Low-Code/No-Code Extends Its Reach in the Digital Workplace
In late 2022, Gartner estimated the market for low-code development technologies would grow to a total of $26.9 billion in 2023 and that 65% of applications would be developed using low-code by 2024.
While it's unclear how the emergence of GPT-4 will affect these predictions, it's clear the two will likely become intertwined as generative AI makes inroads into the digital workplace. Microsoft has ambitions here as it announced the integration of GPT-4 into Power Platform, stating it would “reinvent software development with AI-powered no-code development.”
Where Low-Code/No-Code Might Aid IT Departments
The appetite for low-code and no-code platforms is seemingly insatiable. Michael Berthold, CEO of Zurich-based Knime said the popularity of these platforms is due to the critical role they play in helping businesses transition from manual, code-heavy, resource-intensive environments to automated, scalable insights-driven organizations.
The drag-and-drop functionality that is the hallmark of no-code/low-code platforms means users can construct applications without having to write code. As to how it should be used, he believes organizations should tap low/no-code as a way to help mitigate talent shortages in IT departments. Low and no-code environments can help enhance worker efficiency while allowing those in IT to focus on more involved tasks. The result, Berthold said, is individuals can prioritize the most critical elements of their work, resulting in a faster and more efficient output.
Low-code/no-code also reduces repetitive work across departments, allowing for faster insights while reducing the number of requests coming in to IT. Non-technical users can use the technology to not only bypass coding when appropriate but also to save and share visual workflows with other teams.
There are caveats though. “While low-code/no-code can be an incredible tool in the digital workplace, it needs to be implemented correctly,” Bertholme said. “Companies must ensure that low/no-code tools are set up in a way that allows people to collaborate across departments.” He also noted the collaborative benefits are only possible if a good number of employees are using the platform so they can easily share their work.
Related Article: Power Apps Issues Reminds Us of the Need for Low-Code and No-Code Governance
Is Low-Code Coming for Legacy Tech?
Isaac Gould, an analyst with Miami-based Nucleus Research covering supply chain, ERP and low-code applications pointed out the wide number of use cases in the digital workplace. “Right now, low/no-code use cases for the enterprise range from internal workplace tools to outward-facing applications,” he said.
As examples, he points to low/no-code platforms such as Appian and Creatio, which can be used to develop workflows and automation for internal use cases.
Organizations can build applications to manage specific projects or tasks with configurable workflows, notifications, checklists, and logic. Here he shared the example of a university that built its student applications management and tracking tool with Zoho Creator, which managed thousands of applicants per year.
He also pointed to OutSystems which can also act as an integration platform. Since a low/no-code platform can ingest and push data to a variety of third-party source systems, organizations can unify their tech stack with a low/no-code platform to perform data extractions, manipulations and write back.
Gould expects their use only to increase. “I see low/no-code platforms start taking market share from well-established off-the-shelf solutions, such as ERP, CRM and HCM,” he said. “Low/no-code vendors taking a more vertical approach will soon be able to replace industry-specific solutions such as retail point-of-sale or banking systems."
He adds that low/no-code vendors would do well to develop partnerships with payment and billing services to position themselves as revenue generators and go-to-market enablers for their customers.
Related Article: The Real Benefits of Low-Code Aren't What You Think They Are
Integrating Low-Code/No-Code Services
As low-code/no-code solutions have become more integrated with other services, it has become increasingly difficult to say they're unsuitable for workplace tasks, said Jason Rivera, collaboration architect and team lead at Teaneck, NJ-based Cognizant.
He cited Microsoft's Power Platform as an example, which has hundreds of connectors that make it easier for users to interact with their services as well as third party services. Yet Rivera also notes the limitations of the tools.
"Organizations starting out with low-code/no-code solutions should start with small solutions — things that they need but don't necessarily want to commit a large budget to," he said. "I’m generally hesitant to use low-code/no-code solutions for mission-critical solutions because I would prefer to have tighter source control so that a solution could be rolled back to a functional working version if a major error is found."
He said that while low-code solutions sometimes offer the ability to roll back to a previous version, it's usually to a previous save, where you don't necessarily know all of the changes made in that version.
Integrating in real-time with other systems can also be difficult, Rivera continued. Users often need to trigger a request for data from some other system so if things are changing in real-time, the results could be stale data. Large amounts of data can be challenging to work with and the data source could add to those challenges.
Each scenario raises other considerations, but overall, he said, organizations should look at how low-code/no-code would make work easier for the citizen developer or power user individuals in the organization, the primary targets of such software. Leaders can then focus their budget on larger-scale projects.
Related Article: Low Code Finds Its Place in the Digital Workplace
Benefits and Use Cases of Low-Code/No-Code
So what exactly does low-code/no-code bring to the organizations? Brian Sathianathan is co-founder and chief digital officer at San Jose, Calif.-based Iterate. He shared two broad benefits:
He said low-code/no-code platforms make it possible for enterprises to implement uniform digital employee experiences across their organization. Low-code can improve employee satisfaction and efficiency when working with internally developed software, as well as helping improve workflows and interactions within teams and across the business.
One example Sathianathan shared was the communications challenges that arise due to different teams using different interfaces and toolsets, such as when a design team, a development team and an advanced technology team (such as an AI/ML practice) all coordinate on the same application development project.
When each of these teams has its own separate digital experience and perspective, it interrupts project momentum and strains camaraderie. In many of these situations, standardization enables seamless inter-team communication and raises productivity.
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“Low-code can deliver that standardization, with developers using templates to build out uniform experiences, standardized components, and a unified interface used across each team and department,” he said. “With this approach getting all employees on the same page, better communication and collaboration become a force multiplier that improves project results.”
Freeing up Development Teams
A low-code strategy benefits development teams, he said, as they gain a digital experience designed to make their lives easier.
Low-code frees developers from the repetitive block-and-tackle work of setting up application environments and attending to similar tedious details, so they can instead dive straight into the most exciting and creative parts of their jobs. Low-code should also features easy access to AI/ML, big data, IoT, voice, blockchain and API technologies that developers are eager to play with, making those advanced capabilities available via pre-coded modules.
“Leaders adopting low-code give their organizations an edge in hiring and talent retention as well, as that better developer experience builds the enterprise’s reputation as a great place to be,” he said.
In terms of concrete use cases, Vitali Pozniak, principal DevOps consultant at RiverSafe Limited, shared the following:
1. Workflow Automation
Automating repetitive manual tasks can save time and improve productivity, Pozniak said. With low-code/no-code platforms, businesses can quickly create workflows to automate various processes such as employee onboarding, invoice processing and approval workflows.
2. Data Management
Enterprises deal with a vast amount of data, and managing it can be challenging. Low-code/no-code platforms can help businesses create custom data management tools without requiring extensive programming knowledge, he continued.
3. Customer Engagement
Engaging with customers is critical for businesses to stay competitive, he added. Low-code/no-code platforms can help companies build custom applications that improve customer experiences, such as chatbots, customer portals and feedback systems.
4. Mobile Application Development
With the growing use of mobile devices, businesses need to create mobile-friendly applications to reach their customers, he said. Low-code/no-code platforms can help businesses create mobile applications without requiring extensive coding knowledge.
“In the future,” he said, “we can expect to see continued growth in the adoption of no-code/low-code platforms, as organizations seek to accelerate their digital transformation efforts and improve their agility.
He also adds that these platforms will likely become more powerful and sophisticated, offering even more advanced features and integrations, while remaining accessible to a wide range of users.
Low-Code/No-Code Use in Cybersecurity
Low-code/no-code development is also becoming increasingly popular in the development of cybersecurity applications, Toby Bussa, former Gartner VP Analyst and current product marketing VP at Arlington, Va.-based ThreatConnect.
Cybersecurity has often lagged behind its enterprise peers in the use of automation, but that has rapidly changed for several reasons, he said. First, cybersecurity requires analysts to be hyperfast to bolster defenses before an adversary attacks or to contain the blast radius and shut down an in-progress attack. The difference between minutes and hours can be critical in mitigating the long-term impact on a business.
Second, cybersecurity operations teams have a large number of repeatable processes that consume valuable resource time and contribute to analyst burnout. This, he said, is related to the ongoing lack of cybersecurity analysts available in the market, along with the continued competition for hiring and retaining top talent. Bussa believes automation is the key to addressing cybersecurity operations challenges.
Automation benefits cybersecurity operations in dozens of ways, he said, but customers consistently site leveraging cyber threat intelligence in endpoint, network, email, and cloud security tools to proactively detect and block threats before they can breach an enterprise.
“The number of threat intel sources, combined with the volume and velocity of threat intelligence data today means dealing with millions of indicators, which can only be operationalized effectively via automation."
About the Author
David is a European-based journalist of 35 years who has spent the last 15 following the development of workplace technologies, from the early days of document management, enterprise content management and content services. Now, with the development of new remote and hybrid work models, he covers the evolution of technologies that enable collaboration, communications and work and has recently spent a great deal of time exploring the far reaches of AI, generative AI and General AI.