The Lowdown on Low-Code vs. No Code

Low-code has become ubiquitous in the world of digital transformation. Enterprises are looking to empower their non-technical users to build applications that deliver high-quality custom business solutions faster than ever before. Modern businesses want to deputize more “citizen developers” – power users who can use no-code and low-code tools to support IT staff.

However, the term “low-code” is often misdefined. Low-code solutions are more than just drag-and-drop program interfaces, these platforms enable non-technical users to build components in creative ways and solve real business challenges.

So what is low-code? How does it differ from no-code? And which approach is most effective when it comes to helping businesses achieve business goals faster and more effectively?

Chocolate, vanilla or twist?

Software development comes in many different flavors. Companies naturally want to build apps quickly for internal and external use, but they might not have the in-house skills, time, or resources to build them from scratch (the old fashioned way). Let’s refer to this as the “chocolate” approach.

A limited talent pool makes finding, hiring, and retaining developers a challenge. These factors all combine to make this ground-up approach to application development a heavy lift.

“No-code” application development offers one possible solution. No-code tools allow developers to assemble applications using a Lego block-like approach. They can build simple applications or functionality without having any manual programming or coding at all. Users simple arrange components of an application via a drag-and-drop interface. It’s a “vanilla” option that allows citizen developers at small to midsize organizations to build uncomplicated corporate systems.

For larger enterprises, however, creating custom applications that integrate with legacy systems is typically much more complex and challenging.

Enter low-code. Low-code is a step up from the drag and drop approach. A chocolate-vanilla twist, if you will.

With low-code, users have the ability to do a base level of coding in order to better customize applications to meet the specific needs of their business while also enabling integrating with existing systems and third-party applications. Non-technical employees who are familiar with business processes and workflows, but have little or no programming experience, can use these tools to build customized applications.

Forrester Research defines low-code tools as “platforms that enable rapid application delivery with a minimum of hand-coding, and quick setup and deployment, for systems of engagement.” The real power of low-code platforms is not only to enable citizen developers, but to empower organizations by providing a technology and framework that reduces the need to code and the burden of maintaining custom applications.

Lessons learned from low-code

The obvious benefit in going low-code is that it can be incredibly useful for businesses looking to save money on development costs. Low-code platforms provide a quick and easy way to build new applications and solve business challenges. Even if an enterprise has its own IT department, low-code software development means that they won’t have to pause larger scale projects in order to test, iterate, and build new solutions.

Low-code also makes exploring and integrating next generation technologies (such as machine learning and AI) possible for organizations. It also enables greater agility, flexibility and collaboration across the enterprise, allowing teams outside IT  to develop applications. By empowering citizen developers in every part of the business, every employee can be a part of the innovation process.

Future possibilities: The open source connection  

The real power of low-code comes when these solutions are built on open source platforms where all of the code is free, open, and available to everyone. The combination of low-code and open-source offers endless possibilities, allowing enterprises to get the best of both worlds — flexibility and agility.

More and more, businesses are experimenting with agile and DevOps, and deploying open source-based solutions much faster than ever before. This is a transformational trend. Enterprises are building new apps and services in ways that are completely different than before. Increasingly, the focus is on low-code development and rapidly assembling microservices to build new and compelling applications.

Take content platforms, for example. Some of the most modern, innovative offerings are open source, and some of them feature low-code development capabilities that enable just about anyone to quickly build, test and deploy customized applications that leverage all data within an organization.

In the years ahead, we expect to see low-code and open source become the driving force behind technology strategies and game-changing innovation across many different industries. Business analysts, knowledge workers, and others within the enterprise will leverage low-code content platforms to drive digital transformation by creating custom apps that leverage business-critical data and content.