• Hiren Amin, Partner |
  • Saurabh Kapoor, Director |
6 min read

Low/no-code – What’s the hype all about?

Low-code platforms. No-code environments. Citizen developers. These are some phrases gaining popularity among business executives who oversee digital transformation in increasingly complex business environments. Such jargon is especially prevalent in the Middle East, where software development tends to be outsourced. Software development projects go through a long cycle: identifying requirements, selection and onboarding a vendor through a competitive bidding process, waiting for development and, finally, undergoing multiple rounds of changes. Only then does the solution potentially create a business impact.

Owing to the long development cycle, new requirements often arise soon after the application has been deployed. Or, similarly, the newly developed solution doesn’t serve the full purpose that was originally envisaged. This reality often forces individuals and teams to adapt their work to fit the software application, rather than using it as an enabler to drive performance and results.1

Moreover, we see business and technical teams around the globe fighting for talent, in an environment where resources are often constrained. Finally, we see both the public and private sectors transforming rapidly, driving the need for business tools which are easy to access, and even easier to maintain.

Firms typically invest in business-friendly SaaS solutions that promise easy customization, or even upskill their business users in technology.2 The results of this approach are usually sub-optimal, with integration, customization and localization all being common problems.

Fortunately, with the advent of low/no-code platforms, firms are no longer forced to endure painstakingly long development cycles or an over-reliance on highly-technical teams for software customizations.

Low/no-code solutions require minimal or no coding expertise and empower users to maintain and configure applications. Low/no-code platforms allow business users, no matter the extent of their technical skills, to customize tools to fit their exact requirements with the help of simple point-and-click, drag-and-drop, building-block-like configuration.
 

Opportunities created by embracing low/no-code

Low-code technology is being embraced as a major enabler for true digital transformation. It offers a multitude of opportunities for organizations embarking on large-scale digital transformation journeys.

Higher speed to value

Sponsors often look at two key factors before embarking on software projects: cost and speed to market. There is no doubt that speed of deployment is one of the key selling points of low/no-code solutions. However, the most important metric is speed to value. Because of its simple building-block approach, low-code allows even complex projects to be accomplished quickly—sometimes in a matter of weeks.3

Brings the best out of internal IT

Most IT teams still struggle to hire skilled and specialized developers. Low/no-code enables moderately skilled developers to build applications as if they were full-stack developers, without having to completely revamp the internal IT team.

More power to citizen developers

Tech-savvy individuals, or citizen developers, are known to develop mini applications to increase their team’s day-to-day efficiency—often doing more harm than good. With a focus on innovation for all, low/no-code platforms pave the way for these citizen developers to come out of the shadow. Business users who are keen to develop simple applications can use low/no-code solutions, follow leading practices and avoid common pitfalls during application development.

Large collection of designs, templates and guidelines

Low/no-code solutions often come with a large collection of designs and templates, supported by drag and drop functionality. This makes it relatively easy to stay consistent with design guidelines. Software from certain vendors also supports easy-to-use process flows that can be integrated into business applications, as well. Traditionally, these are areas which would require detailed programming knowledge and quality control.

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Low-code platform: With its drag and drop capabilities and building-block-like configuration, a low-code platform can deliver a medium size app in 1-2 weeks .

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Traditional development environment: More code intensive and requires specific skillsets that results in a development period of 2-3 months for a medium sized app.

Low/no-code challenges shouldn’t be overlooked

While low/no-code solutions might seem like an obvious investment to support a digital transformation journey, there are a few factors that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Low/no code does not mean low skill

Low-code platforms are much simpler to use than traditional programming tools. However, it’s wrong to assume that business users with no programming experience can build complex applications after a training session or two. 4 Business users need to learn and practice how different pieces of the low/no-code platform fit together. In addition, users will need to invest time to practice using the platform capabilities to build robust and scalable applications.

Unlimited customization remains to be solved

Low/no-code environments often promise that you don’t have to write code, but this is often not the case in practice. This limitation negates some benefits of switching to a low/no-code environment, but scenarios that need significant customization can be addressed by internal IT teams. Most of the configuration related to standard business logic should be simple enough to be tackled by citizen developers—one of the important selling points of low/no code.

Software development life cycle is harder to manage

Typically, software is written, tested, and then moved into production. This reduces the number of bugs in the software. Capabilities that identify or even highlight underlying errors often help developers in resolving these issues more efficiently, and in turn avoid defect leakage. Most low/no-code platforms are still evolving. While companies have rolled out versions of these that help a user build a web application with relative ease, end-users are sometimes left frustrated with the difficulty in understanding certain errors and debugging them.

This challenge might soon dissipate with the release of more refined versions, as well as the proliferation of community pages that provide additional guidance to end-users.
 

Conclusion – opportunities far outweigh the challenges

While there are some challenges to adopting low/no-code app development platforms, it has undoubtful benefits for organizations – both for IT and business groups. Aspects such as lack of customization and debugging far outweigh the benefits offered by low/no-code platforms. Such issues are already being addressed by top vendors.

Businesses embracing the shift to low/no-code are already seeing their digital transformation programs bear fruit. Organizations that are taking a safe route by waiting for low/no-code approaches to become mainstream may reap the competitive advantages as early adopters. These innovators are obtaining the full benefits of low/no-code technology as they pursue the tightly connected digital-enterprise model needed for success in a new era.

Footnotes

1. Empower Your Team with No-Code/Low-Code Software Applications – Harvard Business Review April 2021

2. Low-code platforms deliver high rewards – KPMG Global April 2021
Insights from recent digital project performed for a leading government entity in Abu Dhabi

3. Low-code platforms deliver high rewards – KPMG Global April 2021
Insights from recent digital project performed for a leading government entity in Abu Dhabi
Secondary research conducted by KPMG UAE

4. Why You Need To Know About Low-Code, Even If You’re Not Responsible For Software Delivery – Forrester August 2018
Insights from recent digital project performed for a leading government entity in Abu Dhabi
Secondary research conducted by KPMG UAE