For decades, there have been only two routes for businesses to take on their way to application development: buy apps ready-made from an external vendor or build and customize them from scratch using skilled developers and coders. But today, we’re seeing the rise and growing sophistication of low-code/no-code (LCNC) development alternatives that bring the power of application development to users across the business.

These alternative app development methods leverage an intuitive and graphical interface to give users the power and freedom to quickly build applications and automate business processes without having to write code line by line. The adoption of LCNC tools comes with the promise of greater user accessibility, which in turn spurs more innovation and reduces strain on IT departments. The implementation of LCNC platforms is the next leap in making application development easy and accessible to all.

What is low-code?

Low-code is a method of designing and developing applications using intuitive graphical tools and embedded functionalities that reduce traditional – or pro-code –writing requirements. Pro-code writing is still part of the development process, but low-code development offers an augmented and simplified experience to help users start creating quickly. 

What is no-code?

No-code is a method that benefits from a similar user experience as low-code, but goes the extra mile by allowing non-technical business users to develop applications without having to write even a single line of code.  

Low-code vs. no-code

The main difference between low-code and no-code development platforms lies in how much coding knowledge the user needs. Low-code development platforms (LCDPs) require some basic coding skills for users to develop and integrate complex applications, while no-code development platforms (NCDPs) do not require programming knowledge at all. Because most organizations have a wide range of technical skill sets within their workforce, many platforms offer both low-code and no-code tools.  

The rise of citizen developers

Subject-area specialists have unique knowledge and insights that can often be difficult to effectively impart to IT teams. By empowering these “citizen developers,” businesses ensure that the best-informed team members can be part of the app development process. And with LCNC platforms on their side, department leaders and IT professionals can better collaborate and ensure that the right technologies, workflows, and processes are in place. The rise in citizen developers helps fulfill the demand for new applications, address the shortage of skilled developers, reduce the workloads of IT teams, and respond faster to customer and market demands. 

How do low-code and no-code tools work?

Conventional application development requires the use of highly skilled code-writing practitioners and often involves getting in a long queue in the IT department to get new applications developed or updated. 

Low-code development platforms (LCDPs) and no-code development platforms (NCDPs) are based on the principles of model-driven design, automatic code generation, and visual programming. These platforms are intentionally designed to target users that are familiar with processes and workflows within their business department, regardless of their coding experience. And once again, not only does this empower non-technical users, it matches them with experienced developers.  

Below are some of the fundamental steps in the LCNC development journey: 

In app view of low-code/no-code development platform
In app view of a low-code/no-code development platform

Who uses low-code/no-code app development?

According to a recent Gartner survey, LCNC platforms will be used in more than 65% of application developments worldwide by 2024. This comes with a steep 165% projected growth rate every two years. When businesses begin to use LCNC tools, the number – and sophistication – of citizen users swiftly grows as people begin to realize the benefit of fast and accurate app development across almost any area of any business.

Here are some examples:

Top 8 benefits of low-code/no-code platforms

The growing adoption of LCNC platforms reflects the business-wide benefits arising from these tools. The use of LCNC platforms means: 

  1. Easier use: As the apps are not built from scratch, development is simplified, making it possible to focus more on fulfilling users’ wishes and requirements. In the words of Koushik Sen, renowned computer science lecturer at the UC Berkeley, “Imagine a world where you do not have to write code, just say things and the computer does it for you.” 
  2. Faster development: Users can easily adjust and adapt the main components and basic code of their applications, meaning that the actual development is very fast. In addition, users can integrate and connect apps, processes, and workflows from existing applications. Forrester showed that low-code development platforms made development projects as much as 20 times faster than when done with traditional coding. 
  3. Increased automation: By establishing basic rules for decision-making, users can automate the design of workflows that can then be implemented in multiple information systems. Many LCNC tools use RPA and employ artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to offer suggestions for automation based on existing data sets. 
  4. Lower costs: The reduction in time can save valuable resources. LCNC also makes maintenance activities less complex, reducing costs and the burden on IT. In addition, you can test new ideas coming from virtually any department very inexpensively. These ideas can then revolutionize entire processes and increase productivity and efficiency. 
  5. Simpler data integration: Creating workflows where information is collected, shared, processed, and stored makes data integration simpler and more flexible. LCNC tools allow users to find, understand, and use data within a process. This will allow you to identify the source, ownership, validity, and quality of data across processes and make more informed and confident decisions. 
  6. More agility: Fast and easy development helps you respond to changing opportunities and regulatory/compliance issues quickly – often in real time. In addition, the simplicity of LCNC platforms allows developers to experiment and test new ideas, without the need for large investments of IT or external resources. Furthermore, because LCNC makes development easier, this broadens the pool of developers and allows more users to contribute to the application creation using technology.  
  7. Better customer experience: The ability to keep applications and workflows up-to-date and responsive to customer feedback will enhance both customer experience and loyalty. In addition, CX professionals can use LCNC platforms to develop customized customer surveys, e-commerce, customer service, and loyalty applications. 
  8. Greater privacy and security: LCNC allows businesses to perform development tasks that are too sensitive to be outsourced to third parties, helping to minimize the risks of breaches or cybercrime. 

Getting started with low-code/no-code development platforms

There is no question that these technologies are revolutionizing businesses and giving them the competitive edge they need to meet today’s market demands. But like any business transformation, incorporating citizen-user solutions requires a strong commitment to change management, communication, and breaking down silos. 

In the face of these changes, some concerns have been raised. For instance, the broad use of LCNC platforms may lead to a rise in “shadow IT projects,” which are projects that are undertaken without the awareness of the IT department. In addition, applications created by citizen developers may not have been created with scalability in mind, or they may be vulnerable to obsolescence if the developer creates them in a silo and then leaves the organization.

To avoid such issues, start by: 

Explore low-code/no-code development tools

Ignite innovation in your industry with low-code/no-code cloud application development and more agile process automation from SAP Business Technology Platform.