Why low-code and no-code are the future of enterprise applications
You’ve heard it before. Today, every company is a software company.
In the digital era, it’s impossible to achieve your business objectives without a full arsenal of enterprise applications to support internal functions. Having the right tools enables your employees to extract the most value from data, improve process efficiency, reduce manual work, and increase overall speed.
Yet many organizations are struggling to equip their teams with the tools they need.
This challenge can be boiled down to five main obstacles:
- Lack of bandwidth – IT developers are inundated and don’t have the capacity to keep up with internal demand for custom applications.
- Inadequate budget – Individual teams and departments often can’t afford to purchase necessary apps or hire experts to create the tools they need.
- Obsolete legacy systems – Although there is a clear need to modernize outdated systems, untangling them from business processes and replacing them with agile digital systems is disruptive and expensive.
- Skills gap – Non-technical business users (“citizen employees”) lack the knowledge and experience required to build the code-intensive apps they require in their daily workflows.
- Need for speed – Even with effective DevOps in place, the speed of development itself is often slow because of its complexity. As a result, maximizing developer productivity amid rising demand for enterprise applications is a major challenge.
Fortunately, low-code/no-code platforms can cater to all of the above challenges. For developers, “low-code” capabilities enable them to work faster and more efficiently. For non-developers, “no-code” tools empower them to build, modify, and use enterprise apps that fulfill emerging needs almost as soon as that need arises.
Low-code/no-code software enables organizations to face emerging needs with speed and agility. They help organizations solve business problems, enhance team collaboration and productivity, achieve business objectives, and develop a mature digital ecosystem to gain a competitive edge.
Understanding low-code and no-code platforms
Low-code/no-code platforms enable users to build complete applications using a visual development approach rather than through the traditional method of writing thousands of lines of complex code — an otherwise resource-intensive, complex, and lengthy process.
While low-code and no-code work best when used together, there are differences between them and they are not interchangeable.
No-code platforms are designed to enable business users with no coding experience to assemble applications using reusable, functional building blocks.
Low-code platforms require some coding but make it far easier and faster for developers to churn out new apps.
Both low-code and no-code platforms provide IT with full governance over which users have access to data, functionality and systems. IT maintains measures to secure the data in accordance with the company’s security policies.
When combined, low-code/no-code platforms enable rapid application development that fulfills precise business needs with the talent and resources you have today.
Low-code allows IT to create new, reusable building blocks that business users can then augment and maintain autonomously without any additional coding.
Unlock speed and unleash new levels of productivity
Low-code/no-code platforms help boost the autonomy of non-development teams within large enterprises to fulfill their own need for business applications without relying on or waiting for IT to get around to it.
With these capabilities, citizen employees without development skills or expertise in data science can build functional enterprise apps with modern user interfaces that can integrate into your core business systems. At the same time, these platforms empower IT developers to complete complex tasks faster and more effectively.
This alleviates a major burden on busy IT and development teams while increasing the overall pace of application development. It also saves money by eliminating the need to hire specialized experts or purchase new enterprise apps every time the need arises.
However, no-code software is not a replacement for developers or data scientists. Instead, these platforms supplement and expand on existing internal capabilities to enable business functions and boost speed and agility.
What are enterprise applications?
Before we dive into all of the ways organizations can put low-code/no-code platforms to use, let’s first cover some important terminology.
When we say “enterprise applications,” what exactly do we mean?
Enterprise applications, also referred to as enterprise software applications, are defined as software that large organizations use to build and run core business functions, such as sales, customer support, marketing, supply chain, or business intelligence. They interface or integrate with other enterprise applications, which together create a larger enterprise system.
What qualifies an app as “enterprise-level”?
Technology that is categorized as “enterprise-level” is designed to serve corporations that have hundreds or thousands of employees. These organizations have demand for comprehensive, robust, scalable, and secure solutions.
Implementation, onboarding, & security: 3 major challenges of enterprise apps
Although they are designed to serve large businesses, the very scale of enterprise-level software can be an obstacle. Enterprise solutions often come with disruptive and lengthy implementations that require expertise to bring to life.
For example, many organizations hire consultants to help them compare vendors or determine how to fulfill needs for enterprise apps in-house. Aside from the cost of the software itself, the implementation can be expensive in terms of lost productivity. Finally, ongoing management is demanding on IT professionals, which often results in the need to expand the IT team and recruit platform-specific experts.
Enterprise business applications also usually require significant time, energy, and resources devoted to user onboarding. Let’s face it, no one ever thinks of enterprise apps as something fun or easy to use. In fact, onboarding is one of the most challenging aspects of enterprise tech.
Without effective onboarding, users will struggle to use enterprise apps. According to a study by WalkMe, 74.1% of employees said poor software training is the biggest barrier to usability. A mere 14.5% said they are very satisfied with the usability of their workplace software.
Ineffective training and usability issues contribute to low digital adoption, which means users will be unable to utilize the software’s important features and capabilities that drive business value. If users are only taking advantage of a few basic functions, the technology’s ROI is automatically lower. In the worst-case scenario, employees will avoid using it altogether. For many employees, sticking to outdated or inefficient processes seems like an easier alternative than undergoing time-consuming training on a confusing new platform.
Security is another important issue to consider when implementing and using enterprise-level software. Identity and access management is a primary concern for security teams, which are tasked with ensuring all software solutions and users are in compliance with the highest security standards.
Enterprises need the platforms they use to have granular but clear permissions to securely manage thousands of users, which makes SSO integration crucial. Additionally, two-factor authentication has become a common requirement for many enterprises. It’s important to note that many low-code and no-code platforms still lack this capability, so it’s crucial to check that the solution you are considering offers it before you buy.
Common SaaS enterprise applications examples
SaaS enterprise applications are driving massive growth in global IT spending. Worldwide, SaaS represents the largest market segment, with revenue projected to rise from $99.5 billion in 2019 to $116 billion in 2020, according to Gartner. By 2022, the SaaS industry is expected to be worth $151 billion.
SaaS products account for a large portion of enterprise applications, and will continue to dominate the IT market. Here is a list of common SaaS enterprise applications:
- Communications software (Zoom, Slack)
- Customer service software (Intercom, Zendesk)
- Email marketing systems (Hubspot, Marketo)
- Customer relationship management (Salesforce, Oracle CRM)
- Human resources software (Workday, SuccessFactors, Talentsoft)
- Enterprise resource planning software (Netsuite, Microsoft Dynamics AX, SAP)
Off-the-shelf vs. custom apps
A major decision software buyers and enterprise applications managers face when pursuing an enterprise application investment is whether they should purchase off-the-shelf enterprise applications or custom apps. Unfortunately, both of these options have significant drawbacks that overburden internal IT departments and result in higher costs.
Off-the-shelf applications are prebuilt with a set of functionality that is designed to serve as broad a user base as possible. They may be loaded with features and capabilities, but only a subset will be relevant to the precise business need or problem you are trying to solve (and you’ll still be paying for all of them).
While off-the-shelf apps might be less expensive upfront, many impose limitations on when and how often they can be updated and how they can be adapted for new or changing business scenarios. After purchasing the software, you may need to pay for subsequent updates or new functionality.
Another drawback is that getting the most of these applications require users to change the way they work. Instead of adopting a tool that can be adapted to fit your organization’s needs and enhance current processes, off-the-shelf apps often require you to change your processes to fit the software.
This creates a major adoption challenge. First, employees are likely to resist changes to processes they are familiar with and believe in, especially when they also need to learn a new software on top of it. The cost of understanding which processes need to change, training employees, and reinforcing these changes are incredibly high for large companies.
Finally, adopting a generic solution doesn’t do much for your competitive advantage or your brand’s ability to seem innovative.
Custom-built software is a popular alternative because of its ability to cater to each business’s individual requirements. Unlike off-the-shelf software, custom solutions are built specifically for each organization that buys it, ensuring that it fulfills your organization’s unique needs.
User adoption also tends to be easier. Custom-built software is tailored to fit into existing employee workflows and is flexible enough to be modified as business needs and practices change over time.
However, building new software from the ground up is highly resource intensive and expensive. Most often, organizations that desire a custom application choose this option because there is no off-the-shelf solution that meets their needs. Whether they choose to hire a contractor to build the software for them or develop it in-house, the broad scope of the project will require a much higher budget and more time.
The cost of keeping custom-built software maintained and hosted are also important to consider. Each time the enterprise wishes to implement software updates or identifies the need to fix security issues, that will require large amounts of developer time — which is expensive for all enterprises and scarce for many.
How low-code/no-code platforms are disrupting enterprise applications development
Often, neither off-the-shelf software nor custom solutions fulfill enterprises’ need for rapid deployment of highly tailored business apps.
Low-code/no-code platforms have emerged as a vital force and a popular alternative to application development.
Indeed, by 2024, three out of four large enterprises will be using a minimum of four low-code development tools to support IT application development and citizen development initiatives, according to Gartner. By the same time, low-code application development will account for more than 65% of all app development activity.
What is driving up demand?
There are a few primary factors that are fueling demand for low-code/no-code platforms.
There is the crucial need to modernize aging legacy systems, the shortage of qualified full-stack developers, and the skyrocketing need for advanced enterprise apps.
Organizations experience these challenges to varying degrees, but they are all interconnected. For traditional companies and even some startups, reliance on legacy systems that are deeply embedded into core business processes can be hard to uproot, even when the need for a more sophisticated tool is clear.
Finding qualified developers is always a challenge, and attracting them to your organization is another. However, without talented developers, creating new internal systems from scratch will not be an option. Even with them, building new tools in-house is often unjustifiably expensive.
Meanwhile, teams and departments throughout the enterprise are all demanding new tools to enable them to better do their jobs. Internal IT developers simply cannot keep up.
Dealing with all of these concerns requires valuable time and resources, which slows down the business.
This is where the true value of low-code/no-code platforms comes into play.
Low-code/no-code platforms equip enterprises to fulfill demand
Low-code/no-code platforms enable and empower businesses to fulfill the demand for new enterprise applications without overburdening IT, depleting resources, or filling high-cost talent shortages — three significant barriers to enterprise application acquisition and development.
As Gartner states in its Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms report, “[Low-code application] vendors represent the vanguard of the movement to democratize application development by increasingly replacing standard business application development in Java or .NET, and providing differentiating alternatives to commercial off-the-shelf or SaaS applications.”
The ability of “citizen” employees to use no-code visual development tools and fulfill their own needs not only democratizes a crucial capability in enterprises, but it also unlocks new levels of speed.
Compared with traditional software development, low-code/no-code platforms can increase programmers’ efficiency by 50%-90%, according to a study by 451 Research.
John Rymer, VP and Principal Analyst of Forrester, suggested that low-code can make software development 10-times faster than the method of writing complex code.
At the same time, low-code development tools will allow developers to achieve unprecedented speed with automation and visual editing. With both low-code and no-code platforms, organizations can quickly transform mere ideas into functional, time-saving apps. The result is greater speed and agility while raising the overall quality of work.
What kinds of applications should be built with no-code/low-code platforms?
When most people think of enterprise apps, they automatically think of the core systems of record, such as CRM, ERP, and HCM solutions. These systems — while large in scope — represent only a small part of the digital ecosystem with which employees interface on a daily basis.
In reality, employees use dozens of apps designed to fulfill specific, niche use cases within larger domains. For example, marketers don’t only use the CRM. They require a wide breadth of tools, including those that can monitor their specific KPIs, automate email marketing, perform data analytics and reporting, manage social media planning, track content journeys, manage campaigns and events, and much more. Each of these tools come with their own costs, training requirements, security concerns, user adoption challenges, IT administration needs, etc.
According to Blissfully’s 2019 SaaS Trends report, the average enterprise employee uses eight apps per day. Organizations of 501 to 1,000 employees use an average of 151 apps, while enterprises of 1,001+ employees have a stack of 203 apps.
This is one reason low-code/no-code tools have arised as essential assets. As the need for new, specific applications emerges, organizations can position themselves to build highly customized, scalable, and secure solutions in-house at a low cost with low-code/no-code platforms. With them, you can empower employees and turn business ideas into functioning solutions in a short period of time.
Let’s go over a few examples:
Successful marketing requires high-level data analytics, constant experimentation, and rapid delivery.
As Matt Nigh, a Seattle-based IT thought leader wrote on Medium, “Any developer who has worked for a marketing team knows you are never fast enough. Marketers want things immediately — even when imperfect.”
Low-code/no-code platforms that help marketers reduce reliance on IT will ultimately empower them to achieve the level of speed and customization they’re after. For example, no-code platforms that allow them to plan, run, and track cross-channel marketing campaigns — with all the required workflows and reporting — will empower them to become more self-sufficient and effective in pursuing their goals.
Enterprise application integration and automation
As employees’ digital toolbox continues to expand, a host of new technological, business, and user challenges have arised.
Integrating a high volume of complex and disparate systems is a major technical challenge. And while businesses understand the need to equip employees with emerging digital capabilities, they often overlook how the abundance of tools can actually detract from productivity and contribute to fatigue.
As a result, there is a clear need for seamless cross-platform workflows to safeguard speed and efficiency. Currently, workflow automation is one of the more mature capabilities of low-code/no-code technologies, and can be applied to virtually any process.
For example, low-code/no-code software that integrates with your existing apps can streamline information sharing and automate workflows. This is the easiest way to fulfill the rising need for new capabilities while mitigating the effects of digital fragmentation.
For example, with a solution that enables seamless integration, IT will no longer need to manage accounts and permissions in multiple systems for each employee who needs access, because you can deliver this capability through one integrated app. Achieving this capability via low-code/no-code application development reduces a heavy burden on IT and allows them to focus their expertise on more demanding tasks.
Even though developers have the expertise and knowledge to build apps with complex code, they can benefit from low-code/no-code software that helps them work faster and cut out tedious processes.
Low-code/no-code capabilities have the potential to shave huge chunks of time off of developers’ work, allowing them to prototype, test, and deploy tools at a rapid speed. These platforms speed up development by allowing developers to skip repetitive, mundane work and automate technical tasks.
With visual modeling, developers can gain a clearer understanding of requirements, create better designs, and ultimately build more maintainable systems. Another benefit of less manual coding is that there is less room for errors, which enables even greater cost savings in the long-term.
Low-code/no-code’s role in enterprise application development: 2020 and beyond
Today, effective IT requires smart enterprise system management, which increasingly means building a custom-made digital ecosystem. As organizations continue investing in digital transformation technologies, they must consider what apps and platforms will fulfill their specific needs at the lowest cost, with least internal IT resources, and with minimal disruption.
Enterprise applications managers, IT team leads, CIOs, CTOs, and department heads will raise their IT infrastructure to a higher level by adopting platforms that offer low-code and no-code application development.
Low-code/no-code technology enables organizations to overcome the usual obstacles in acquiring enterprise applications and satisfying unique needs. Departments throughout the organization have the potential to develop, test, and use apps without relying on IT.
After alleviating some of this demand, organizations can benefit from greater bandwidth for custom applications, lower costs, faster deployment, and easier transitions from legacy systems to modern applications.
Some companies have already begun to understand the value of low-code technology, but haven’t realized how the addition of no-code tools for business users can heighten those benefits even more. With both, developers can focus on high-value work, while business users enjoy the independence of building and improving apps to serve their own needs.