will hit an annual growth rate of 40 percent, with spending forecasted to hit $21.2 billion by 2022.

What are No Code software development platforms?

A no code development platform is designed to help non-technical users build software applications without having to use large amounts of code.

No Code platform KissFlow explains: A no-code platform is a development platform that uses a visual development environment to allow layman users to create apps, through methods such as drag-and-drop, adding application components to create a complete application. With no-code, users don’t need prior coding knowledge to create apps.

Why is there a rise in ‘Low Code’ and ‘No code’ platforms?

These platforms are gathering attention from organizations seeking to equip their software developers with tools that will improve efficiency and agility. The hope is that these platforms will help improve the engineering teams’ skill set while increasing capabilities.

There are three main challenges low code and no code platforms aim to address:

1. Digitally transformation is slow due to the high cost to maintain legacy systems

Senior managers are unable to drive digital transformation at a rapid pace because large amounts of resources are dedicated to maintaining legacy systems. Moreover, the engineering teams are unable to focus on improving efficiency and innovation. As a result, the organization is slow to transform digitally.

Software development company Audacia’s The Cost of Legacy IT, states: “It’s estimated 90 percent of businesses are held back in terms of growth and enhanced efficiency due to old technology. And half of senior IT leaders state that legacy systems are the main barrier to digital transformation blocking their organization’s progress.”

2. Limited capacity in IT departments resulting in a slow delivery of custom applications.

IT Departments face the challenge of an ever-growing backlog due to not having the capacity to deliver on customization and features to meet internal demands.

One contributing factor to this slow delivery is a growing skills gap within the department. Global Knowledge reports that over 80 percent of North American IT departments have skills gaps. Globally, IT skills gaps have increased by 155 percent in three years.

3. The increasing skill and software developer shortage

Organizations seek strategies to address the shortage of software developers; more focus is placed on improving learning and development strategies to help keep engineering teams' skill set adaptive. Although there are still limitations to these strategies, as the capacity required to build applications remains low.

Gartner reports that the demand for business applications is 5x higher than internal organizations’ capacity. The primary factor contributing to this limited capacity is the shortage of software developers and IT professionals.

It is these organizational challenges that are directly associated with the rise in low code and no code platforms. Technology industry thought contributor Danine Midura from StarfishETL writing on the rise of these platforms states, “[i]n a world where digital innovation plays a starring role in business growth, automation and speed can mean the difference between leaping ahead or falling dangerously behind.” 

How are low code and no code platforms beneficial to an organization’s IT department capacity?

Low code platforms such as Mendix, Spring Boot and Outsystem are seen as beneficial vendors because they are offering organizations better agility and help to improve team efficiency.

The Forrester Wave 2019 report, which surveyed global developers, 23 percent reported they were using low-code platforms in 2018, and another 22 percent planned to do so within a year. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms research into the importance of low code predicts that over 50 percent of all application development will be low code by 2023.

Senior managers are continuously looking for tools that will help improve organizational software development efficiency, reduce development time and provide smarter ways for engineering teams to progress with work.

Low code platforms can improve capabilities to meet business demands, but there are limitations as to the level of agility that can be offered.

One disadvantage to using low code tools is the limited level of customization to the software an organization is allowed. MRC, a global software company specializing in web application development spoke to Technologist & Innovation Strategist Andrew Bellay from MetaNeer Labs Inc. about the Pros and cons of low-code development platforms.

According to Andrew Bellay:

When building custom software, developers are only limited by the hardware and the capabilities of the native language. Low-code platforms are much more constrained. Businesses might not be able to get the exact functionality they want or need. Options for the user interface and flow are often very limited as well, typically making low-code platforms a poor choice for consumer-facing apps, especially mobile apps where UX and UI expectations are very high.

No code platforms are considered to have further customizable limitations than low code, though no code platforms are seen as being faster at building applications. The grab, and drop format of no code tools are deemed beneficial for non-technical users who can be more involved in the development process. 

Despite the customization limitations, both low code and no code are deemed to be beneficial tools set to increase speed and reduce development cost.

The Forrester Wave 2019, goes on to report on customer cost. It states that, a low-cost-of-entry commercial model. Customers value low-code development platforms they can adopt at will for a very low cost — without requiring formal paid training courses to build business apps.

Kissflow points out that no code platforms such as theirs are helping IT departments increase productivity by reducing the backlog of internal departmental requests.

Kissflow states:

This is what you’re actually interested in. Agile organizations and reduced costs mean nothing if you’re not actually getting any work done. Since these no-code apps can be built at a much faster pace, the IT staff aren’t overloaded with requests from every other department. In turn, fewer people are waiting for you so they can get their work done. They’re already making their own apps and working.

Improved engineering teams productivity can be beneficial to the development process, although CIO.com notes speed can also be a disadvantage associated with low code and no code platforms. According to CIO.com, “[s]low down a bit. It’s nice that the tools are fast, but it can be a mistake to rush software development. As coding becomes easier, the real challenge is defining the application and imagining its role in the lives of the customers.

Organizations are seeking to have a more customer-centric approach. It is this need to meet customer demands that are driving the beneficial rise of low code and no code platforms.

How are IT departments’ software development productivity impacted by ‘no code’ and ‘low code’?

As low code and no code platforms gained recognition, these platforms were first seen as a threat to the credibility of software development.

As first explained by Jason Bloomberg, former contributor for Forbes: IT departments are also pushing back, often with a vengeance. Not only do the various denizens in IT fear for their jobs, but Low-Code/No-Code also threatens their credibility. After all, IT has been telling business stakeholders for years that the six month/million dollar plan is the only way to build enterprise software.

Contrary to this understanding, low code and no code platforms require different levels of technical skill set to use, both from software developers and other members of the software development department. 

No code tools are aimed at filling the skills gap and addressing the shortage of software developers with organizations filling this gap with citizen developers. The Gartner definition of a citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.

Citizen developers are the ones tasked with using no code platforms while the expertise of software engineers are needed for low code platforms as they require a higher technical skill-set.

Forbes thought leadership contributor John Everhard in the article The Pros And Cons Of Citizen Development stated:

However, low-code platforms do assume a certain degree of technical knowledge, whereas the more cutting-edge no-code platforms require less technical knowledge and skill in its business users who are supported by IT managing the technical infrastructure. But users do need to have an in-depth understanding of specific process and customer engagement challenges weighing their company down. They might lack the expertise to build using traditional programming, but they can create rich applications using graphical building tools.

The adoption of low code platforms into engineering teams workflow or the introduction of no code platform users continues to rise because organizations consider it a helpful improvement to capacity.

To allow for the use of these platforms, senior managers require buy-in from their software developers to introduce the use of low code or no code platforms.

For example, an OutSystems case study on IOOF demonstrated how low code helps to increase delivery capacity and restructure the use of resources to put more effort into innovation and less on maintenance.

IOOF’s challenge and actions:

Challenge

Although low-code sounds appealing, forcing its adoption on all of your developers could risk demotivation and departures that you can ill afford. How can you introduce it, and develop some early successes, that will win others to the cause?

Action Plan

If this sounds like your situation, this case study from IOOF should provide some useful inspiration. Sharam Hekmat, CIO at this wealth management company, wanted to introduce low-code to speed-up delivery and eliminate an increasing backlog of digital projects.

The key elements of IOOF’s approach were as follows:

The best low-coders turned out to be legacy developers because of their traditional systems analysis skills and superior business knowledge.

Several of the apps built during the competition went on to become productive systems.

LOOF’s departmental embrace in OutSytem’s low code platform resulted in a low code team of 15 senior software developers effectively using the platform, which allows them to apply their knowledge to a new area of focus.

Low code and no code platforms will change the way engineering teams are structured but in the case of LOOF it is a shift that will further integrate the development process with organizational requirements.

The alternative approach to low code and no code

Innovation has slowed in most organizations, and the shortage of software developers with the right level of expertise continues to grow despite this rise in low code and no code.

Alternatively, to help the department to maintain scalability, efficiency and customization across IT projects, organizations must invest more into learning and development. Senior managers considering the use of low code or no code platforms must first ensure to invest more into building their development talents’ current skill sets.

This investment helps engineering teams improve their capacity by influencing collaboration which influences culture, the types of projects they work on and allows them the ability to gain experience in new areas to improve their work environment.

Ferreneik Betton, Head of Content, BlueOptima

Ferreneik Betton, Head of Content at BlueOptima.