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The Rise of No-code

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This article provides introductory information on no-code and low-code application platforms. These forms of applications are something we’re hearing more about in the enterprise software industry. We’re seeing new market entrants designed on these platforms, and we see similar adaptations being made to legacy applications.This article discusses the basics of no-code and presents some implications of no-code applications within organizations. We also raise some relevant questions if you are considering adopting no-code technologies in your organization and what it could mean for your ERP systems.What is No-code?The concept of no-code is about declaring the result you want without declaring how you are going to accomplish that result. Building software applications to accomplish the ‘what’ and not worrying about the ‘how’ enables end users to take on more of what was traditionally the development role.The graphic below shows how programming languages have evolved over the years, from the early days of machine code to the current state of no-code applications. The evolution in languages dictates an evolving role for software developers.

Citizen DevelopersNo-code enables the idea of ‘citizen developers’ - the potential for more people in the organization to participate in the development effort. Citizen developers are users who can move an idea into the conceptual phase quickly and can put their problem-solving skills to work even though they don’t have traditional coding skills.Programming with no-code platforms is very visual. User interface builders, reusable components, drag-and-drop tools, interfacing tools and visual process modeling are all built into the toolset. They are meant to enable a broader range of people to develop and do so faster. No-code platforms encompass building blocks that have logic built-in.It is important to note that no-code is different from low-code in that low-code offers lots of complexity but leverages repeatable functions to make development faster. Low-code is still a tool for developers and usually needs to be augmented with more traditional programming.

“The declarative nature of no-code is what makes it appealing to business users who know what problem they want to solve and what features their apps should have. No-code platforms empower business users to create apps by describing what they want to achieve.” - Praven Seshadri, AppSheet/Google Cloud[i]

The Emergence of No-codeToday, major cloud companies are making major investments in no-code platforms.Google recently made a major acquisition of AppSheet and is integrating it with the Google Suite. Microsoft is betting big on the Power Apps platform, and Amazon announced Honeycode as its version of a no-code platform. The ServiceNow Now Platform is designed to quickly build business applications through a single mobile and web platform.Facts about No-codeWhere is this drive toward no-code coming from? Consider these statements:

  1. No-code platforms can speed development up to 16 times faster, depending on the platform [ii]
  2. “There is a 1 million developer shortfall in the U.S. alone, and all these companies are struggling to create content and applications to go truly digitally native. You don’t need someone who studied comp sci for four years,” Charles Lamanna, Microsoft.
  3. “No-code development is also a solution to a supply-and-demand problem: a rising demand for generating more software, but a limited number of developers who can create that software.” (Rina Diane Caballar, IEEE Spectum)[iii]

Advantages for using No-code for Enterprise grade ApplicationsLow-code and no-code platforms can be tools used to advance your digital business transformation:

  • Reduce time to translate business requirements into new applications and alleviate developer backlog
  • Avoid “shadow IT” by enabling a single platform that can used by business experts and still managed and governed by IT
  • Automate operational processes.

Moving quickly to enhance or pivot business operations or move into new strategic directions is so important today. The agile and distributed development nature of no-code enables organizations to deploy and implement new tools at speed to take advantage of opportunities in their markets.Business-focused ResultsNew business applications designed to improve processes and solve current challenges are now possible. Users are able to make their applications work better for them. This has the potential to provide increased value and lower costs to the business.The No-Code Role of ITNo-code does not eliminate the need for IT involvement. No-code merely extends the development function into the business. IT within the organization will likely still own the governance of all applications (no matter the platform they are built on) and will be responsible for integrating applications into the overall IT ecosystem and setting up the required maintenance.

“To prepare for and be ready to fully take advantage of the benefits low-code/no-code can offer, organizations should put in place an integrated, “all hands on deck” approach, where apps built by citizen developers are governed and managed by IT, leading to a more successful digital transformation. While there will undoubtedly still be bumps in the road ahead, it’s time to set aside reservations and explore the possibilities of low-code/no-code — but not without a solid plan in place”. - Claus Jepsen, Forbes[iv]

Is it time to get on board with No-code?Today’s users of enterprise systems are more capable than ever. They are accustomed to the control they have over technology. They choose what apps to download on their phones, how they interact with notifications, and are problem solvers.Today’s users “… see technology as a way to create value in their work, opening doors to innovation and higher efficiency, and providing new ways of accomplishing goals.” Claus Jepsen, Forbes[v]Enabling this in your ERP system puts the power in your people. Using these applications suddenly become more personal and relatable. JD Edwards EnterpriseOne is already on trend with no-code with User Defined Objects. Nextworld is also positioned nicely through Nextbot and other customization elements.Shifting to support no-code development within an organization requires important cultural shifts:

  • IT and the Business must work together
  • It needs strong logic and analytical skills (often present in Developers)
  • The governance model for developing and publishing applications will need to adjust
  • Citizen Developers will need training and mentorship.

Nextworld ImpactsNextworld’s Nextbot solution offers a no-code option to quickly build applications that include logic and workflow capabilities. It also offers important integration points and technologies to tie into other applications, a necessity in today’s API economy. Nextbot is a robust platform, able to support enterprise applications as evidenced by the Nextworld ERP solution.JD Edwards ImpactsJD Edwards EnterpriseOne is a fully established legacy ERP system. While traditional development in JDE requires C++ skills, the new User Defined Object functionality takes advantage of no-code ideas. Oracle is also putting big investment into the Orchestrator Studio as a low-code tool.SummaryAt ERP-One, we’re focused on providing our clients with advice and services to maximize the value of their ERP system. Whether you’re looking to keep your EnterpriseOne system operating at its best, or considering a new ERP such as Nextworld, we’re here for you.We’ll be providing more information on no-code in upcoming blog posts and articles. Please reach out to me at matt.vanderkooy@erp-one if there are any questions I can answer for you. And please subscribe to our newsletter to always receive our latest information.

About the Author – Matt Vanderkooy

I have worked for ERP-One for 15+ years, progressing through several roles. My work provides me with exposure to dozens of customers, complex projects and conversations, and opportunities to lead and mentor a team. We work with municipal governments, large multi-nationals in all industries, and a variety of private and public companies in between. The cross-section of customers is fascinating to me.

Conducting needs discussions with our customers and the related projects give me the opportunity to interact with almost all major IT trends and topics in some way.

Outside of ERP-One, I am teaching the Business of Technology Management course for the Executive MBA program at University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business in January 2021. The focus in this course is to present digital transformation ideas to students, encouraging them to think about how digital transformation can fit into corporate strategy goals, while adding value to their customers.

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