By 2024, low-code app development will be responsible for over 65% of app development activity.
Gartner, Inc. “Low-Code Development Technologies Evaluation Guide”, February 26, 2019, Paul Vincent, Mark Driver, Jason Wong
According to Gartner, it’s also the biggest digital disruption since the cloud. The biggest challenge for companies in the next 5 years will be Low-Code / No-Code. Imagine having the capacity to be able to design and launch applications on the market without requiring heavy technical investments, with short production cycles (10x faster), relying on existing internal resources.
The future of coding is no coding at all.
Chris Wanstrath, CEO of GitHub
Business applications power today’s economy, but the ways in which they are mostly created have not changed since the rise of the Cloud. But the demand is exponential. Writing thousands of lines of code to create applications is slow, expensive, complex, and is also inaccessible for many companies.
Often, the lack of resources and structures, as well as the gap between the business teams and the technical teams, lead to budget and schedule overruns, and even the failure of the majority of technological projects. Even small development efforts face complexity, technical hurdles, scope creep, and other project risks. Most tech attempts fail to launch a viable product. Projects under 350K (USD) experience a failure rate of 70% while projects that exceed this budget, the success rate is only 2.5%. (Source: PWC)
This inability to meet the demand on time and for the technological needs of companies has led to the emergence in the last 10 years of “Low-Code” and “No-Code” platforms.
Definitions of Low-Code & No-Code (LCNC)
“Low-Code” and “No-Code” are essentially marketing terms that refer to platforms that allow and accelerate the creation of applications, from visual “drag & drop” interfaces.
First off, “no-code” platforms do not really exist. There is always code and software running in the background. “No-Code” is essentially a marketing term, which implies that the tool is intended for people with no technical background (not mastering computer languages). In a “No-Code” platform, there is no code manipulation by direct users.
This complete abstraction of the coding interface means that any custom functionality, and/or function needed for an application, is limited to what is offered on the surface of the platform. The no-code approach only allows for a certain level of customization through the WYSIWYG. Adding new features will typically require the No-Code platform publisher to create and release new features for use in the tool…
A Low-code platform compared to No-Code adds the ability to use code or scripts to extend or further customize an application. Similarly, these tools can use a variety of approaches that automate and replace application development activities, such as drag-and-drop editors, code generation, component assembly, and development based on models and metadata.
This approach allows users to have a higher degree of customization than “No-Code” tools. However, added custom code should be carefully managed to avoid thebuildup of technical debt and update issues.
Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Low-Code Application Platforms 2020 merged Low-Code and No-Code into one group. Although these are two types of platforms, according to them, No-Code is still considered a subsection of Low-Code.
In summary, “Low-Code” tools often support scripting for capabilities beyond a “No-Code” approach. A Low-Code platform, therefore, offers most of the same functionalities but makes it possible to extend, if necessary, the applications created using code, which makes it a better choice in the long run or for bigger projects.
Is it completely new?
Bravo, a document preparation program produced at Xerox PARC in 1974, is considered to be the first program to incorporate the WYSIWYG technology, displaying text with formatting (e.g. with justification, fonts, and proportional spacing of characters) and so the first example of no-code application. In the context of this era of the informatic world, it was a truly disruptive approach and open the path to the Citizen development culture.
In 1985, Microsoft released the first version of Excel, which is potentially the biggest no-code application in the world even today. You basically can build tons of “programs” entirely using functions pre-determined by Excel and without writing a single line of Code!
Those who had to create a website in the 90s certainly remember Frontpage or Dreamweaver (lol). Since then, Content Management Systems like WordPress (2003), Drupal, Joomla have massively taken over… WordPress is still the world’s most popular and widely used content management system and powers 43.0% of all websites (!) on the internet. With the help of WYSIWYG interfaces, those low-code content management platforms helped millions of businesses to create a website and be visible online as well as support selling goods and services online.
So no, the No-Code and Low-Code platforms are not just a trend and have been existing for decades.
The evolution of coding languages, hardware capabilities, overall technical knowledge distribution, and web infrastructure development, contributed to developing better platforms and opened new uses cases and services that are accelerating exponentially in the past 3 years.
Web Apps vs Business Applications vs Enterprise Applications
Unlike web applications, which are exposed most of the time to external consumers, internal applications are software that organizations use to create and manage essential processes, such as sales, customer relations, marketing, logistics or specific processes. These applications communicate or integrate with each other, together creating a complete business system. A business application can serve the needs of a business unit or a team or be of “Enterprise” level.
Enterprise Applications are designed to meet the needs of businesses employing hundreds or even thousands of employees. These applications, deployed across the organization in a sometimes international and multilingual context, require complete, robust, scalable, and secure solutions.
Pros and Cons of Low-Code / No-Code Platforms
- Speed up considerably application developments
- Completely aligned with agile methodologies
- Easy to learn and to understand by non-tech-savvy
- Low risks
- Allow seamless integrations with external databases and other platforms
- Easy lifecycle management and easy to deploy
- Reduce investments and IT costs
- Can help reduce Shadow IT
- Is Multi-platform / Multi-device / Multiexperience
- Accelerate digital transformation
- Allow the rise of new digital talents
- Allow Rapid Prototyping
- Reduce the barrier of entrepreneurship and accelerate innovation
- increase collaboration between functional and technical teams
- Limited flexibility and Personalization capabilities
- Security risk
- Vendor Lock-In syndrome
- Requires the acquisition of new talents and new skills internally
- Low Code can also help increase Shadow IT
The impacts on companies, entrepreneurs, and students are considerable. A company with a need (ex: to automate a process), can create an application without developers with an immediate measurable impact / ROI (time saved on a daily basis, reduction in the number of human errors…). A person with an idea (ex: online bill payment site for freelancers), can test a functional concept in their market without investing capital and even develop a business based on a Low-Code platform / No-Code without in-house developers. The profit is distributed between all parties, developers must specialize even more and become more specialized experts (to create, maintain these platforms but also extend their capacities in the form of specific extensions), companies can accelerate the deployment of internal or external applications.
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