Low-code is winning the world: will it replace custom software development?

26 November 2021

Veronika Nedashkovskaya

Content Manager

In recent years, we have seen fast digital transformation and automation across multiple business areas. McKinsey argues that the main reasons are the pandemic and the desire of companies to remain competitive in the new economic and business environment. But, as you know, developing from scratch and introducing digital technologies into a business takes time and requires an extended IT staff. As practice shows, some companies are not ready to wait and expand, but half of them want to simplify their work processes. 

Not surprisingly, many companies select low-code software development: about 70% of IT executives use LCAP to complete digitalization. The Rocketech team follows trends in the IT world and tests all new technologies, so we tend to believe these statistics. Today we will talk about the present and future of low-code and answer the main question that worries developers: can it replace custom software development? Let's start with the basics: how it appeared and when low-code platforms (LCAP) are used. 

  1. How low-code impacts enterprise software development 

Coding-free solutions (no-code, zero-code) emerged back in the 90s. The reason for no-code development was the proliferation of complex programming interfaces. The trend towards simplification played a major role as well: remember that products for quick website building, such as FrontPage and Dreamweaver, appeared at that time.

The no-code development approach was innovative: it offered the world the ability to create programs with no coding. Initially, such programming environments were limited and caused difficulties with corporate data security and integration with third-party systems. However, over time, most of these problems have been eliminated.

The evolution of the technology led to a new approach, low-code software development. Coding cannot be removed completely, even in the simplest commands. Sure, it expanded the possibilities of programming and turned ordinary users into citizen developers. Today, any company employee who is far from IT can try on the role of a programmer. Of course, if this specialist understands business processes and knows how to generate ideas quickly. 

For many companies, this is enough to manage and develop IT projects. Gartner states that about 41% of people involved in solution development are not related to IT. In fact, the lack of knowledge and skills is compensated by the capabilities of the platform and simple algorithms that are understandable for a non-core specialist. How is this effect achieved? Let's take a closer look at how LCAP works, what you can create with it, and, most importantly, why.

LCAP: what's the point and business benefit?

Low-code technology allows you to get rid of time-consuming procedures that complicate software development. There are no complex internal codes and libraries. They are replaced by convenient templates presented in a visual format. An ordinary user can use the technology easily, as work with the platform is based on the drag-and-drop model.

If you are not closely familiar with this technology, let's draw an analogy with IKEA (let the developers and IKEA forgive us): to assemble furniture, you do not need special knowledge, skills, and tools to create from scratch. Just use the prepared parts and follow simple instructions. LCAP allows the same thing: you “assemble” apps using visual modeling with an intuitive interface. According to Mendix, 70% of people with no programming experience have mastered the technology in less than a month. 

We dealt with many low-code platforms: from the simplest, based on templates, to full-fledged environments with visual programming languages. As a result, we can distinguish 3 main components responsible for convenient software development.

Standard LCAP structure:

  • Typical functionality: business logic blocks, integration with third-party services, work with databases, AI support. The user receives a complete product or functionality that requires minimal revision based on ready-made APIs.
  • Integrated Development Environment (IDE). This is where the process takes place. The user configures business logic based on ready-made blocks. For example, by selecting elements from the list and dragging them into the work area.
  • Manual coding. Such data processing components are based on APIs, are used in complex and non-standard cases, and, of course, require basic knowledge.

Popular platforms like Zoho Creator, Shopify, or Divi, Zapier work according to the low-code and no-code development principles. Drag-and-drop visual designers allow creating programs to solve various business problems. According to Gartner, most often (in 58% of cases), the technology is used to develop apps for data collection. There are also other purposes: process management (49%), improving document flow and communications (42%), customizing UI for current on-premise apps (22%).

Based on the listed features, we can highlight the strengths of low-code for business users who are far from software development.

4 reasons for LCAP:

  • Fast product launch. The platforms offer ready-made corporate solutions for various industries such as fintech or trade (including e-commerce). We have noticed that it reduces development and deployment times by 90%.
  • Minimum investment. Of course, if you compare the barriers to using low-code and services custom software development, the former has fewer. It applies to both technical skills and initial investment. 
  • Flexibility and security. Modern solutions provide a decent level of protection for business data and transactions and simplify the management of key processes.
  • Reduced load. About 80% of companies admit that the transition to such platforms has simplified the work of the IT department. It makes it possible to focus on priority tasks. 

Saved time, money, and effort are the main value of the LCAP for corporate use. For companies, it is a chance to accelerate their response to changing business needs and keep their workforce productive with limited resources. Sounds exciting, but is it really so simple? Next, let's talk about the weaknesses of the technology and see why you should be careful when using it.

Weaknesses and Limitations of LCAP

Having analyzed dozens of industry studies, we are convinced that some experts do not have a positive opinion about the technology. So, Thomas Stiehm from Coveros is not sure if it is the future of code. He argues this with a high risk of breaking the code when the solution becomes more complex. For our part, we can highlight a few more restrictions that force businesses to be more careful. 

LCAP limits you in:

  • Free action. Yes, the user can operate with many blocks, adapting the software to suit their needs. But the freedom of action is determined not by their desire but by the "generosity" of the supplier and the number of integrations. 
  • Ways to achieve goals. This is one of the easiest and fastest ways,  but it is not suitable for specific projects. The business user does not have the experience, knowledge, and skills, and the platform may not have the necessary tools.
  • Scaling. This is an excellent option for quickly launching a project, but not for scaling. After that, introducing individual solutions can be even more expensive.

And one more point that many people do not mention: it is more difficult to find a developer to implement ready-made solutions. Yes, working with a low-code environment empowers business users. However, sometimes it is essential to involve professionals in custom projects. A logical question arises: when to use low-code?

Is low-code a replacement for custom software development?

The answer is that the benefits of LCAP are not comparable to the benefits of custom design. However, having more than 5 years of experience in IT, we see the value in each technology, so we do not advise you to abandon one and focus on another. There is a middle ground: using low-code not as a substitute but as a valuable addition.

We recommend choosing low-code in the following situations:

  • expanding existing projects, for example, connecting to an app via API (but even here you need developers);
  • building MVP for making decisions and improving the functionality;
  • achieving your goal and performing simple tasks for which a ready-made solution is ideal;
  • a harmonious match with a supplier who is exclusively focused on your industry.

As we said at the beginning, low-code is a good way to accelerate digitalization. Good, but not the only one. ROCKETECH managed to transform processes from scratch Roulette Live casino using traditional methods. We took part in desktop development, UX/UI creation, adaptation for iOS and Android using NodeJS, React, React Native, NestJS, JSBerry, and MongoDB technologies. The finished product turned out to be 10 times cheaper than the boxed solution and much more functional.

So, low-code software development deserves to be a trend in IT. Flexibility, adaptability, and agility will always attract business. By 2024, almost 65% of apps will be based on the low-code principle. But you should always keep in mind that you may face limitations in configuring business logic, scalability, and recruiting non-citizen developers.

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