Low-Code and No-Code Solutions in the Enterprise
An article in Forbes called low code/no-code “the most disruptive trend of 2021.” And for good reason – organizations around the globe need to provide a robust digital experience for their customers and employees. To keep up with the pace, product development is experiencing a paradigm shift from developer-centric to business user-centric. The fastest way to produce a viable solution is to let the business users, the individuals that understand the needs and details of the challenge, build it.
In large IT shops, engineers and developers are inundated with new project requests. The ones that get attention are the enterprise-level application projects that take years to research, approve and develop. In the meantime, requests from office employees were largely ignored or put at the end of a long “to do” list of projects, eventually being denied or forgotten about. These individuals were left to their own devices with outdated solutions that did little to solve their challenges, and in many cases, reduced productivity. In this sense, some IT departments can hinder the grown of their organization by holding on to dated solutions.
Enter no-code and low-code solutions.
Non-IT employees have a history of taking matters into their own hands when the available technology isn’t up to par for the modern workplace. Today, web-based solutions are quite easy to find with a little searching. Individuals are learning about, and eventually using, web-based application platforms that let them design solutions that solve their unique challenges, in exactly the way they need it to. For a large company with enterprise-level systems, this can become a major security and compliance concern.
No-code development platforms are unique in that they take advantage of existing pieces of individual code designed to accomplish certain tasks, and package them for use in an environment where a business user can design and assemble a solution through drag-and-drop interfaces. For example, an insurance company employee may create a customer information application where a “lookup” module is used to find important documents, and then that information is sent to someone else for review. Instead of connecting to a mainframe and spending time looking up info on how to execute queries and receive information back in a cryptic format, a simple no-code application can be created that makes this lookup easier and faster.
Before modern web-based platforms were available, Microsoft Access was being used for this very purpose. Creating an Access Application to solve challenges was quick and easy to do, with connectivity to local networks and data sources.
For IT departments, this can be a relief and a challenge, especially when it comes to connecting these applications to existing data sources. The good news is that many no-code and low-code platforms have easy-to-use API and database integrations, allowing users to utilize existing data such as customer and financial information.
With an array of online tools available, a new breed of solution builders, known as “Citizen Developers,” have emerged. Citizen developers are business users that use no-code and low-code development platforms to create new web or mobile applications. The trend has gained so much traction that the Project Management Institute created a new education resource, the Citizen Development Body of Knowledge, along with courses and certifications available.
Today’s no-code platforms are extremely robust and easy to implement. The challenge for enterprises is to manage the ease of use with the necessary integration into existing systems to avoid data and application sprawl. Alongside a variety of training opportunities, IT departments must manage access to data and services to make sure that Citizen Developers have the full tools and resources they need. This can be done through proper planning, establishing guidelines, and a robust infrastructure that houses information in a centralized location to avoid data sprawl.
With any new solution, the first concern of IT departments is the safety and security of their data and systems. IT shops will need to evaluate each solution on an individual basis to ensure its being implemented correctly. On their own, most low-code and no-code SaaS solutions are highly secure, but depending on the intended use, additional considerations may be necessary. For example, a no-code development platform designed rapid prototyping of a solution may be perfectly secure on its own without importing legacy data. When it’s time to make that prototype part of an existing enterprise system, with API connectivity to databases and other resources, a secure and fully vetted path will need to be provided to ensure secure transmission of data and full compliance with existing regulations.
A decade ago, low-code/no-code was still an emerging technology with potential, but it has grown to be a proven tool in both enterprise and small business. The idea of non-IT employees being involved in application creation was unheard of as well. Gartner Research expects Citizen Developers will soon outnumber professional coders 4 to 1. No-code has empowered users to develop solutions that increase productivity, creating a completely new set of business-ready applications for large organizations.