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Whatever the size of your business, low-code custom application development gives both technical and non-technical users the power to build apps they need to do their jobs more efficiently. Going low code means you can save money, save time, and be more productive.

In a world where software already plays a massive (and still rapidly growing) role in our lives, in our businesses, and in our society, this is huge. Low-code potentially provides the power to democratize and insanely speed up software development, placing in everyone’s hands the ability to solve everyday problems at a moment’s notice.

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Build apps the easy way.

Low-code is a method of building applications and software processes with little to no coding. The approach works by using rich visual interfaces to replace complex programming languages during the software development process. So, instead of coding software interfaces and processes line by line, developers can simply use visual tools, such as drag-and-drop features, to create solutions.

While we have come a long way from the days when NASA sent humans to the moon using punch card binary codes, traditional software development is still tiring. There are still numerous barriers to traditional coding, including the extensive technical knowledge required to code and the exorbitant amount of time coding takes.

Low-code was developed to provide an intuitive approach to building software. Since it requires minimal coding, this approach works well for people with varying experience levels. Even those without advanced knowledge of coding can use low-code to create applications of varying complexity, whether web or mobile. Some of the features of low-code application development platforms include:

  • Visual modeling: The principal philosophy behind low-code is to facilitate application development using visual approaches and templates. With the visual modeling tools low-code platforms provide, users can see the details of the software development process without facing lines of code.
  • Drag-and-drop: The ability to create individual app interfaces using drag-and-drop features is native to most low-code platforms. Users can move elements, edit pages, and insert created interfaces into a flow-chart type process.
  • OOB functionality: Out-of-box configuration is a basic element of low-code, since it removes the need for complex APIs and integrations from the start. Some platforms, for instance, might provide database capabilities or data connectors so users can get up and running with minimal effort.
  • Scalability: Low-code systems come embedded with support for enterprise growth. Whether you intend to start with 20 or 2000-capacity applications, you will usually find the space to grow.

Because it is a fast and straightforward alternative to traditional application development, low-code has become very popular. Experts predict that, in just a few years, most software will be developed with the low-code approach. This means more enterprise users will be able to participate in the software creation process, letting them solve their own problems easily and quickly.

The power of low-code software development 

Low-code is particularly exciting for businesses and organizations that exist in rapidly evolving environments. We are constantly inundated with dire predictions for organizations that fail to adapt quickly enough to big-picture trends, from digital transformation to the future of work. But the pace of business and IT development resources are frequently incapable of keeping up with these trends, and this introduces the risk that organizations will get left behind.

The growing implications of globally-connected markets and their impact on business makes speed a vital asset for organizations. As we learned from the global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, isolated events in remote markets can quickly become a problem for businesses worldwide. Only businesses that can rapidly readjust and equip themselves with the right ideas and solutions to meet these challenges head on are able to ride the waves of change.

Even more troubling, the aspect of a global pandemic is not even necessary to introduce these broad disruptions. Unexpected incidents, from a ship stuck in the Suez Canal to a trade war between global superpowers, can quickly put organizations in a tight spot.

Software plays a fundamental role in solving these problems and helping organizations create advantage out of adversity. However, traditional programming often takes too long and depends on technical skills that are not always readily-available. Even with skilled developers at hand, organizations find their talent constantly overwhelmed with rote tasks. IT is often swamped in requests and service tickets – so much so that they’re spending more time on housekeeping than they do on creating solutions that aid optimum business performance in a digital age.

Low-code provides the ideal opportunity the time needed to create software solutions and relieve IT of pressure by placing the power of software development in the hands of other business units. With the means to rapidly spin up solutions to evolving business challenges, organizations can keep better pace with their evolving environment.

Benefits of low-code for businesses 

Implementing low-code has the potential to transform the software development process for businesses. Here are some of the significant advantages business can derive from low-code:

Low-code vs No-code

Flexibility to meet your business needs.

While low-code promotes software development and custom applications with minimal coding, no-code entirely eliminates the need for coding, at least in theory. Since they may need some coding knowledge or at least passing familiarity with programming languages, low-code platforms target developers. Typically, these platforms might require coding for the backend of tech solutions, although they considerably speed up the production process for developers.

Comparably, no-code is most suitable for citizen developers since it requires no coding knowledge at all. Platforms that incorporate this approach focus on providing the most user-friendly app creation process possible. They work by abstracting technical information away, instead presenting the development process in a PowerPoint-style creation format.

However, it is important to note that platforms rarely draw a distinction between low-code and no-code. For instance, Microsoft Power Platform using tools like Power Apps provides application development tools for both non-technical and professional developers, letting them create with little to no coding.

Alleviating the fears of IT

Understandably, IT teams in some organizations may have concerns about the changing processes that low/no-code represents. These tools reduce enterprise reliance on IT, to some extent. Professionals may also wonder about the security and functionality of applications created by citizen developers and their inexperience about these solutions.

However, low-code technology takes these considerations into account in its creation process. Since non-technical developers will likely have only rudimentary skills in application development, most low-code platforms provide templates that incorporate development fundamentals in their design. They also employ state-of-the-art security standards to help prevent errors or breaches that might occur during the development process.

Low-code platforms anticipate the need for professionals to maintain control over the backend and frontend of the solutions they create. As a result, deeper access and manipulation features are often built into these platforms to provide more granular control over the creation process where necessary.

Due to their simplicity and ease of use, there’s a common idea that only basic applications can be created with low-code platforms. But these platforms can be used for so much more, especially providing the tools to blend canvas and model-driven apps to create solutions of greater complexity.

While some professional developers might see low-code as a direct threat to their work and relevance, the opposite is the case. Low-code might replace traditional coding, but that will only be for the better. The technology has the potential to help speed up the application development process, meaning pro developers can do more within even less time. Also, by freeing IT up from the incessant service requests from other business units, low-code tools like Power Apps gives them the space and time to focus on more important work.

Limitless possibilities

Low-code has many applications within the modern workplace. The technology provides the ability to extend business applications, revamp internal processes, and modernize app development within organizations.

A common application of low-code is in legacy systems and applications. Low-code can be used to modernize and extend these systems, adding agile components on top that let teams work quickly without requiring more wholesale development. Seeing as legacy systems can be expensive to change, low-code avoids this expense by providing the tools to rapidly extend existing systems.

Workspace applications are also a common focus for low-code. Everything from expense reports, employee leave request portals, and inventory trackers can be built with low-code. They are a good fit for solving instant problems that business units meet in their day-to-day operations.

Low-code tools can also be adapted to improve or revamp internal processes and operations. Organizations might plan and deploy low-code tools to improve their customer relationship management or upgrade a supply chain management solution.

How to choose a low-code platform

According to Forrester, low-code platforms might be process, mobile, database, request, or general purpose-oriented. While each of these platforms is adapted to solve specific problems, organizations might find the most value with general purpose platforms.

Before picking a platform, it pays to consider who will be using it and what applications you intend to build on it. Low-code platforms make the most sense for experienced developers, helping them produce applications in days to weeks instead of months. No-code platforms are better suited for non-technical users.

Overall, low-code platforms provide the potential to speed up business and reduce the cost of problem solving. In a world where organizations wake up to new challenges every day, it’s easy to see why there’s so much excitement about low-code custom application development.

Common issues 

Despite their evident benefit for organizations, low-code tools are not a magic bullet that automatically solves all problems. Crucially, they still operate like any other tool – they can only do their work they’re given. Users still need to identify where low-code provides the most value, plan and prepare application requirements, and define acceptable use parameters before going on to create the application.

Coding is only one part of the software development process. While low-code platforms make this part easier, it doesn’t take away the need to understand and properly cater to the other issues that may arise. Here are a few common challenges users face when using low-code:

  • Unknown or ambiguous requirements: The custom application development process should always begin with requirements. Users need to think about what the application will do, who it will serve, how it is expected to serve them, and if these parameters meet the needs it is meant to meet.
  • Improperly structured data: Non-technical users might be surprised at how much of a role data plays in creating applications. Although canvas apps help remove most of the need to think about data, citizen developers might still run into problems with their data.
  • Unnecessarily complex workflows: One of the earliest lessons that developers learn is resisting the urge to attempt too much with one application. When users fail to start small and simple it can quickly complicate the process leading to overwhelm.
  • Problems of scope: Perhaps one of the advantages of coding is that it forces developers to take the long view about the applications they create. With the ease that low-code brings, it can be easy to gloss over the importance of long-sightedness, and this can result in applications that do too little or way too much.

Because of our rich history in traditional custom application development, i3solutions is uniquely qualified to help guide organizations through the process of selecting a low-code application platform and manage the requirements and implementation process of the project.  Contact us today to find out how to make low-code custom application development work for you.