It is no secret that speed of delivering new and delightful digital customer experience is key to staying ahead in today’s experience economy. Many organisations, however, are struggling to innovate at speed and scale due to the shortage of software developers globally.

While efforts have been made to equip students and upskill existing workers with app development skills, it will take some time before we close the skills gap. This is why 42% of enterprises in Asia Pacific have invested in low-code and no-code platforms in the past year, according to the Technology Vision 2021 report by professional services firm Accenture.

Low-code and no-code (LCNC) platforms enable organisations to democratise app development and increase speed to market by minimising hand-coding. With such platforms, users — even those who may not know programming languages — can drag and drop visual blocks of existing, reusable code into a workflow to create apps quickly. This also ensures that the code used adheres to current IT architecture and standards so that the resulting app is of high quality and requires fewer corrections.

Since LCNC platforms enable anyone within an organisation to develop tools to automate, optimise and improve their daily processes, they propel businesses to scale beyond the scarcity of IT teams and full-time professional developers.
Duncan Eadie, Accenture’s managing director for cloud, infrastructure and engineering, Africa and Asia Pacific

He adds: “Such tools also speed up the development cycle for full-stack developers. Developers can rapidly prototype an interface or process, and create a scaffolding of code where they can simply fill in the missing blanks.”

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Additionally, LCNC platforms can help organisations reduce or eliminate technical debt, which is the implied cost of additional work needed for choosing speed over quality. A recent study by modern application platform provider OutSystems found that companies stand to lose US$6,000 ($8,117) per second by leaving their technical debt issues unaddressed. Nearly seven in 10 IT leaders surveyed globally also believe technical debt limits their organisation’s ability to innovate and distracts them from their core mission.

While many people believe technical debt is primarily created by legacy software, new applications and development strategies are some of the biggest culprits.
Mark Weaser, APAC vice-president, OutSystems

He continues: "It’s therefore critical for companies to build applications in ways that support continuous change to shrink their technical debt. By carefully aligning modern application development platforms, organisational structures and team priorities, any business can steadily pay off debt without compromising the timelines of their current projects.”

benefits of low-code no-code - THE EDGE SINGAPORE
From IDC Infographic, sponsored by OutSystems, “Low-Code App Development: The Modern Asia/Pacific Developer Experience for Digital Transformation” 

Solving real-world problems

LCNC can be leveraged in various ways to add business value across industries. It can help drive new customer-facing applications, create new process flows that complement packaged products, and create new business rules and process controls.

Advanced integrated security provider Certis, for example, transformed its paper-based quality management system into a mobile-first, digital service delivery system by leveraging OutSystems’ low-code development platform.


See also: Business in the fast lane: Accelerating intelligent, future-ready operations


This enables the company to develop more than 50 applications in a year and automate some backroom functions using a robotic process automation tool. Certis also expects to save nearly $250,000 per year, thanks to the new system.

Another company that has experienced the benefits of LCNC is consumer goods company Unilever. By using Informatica’s platform to build a new self-serve supplier portal, Unilever was able to roll out the portal to 90 countries in 90 days and reduce supplier onboarding time from five weeks to mere days.

Emerging use cases of low-code and no-code - THE EDGE SINGAPORE
From IDC Infographic, sponsored by OutSystems, “Low-Code App Development: The Modern Asia/Pacific Developer Experience for Digital Transformation” 

Unlocking low-code/no-code’s full potential

Despite their benefits, LCNC platforms can introduce challenges such as lack of visibility and management of the entire IT architecture. Accenture’s Eadie explains that as development activity moves from the centre of organisations to ordinary users at the edge, IT teams might struggle to keep on top of where and how developments are taking place.

LCNC can also make it more difficult for organisations to protect their data. As Eadie warns: “Business developers or no-code developers may not have sufficient expertise in the associated security risks. This includes deciding configurations, permissions, and access controls, which affect how customer data is siloed and partitioned within these platforms. Those decisions can give rise to inherent risks and are further complicated by the fact that not all LCNC platforms have equal levels of access management.”

Getting the most of LCNC calls for organisations to measure their needs against features of the platforms they adopt.

Organisations should consider if the platform can help streamline processes, allows data and app integration, and enables data management at scale — all from a single place.
Tony Frey, vice president and general manager, Informatica Asia Pacific and Japan

"They also have to ensure that the platform enables regulatory, privacy, and information security compliance so that users can have greater access to high quality, trusted data,” he adds.

The latter is especially key for organisations operating in multiple countries and across regions, given the rising concerns around data protection and the growing regulatory pressure to securely store all data.

Frey advises to “adopt and integrate a complete platform to catalogue, ingest, integrate, cleanse, and govern their data.” By doing so, they can ensure “agility and data transparency when accessing and sharing data across different countries while abiding by various data privacy laws”.

Companies should also ensure their LCNC platform allows them to continuously adapt their applications in tandem with changing business needs. “Rather than focusing solely on development or release management, the best approach is to improve every step across the application lifecycle — from design, development, deployment, monitoring and management through continuous updating of applications,” says OutSystems’s Weaser.

Meanwhile, Eadie urges organisations to start small before scaling the use of LCNC. This will enable them to iron out any kinks before the damage is done, especially in the areas of security, data management and authentication.

"Just like with automobiles, organisations cannot simply hand the keys to a novice (for example, business or no-code developers) and instruct them to “drive”. Instead, organisations need to design LCNC tool sets that operate like bumper cars, which are built to withstand the inevitable collisions that occur when non-IT workers become developers. [The use of LCNC] should only be expanded when business developers and IT staff begin to build their levels of competence and gain a stronger understanding of potential use cases,” he says.

Low code/no-code development here to stay

As organisations race to develop and deliver apps to meet customer demands, LCNC platforms will be increasingly used in concert with more traditional approaches to app development. This might drive the adoption of emerging prescriptive low-code platforms.

“Prescriptive low-code platforms allow users to configure and compose Lego-like blocks of business functionality to create and deliver bespoke enterprise applications. [They prescribe both application architecture and application components to] provide a speed boost in delivering customised solutions that address specific business problems,” says Guannan Lu, an analyst at Forrester.

Weaser also foresees more organisations using AI alongside LCNC platforms in future to further improve “productivity by delivering heightened acceleration and accuracy in app building, and [help] boost innovation and creativity”.

Altogether, LCNC platforms are revolutionising the access we have to technology and lowering the barrier to entry to app development and innovation. Organisations that adopt such platforms will be able to handle growing business demands more effectively and supercharge their ability to compete in the experience economy.

Featured photo: Bloomberg