Is Low-Code/No-Code The Future of Development?

Low-code/no-code development solutions seem to be all the rage right now. In fact, this year we’ve seen the low-code market grow by 22.6%!1 But, we’re skeptical… While these approaches allow for application development outside of tech-heavy development teams, we’re tempted to believe that putting in the code-groundwork reaps better results. 

That’s by no means to say that low-code doesn’t deserve its place on the tech table. The fact that 80% of G2 respondents believe low-code frees development teams to work on higher-level projects particularly proves that small changes and simple automation through low-code can tweak our technological engagements.2 In reality, though, we shouldn’t be putting all of our eggs in a tech-based basket on the assumption that simpler is inevitably better. What’s more, the development of applications needs to align with business goals, not just conform business processes to fit tech. 

In fact, with even existing low-code operations falling foul to a lack of flexibility, and customisation, it seems that this isn’t even the easy choice we’ve been sold, nor does it offer a comprehensive replacement to traditional software development.3 So, if you’re asking whether low-code is the future, the simple answer is no. It is, however, an imperative aspect of a broader trend that’s making programming more accessible alongside simplified programming languages like JavaScript and Python. In this article, we consider what the future of development does look like, and what part low-code/no-code ultimately plays in that. 

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What really is low-code, and is no-code a thing?

Low-code is a custom software development approach that enables business users to build and deploy business apps without the expertise of professional developers. This is made possible through the use of specific low-code app development tools that enable rapid application development with way less code than traditional platforms. In-tool processes including drag-and-drop-editors and meta-data-driven processes automate and abstract application development activities for maximum accessibility. 

The use of low-code orchestration mechanisms like Zapier and IFTTT furthers these benefits by enabling low-code app connectivity and simplified workflows for improved business processes within even up-and-running apps. By comparison, no-code app development platforms claim not to require code handling at all. However, as Gartner states, no-code is often just a case of low-code tools rebranded for non-professional developers — that is, the largest difference is the end-user. Where no-code hides the code from developers for simple app development, low-code requires some technical interference from developers.  

While neither of these terms offers the out-of-the-box solutions that they advertise, both do represent a general shift towards more accessible programming. Recent developments have especially seen low-code tools taking their place alongside simplified programming languages like Javascript and Python, as well as more modern languages like Rust that use type inferences and null safety to bring development into more of a mainstream. 

When used in tandem with more sophisticated traditional development focuses, low-code and those simplified programming languages can, therefore, become cogs in a larger machine looking to enable the rapid development of digital solutions at a time when we’ve never needed them more.

The benefits and risks of low-code

The good: Faster, accessible developments that enable non-techies to improve software engagement are an undeniable benefit of low-code tools, especially as they free programming experts to focus on higher-level development projects. In other words, the tech skills shortage can be sidestepped this way… to some degree. Low-code development ensures apps that function far better regardless of who makes them ensure low-risk, high-return app operations. 

The bad: The benefits are appealing but without the proper preparation development can end up unravelling. This is especially the case as processes have to shift to accommodate these tools (e.g. through low-code training focuses or a general switch to less capable foundations) rather than seamlessly fitting them within existing scopes of experience. It’s therefore unlikely that low-code tools will replace existing programming processes altogether, often as a direct result of unique risks, including – 

  • A lack of business logic: The value of low-code tools for the automation of simple processes or prototyping speaks for itself. However, an overall lack of business logic in terms of improvements and functionality when it comes to customisations, data handling, etc. can ultimately prevent the introduction of complexities that only expert teams can truly offer.
  • The ‘no-code’ myth: Both low-code and its marketing partner in crime advertise ease that they don’t necessarily offer. Most low-code tools, in particular, still require a competent level of technical background. Even for expert teams, training that uncovers the technologies and requirements of low-code itself is often necessary despite a general lack of applicability for these skills elsewhere. 
  • Security limitations: Low-code solutions with in-built security protocols rarely offer the same levels of protection as processes in-house, especially as low-code increases the likelihood of shadow IT. This can lead to all manner of security setbacks, often due to inherent challenges concerning control over both data security and access to source code. 
  • Limited customisation: Predetermined templates, capabilities, and development options within many low-code tools also result in limited customisations that can prevent truly unique application development that fits 100% with a company’s messaging. This can result in ill-fitting finished products and a significantly reduced market impact when your app looks like everyone else’s. 

How to make low-code work?

Predictions that low-code will comprise over 65% of application development by 2024 meaning you can’t discard low-code altogether, especially as these simplifications enhance the power and time that experts can dedicate to advanced programming elsewhere.4

That being said, its downfalls mean that successful low-code should be considered in tandem with sophisticated tools that offer expertise wherever low-code lacks. Or, in other words, low-code should be used for what it does well, without the expectation that it can provide a complete replacement for business functionality that’s never really been an option. Within individual enterprises, the extent to which you incorporate low-code development especially depends on your ability to understand what it realistically offers your processes by asking crucial questions such as:

  1. What are your existing capabilities? Simpler isn’t necessarily better if you already have experienced engineers capable of complex solutions that better suit your needs, yet low-code can prove undeniably beneficial for companies with limited or over-stretched IT teams. Consider where your capabilities stand, and how exactly low-code would enhance/hinder them.  
  2. What business processes could low-code fix? Rather than adding potentially unnecessary tools to an already large IT stack, consider precisely the business process management benefits possible from low-code integrations (e.g. improved customer turnover, analytics and reporting, etc.), and whether or not these are gaps that you necessarily need to fill.
  3. How could low-code integrate with your core systems? Seamless integrations with critical systems are non-negotiable for accessing enterprise-wide data and content across entire IT stacks. It’s therefore vital to consider how low-code tools fit and operate within your core systems, and whether that will truly offer the simplification you need.
  4. How will you measure low-code success? Low-code might dangle the carrot of simplification, but even that benefit will remain out of reach if you don’t measure its success. As well as relying on reporting and analytics within low-code platforms, broader low-code measurements such as cost-cutting, improved developments, and also generalised workplace ease should therefore all be taken into account to determine the ongoing value of low-code.

Getting the support you really need

Trends towards more accessible programming offer a reason to rejoice and, with low-code at the helm of this shift, it’s easy to get caught in the hype without truly understanding this investment. Unfortunately, even the so-called ease of ill-fitting or over-egged low-code tools can lead to disappointments, stalling processes, and generally compromised results. 

If the reasons you’re looking for a low-code as an option is a lack of in-house capabilities, or challenges building the tools you need… Then partner with us! With the perfect tech consultants, our team here at 101 Ways is a far more reliable way to ensure that advancements like low-code work within your wider programming infrastructure instead of requiring you to bend to the will of your tools. With our advice, coaching, and overall delivery of improved digital products at every capability, we help you to understand what you’re doing well, and how/if low-code can cover your gaps without creating any more. So, get the low-down on low-code and your tech in general by contacting our team today!

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  1. Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Low-Code Development Technologies Market to Grow 23% in 2021
  2. 32 Low-code Development Statistics to Know Before Adopting
  3. Low-Code vs. No-Code: The Differences, Similarities, & How to Choose
  4.  The Pros and Cons of Low-Code Development