No-code and low-code technologies have been making inroads for years but have never quite delivered on their promise as reliable alternatives to traditional software development for complex, business-critical applications. Then COVID-19 forced a new, expedited timeline for moving analog in-person processes to semi- or fully-automated online ones. At the same time, IT and engineering roadmaps have been thrown out the window as technical teams scramble to adjust to new distributed working conditions while juggling multiple "hair on fire" problems. As a result, operations and business teams have been left with urgent needs for new business applications and scant developer resources, creating the perfect storm for no- or low-code solutions to emerge as the savior of productivity. But decision-makers should be wary of treating these platforms as a panacea to avoid costly failures and lost time.
What Are No-Code and Low-Code Technologies?
To understand how no- and low-code solutions fill the gap between business demand for development and supply of technical resources, it is helpful to understand what those terms mean exactly. No-code platforms allow people with no technical knowledge to stand up complex, cloud-based business applications using simple, drag-and-drop tooling. Relatedly, low-code platforms are also based on the concept of abstraction through pre-built software building blocks oriented towards accelerating time to development by reducing the amount of “original” code that needs to be written in any given application. Perhaps because of their shared DNA, there is a trend towards convergence; as no-code platforms become more powerful and versatile with add-ons and application marketplaces, and low-code platforms build features to require less coding. Given this trend, we can collectively refer to these platforms as Low-code Development Platforms.