18 Sep

Low code development - Is it the future?

Companies have begun implementing low-code development and citizen development approaches to meet their demand for innovative software solutions. Low-code/no-code development platforms have gained a large adoption in recent years. But do you understand the reasons why?
Anthony Allen
min read

Low Code Development - Is it the future?

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, the demand for quick and cost-effective software solutions is at an all-time high. However, most organizations do not have sufficient internal resources trained in traditional software development methodologies which often require extensive coding skills and significant time investments. 

Bridging this gap, companies have begun implementing low-code development and citizen development approaches to meet their demand for innovative software solutions. Low-code/no-code development platforms have gained a large adoption in recent years.

Both development methods are revolutionizing the way software is built by enabling non-technical individuals to participate actively in the software development life cycle.

At the forefront of this movement is the Power Platform, a comprehensive suite of tools and services provided by Microsoft that empowers users to create custom business applications with minimal coding experience or expertise.

Low Code Development professionals working

Short Summary

  • Understanding what is low code development
  • Low code vs no code development platforms
  • Low code development main benefits
  • The risks of low-code development
  • Examples of low-code development platforms
  • The future of low code development platforms
  • Will low-code replace traditional software development?

What is Low Code development?

Low-code development refers to a software development approach that leverages visual interfaces and pre-built drag-and-drop components to accelerate the application development process with minimal coding effort.

It allows users to create functional applications by arranging these pre-built elements, configuring their basic settings, and defining the required business logic through a user-friendly interface.

This approach significantly reduces the amount of traditional hand-coding required to create enterprise applications, allows for more reusability, and enables faster app development and cycles with greater flexibility in application customization.

Citizen development extends the low-code concept further by enabling non-technical individuals, often referred to as "citizen developers," to actively participate in application development.

These individuals are typically Business Analysts, subject matter experts, and other business professionals who have a deep understanding of the needs and requirements of their organization. With low-code platforms like the Power Platform, citizen developers can quickly create UI-based workflows that translate their insights into deployable software solutions without relying on dedicated DevOps teams or professional programmers.  

Low-code vs no-code in the enterprise - a common misconception

The distinction between low-code and no-code within the enterprise is often subject to misconception. While these terms are closely related, they entail subtle differences that can significantly impact the development process.

Low-code platforms provide a middle ground between traditional coding and no-code solutions, offering developers the ability to use minimal code alongside visual development tools.

On the other hand, no-code platforms cater to users with minimal to no coding experience or expertise, enabling them to create applications solely through a drag-and-drop GUI and automated wizards where code is auto-generated in the background. Recognizing and understanding these distinctions is essential for enterprises seeking to harness the right approach for their application development needs.

The Benefits of Low Code Development

Primarily, a low-code or no-code solution expedites the process of development and delivery, which is particularly vital in today's digital era where organizations strive to meet the demands of both employees and clients.

It empowers everyday workers to build and deploy applications and their own apps and services, ultimately enhancing business apps and their efficiency. This platform liberates professionals from routine programming tasks.

Low-code and no-code development can be significantly cheaper than traditional development methods, as it requires fewer resources and can be completed more quickly. 

Low-code platforms are becoming increasingly popular with their ability to accelerate software development, streamline and/or automate business processes, and for rapid prototyping. Citizen Developers can get their apps in front of users on tablets, phones, and web browsers faster than ever before. Low-code and no-code platforms are best suited for building applications with straightforward workflows that involve a limited number of steps.

By using pre-built templates, workflows and drag-and-drop interfaces, Citizen Developers can quickly create applications that improve efficiency within the organization and reduce human errors. 

Most low-code platforms come with built-in integrations to common business systems, databases, and APIs, which can simplify automation making it easier to connect and automate processes across different applications and systems. 

In addition, these platforms are excellent for rapidly prototyping new applications or features, and for short-term or experimental projects where speed and agility are essential.  Citizen Developers can create functional prototypes in a fraction of the time it would take to code them from scratch. 

Low Code Development professional working on a project

Navigating the Difficulties Presented by Low-Code Development Platforms for Business Users

While low-code platforms are excellent for building simple to moderately complex applications, they may not be suitable for highly complex or customized applications that require advanced, traditional coding knowledge and skills.

Developers with expertise in programming languages, algorithms, data structures, and other advanced concepts will still be needed to build complex applications. 

In addition, many organizations have existing legacy systems, databases, APIs, etc., that need to be integrated into new applications/systems. This requires custom coding and deep technical knowledge, which may not be feasible for a citizen developer using low-code platforms alone. 

The risks of Low-Code Development for Organizations

It's important to note that while citizen development can be a powerful tool, it also carries some risks, such as the potential for creating applications that are not scalable, secure, or compliant with industry regulations.

What has emerged is a novel breed of iPaaS platforms centered around citizen integrators, resulting in organizations becoming intricately interconnected to a degree where providing security leaders with complete visibility into their most valuable company assets is nearly unattainable.

Ensuring Security in Low-Code and No-Code Platforms

Ensuring security in low-code and no-code platforms is paramount for organizations looking to leverage the benefits of these rapid development approaches while safeguarding their sensitive data and operations.

While these platforms expedite application creation, they can inadvertently introduce vulnerabilities if not managed diligently. Robust authentication mechanisms, data encryption, and access controls must be implemented to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches. Regular security audits and testing are essential to identify and mitigate potential weaknesses.

Additionally, selecting platforms with built-in security features, adhering to industry best practices, and providing comprehensive training for developers are crucial steps in maintaining a secure environment for both low-code and no-code application development. By prioritizing security, organizations can harness the efficiency of these platforms without compromising their data integrity and regulatory compliance.

Managing Work and Team Structure for No-Code Developers

Effectively managing work and establishing a well-defined team structure for no-code developers is essential for harnessing their potential while maintaining productivity and collaboration. Despite the simplified development process, clear project goals, timelines, and task assignments are vital to ensure efficient progress.

Establishing a balanced team structure with roles such as project managers, designers, and domain experts can provide the necessary expertise and oversight.

Regular communication channels, feedback loops, and collaboration platforms facilitate seamless coordination and alignment among team members. Moreover, comprehensive training and continuous skill development empower no-code developers to deliver high-quality applications

Therefore, organizations must provide citizen developers with appropriate training, guidance, and governance to ensure that their applications meet the necessary standards.

Examples of Low-Code Development Tools / Platforms

At the heart of the low code and citizen development movement is Microsoft’s Power Platform. Citizen developers who utilize Power Platform can help their organizations reduce development costs and achieve a faster return on investment.  Since Power Platform integrates well with other Microsoft products such as Office 365, SharePoint, MS Teams,  and Power BI, it is relatively easy to connect to data from various sources and create powerful business applications quickly. Power Platform consists of four main components: Power BI, Power Virtual Agents, Power Apps, and Power Automate.

Power BI

Power BI is a versatile business intelligence tool that allows users to load data from multiple sources and then create interactive dashboards and reports tailored to their specific needs. With its intuitive drag-and-drop interface and extensive visualization options, citizen developers can transform raw data into valuable insights, enabling data-driven decision-making across their organizations. Users can drag and drop fields, apply filters, and define calculations to create custom reports on the fly. Dashboards can be built by combining multiple visualizations and reports, providing a consolidated view of key metrics and performance indicators. Power BI also incorporates natural language processing (NLP) capabilities, enabling users to ask questions about their data using plain language. Visualizations can be generated based on user queries, making it easier for non-technical users to explore data and get quick answers to their questions.

Power Virtual Agents

Power Visual Agents enables the creation of chatbots and virtual assistants without any coding expertise. By leveraging pre-built Generative AI models, natural language processing capabilities, and integration with other Power Platform services, citizen developers can build chatbots to provide customer support, automate information retrieval, or assist with internal processes.  These bots can be run at scale, across websites, native mobile applications and apps, in multiple languages, and through any channel supported by the Azure Bot Framework.

Power Apps

Power Apps allows users to create custom web and mobile applications with ease. The platform provides a wide range of pre-built templates, reusable components, connectors to various data sources, and a visual development environment for business users to design intuitive user interfaces. With Power Apps, citizen developers can quickly build functional applications tailored to their specific business needs, such as data collection forms, customer engagement portals, and they can call internal process automation routines such as email approvals and daily archiving through integration with Power Automate.

Power Automate

Power Automate enables citizen developers to quickly automate workflows and integrate various systems and applications without complex coding. It offers a visual interface to define triggers, actions, and conditions, empowering citizen and professional developers to streamline processes, create approval workflows, create custom apps or connect different software tools together seamlessly.

For the more seasoned developer, Power Automate allows them to incorporate custom code and extend its functionality using advanced capabilities. With the help of Azure Functions, they can integrate serverless code snippets written in their preferred programming language (such as C#, JavaScript, or Python) into their workflows. This empowers developers to implement complex business logic or perform advanced data manipulations when needed. Power Automate also provides robust error handling mechanisms, allowing users to capture and handle exceptions that occur during the workflow execution. Developers can also implement error logging, send email notifications, or trigger alternative actions to handle errors gracefully.

This helps monitor the performance and reliability of workflows and take necessary corrective actions in a timely fashion. 

Bottom Line

By leveraging the Power Platform's Custom Connector framework, a seasoned developer can further extend Power Automate's capabilities to interact with legacy systems, databases, or APIs. This flexibility enables developers to build end-to-end automation solutions that seamlessly connect with the business users existing infrastructure.

The Power Platform empowers both IT citizen developers and professionals to singularly or collaboratively drive digital transformation within their organizations. By providing a low-code environment with a rich array of intuitive tools, Power Platform breaks down the barriers to software development, enabling a diverse range of individuals to contribute to the creation of innovative solutions. With its flexibility, scalability, and versatility, Microsoft's Power Platform is poised to redefine how software is built and accelerate the pace of digital innovation in the modern business landscape.

How to pick a low-code platform?

Selecting the right low-code platform involves careful consideration of various factors. First, assess your organization's and business users specific needs and goals, identifying the types of applications you intend to build and the level of customization required.

Evaluate the platform's ease of use and the extent of its visual development capabilities, ensuring that it aligns with the technical proficiency of your team.

Scalability is crucial, so opt for a platform that can accommodate growth and evolving requirements. Integration capabilities with existing systems and third-party tools are essential for seamless workflows.

Additionally, scrutinize the platform's security features and compliance with industry standards to safeguard sensitive data. Lastly, consider the vendor's reputation, customer support, and available resources for ongoing training and support, as they play a vital role in the success of your low-code application development lifecycle journey.

The future of low-code development

The future of low-code development looks... bright. The idea has been gaining traction and increasing in demand, particularly with the surge of digital transformation efforts across diverse sectors. The low-code global market is forecasted to be around $65 billion by 2027 and $187 billion by 2030, which are incredible numbers for such a recent phenomenon.

And while it may seem like a true game changer, the capability of virtually anyone building apps without a computer degree or strong coding knowledge, a question arises in the minds of many developers.

Will no-code and low-code platforms replace traditional software development?

It’s clear that low code development platforms enable a new audience a series of unprecedented technical capabilities. Technical tasks that previously required a traditional software developer, or a decent amount of time training and studying, are easier than ever before to accomplish by a new group of individuals. Which raises the question - will these platforms replace traditional software development? Although we may have ushered in a new class of technical ability, these platforms are provided and maintained by traditional software developers and engineers. And there is a world of software development tasks that are not yet, or may not ever be able to be, completed on these platforms. Instead of eventually replacing the traditional developer, we feel it’s more likely that citizen developers will help free up traditional development time for the more complex tasks low code platforms cannot support.

Source Materials

Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by low-code?

Low-code refers to a development approach that uses visual interfaces and pre-built components to streamline and simplify the process of creating software applications, requiring less manual coding.

What is the use of low-code?

The use of low-code is to accelerate and simplify the development of software applications by minimizing the need for extensive manual coding, making it more accessible to a broader range of developers and enabling faster delivery of solutions.

What is an example of a low-code application platform?

Some low-code platforms include Power BI, Power Apps and Power Automate.

What are the distinctions between low-code development, high-productivity aPaaS (hpaPaaS), and rapid application development (RAD)?

Low-code development, high-productivity aPaaS (hpaPaaS), and rapid application development (RAD) are all approaches that aim to expedite the software development process, but they have distinct characteristics.

Low-Code Development: Low-code platforms enable developers to create applications with minimal manual coding by providing visual development tools and pre-built components. This approach to low code application platforms is suitable for organizations that seek to accelerate development while allowing for some customization. Low-code emphasizes ease of use and caters to a broader range of developers, including those with limited coding expertise.

High-Productivity aPaaS (hpaPaaS): High-Productivity Application Platform as a Service (hpaPaaS) goes beyond low-code by offering a more comprehensive environment for building, deploying, and managing applications. It combines visual development with robust backend services, integrations, and automated processes. hpaPaaS empowers developers to create sophisticated applications quickly, often incorporating advanced features and seamless integrations.

Rapid Application Development (RAD): RAD is an approach that prioritizes speed and efficiency in application development. It typically involves iterative cycles of development, prototyping, and user feedback to rapidly build and refine applications. RAD often emphasizes collaboration between developers and end-users, allowing for swift adjustments based on real-world testing.

While all three approaches aim to streamline app development, their emphasis and scope vary. Low-code focuses on minimizing coding effort, high-productivity aPaaS provides a comprehensive development environment, and rapid application development prioritizes iterative speed and user involvement. The choice between these approaches depends on the organization's specific needs, technical capabilities, and project requirements.

How does low-code accelerate digital transformation?

Low-code accelerates digital transformation by providing organizations with a faster and more efficient way to develop, deploy, and iterate upon applications that drive innovation and agility. By minimizing the need for extensive manual coding, low-code platforms enable businesses to rapidly create and modify software solutions, aligning technology with evolving business needs.

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