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The rise of no code and low code platforms

Posted 25 February 2021

During the last 12 months change has occurred at a pace unthinkable in the years previous. The ability to react to change in society, the economy and in your sector requires operational flexibility and this has driven growth in the area of software development known as no code and low code.

No code does exactly what it says on the tin. A no code platform gives users the ability to build an application without ever writing a line of code utilising a graphical interface that allows users to drag and drop modular, reusable components to create their application.

Low code is broadly similar but tips its hat to the reality that some coding may be needed to create custom feature sets, functionality or integrations.

The trend has empowered solutions-orientated employees to create useful applications without having any engineering background, which when married with the flexible, scalable and accessible cloud computing services like AWS, Google Cloud & Microsoft Azure, can bring applications to market quicker and cheaper.

But should you believe the hype? Should business analysts, marketers or designers really be creating applications? Do these platforms allow you to build security-first? … And how disruptive might these platforms be going forward?

Let’s find out.

Complexity under the Hood

No code platforms rely on abstraction. 

To explain abstraction, think about the way that Amazon Web Services disrupted the hardware and networking space. Instead of having custom configured servers in data centres located in your building, which are costly to scale, AWS gave us the building blocks to simply combine and assemble modular bundles to build out our infrastructure, with all the complexity of additional computing power removed to a level that we no longer have to interface with.

It’s similar here, the available feature sets, workflows and components are illustrated as visual building blocks in a simplified layer, with the complicated engineering hidden from view that makes the building blocks interoperable.

Why does no code and low code make sense?

In any business, it makes sense to allocate the straight-forward, repeatable or repetitive tasks to automated processes, instead of manual employee action. The economics of automation work hard for your P&L.

No code applications can be generated for processes that need simple applications to streamline operations like inventory management, employee onboarding and delivery management. These applications can leverage pre-built feature sets to collect data, monitor progress and report against targets or project milestones. Pretty nifty, huh?

However, no code and low code solutions aren’t a direct replacement for robust enterprise-level software development, they are filling a void in a different kind of design space. You won’t find businesses in highly regulated industries looking to build scalable mobile applications in AppSheet for example. These intelligent no code and low code platforms are flexible, cheap, entry level playgrounds that fulfil common needs of an application set, which creates economies of scale for the provider and flexibility & price benefit for the business customer.  

What are the limitations?

There are a range of limitations with no code and low code platforms. Let’s look at four key areas.

Regardless of who configures the application, it costs money

The no code/low code mantra of anyone can build an application could well be true, but can they do it efficiently? If you let your marketing manager build an application from a no code platform, they will still have to scope the project, engage stakeholders, get sign off on a feature set, build, test, review and iterate? And how much will that cost your business, both in terms of how much time they have to devote to it, their potential inefficiencies when working in an unfamiliar environment and the impact on the workload that they have to de-prioritise to deliver your app?

With limited features, it can become similar to off-the-shelf solutions

No code platforms have been called out for offering limited business or customer specific functionality, a lack of customisable elements and restrictive opportunities to deliver the brand look & feel. 

If you are looking to build something to use internally for a single function that streamlines a process and increases data capture, no code or low code may be fine but there isn’t the same attention paid to user experience, gamification, competitive feature sets or intellectual property. The same reasons for not buying a white-labelled, off-the-shelf solution may well apply to the world of no code platforms.

Data accrual, integration and security

Many businesses require their applications to generate, accrue and store data in a structured way in which they can prove the quality of the data and provide auditable access to the underlying databases. Applications which are created with no code or low code platforms, can suffer from difficulty integrating with other systems that your business uses and can create issues with data storage and utility.

By not having full control over your application from a design and engineering point of view, exploitable vulnerabilities can be isolated by hackers and trying to find where security breaches have occurred may leave you staring at a black box (rather that at your own source code).

Lack of control over your application

With many of these platforms there is vendor lock-in, where you are ‘stuck’ with your existing platform and there are high costs related to switching providers (if it’s even an option at all). 

This creates an environment where an application that may have been a proof of concept becomes a well-used and well-liked application, but you are beholden to the platform upon which it was created, rather than having complete control over your own intellectual property and the development pipeline.

What industries are leveraging no code & low code?

If you look at the client lists on some of the major player’s websites you can start to see a common theme arise in the verticals in which they play. Fast-moving-consumer-goods, construction, retail and transportation are the most regularly showcased industries.

Gartner recently reported a 23% increase in U.S low code/no code revenues with the market predicted to grow by another 22% in 2021, the uptake within these markets is pretty significant. 

What does the future hold for no code and low code?

In a digital economy that is innovating and evolving at a serious pace, any service which makes software development quicker and easier will continue to get plenty of press and investment, as lowering the barrier to entry creates opportunity for SME’s to create applications and prove their efficacy without the enterprise innovation budgets.

However, it will likely be a long time until progression in the no code and low code space dramatically changes the need for talented product teams, user experience designers, technologists, developers and testers… especially at the enterprise end of the market.

At Waracle, we create industry-leading mobile applications for our visionary clients, if you are discussing what’s best for your business and need support to find the right data for your business case, why not get in touch with our team. We’d love to hear from you.