Are Low-Code/No-Code Development Platforms Living Up to the Hype?

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Low-code and no-code development platforms have seen an increase in usage and visibility since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Great Resignation, prompted workers to shift to new opportunities, and businesses struggled to find skilled programming talent.

Gartner estimates that the no-code/low-code market will grow to $30 billion by 2025. They estimate platforms will grow by 20 percent year over year, with 50 percent of medium-to-large companies adopting low-code development. Gartner also predicts that by 2025, 70 percent of new apps developed by enterprises will use low-code or no-code technologies. According to IDC, around 49 percent of leaders say they are purchasing low-code or no-code platforms to move innovation in house, while 39.3 percent  are purchasing the tools for ‘pandemic-related needs.”

The idea of doing low-code/no-code development to alleviate reliance on overworked IT development and support teams sounds like an attractive concept for modern, data-driven marketers and business users who need to react quickly to digital-first customers.

But, while low-code and no-code development functionality has been a topic actively talked about within marketing circles for some time, are the technologies and the processes leveraging it being truly effective at giving marketers autonomy from IT to act in an agile, data-driven fashion? Or are the technologies being overhyped for what they can accomplish?

What is Low-Code and No-Code Development?

Low-code and no-code development refers to a set of platforms and software tools that enable enterprise developers and other non-developer employees (i.e., business users) to code in a modular and componentized, drag-and-drop fashion.

By using low-code and no-code modular methodology, pro developers can build software quickly by not having to code everything from ground up. In addition to providing modular code for professional developers, low-code and no-code tools also allow non-professional developers, including marketers, business analysts, and others to build and test their own software applications.  

With low-code and no-code applications, whether they are standalone or integrated into another broader centralized platform, like a customer data platform (CDP), employees and developers get an easy-to-use user interface (UI) that allows them to connect different components and apps using application programming interfaces (APIs). It’s essentially a digital flow chat that allows you to connect pieces together without code skills. Another name for this type of development strategy is point-and-click development.

What are the Benefits of Low-Code and No-Code Development?

The intent of low-code and no-code systems is to liberate marketing and the broader business from having to rely on enterprise IT groups to launch new products, deploy campaigns, and provide ongoing support. The reality is in a digital-first world, consumers are moving too fast and in too many places for traditional IT development to manage customer-centric needs and demands properly.

The potential benefits and promises of both types of systems are significant. Deployed and leveraged properly, low-code and no-code applications and tools can reduce time-to-market by increasing the speed of development and testing and delivery of applications to meet evolving consumer demands.

The biggest promise is that they will enable business users to move smaller development or test efforts forward without IT support. Ideally, with business users taking on more of the load to do simple app development, it frees up enterprise IT developers from focusing on minor production and support duties to creating innovative digital products for business value. Marketers, who are some of the most reliant on IT to execute timely campaigns and ongoing user-centric changes, will be able to execute more of their work on their own without a helping hand from IT. 

In the end, it’s all about empowering employees to be more productive with the democratization of technology, hoping to clear IT backlogs and reduce project timelines.

What are the Challenges of Low-Code and No-Code Development?

The first and most obvious challenge of putting easy-to-use development tools across the enterprise is the lack of visibility into what people are doing, and a potential lack of centralized control and planning over the development work. In the old days, this was called skunk works, or more recently, shadow IT, which refers to IT devices, software, and services outside the ownership or control of IT organizations. Modern data management platforms like the CDP can assist IT in providing role-based permissions that enable companies to provide data access to only those who need it. 

Another challenge for organizations using these platforms is how to manage and scale those apps for use across the enterprise, plus considering what the associative costs are for maintaining all these new apps, from storage costs to cloud costs. Low-code/no-code will only be beneficial for use cases that do not involve more complex programming or customization, such as infrastructure-oriented technologies 

Finally, it’s not always clear what types of applications or projects would benefit the most from a low-code/no-code approach, so there is potential for wasted energy and focus on a test-and-fail process that may not always produce measurable results. Making sure there is some level of governance and oversight on app creation and sprawl should be top of mind for companies who do not want to waste resources. 

What are Low-code/No-Code Use Cases?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is one of the most popular use cases for low-code/no-code. RPA uses rule sets for simple decision making, allowing users to design automated, multiple system workflows. RPA is popular for doing things like automating administrative processes. Some other use cases that leverage low-code/no-code include business process management tools and AI-powered virtual assistants or chatbots. Small business transactional systems are common use cases. Tools such as human resource management, reservation management for restaurants, quote creation, and field service management are also popular use cases.

Currently the top areas for low-code use are business process or workflow applications, web and mobile front ends, and customer-facing applications, according to Forrester. Their experts predict that low-code will eventually expand into broader application areas, like reengineering technology stacks and ecosystems.

Companies also use low-code/no-code for visual analytics, with some systems focusing on delivering insights through text or voice-based chat experiences. 

Does Low-Code/No-Code Live Up to the Hype?

Like a lot of technologies and tools, low-code/no-code is most effective in certain applications and situations. It is not a magic bullet solution that will end the dominance of IT over marketing. Instead, it is a step to move closer to the reality of modular, componentized development, which empowers professional developers along with the mystical citizen developer.  

Low-code/no-code still requires IT involvement in some fashion, especially when the apps interface and interconnect with mission-critical apps and enterprise-wide systems.

So, while low-code/no-code can offer potential cost-savings, time-to-market improvements, and error reduction, there will still be some level of IT involvement to scale the apps, maintain them, integrate with other platforms, and provide governance over.

While there are limitations to what no-code/low-code can accomplish, the market continues to grow and carve out a space in the enterprise. No-code/low-code will expand its use within the enterprise, expect IT departments to continue to practice traditional development for applications that require extensive functionality, data governance, and deployment to specific environments.

Brian Carlson
Brian Carlson
Brian Carlson is the Founder and CEO of RoC Consulting, a digital consultancy that helps brands establish the optimal balance of content, technology and marketing to achieve their goals.