We are in the midst of a No-Code/Low-Code boom. It's everywhere, and everyone in tech is talking about it. Non-Tech departments can finally get the digital tools they need without fighting for budgets and dealing with long waits. While it's a significant advantage, it comes with many challenges too. In this insight, I'll explore what No-Code and Low-Code are and how you can benefit from them.

What is No-Code?

No-Code tools, as the name suggests, don't require any coding experience at all. They usually target business users and empower them to build apps on their own. From various workflow management systems to intranet dashboards and integration solutions. Everything is possible now. Gone are the days when someone from a business department had to wait months to get a business software to automate a given task. Yet with great power comes great responsibility. But more on that later.

Examples of No-Code platforms:

What is Low-Code?

Low-Code tools still require technical expertise to some degree. The primary purpose is to increase software developers' productivity. They come in many shapes and sizes — from rapid prototyping to robotic process automation. For instance: hasura.io is a low-code tool we use to build a GraphQL API on top of a database rapidly. What took weeks when done from scratch can be done in days now — a massive competitive advantage. Achieving faster time-to-market is the main driver for the popularity of Low-Code tools right now.

Examples of low code platforms:

No-Code/Low-Code — Why Now?

No-Code/Low-Code tools have been available for quite some time, but I think there's a difference in today's tools. In the last ten years, the massive progress in web technologies has resulted in more powerful tools — real-time collaboration, multi-user support, and integration into existing software infrastructure. They speak to your software systems (think of TRIGO.connect). Things modern software solutions should have, are now available with No-Code/Low-Code too. It's not hype anymore. No-Code/Low-Code is here to stay. Early tools in that space were black boxes. They made it hard for developers to adopt them, and developers are usually the early adopters, the ones who tell everyone how cool this is. A remarkable shift to open source in the last couple of years has changed this fundamentally. Proprietary software is now a real disadvantage. I'm not saying that it should be free. Absolutely not. We also want to make money from software, but the core should be free. Most of these tools are adopting this approach now, which drives adoption.

Low code vs. traditional development — is this the end of coding?

Historically speaking, there have been two ways to get a new software tool: Custom software development and off-the-shelf solutions (like “customized standard software” à la SAP). While those are still valid options, No-Code/Low-Code joined the ranks as the third option. Like custom software, they operate very closely to the needs of the business. Such solutions can be built quickly and at a much lower price.

Using a hybrid approach, in my opinion, is very promising. Build about 80% of the requirements with Low-Code/No-Code tools, add some custom software for the critical 20% to ensure the software adapts to the business, not vice versa.

Shadow IT is a real challenge, though!

When everyone can build software, everyone will build software eventually, which leads to all kinds of software (thanks to Murphy). While I like the idea of empowering people to be independent of IT departments, it's a challenge for businesses. Sure, No-Code/Low-Code tools are easy to use, but there are still pitfalls — something a trained developer would know due to experience. Performance, data security, user experience, and accessibility are topics to consider. Too often, problems in these areas don't surface right away. Everything works and looks fine in the beginning. A single point of failure could arise from one person knowing everything about a solution and then leaving. I'm sure some of you have had such a lovely experience with MS Access. What if the amount of data is growing exponentially? What about hiring visually impaired people, for instance, or giving another company remote access to your data? To all developers and IT professionals out there: Your expertise is not going away and is still very much needed, even with all these powerful tools at your user's disposal.

How to master the challenges and benefit from No-Code/Low-Code?

Embrace the challenge. IT departments should not ban No-Code/Low-Code tools because they could lead to uncontrolled growth of solutions. Instead, train people, teach them how to use these tools properly, and limit their selection. Establish standards and encourage them to use the tools often. They will become experts quickly then, which results in a more productive work environment. You could also hire a company of IT professionals (like us) to kick-start your No-Code/Low-Code journey and build a baseline, get the proper training and let your staff build on top of that. Then, achieve a considerable boost in time-to-market (again) and mitigate some of the challenges I mentioned earlier.

Alrighty, we hope this covers the basics of what No-Code/Low-Code is, why it's not replacing custom software development, what pitfalls to look out for, and how you can benefit from it. If you have any questions, let us know by dropping me (Christian, CEO of TRIGO) an email at hello@trigodev.com — I look forward to hearing from you.