The industry is abuzz with news about low-code and no-code platforms that are redefining what it means to be an app developer. Despite all the talk, it’s not always clear what low-code and no-code platforms really are, who uses them, and how they differ from one another—and from traditional IT development.
Part of the confusion arises from the fact that no-code and low code platforms both belong to a modern, high-productivity development approach—with the no-code side of the spectrum dedicated to business productivity and the low-code side focused on IT productivity.
No-code platforms support business app building through a visual and guided process that features wizards or menus and point and click or drag and drop tools. Low-code platforms help streamline traditional IT development by providing visual modeling tools, but put more responsibility for building in features and functionality on the developer.
Analysts define modern application development platforms in the following ways:
Forrester definition: “Platforms that enable rapid delivery of business applications with a minimum of hand-coding and minimal upfront investment in setup, training, and deployment.”
Gartner definition: “Application platform as a service (aPaaS) is a cloud service that offers development and deployment environments for application services.” Of added note: high-productivity aPaaS is a type of aPaaS that supports declarative, model-driven design and one-step deployment.
Traditional programming differs from modern development in that all of the functionality for an application is coded into existence using core programming languages, such as Java, C#, and C++. It’s the most complex and time-consuming way to build, and also the most costly because it requires the expertise of highly skilled and often scarce professional development resources. Traditional development is usually reserved for long-lived mission-critical applications for complicated use cases that require the utmost in control over the user interface and integrations.
Adding even more ambiguity to the low-code/no-code conversation is the fact that functionality for both platforms continues to evolve in the marketplace. Capabilities that once required some coding, such as some integration with third party apps, are increasingly enabled with native functionality that can be set into motion, often with point and click or drag and drop simplicity.
Based on what’s being discussed within the industry, you may have come across different interpretations and conflicting ideas about low-code and no-code platforms. The following information and insight is offered to help bring clarity.
Before we tackle this question let’s look at the types of builders out there, their skill sets, and where they work in the organization.
Today’s low-code platforms are all about improving the productivity of existing IT development resources. They essentially take the traditional development process and streamline it for power builders and professional coders, making it faster and easier for them to create architecturally complex, enterprise-grade apps.
Typical business builders with basic Excel skills would likely be frustrated by the steep learning curve they would encounter with most low-code platforms. However, that is not to say one couldn’t be used, just that it may require some collaboration.
It’s not uncommon for today’s builders, power builders and professional coders to team up to bridge the gap in skills required by different development platforms. For example, a power builder may help out a builder by creating a coded component, such as a barcode, that can be used to expand the functionality of an app built on a no-code platform. A power builder may look to a professional coder for help in constructing a secure interface between a new app and key business-critical system.
“QuickBase is a natural fit in our evolving IT approach,” says Paul Carmouche, IT Director of Helm. “QuickBase allows citizen developers to create database-driven apps to replace spreadsheet and paper processes without contributing to the IT backlog. It has also let IT leverage its limited resources to do more good for the organization.”
Low-code platforms are similar to no-code platforms in that visual modeling tools or graphical editors with click-to-select elements are employed to dramatically cut down on the amount of coding needed to build an app. However, that’s where the similarity ends.
Because low-code platforms are typically leveraged to build apps that work across divisions, internal core systems, web portals, mobile channels, and non-native external applications, they often require a more advanced build. At least some coding is needed to facilitate more complicated system and data integrations and user interfaces, business process modeling, and other functionality.
Although low-code platforms might be better equipped to deliver infrequently updated and architecturally complex applications, the ability to rapidly respond to business challenges is best served by a no-code platform. With it, a wide range of business apps can be created and seamlessly deployed in days to weeks—instead of months through low-code and many months through traditional development channels.
Despite a no-code platform’s ease-of-use, no-code apps can be built with an extensive range of features and functionality—from simple tracking and reporting capabilities to automated workflows complete with notification triggers. Forms, reports, workflows, data structure, and other elements can all be updated in real-time, providing a level of business agility not previously possible.
Whether modifying a pre-built app, or building one from scratch, no-code platforms offer an impressive and ever-widening array of tools and functionality that facilitate a tailor-made fit. That means business professionals can build the exact solution they need, mapped to their business processes and workflows for faster user adoption and time-to-value.
And while builders typically begin their no-code journey by addressing a single problem or challenge, it’s not long before one successful no code app leads to others. The beauty in choosing a web-based, no-code app development platform over an out-of-the box solution is two-fold.
First, unlike packaged solutions which typically offer limited customization and can be difficult to integrate with one another, a no-code platform in the cloud becomes a high-speed launching pad for creating an integrated ecosystem of powerful database apps. Second, not only do these web-based business solutions allow for greater staff collaboration and productivity, but they also easily scale to accommodate more apps and users.
No longer the sole realm of the professional coder with specialized skills in traditional development, app building using today’s dynamic low-code and no-code platforms make it possible for everyone to contribute to an innovative and agile business.
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