With so much remote work, the time is ripe for low-code and no-code software development

Low-code and no-code have been well-suited for disruptive startups, and now may prove their mettle in highly scattered enterprises.

Current forced work-at-home mandates have scrambled and scattered enterprise endpoints in a million different directions. Never before has there been such intense pressure on information technology teams -- both inside and outside the organization -- to keep things running, communication open, and everything as secure as possible. IT teams are triaging tasks, in many cases also working from their homes, to juggle priorities, and hold it all together. There simply isn't time to respond to new requests. In short, end-users are basically on their own for the time being. 

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Photo: Michael Krigsman

Which is likely to accelerate demand for low-code and no-code solutions, a trend that has been building for years. Low and no-code approaches are especially popular within the startup and disruptive technologies sectors, as illustrated by participants at the recent Fintech Belgium Low-Code Digital Conference, who advocate for enabling people with little or no coding experience to be able to implement the applications they need at the time they need them.  "No-code is a movement that is coming up quite strong," says Cris Carvalho, managing director of Global Smart Processes. "People with very little that IT background are trying to develop applications and trying to enter the world of applications, bringing their own ideas and programming."

Developer provocateur Mike Williams also advocates no-code approaches for disruptive startups, employing tools such as Makerpad, Shopify, and Webflow to quickly build apps and get them out to budding markets. "No-code allows you to take your idea, using minimal time in your resources, to launch a live product very quickly," he says. "Those products can be job boards, community based kind of websites, marketplaces, and even some kind of lightweight SaaS tools." This offers a less-costly alternative to "building a team internally of designers and developers, or outsourcing it to an agency, making it very costly to take your idea to a live product. Using no-code allows you to jump ahead of that, and use minimal time and resources."

Low-code and no-code approaches aren't just for smaller ventures, of course -- they offer new avenues of innovation to larger more established enterprises as well.  "Low-code is now entering a little bit more of the complexity of enterprise development applications, where companies and corporate organizations can actually develop applications more complex and with a large enterprise," Carvalho observes. 

Capgemini identified low and co-code as one of the 20 top enterprise technology trends to watch this year. "When code goes low, business gets on a high," relates Desiree Fraser, designer in residence, in the report. "You may be blessed with brilliant ideas for killer application services, but you'll need to deliver them blazingly fast and with the right quality. Classic software delivery based on manual work, complex programming languages and more mythical man months will only get you so far. It is now easier than ever to construct applications without huge coding efforts. The secret is in powerful, AI-enabled tools that leverage API catalogs, prebuilt templates and automation to the fullest extent."

Leading tools that enable low-code and no-code development include the following:

Many of these tools are now AI enabled, leveraging "enterprise-scale API and web service catalogs (both internal and external), open data sets, and tested and proven template galleries," Fraser observes. "Powerful low-code and no-code platforms are available for DIY, 'citizen' application development, although IT people may be equally enthusiastic about their productivity and ease of use."  

Ultimately, when choosing tools, software advocate Bryce Vernon says look for solutions that can be assembled LEGO-like. "It's not no-code unless it feels like LEGO," he says. "If a tool comes out that claims to be no-code but it doesn't feel like LEGO bricks, I don't consider it no-code. A tool that only gives me the option to change colors, text, and move components around is like giving me a plain toy car with a box of paints and different wheel choices and then telling me it's LEGO. Much like LEGO, the spirit of no-code is to empower builders. The building blocks come in small pieces that don't mean much in isolation; templates or instructions are resources, not requirements; and you don't manufacture the blocks themselves -- no coding necessary."  

There's even an emerging "maker culture" that is developing around low and no-code solutions, both Fraser and Williams have observed, in which best practices and collaborative approaches are shared across broader ecospheres.