Here is an explainer for businesses trying to circumvent skills shortages that are limiting app-development options and pivoting flexibility.
Two development platforms—no code and low code—have proven to be crucial in allowing businesses to continue the momentum of digital transformation amid a talent shortage.
At the outset both platforms look similar, but each has its own characteristics. However, there is a thin line of distinction between the two technologies.
Here are the differences explained in terms of factors such as target audience and complexity of applications that need to be developed.
This platform is aimed entirely at business teams that do not have any usable coding knowledge but have the ability to chart out some of the underlying business logic required for an app to be built. Specifically, the platform possesses the following characteristics:
- Users develop an application visually through dragging-and-dropping elements (visual programming) into the application’s main user console (user interface)
- Multiple workflows and processes defined by the developer are integrated into a single console without any need for manual coding, through automated guidance and prompts, so that even non-technical people can build apps customized for everyday operations
- While no-code can help organizations achieve shorter development cycles and lower the dependencies on IT, the platform has its own limitations. For example, to add advanced components in a no-code application, just visual programming may not be enough
- It is therefore important is to choose a platform that will mitigate such limitations and other considerations such as scalability, technical debt, shadow IT, etc.
This app development technique allows businesses to build custom applications with a minimal (but not zero) amount of coding. Instead, compared to no-code, it has the following main characteristics:
- It involves varying levels of simple coding, but this does not necessarily mean writing extensive lines of code.
- The true motive behind the low-code approach is to shorten development cycles, accelerate time to market, and reduce developer dependencies as much as possible. Enterprises that recognize the significance of a fast minimum viable product can use low—code to expedite the development process that helps build responsive, varied, and powerful applications.
- Generally, low-code platforms are open systems that allow bigger venues for custom code—thus resulting in compatibility with multiple use cases. Consider an e-commerce application that entails feedback forms, chatbots, FAQs, shopping carts, store, and products pages and so on, to be brought into a single application. This act of bundling everything together in a single console requires a non-technical user to write some amount of code, which is where low-code platforms come into the picture. Such technical customizations may not be possible with no-code platforms which are meant for building only front-end applications.
- Low-code platforms can be used to extend the capabilities of a current core system through extensive integrations that a no-code platform may not provide for. Existing blocks of reusable components can be used to build off the core system with the addition of just small snippets of code. For example, an existing low-code friendly Human Resources Management System can be upgraded with some missing modules such as employee onboarding and offboarding—non-technical users with the right overview of the system’s underlying architecture can do this in-house by integrating multiple data sources and the requisite glue logic.
- While app-building is democratized to a great degree with low-code, such sophistication also comes with the risk of technical debt. Since the applications are not entirely pre-architected (unlike the ones built on no-code platforms), citizen developers can add new code that may eventual lead to deal with vulnerabilities or inefficiencies in the codebase.
In a nutshell, the two platforms offer specific advantages in terms of application development speed; complexity of applications achievable; ease of deployment; barriers to adoption; future serviceability and maintenance of resultant apps or app upgrades; and returns on investment (ROI).
- Speed of application development: With low-code, multiple apps can be built synchronously and working prototypes shown to stakeholders in days or even hours. The entire development process is so agile that any modifications to be made in the prototype can be done in a continuous manner, thereby avoiding unnecessary regressions.
- Bridging business and IT functions: Business teams can be empowered to translate their ideas into apps with the help of low-code development platforms. Since the coding requirement is minimal, they just have to just drag-and-drop components to build what they want to build. This also implies that they no longer have to wait for developers with specialized skills: hence they will be able to get things done more quickly and at a lower cost.
- Low risk, high ROI: Robust security processes complying with various data regulations, seamless data integration, and cross-platform support are some of the built-in capabilities of low-code development platforms. This means less risk and more time to focus on other important aspects of application development without shelling out a lot of resources.
- Ease of deployment/use: With a unified interface and one-click deployment, low-code development platforms make it easy for citizen developers to building, test and deploy apps for different work environments and groups of people with just a click of the mouse here and there.
Ultimately, the agenda of both development platforms is to enable business and IT users to create practical applications faster and cheaper. Low-code and no-code platforms can help circumvent the skills shortage gap prevailing in the industry by enabling people with basic coding knowledge to build applications within limits.
While the primary features of both platforms are similar, it is important to delineate the factors such as the amount of coding knowledge required, the type of end-user who is going to develop the app, the complexity of the app and its ongoing maintenance, before one technology is chosen over the other.