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When we talk about developing software, this usually consists of a number of steps and stages such as design, development, testing, and deployment that result in the creation of operational software. Think about developing a robust 5G network infrastructure; it runs with the same analogy.

Since software development started in the 1960s, many different approaches have been used. The most preferred one nowadays is the agile approach. This is where development requirements and solutions are discovered through collaborative effort, advocating adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continual improvement.

This shift in the mindset of how apps should be built made the process more streamlined and efficient by emphasizing that the best way to navigate something complicated as software development is to get right into the middle of figuring it out.

Now, the emergence of low-code/no-code (LC/NC) technologies are level-up versions of rapid application development (RAD) and business process management (BPM) that already exist. As the demand for more speed and flexibility in development surges, these tools become more of a necessity than an option.

Defining low-code/no-code

Developing business applications will shift toward hyper-agile architectures in 2021, according to a recent IDC study. With this ongoing trend, platforms that can facilitate cloud-based software are now the norm. If you are a developer, you'll need to adapt to significant changes. If you are running a business, new opportunities are already there that will allow you to be more efficient and innovative than before.

This is where LC/NC comes into the scene. Starting with the former, low-code is a way for all developers — amateur or professional — to design applications quickly, with minimum hand-coding. Expediting the overall process, creators can just drag and drop visual blocks of existing code into a workflow to create applications. Having shortcuts, rather than spending time to learn the latest programming framework, or conducting tests to know if a single code line works, you can go straight to setting it up.

Bear in mind that low-code software can be fully customized with minimal programming. While it still requires some form of coding, it's proven to be faster and cheaper than manual development.

On the other hand, no-code takes the low-code concept to another level by allowing literally anyone (citizen developer) to tailor an application to their needs without knowing any proper programming knowledge. No-code solutions also feature drag-and-drop, visual development, mostly catering to business people or other people who have not undergone formal development training. Addressing this situation, everything the user needs to build an app has been integrated into the tool. Common examples of these are blogging platforms and e-commerce website design companies that have templates you can use to launch a blog or business in minutes.

Both LC/NC solutions require minimal to no coding expertise and empower users to maintain and configure applications. Thus, no matter the extent of their technical skills, individuals can now utilize tools to fit their exact requirements with the help of simple point-and-click, drag-and-drop, and building-block-like configurations.

Why and where to use

Low-code and no-code development platforms promise to deliver greater efficiency and increased productivity in creating applications. It’s becoming clear that low-code could be a game-changer, as Gartner forecasts that low-code application platforms will account for 65% of all app development by 2024.

Moreover, 100% of enterprises have received ROI from their low-code adoption, according to a Forrester paper. This proves that low-code development is a perfect fit for businesses’ demand to accelerate their modernization efforts. As organizations increasingly embrace cloud and automation for agile software development processes, LC/NC technologies are key acceleration tools to meet their innovation goals.

LC/NC is being embraced as a major enabler for digital transformation, with the following key benefits:

  • Because of its simple building-block approach, complex projects can be deployed in a shorter timeframe — consuming fewer development resources
  • Moderately skilled developers can have the opportunity to work with it, without having to completely revamp the internal IT team
  • With a commonly large collection of designs, templates, and guidelines, developers can easily construct well-rounded and practical business applications
  • It is a more convenient approach in upgrading legacy systems and providing a better customer experience

As per research findings, the top LC/NC use cases nowadays are business process or workflow applications, web and mobile front ends, and customer-facing applications. Later on, experts predict that low-code will eventually expand into broader areas due to advanced artificial intelligence, infrastructure-as-code (IaC) option, and developer-centric features.

Both LC/NC platforms are built with the same thing in mind: speed and value. Knowing which one to use can mainly depend on what your desired outcome should be. For standalone mobile and web apps as well as portals, low-code is the better option. With minor coding to be done, these are likely to be integrated within other systems and data sources. In contrast, no-code tools should only be used for the front-end which involves no technicalities upon building an engaging user interface.

Some real-life examples of LC/NC applications are custom marketplaces, social networks, personal finance tools, community and review sites, internal management tools, job boards, hour registration and tracking, loyal program software, CRM system, and stock and order management.

Challenges and opportunities

Right now, both types of software are somehow interchangeable and grouped together. But the potential of no-code software alone in the market is anticipated in the coming years. Looking beyond 2021, no-code platforms will become commonplace for application development as this technology will empower non-technical business experts to bring together data and assemble software functions without any coding experience. Hence, low-code platforms may experience a greater degree of crossover, making it a must-have for organizations that want to stay ahead of the ‘cloud-only’ and ‘data-for-everyone’ era.

Digital transformation is now a leading organizational priority that aims to find ways in coping with the operational slowdown, ensuring customer loyalty, and digitizing the business regimen. Through LC/NC application development, time and cost reduction are associated with integration and workflow automation.

LC/NC programming is indeed useful but it is also wise to be aware of its cons. Though LC/NC platforms are popular now and are going through a hype cycle, they are not going to replace professional software developers anytime soon. Among the downside to no-code is ‘shadow IT,’ which pertains to the lack of supervision upon developing apps. This can lead to security concerns, compliance issues, integration problems, resource-intensive apps, and increased technical debt.

As a whole, LC/NC will essentially level the playing field and create a much more diverse and inclusive market for all. The key for business users and developers to success lies in selecting the right tool and moving forward with a solid plan. Now is the time to become familiar with the various tools and emerging business models that will power the next generation of software.

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