Business leaders are being forced to rework their strategies and relook at their offerings in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. Gone are the days when work took place as an established practice. The pandemic has opened multiple pandora’s boxes for every business. As the pandemic’s impact deepens, I take a look at the importance of low code/no code approach for IT applications which businesses can implement towards a faster recovery.

While every business goes through a cyclical change of events, current pandemic can easily throw a spanner in their plans. In the initial few days, while businesses struggled to put together a plan of action, now nearly three quarter of a year into the pandemic, they look better positioned to implement new models to manage productivity with safety.

For any business to formulate an effective response to such a crisis, they need to adopt a 3-phased approach:

  • Respond: Take immediate action to curb any bleeding losses, to protect customers, workforce, operations and the supply chain
  • Reset: Rework the action plan, restructure the business model, and identify capabilities to focus on scaling. Actions more linked to managing through an economic slowdown as a lighter weight, more agile business
  • Renew: Position to re-emerge strongly and gain share in the recovery by implementing learnings from the initial phases to build on this new foundation for growth. Reinvent the business model to address existing and new opportunities with a stronger, more resilient version of the enterprise

Current State of Custom App Dev

  • Digital transformation is driving enterprise’s software to be increasingly consumed directly by customers and partners
  • Enterprises increasingly need more effective application / solution to stay competitive and innovate in a digital era
  • Custom Apps / Solutions has emerged as key points of competitive differentiation
  • Pressure to innovate faster and speed time to market
  • Business units are frequently forced to address their custom application development needs independent of IT, often leading to shadow IT
  • Many internal software projects are either not approved or prioritized because of low ROI (benefit vs effort/cost), long time to market or limited development team capacity
  • Legacy workforce may not possess digital skills

While this may look simple on paper, the major impact of the current crisis has been on productivity as teams no longer have the luxury to operate out of the same location. While this can be countered easily by the few big names in industry, for many others, this may mean investing time, effort and above all, large sums of money in developing platforms to boost productivity unless they opt for a Low Code/No Code first strategy.

What is Low Code/No Code?

Low-Code / No-Code is a software engineering approach for developing cloud native applications / custom software apps fast and with minimal hand-coding.

Why should we adopt Low Code/No Code?

Gartner reports predicts low-code to account for more than 65% of all application development activities by 2024.

Most of the enterprises and governments has accelerated the process of Digitization and Covid-19 pandemic has increased the demand for near real-time and Data based decision instead of offline surveys. While the regularly staffed IT departments are capable of handling a few requests, with almost every business function in need of digitization, businesses have their hands full to implement digital practices overnight.

The Low Code/No Code platform-based applications can be created as quickly as they are needed. Also, they offer a robust model with avenues for interoperability amongst various devices & functions that may be necessary for scaling up operations in future.

Low Code Application Platforms (LCAP) have enabled two-way interaction between people and increased e-participation between employers & employees as well as governments & citizens.

The application-based data capture using a Low Code/No Code platform allows for better protection of sensitive data & people’s privacy. It has also made easy to implement activity driven applications, enabling organizations & governments around the world to capture real data via apps to take much informed decisions.

Who are the key players in Low Code/No Code technology?

Taking a deeper look at the app development pipeline of Microsoft (~500 million apps) in the next five years, it becomes increasingly clear how important a role low-code/no-code technology will play in our future.

Some of the key Low Code Platform providers in the market are:

How to select a Low Code/ No Code platform for your requirements?

Step 1: Identify who is going to work on the platform

Low Code/No Code platforms are usually classified under two broad categories, viz for developers and for business end-users. As such, before choosing a platform, companies must clearly understand who is going to work on it. It’s best not to put a developer-oriented platform in front of ‘citizen developers’ – those with no programming skills. While choosing a platform for developers does offer you more customizable control over it.

Step 2: Figure outhow it will be used

Choose a Low Code/No Code product that offers you more functions for your requirements as every tool is different in its capabilities.

Step 3: Think scalability & governance

You don’t want to end up with an application which offers no upgrade or support. When choosing a Low Code/No Code platform, exercise extreme judgement in ensuring that it should be able to offer you a viable solution for the required duration, and offer you continuous access to scale up as per your evolving requirements.

Which are the key scenarios to use Low Code/No Code development?

In this age of Information, we are all racing against time. This is where Low Code/No Code platforms can be utilized to the maximum. Let’s look at a few such scenarios:

  • For Govts & Companies who need AI enabled decision making to process acquired data
  • Data driven, quick response policy decisions in times of crisis
  • Operations processes
  • Contact tracing applications developed for any context (malls, offices, cities, hospitals, states, countries, etc.)
  • Awareness applications for information sharing
  • Activity Based Apps
    • Self-diagnosis automation apps
    • FAQ Apps for pandemic response
    • Remote Customer Service/ Remote Consulting
    • Telemedicine
    • Retail & Restaurant related delivery/pick-up applications
  • Business unit or departmental applications
  • Mobile enabled applications
  • Composite applications / mashups
  • Systems of engagement
  • Application prototypes & MVPs
  • SaaS extensions
  • Opportunistic short duration applications

What are the challenges with using Low Code/No Code technology?

While low code/no code platforms offer faster time to market and faster development time, they can also be limited in their capabilities due to the block-model manner in which they are built.

  • Change Management / feature enhancements
  • It’s relatively harder to debug an app built on low-code platforms as deep functionality changes are next to impossible
  • Low code can at times bloat the codebase and result in slowing down the app
  • Training the team on a particular low-code platform can inhibit off the shelf hiring from institutes, as low-code training isn’t part of the usual curriculum
  • Even tools that promise no code writing skills are necessary, may require some coding skills for tweaks and troubleshooting
  • Configuring complex use cases might actually take longer on low code platforms than writing a simple piece of code
  • Securing data from a low code platform to a local database can be tough or in some cases, impossible
  • Cross-platform integration may suffer from limitations, or may require you to spend more
  • Governance model and Operating mode for avoiding the sprawl of LCNC Apps

With all that said and done, I firmly believe that low code/no code technology is the most promising way to scale for the faster application development. When implemented efficiently, it has proven to be effective beyond expectations in notable cases, like:

What is in store for the future?

I see the ‘Renew phase’ for businesses and governments absorbing learnings from the previous ‘Reset phase’ and building on those to expand the scope of operation of platforms & apps built on the Low Code/No Code model.

With increasing adoption of cloud as a necessity rather than a luxury, and a rapid progress being made on the cloud-development front itself, I expect more Low Code/No Code platforms being utilized by organizations to respond to their quick evolving needs. Workflow automation and anywhere-anytime solutions built on Low Code/No Code platforms look set to grow their reach even further.

Adoption of 5G Services providing faster speeds and low latency, should fuel the rise LCAP Platforms and share increase in citizen developers”.

I had often heard that necessity is the mother of invention, but perhaps this COVID-19 pandemic has led to a creation of many necessities, which are now leading to a digital transformation of our society. I see a bright future ahead for the Low Code/No Code platform, because in this new future, software is going to be anyone’s game!