One constant of the digital evolution is an ongoing change in markets. As HubSpot puts it, “Adopting software is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have.” The dynamic nature of markets prompted a need to develop apps differently: faster and more cost-effective than traditional coding. This led, in turn, to a rise in the use of low-code and no-code (LCNC) tools. According to data from Forrester, low-code/no-code industry spending is expected to increase to approximately $21 billion by the end of 2022. Given the surge of investment, it’s worth exploring the advantages and disadvantages of using low-code/no-code solutions.
What is low-code and no-code?
It’s easy to understand why low-code and no-code have gained so much traction over the last few years. But what exactly do these concepts mean? Low-code is a way to develop an app using minimal code, while no-code solutions don’t require any coding. The low-code approach reduces programming efforts to a minimum, while the no-code method goes even further, allowing the creation of simple apps without direct coding action. Both techniques have gained popularity due to ease of use and a shortage of developers on the market. LCNC tools deploy an intelligent user interface (UI) to make it easy to create app workflows when you lack a lot of programming experience. In short, these tools enable the development of an app using replicable containers with code in a drag-and-drop interface that’s easy to understand.
Examples of tools that utilize LCNC solutions:
- Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM),
- Analytics tools (e.g., Google Analytics),
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform solutions.
Although similar, low-code and no-code are not the same. No-code tools are suited for building high-quality, albeit simple apps, from scratch. No-code is limited by scale – it’s not recommended for making complex apps or solutions which need to be regularly updated over extended periods.
Low-code is not code-free, but it’s still not as demanding as manual coding. Adding some custom programming can solve no-code’s limitations. Low-code is a solution that acts as “the middle ground.” It combines immense acceleration potential with ease of use and is approachable by people with little technical background. However, it’s not as fast and straightforward in everyday work as no-code.
Low-code – a solution that addresses growing needs and helps meet tight deadlines
According to a Gartner forecast, the low-code market grows stronger every year. In 2021, it was predicted to reach $13.8 billion, a stellar increase of 22.6% from 2020. Gartner expects low-code application platforms (LCAP) to continue to gain in popularity and generate revenue.
The increasing demand for faster delivery time is pressuring IT leaders to search for new ways of working. Low-code sparked the emergence of citizen developers (more on that later) outside of the formal IT world. In light of the pandemic and its economic aftermath, low-code gained traction since it’s compatible with remote work and offers more flexible pricing options. The surge in remote development during the COVID-19 pandemic (and its continuation) will further boost low-code adoption.
A similar change is happening with SaaS solutions, as most vendors already incorporate some low-code technologies. As SaaS grows in popularity, so will low-code solutions. Gartner forecast states that: “Globally, most large organizations will have adopted multiple low-code tools in some form. In the longer term, as companies embrace the tenets of a composable enterprise, they will turn to low-code technologies that support application innovation and integration.”
The birth to Citizen Developers
Who is a Citizen Developer? As Capgemini explains: “A citizen developer is a person who creates applications using a graphical interface, with virtually no programming experience required. It’s a persona, not a title or targeted role”.
Or to be more precise: In this case, a citizen developer is a business user with little coding experience who builds applications with industry-sanctioned technology. What technology? Low-code and no-code, of course.
Security in Low-Code Development
Broadly speaking, developers can be split into two groups: experienced professionals and citizen developers without IT knowledge. The second group probably never had any development classes and is usually unfamiliar with secure development, including common security concepts. Hiring them means more work for a company, including:
- Building a security team with citizens developers in mind,
- Reorganizing workflows as inexperienced LCNC developers have never worked in a fully-fledged development team,
- Conducting security training for citizen developers to train them in the best possible security practices.
Low-coders often won’t see a complete coding picture
Forrester analyzed citizen developers and professional software developers to answer the question, ‘Is low-code for dummies?’ To no one’s surprise, citizen developers aren’t ‘dummies,’ Still, the results were striking: low-code developers’ aims differed from their peers. Software developers prefer solving technical problems, whereas citizen developers would be more likely to focus on solving business problems.
Simplified coding, without the need for working experience and years of learning, is an attractive offer, but it has significant drawbacks as low-code and no-code development remains limited. The theoretical possibilities of low-code and no-code may be endless, but in the end, developed code delivers more tools tailored to a specific project better.
In this case, the LCNC isn’t up to par with classic coding. Citizen developers may succeed in meeting UX needs and supporting the collection and validation of data. However, creating logical new solutions for external integrations or giving users a way to reorganize their UI is pretty much impossible with low-code and no-code strategies.
Low-code and no-code will augment, not replace, developers
It’s natural for businesses to search for new ways to be more productive. The premise of low-code and no-code technology is easy to understand, especially when low-code can offer 4 to 5 times faster delivery times. Promises of saving time and money can lead to overly optimistic conclusions, but there are drawbacks. Like every new technology, LCNC has its share of challenges. Introducing it without making proper preparations may cause headaches that most companies would prefer to avoid.
LCNC is in no way a flawed technology; it has its niche and will grow fast in the coming years. It’s a trend to observe as it can be helpful on a small scale. However, scalability is the biggest problem – apps developed using low-code platforms are hard to scale, and apps using no-code platforms are not scalable at all. Applications and solutions developed in such a way are not future-proof and depend on LCNC platform updates and upgrades. An overgrown market also means that some low-code and no-code platforms will lose the battle and disappear from the market, probably leaving the user on ice without support.
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About the authorJakub Dymek
Software Delivery Manager
An experienced delivery manager with a history of working in the financial services industry. Jakub has project management, leadership and graphic design skills. A comprehensive understanding of operations, combined with a master's degree from the Cracow University of Economics, enables Jakub to manage teams of different sizes on a variety of projects at Software Mind.