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Low-code/no-code platforms have gained much attention as a way to meet growing software development demands as digital transformation continues apace.
These platforms are designed to streamline app development with intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces and preconstructed templates, enabling non-technical users to build custom applications and integrations without writing code.
Growth is on tap for the platforms, largely attributed to enterprise-wide hyperautomation and composable business initiatives. According to research by Gartner, the global market for low-code development technologies is projected to reach $26.9 billion this year, up 19.6% from 2022.
Low-code/no-code platforms offer several advantages, but they are not without their share of obstacles and challenges. The tools can create an over-reliance on the low-code/no-code vendor. While the technology has found uptake in simple workflow integrations with cloud services, it may stumble as more complex projects are undertaken. Security and governance of low-code implementations may lag as citizen developers quickly launch applications.
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Still, the low-code/no-code paradigm gains momentum.
Demystifying low code/no code: The reality behind the hype
Low-code/no-code platforms have been around for decades in various forms, but only in recent years have they gained such widespread popularity. This popularity can be attributed to increasing digital transformation, which has led businesses to embrace cloud-based platforms and services. Low-code/no-code platforms provide accessible solutions for businesses looking to develop and integrate custom applications without investing in more developers.
“The low-code market has evolved due to the ability to connect with more tools and technologies,” Jessica D’Oliveira, an analyst at research and advisory firm Forrester, told VentureBeat. “The standard capabilities have not changed but have gone deeper into user experiences, data management and process automation.”
D’Oliveira said low code is effective for companies of any size. But companies must embrace digital transformation, and be willing to adjust their organizations to adopt low-code approaches.
The needs of businesses and developers are similar in enterprises and the startup/small business segments of the market, she said. In fact, developer tools are undergoing the same evolution presently seen in business users’ tools.
“Low-code/no-code platforms are maturing at speed, growing to integrate with other technologies in the area of artificial intelligence called TuringBots that develop apps for you. This is not just changing low code/no code, but development for all methodologies,” explained D’Oliveira.
According to Shiva Nathan, founder and CEO of application development platform Onymos, low code/no code has become more advanced and accessible over the last decade. Yet he counsels caution.
Workflow sees low-code/no-code inroads
Nathan told VentureBeat, “Low code/no code is especially appealing during the boom part of the economic cycle, when the need for software projects, hence software engineers, is high.” Driving low-code/no-code interest is a need for more tech talent, which is where the new tooling models generally aid.
But one endeavor stands out right now: These tools have found their biggest uptake in workflow automation programs, Nathan indicated.
“Workflow automation platforms are low code/no code, too, and most sales and marketing teams are leveraging them today to automate their campaigns or poll their user bases,” he said. “Pragmatists can wager that low code/no code will remain a good tool for use cases like those.”
Likewise, James Glover, general manager of AI at personalized marketing platform Movable Ink, said one of the main misconceptions is that simply adopting a low-code/no-code platform will automatically improve content production and remove any go-to-market inefficiencies.
While it will certainly help in those regards, organizations still need a clear roadmap for exactly how they will integrate these technologies into their existing tech ecosystems and how their users will be impacted.
“It is important to note that low-code solutions will not completely eliminate positions within the organization. The most successful companies realize that adopting a low-code solution empowers their staff, not replaces them,” Glover told VentureBeat. “Another misconception is that it takes a massive implementation cycle to get there. This is not the case — [these solutions are] quicker to implement than people think.”
Glover added that these platforms are enablers for personalization, and personalization is proven to drive the massive lift.
“Because it’s automated and has no code, you can run clear A/B tests that demonstrate the lift of the no-code automated solution compared to more traditional approaches. Using these platforms to optimize measurement capabilities and drive revenue are key ways for CTOs and CEOs to get the most benefit out of these solutions,” he said.
What’s fueling the low-code/no-code movement?
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a major shift toward a digital-first approach for many businesses. Low-code/no-code platforms offer a solution to these highly demanding changes by enabling quick deployment of applications, often in a matter of weeks, much faster than developing them from scratch. This is especially important for small and medium-sized businesses lacking the budget for traditional large-scale development efforts.
Critics argue that these platforms limit applications’ customizability and that the result is often a product that doesn’t fully meet the business’s needs. But one technology manager at a leading business consulting, information technology and outsourcing services provider believes this narrow view overlooks important benefits.
Balakrishna D. R., popularly known as Bali, executive vice president and global head of AI, automation and ECS at Infosys, said he believes low-code/no-code platforms are becoming even more prominent in the context of current technological advancements.
“Low code/no code allows organizations to achieve business agility and cost optimization through the evolution of verticals — including experiential design, digital experience and application platforms, digital process automation, enterprise productivity, and data science and AI,” Bali told VentureBeat.
Infosys, Bali said, has seen these benefits as it aided in the creation of low-code mobile regulatory compliance tools for sales and relationship managers at a leading U.K. commercial and business banking services provider. Using this platform for more than 7,000 managers across 58 countries, the company reduced administration staff costs by 50–60% and increased app adoption by 30% in less than five months, he said.
Another underrated resource in many low-code/no-code platforms is the ability to integrate seamlessly with other tools and technologies, such as project management tools, CRMs and databases. This makes it easier for businesses to build end-to-end solutions.
Best practices augur long-term success
Low-code/no-code platforms are not without limitations. For one thing, as with every technology, security and data privacy concerns still loom large.
“Decentralizing application development to business users introduces the risk of the proliferation of applications in the environment that aren’t developed to company standards. Applications that are implemented without following proper development standards risk introducing security or regulatory compliance issues to the environment,” said David McIntire, engagement director of application managed services at Capgemini Americas.
McIntire recommends that companies study potential risks associated with a platform and define the standards and governance for the use of the platform, prior to rolling it out to non-professional developers.
“Devote the time at the onset of an engagement to define the structures and processes that govern the use of the platform,” McIntire told VentureBeat. “Defining the training required for citizen developers, the standards around security and data, the processes for delivering new applications and the review process are all key to using low code/no code to balance time-to-market and application quality.”
Likewise, Liran Hason, CEO and cofounder of AI model monitoring platform Aporia, said that allowing departments outside of core R&D to have access to creating automation through low-code/no-code platforms results in higher efficiency and productivity. But Hason acknowledged “the security aspect of adopting these tools with minimal standardization, mainly when talking about permissions and misconfigurations.”
“To combat these fears,” Hason said, “create the right infrastructure and equip your security teams with visibility to easily vet the gain versus risk of these tools.”
Hason got to the crux of the matter by saying that it’s easier to educate and teach non-technical personnel to use an app than to learn computer science.
The movement is nothing less, he said, than the next step in democratizing software engineering.
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