Nobody is at war with the idea of using code in information technology. After all, nothing in IT would work without all those billions of carefully crafted computer language lines. In fact, code and data together make up the lifeblood of all computing; one cannot live without the other. But code is tricky to write, and it has to be perfect to work optimally. To connect these important dots in a user-friendly manner, two ingenious technologies—no-code and low-code development—can become the answers for companies when they need to create, and subsequently iterate, software for the business.
Over time, developers have found ways to preconfigure and embed code snippets into applications so that people using the apps have everything set up for them in order to save time and effort. Because so much good software has already been written and doesn’t need to be reinvented each time it is installed, the idea of “no-code” or “low-code" application development—built upon the idea of reusing existing application components with instructions on how to fine-tune them—has become an important thing.
This is not new, but it certainly has been reborn in the last few years.
What is no-code and low-code development?
No- and low-code development signifies software that's complicated under the hood yet has a user interface simple enough for line-of-business employees to modify and use. With low-code development, non-IT folks can build and customize standard business applications and make them directly relevant to the business they do every day—at their desks or on location somewhere else. Drop-down menus and wizards used in an intuitive fashion are the keys to low-code. Changes are made in real time, so that results can happen in real time.
No- and low-code is parallel to something we've been covering in eWEEK for a while: citizen development, in which non-IT personnel at companies are able to customize all or parts of a business application to make using it a better, more satisfying experience for everybody concerned. In fact, some companies are starting to offer free two- or three-week courses for their employees—as well as for job seekers considering a move into no- or low-code programming—that result in a certificate that can greatly improve their resumes. eWEEK will have more about those opportunities in subsequent articles.
Companies that are current leaders in this space include Appian, Appsheet, C3, Webalo, Dell Boomi, Jenkins, Pegasystems, Google, Progress, Quick Base, K2, Caspio, Turbo, BettyBlocks, Appery.io and several others.
This all folds into the idea of agile development--constantly refreshing apps as often as necessary to keep them sharp and as effective as possible. Workers on the front lines—the ones who actually use these apps in their business every day—don’t have much time to reconfigure software, but they can make adjustments on the fly when necessary. To be sure, shortcuts are involved. Anything that will help an employee handle a process or solve a problem faster and more efficiently is desirable.
What Kinds of Applications Use No-Code and Low-Code?
You can build three kinds of applications on a no-code platform: back office (database), web and mobile applications. All applications are hosted and run in the cloud.
These are designed to improve your organization's internal operations. This application type uses a back office module only; it provides functionality to administer your business data for internal use.
With platforms like BettyBlocks and others, users can speed up development and take advantage of the steps that have already been taken care of. They can use the out-of-the-box and ready-made features, such as filter, search, export, import, logic (workflows) and others. The platforms make it easy to visually create grids, forms, and workflows without programming.
Portals and web applications
No-coders can actually build a customer-facing application with one of these platforms. A web application bridges the gap between the back and front office, when an application needs to be used publicly. The web application type uses both the back office and web module; the web module is used for a customized user interface and the back office module is used to administer data.
In this way, the web application enables users to create their own user interface (such as web pages) together with ready-made back office features. They can use their own HTML or our WYSIWYG page editor or insert a favorite JS framework to build with.
Developers can make a mobile solution for use on the road. They can build a mobile application and fully customize the front end especially for mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, rather than large desktops. The application is web-based, and they have full access to all elements of the web browser. No software installation is needed.
Use Cases: Eight Companies That Use No-Code Development for Employee Efficiency
It's been documented here in eWEEK and in other publications that no-code software development has returned as a real trend since its beginnings in the early 2000s. According to Forrester, the low-code market is set to reach $15 billion by 2020. New-gen line-of-business workers--whether at small businesses or large enterprises--are going a step further, turning to completely no-code platforms to quickly build custom business applications and/or add features, increase productivity and improve their daily jobs, all with IT's approval and governance.
Here we highlight eight organizations currently using no-code development and why they’re doing it.
The Spur Group
The Spur Group, a fast-growing consulting firm helping enterprises such as Microsoft, VMware and Google achieve revenue acceleration, uses applications built with no-code to rapidly scale and streamline new employee onboarding. This has been crucial as the company has grown from two to 100 employees since its founding in 2004. No-code helped the company seamlessly manage the 20-25 steps associated with each new employee’s onboarding in just one click.
SME financier Interface Financial supports its entire business on no-code applications, allowing the firm to scale without hiring additional IT staff, and expedite new product development and testing. While other companies rely on large groups of professional developers, Interface Financial has been more efficient — they use 17 no-code applications to manage the company’s loan processes, and quickly make decisions on new products.
Global non-profit Verité, which aims to eliminate human rights abuses in global supply chains, minimizes a host of internal processes including client expensing, down to a single click with no-code. This has made manager approvals for complicated expense reports much more efficient, saving the team one to two business days of work.
Sage Payroll Services
Over the past several years, Sage Payroll Services has acquired 17 different payroll companies. It uses no-code to effectively combine the companies into a single operation, and create a universal system of record. By doing so, the company can spend more valuable time communicating with customers — there has been a 90 percent decrease in the number of payrolls requiring manual editing since no-code applications were introduced.
Apex Imaging, a nationwide rebranding and reimaging contractor, uses no-code to eliminate spreadsheet duplication and confusion. With no-code applications, managers don’t have to sift through spreadsheets to determine when and where teams are working for projects at any given time — they get a holistic, all-in-one view through their no-code applications.
Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s Information Services (IS) organization has used no-code during the past decade to develop a project management application (IS Project Portfolio). It acts as a singular resource to find and track progress on all projects taking place at the organization. This has significantly reduced errors associated with spreadsheets, and kept long-term projects running more efficiently.
Texas A&M’s School of Public Health launched a no-code application built in two days to track scholastic engagement activities for more than 100 students. The result is better visibility into which students are doing outstanding work, allowing the school to more easily recognize them.
Government of the District of Columbia
The Government of D.C.’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) developed a no-code application called Stormwater Database to improve data quality for its storm water management programs, as well as the city’s participation in those programs. The DOEE can now better anticipate how these programs can restore the district’s water bodies, ultimately helping to improve water quality in the nation’s capital.
eWEEK has an extensive library of articles on no- and low-code development. Go here to view the list.