What is low code, and how can it help with business dependence on developers?

1 November 2021 | 4 Shares

The term keeps popping up nowadays. But what is low-code really, and what is its practical advantage for businesses that is so unavoidable, yet could critically help reduce costs while lessening reliance on external talent to solve IT skills-intensive roles like coding?

Over the past couple of years, platforms that require little-to-no coding experience have been developed, enabling for the first time people who aren’t software engineers to build software applications. These low-code and no-code platforms have become valuable tools in the rapid application development toolbox.

Based on Forrester Research, investment in the low-code market segment is expected to reach US$21.2 billion by 2022. It’s rapidly growing, and the companies that are embracing it are seeing the benefits. But as companies’ digital experiences were growing, so was the demand for software engineers and coders capable of managing that innovation.

In fact, a recent survey suggested that 64% of companies were looking to hire up to 50 developers this year. Alas, simultaneously there is a talent shortage burgeoning in this area, with 63% of senior executives admitting the shortage of developers was an area of major concern. TechHQ sat down with software and web application specialist, and CTO of Netcall, Richard Billington to get to the bottom of what works and what doesn’t for organizations looking to implement low-c0de — plus what’s the difference with no-code, anyway?

Can low-code help overcome AI skills shortages?

Low-code is helping to overcome shortages in a variety of digital skills by reducing the need for highly trained developers, which have traditionally been needed to bring new applications to fruition. By using low-code software platforms, everyday business users can, for the first time, get automated and AI-driven solutions up and running quickly and easily. Due to the lack of complex coding, the whole process of integrating AI is automatically simplified, and within easy reach for a range of workers across a variety of business sectors and sizes.

In addition, the ability to test applications built on low-code before implementation means that businesses can explore the capabilities of AI without investing valuable time and effort. As a result, their people will be empowered to unlock a wave of new possibilities for AI development across a range of functions.

How realistic is the promise of low code?

Low-code isn’t some far-fetched, distant dream; it’s happening now, and it’s delivering on its promises now. In fact, we recently worked with UK Power Networks to simplify and automate the connection application process for a smoother and slicker user experience. By building new apps to automate the process using low-code, UK Power Networks has been able to drastically reduce the manual data input required – saving an impressive 8,000 hours on processing quotes, raising jobs, and scheduling. Now that the process has been automated [with an application], a task that previously took an employee 12 minutes is now completed almost instantly.

How does low-code lend itself to cultural adoption?

The ease of use associated with low-code lends itself readily to cultural adoption across all workers in the business. It’s true that developers aren’t used to surrendering IT control, and they can be cynical of non-technical employees encroaching on their territory in this regard. But functionalities such as ‘drag and drop’ take the technicality out of the equation.

By streamlining the process, you increase the business’s capacity to develop new applications, which is important when demand far outstrips build capacity and will continue to, long into the future. Furthermore, by empowering everyday business users with the tools to build applications they need, low-code can help break down the siloes between business and IT. Together, business and IT can collaborate to address an organization’s pain points and need to rapidly innovate.

"Low-code has the perfect part to play, as it helps bring customer-facing and IT people together, and arms them with the tools they need to resolve customer experience issues as one cohesive team."

(Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP)

What makes low-code different from no code?

There are many similarities between low-code and no-code – both provide the means to develop software applications without the need to write code and without a developer. Both approach the task of developing an app in a similar way, moving users from a coding IDE to a browser with a simple set of drag and drop tools – so it’s easy to get confused.

Where they differ, however, is in their malleability. Low-code, due to its agile nature, is the best all-round approach with the maximum flexibility to build a range of apps. Low-code gives users the best of both worlds – providing users with the ability to extend platforms with their own code, if they so choose. No-code, on the other hand, is far more limited in terms of extension and customisability.

This key limitation is one to keep in mind when it comes to selecting your platform of choice – what happens if your no-code platform isn’t capable of achieving the required functionality? Low-code allows you to extend the platform’s capability to deliver against any edge case, ensuring a single platform can deliver all your business processes. In business, nothing stands still, so you need technology that can support the need to constantly evolve.

How low-code is paving the way for a fresh approach to change in financial services?

“Like all customer-facing services, the financial sector is under immense pressure to keep up with growing consumer expectations. Not only do customers want greater transparency and up-to-the-minute updates on their accounts, but they want that information now. Customer experience no longer depends entirely on the people dealing with customers every day – it depends heavily on processes and technologies, and the people behind the scenes.

“This is where low-code has the perfect part to play, as it helps bring customer-facing and IT people together, and arms them with the tools they need to resolve customer experience issues as one cohesive team. Business users create the applications needed to solve the problems; IT is consulted to ensure new processes meet compliance, security, and quality standards. Developers then get involved in the rare instances that coding is required to maximize the reach of an application, but for the most part, this isn’t necessary. All departments of the organization are then freed up, relieved of the additional pressures placed on them by customers’ calls for increasingly digitalized banking.”

“But it’s not all about customer experience. Freeing up employees by automating processes also goes a long way to reducing costs, which, as the past few years have so vividly illustrated, is more critical than ever in an uncertain economic landscape.”