Low code is a visual technique for developing software. It abstracts and automates each process within the app development life cycle to enable the rapid delivery of a variety of software solutions. By eliminating the complexity associated with writing manual code, it breaks the traditional siloed approach between business and IT and supports continuous collaboration.
With low code development, one does not need an in-depth understanding of coding techniques. Instead, basic experience with coding is enough to generate quality software. Thus, with limited knowledge, a non-technical user can produce good output.
By definition, a Low Code Development Platform (LCDP) is software that allows users to create innovative applications using graphical user interfaces for configuration and deployment, as opposed to traditional computer programming. Low Code Development Platforms provide tooling for visual app assembly as well as collaboration tools to help employees from different departments work on shared app builds.
In this post, we will outline the growth of low code development, talk about companies that support this technique, and discuss industry trends.
Low Code Development Platforms in Practice
LCDPs offer graphical tools to design applications, including all of their necessary inputs, outputs, business logic, and other aspects. Depending on the LCDP being used and the system's requirements, the developer may or may not have to enhance the generated applications with some traditional code. Several LCDP platforms can generate a working solution with no code required.
In general, the low code development process includes mapping out user interface designs, APIs, databases, and client-specific features to generate a specification that the platform will follow to produce a working system. Because the platform automates most of the underlying app assembly, an LCDP user needs only very basic coding ability.
Using LCDPs, small companies can design and build complex business applications at minimal cost by avoiding the need to hire expensive developers or other firms to manage the design and development work. Similarly, an entrepreneur who has average computer knowledge can try new ideas, build a product, and release a fully functional app with desired characteristics. This is very useful for people who have no time to learn software engineering (sometimes called "citizen developers").
Low code and no-code development techniques aren't a new idea. They're based on classic trends in IT, such as rapid development, computer-aided software engineering tools (CASE), and fourth-generation programming languages. Today's low-code push reflects technology's growing ability to automate almost all of the application development cycle, including modern considerations like cloud computing and DevOps.
Low-Code Development Platforms for Enterprise
Some leading low code development platforms for enterprise organizations include Microsoft PowerApps, Salesforce, Mendix, Google App Maker, Appian, and Track Via. Established enterprise software platforms like SAP and Oracle also offer low-code tooling as part of their overall software suites.
Some of the benefits of using these low code platforms are:
- Cross-platform support, security, and data integration can be built and customized easily.
- There is no need for specific coding languages.
- Users can build apps for complex platforms.
- One can update and deliver new features in a limited amount of time.
Some of the drawbacks of using existing low code platforms for enterprise are:
- Closed or proprietary codebases – many of these tools do not let users access or customize the underlying code that powers their apps.
- No security audit access – enterprise organizations operating in tightly regulated sectors cannot implement custom security configurations.
- No chain of custody for data – users may not know where or how their application data is hosted.
- Limited third-party integrations – users may be limited to out-of-the-box integrations or have to pay extra for custom API integrations.
- Limited functionality – users are limited to the visual tools supported by the platform and may not be able to implement highly custom features.
Low Code Development Ecosystem
Not all low-code tools for enterprise are LCDPs. Some non-LCDPs that also offer low-code tooling include the following:
dashdash: Web applications powered by spreadsheets
Dashdash is a tool that enables users to create basic applications for spreadsheet-style calculations. Users can connect a simple interface to a database-style backend to provide seamless functionality. It is user-friendly and can be created with minimal coding. Users can write formulae into the cells to interact with online services, and it can automate several workflows like lead generation, marketing campaigns, dashboards, and lead generation activities.
Gitlab: Code collaboration tool
Gitlab is an open-source tool utilized by developers to generate and handle code. It provides the tools necessary for storage, management, code reviews, and tracking problems. Some of the leading organizations using Gitlab are Dell, IBM, Nasa, SpaceX, and more. It seamlessly integrates with low-code platforms to allow customization of code.
Tidelift: Manage open-source code packages
Tidelift is a subscription-based service that manages open source software dependencies. It acts as a single source to purchase and handle open source software with the advantage of professional support. It tracks more than 2.6 million open-source packages, supporting user-generated projects, enabling the building of applications, and maintaining relationships between dependencies.
NEAR: Decentralized application platform
NEAR is a scalable smart contract platform that helps users build and deploy decentralized applications. It allows developers to construct, test, and deploy blockchain applications that manage a wide range of digital properties.
Textile: Application development and data repository
Sourcegraph: Code search and hosting
Sourcegraph is a code hosting platform that increases productivity, improves collaboration, and integrates with other development tools, supporting teams to develop better software. Its features include code search, review, and problem tracking, while its enterprise version also helps with scalability and continuous backups.
Crowdbotics: All-in-One Low-Code Development for Enterprise
Crowdbotics provides nearly all of the above low-code services in a single platform, making it a leading choice for enterprise development. Its out-of-the-box features include:
- Drag-and-drop UI design interface
- Visual storyboard for mapping user flows
- Real-time React Native/Django code generation in private GitHub repo
- Visual data model builder
- Task management and estimate tools
- Shared views into active builds for all users
- Built-in, configurable infrastructure and hosting
- One-click addition of prebuilt code modules
- Interactive app emulation within the project dashboard
More importantly, Crowdbotics offers enterprise organizations advantages that most LCDPs do not:
- Full code access
- Human-readable and auditable code
- Total control over cloud or on-premise data storage
- Configurable API integrations
- Full customization available via manual coding
Are enterprise companies trending toward low-code development?
Tech buzz comes in waves, with different trends coming into focus at different times. Remember the 2016 boom in chatbots? Chatbot applications have since been adopted in different domains like e-commerce, banking, and travel as a direct communication channel between companies and end users.
We have also witnessed the early AI bubble, a cannabis-driven wave, and the blockchain rush. Today, we're seeing spikes in the neo-banking industry and robo-advising.
Fads are not new in the world of tech. Thus, with venture investment inclining toward enterprise software and use of Software as a Service (SaaS), low-code development platforms have become the talk of Silicon Valley. The future of low-code is a hot topic with profound implications for startups operating in this space.
Ultimately, whether these startups succeed will be determined by how well they can penetrate the enterprise market. Enterprise viability enables startups to secure consistent earnings, credibility among investors, and rapid, widespread adoption.
It stands to reason that industries like IT, healthcare, government and defense, retail and e-commerce, manufacturing, and banking/financial service/insurance (BFSI) are likely to adopt LCDP solutions in the coming years. Companies utilizing low-code platforms stand to gain from the flexible economic conditions and developing digitalization predicted across most sectors. Moreover, the rise of digital transformation initiatives at enterprise organizations creates an obvious use case for non-technical managers to implement streamlined tooling in place of creaky legacy systems.
Also, according to one forecast, "APAC has observed an advanced and dynamic adoption of new technologies and is expected to target the highest Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in global LCDP." Major economies such as Japan, China, New Zealand are expected to drive large-scale adoption of LCDP tools.
Low-code development certainly seems like the future of enterprise apps. However, the critical features that determine the viability of low-code platforms in the enterprise space include security, infrastructure, and deployment.
In the field of enterprise software, platforms need to generate auditable, open source code and ensure a chain of custody for data storage. This restricts data storage to certain geographic regions and can also help apps on the platform achieve regulatory compliance like HIPAA and FERPA.
A good low-code platform also permits role-based permission settings. When it comes to infrastructure and deployment, it is essential that the platform handle infrastructure, hosting, and maintenance for non-technical users. This functionality should come out-of-the-box. Moreover, to cater to varied requirements, infrastructure and hosting settings need to be configurable, e.g. cloud vs. on-premise.
Crowdbotics is a leading low-code platform that provides all the above features and many more. We also offer managed application development that blends the sophistication of our low-code tooling with expert PMs and developers for enterprise-scale app development. If you're curious to see how Crowdbotics differentiates itself from other enterprise low-code platforms, feel free to get in touch with our experts today.