The low code conundrum and its impact on business operations
News | 25 Sep 2021
Low code platforms can support businesses looking to launch ideas, products, services, and even new business units quicker than traditional development methods. Low code platforms can be applied to all-encompassing digital experience challenges and specific industry problems, i.e., e-commerce and those that are context-specific, i.e., internal HR tools. Within low code platforms, you’ll often find themed elements that respond to various industry-focused and department-specific business challenges with UI (User Interface) kits regularly updated.
However, although these graphical user interfaces can power accelerated delivery, they’re not a silver software engineering bullet and should not be treated as such.
The benefits of low code
Speed to Market
Time often kills innovation, however, with the right low code platform and expertise, its impact can be harnessed to bring innovative ideas to life swiftly. Low code platforms contain native component libraries which promote speed to value. Moreover, if the idea does not work out as intended, low code can also easily be reconfigured quickly and cost-efficient.
Due to its inherent agility, organizations can embody an experimentation-led mindset. Whether that’s on the platforms employees interact with, new flows for core technology or customer-facing experiences, low code products can work to bring value-generating or cost optimizing ideas to life.
Fostering a sense of participation around the concept of innovation and experimentation organization-wide results in other benefits like improved employee satisfaction and increased motivation. In the most successful businesses ideas come from anywhere, in a modern enterprise having a centralized IT team focusing on the next low-code application is a siloed way to work and doesn’t capture what employees experience day-to-day. By using low code, you can start to democratize the process of solving business issues and customer challenges with technology; fast.
Automation drives efficiency
As much as designers and engineers alike try to bring unique button styles and form fields (amongst other elements of interfaces) to life, low code platforms contain an array of out of the box buttons, coded forms and other components.
This involves components that can quickly form into pages and flows ready for testing with customers or employees before being fully rolled out to the entire intended audience. Insight about performance can then be captured on an ongoing basis through using optimization and analytics tools to measure engagement. This data can then be used to troubleshoot emerging issues.
Bringing alignment to the fore
Engineering can often seem abstract, even to those considered technologically savvy. Low code’s predominantly visual interfaces can make the abstract tangible. Whether that’s complicated workflows and the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), the technologies and processes that support them, or the front-end interfaces that ultimately deliver them to employees or customers.
When using low code, engineers aren’t squirrelling away on code that is only discussed in abstract terms and infrequently shared with stakeholders and budget holders. Components can easily be dragged, dropped and tweaked according to real-time feedback. Moreover, changes of direction or priority from customers or the business are more manageable, due to the inherent breadth of the libraries that underpin them.
The disadvantages of low code
Don’t forget your base knowledge
Low code has many advantages, but a base technology and engineering knowledge has been crucial across the low code projects we’ve worked on. Without knowledge of things like responsive components and more rudimentary elements of code bases, like the structure of the language and syntax, low code development can lose sight of the inherent complexity of digital engineering.
Knowledge of technology and code also comes in handy when making tweaks to existing components within low code platforms. This is often needed when more bespoke elements are required to meet customer or employee needs. Granted, with some low code platforms customization is easier, but even here to be able to flex components engineering knowledge is required.
Align to the vision for design and engineering
When making low code platform choices, designers, engineers and stakeholders must come together to understand what the platform of choice can and cannot do before they begin work. For example, design on a low code project may be better directed towards production as opposed to the creation of bespoke elements and interactions.
Some may argue that this creates soulless, uniform applications that lack life. However, sometimes what is required to respond to the need at hand is a functional piece of technology which customers or employees can use with ease. Moreover, this sets the baseline for something which can be expanded upon and developed iteratively over time.
Take some time to get it right
Proponents of low code often talk about scale and rapid deployment but taking time to establish a design system, with documentation, rationale etc. based on the components from the low code platform that is being used to create it, will save time and effort down the line. Taking this approach will mean you can scale and adapt to a variety of use cases at velocity.
Supporting any establishment of a design system and application of low code must be creative oversight, good user experience design practices and genuine insight from research and testing. Their usage can be lean to support fast-paced sprints, but these methods are fundamental to the success of your application of low code. Without this approach, such creations can fail to promote continued use with people preferring older applications or workarounds.
The answer to the low code conundrum is not to place every touchpoint within your business onto these platforms. They are powerful tools, but like any technology choice they require consideration. The best way to approach the problem is to consider the time, budget and customer or employee needs the application of the platform is looking to solve – then and only then should they be chosen.
This process needn’t be a lengthy deliberation, but it’s important to stop and consider that you’re solving the right problem in the right way by applying the right tools for the job. Making informed choices of this kind can help accelerate your speed to market and value while also saving you headaches further down the line if what was required was a more bespoke solution. The key objective must revolve around bringing value for the organization.