Should a distinction be made between low code/no code? For many years now, different analyst firms and technology solution providers have categorized these two application-development approaches into the same group. However, as their rate of deployment in enterprises has grown over the years, an increasing number of experts in the technology sector agree to treat and analyze each of these approaches separately.
Do you know the main differences and similarities between low code and no code? Whatever your answer is, we invite you to continue reading this publication, in which we analyze each of these two technologies in detail, with the aim of clarifying any doubts and reinforcing key concepts to distinguish between them.
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What is low code?
Low code is a software development approach used to design business applications using minimal coding or programming language. To leverage this technology, it is necessary to use a Low Code Platform (LCP), also known as Low Code Application Platform (LCAP) or Low Code Development Platform (LCDP). These platforms offer users a visual software development environment that allows them to drag and drop pre-built blocks or modules and link them together via connectors. This reduces the amount of code that needs to be entered manually. However, any kind of customization that needs to be carried out on any of the functionalities will always require the use of some manual coding, just like custom-designed software. Therefore, it is a type of technology designed for software developers with programming skills.
According to a report published by Alexander C. Bock, member of the Business Modelling and Information Systems Research Group at the University of Duisburg- Essen, entitled Low-Code Platform, the main benefits of platforms incorporating this technology include:
- Improving the organization’s ability to adapt software systems to rapidly changing requirements.
- Reducing development and maintenance costs of enterprise software systems.
- Increased productivity and agility at the software design and development level.
- Easy training for users (software developers).
- User (software developers) empowerment.
What is no code?
No code, or zero code, is another form of software development that completely eliminates the need for programming language when designing business applications. It is a feature of No Code Development Platforms (NCDP), also known as “No-Code Platforms” (NCP), that represents an evolution with respect to LCPs, as its use does not require any knowledge of coding. This type of platform offers users a 100% visual development environment, with an easy, user-friendly, and intuitive interface, from which pre-designed modules and other elements can be dragged and dropped to create the desired application.
The main benefits of this type of platform include:
- Improved collaboration between IT teams and other departments, since manual coding is not necessary for application design, everyone can participate in the different stages of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
- Easy training for all users, from technical profiles to staff without prior IT-related knowledge.
- Increased levels of employee productivity and cost reduction.
- Faster development and fewer resource requirements when compared to low-code platforms.
- SMEs that do not have specific IT departments can make use of this technology to design business applications, as no programming knowledge is required.
- The flexibility to design any type of application, regardless of the level of customization or complexity.
Differences between low code/no code
1. Use of code vs. no programming language
Both low-code and no-code platforms have a visual interface that allows the creation of applications in a modular way, through an interface from which the user can drag and drop pre-designed components. However, the main difference between the two types is that LCPs do require the use of code. A requirement that limits application development to users with more technical profiles in the IT department, as it requires their intervention in all the phases that make up the SDLC: planning, analysis, design, development, testing, execution and maintenance.
2. Programmers vs. citizen developers
As we explained in the previous section, the use of code, to a greater or lesser extent, requires a professional programmer with the necessary knowledge and skills to develop applications. No-code platforms put an end to this dependency, as they make it possible for non-technical users (citizen developers) from non-IT departments, such as sales or marketing, to participate in all stages of the software life cycle. Thus, IT staff can focus all their efforts on other aspects, such as maintaining IT security or performing technical support tasks within the organization.
3. Reduced vs. greatly reduced development time and costs
If we compare the time spent on application development on low-code and no-code platforms, the result is striking. No-code platforms enable any business user to develop them in a shorter timeframe, as no coding is required. In turn, this results in a reduction of the resources allocated to each project’s development and maintenance.
Furthermore, the risks associated with traditional software development projects are mitigated, such as those identified by Barry Boehm, in his publication entitled Software Risk Management: Principles and Practices (1991), which are:
- Lack of qualified personnel.
- Unrealistic plans.
- Inadequate understanding of requirements.
- Inadequate user interface.
- Adding unnecessary features (“gold-plating”).
- Lack of control over changes to requirements.
- Problems with reusable components and APIs.
- Problems with externally performed tasks.
- Poor response time.
- Expectations are too high in relation to the technological means employed.
4. Democratization of software development
There is no doubt that low-code and no-code platforms have democratized application development at a business level. However, the latter go a step further by making it possible for any company, regardless of its size or sector, to leverage the software, boosting digital transformation, gaining a competitive advantage and improving and simplifying operations.
Broadly speaking, business applications designed using no-code technology can be classified into three different typologies:
- Applications for strictly internal use: Commonly known as internal or specific business applications, they are intended for the development of a business function or the internal management of, for example, the organization’s human resources department (employee onboarding, training courses, holidays and sick leave, work calendar, notifications, etc.).
- Business-to-business (B2B) applications: Those that involve suppliers or distributors and therefore enable communication between several organizations. Some examples of these types of applications can be found in the integral management of exports and logistics.
- Business-to-Customer (B2C) applications: These are customer-oriented and seek to offer a fully personalized user experience. A large number of them run on a web server, which means that users access them via the Internet. Examples include applications used to place orders and pay directly via smartphones through integration with a payment application, loyalty applications, order tracking, etc.
What do the leading analyst firms say about low code/no code?
As we mentioned at the start of this article, for some time now, the main software analyst firms have expressed various opinions on whether low-code and no-code platforms should be considered jointly or, on the contrary, independently.
Given this situation, and in order to shed some light on this issue, here are some of the opinions expressed by leading analyst firms such as Gartner, IDC and Everest Group on how they position low-code and no-code technology.
1. The use of no-code technology will skyrocket in the coming years. This is highlighted by Gartner, one of the leading technology analyst firms, predicting that the use of this technology will almost triple in the next two years, stating that “By 2025, 70% of new applications developed by organizations will use low-code or no-code technologies, up from less than 25% in 2020”.
2. IDC, named analyst firm of the year in 2022, forecasts “worldwide low-code, no-code, and intelligent developer technologies (LCNCIDT) revenue growing to $21.0 billion in 2026” in a recent publication entitled IDC Forecasts Strong Growth for Low-Code, No-Code, and Intelligent Developer Technologies.
The paper also notes that one of the advantages of no code over the other two types of technologies is that it enables “the creation of software (apps, websites, etc.) by developers who do not have a technical background” and that this type of technology provides “visually guided, model-driven, and/or AI-driven technologies to enable the creation of software”.
3. Finally, Everest Group notes in a publication entitled Unpacking the Low Code/No Code Opportunity in Banking Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI), that Low code/no code has made its way into the banking financial services and insurance industry, “easing operations and optimizing costs”. Everest notes that ” this approach provides a visual modeling development tool that business teams can easily use”. However, when faced with the need to choose between one solution or the other, no code will always help to fill the gaps caused by the shortage of professional developers in the labor market.