Already since a while, the demand for mobile applications exceeds the supply of professional developers. So no surprise that companies are increasingly turning to low-code and no-code platforms that enable employees without in-depth IT and programming skills to create applications as well. But what are the differences between the two approaches?
In this blog post, we explain the key differences between low- and no-code platforms. We also explain when you should choose which of the two variants depending on your requirements.
(Reading time: approx. 4 min.)
The increasing offer of low-code and no-code platforms is changing traditional software development, because the modern development environments both use a visual approach for rapid application development (RAD). By using ready-made graphical user interface (“GUI”) elements and the visual modeling of process logics, it is possible for anyone to create a functional application within minutes. By eliminating the need for manual coding, app development becomes more accessible as well as more efficient to a broader audience.
At a glance, the two approaches seem very similar. It is therefore not uncommon for the terms “no code” and “low code” to be lumped together. However, there are fundamental differences that you should consider when choosing the appropriate platform.
No-code: Potential and limits
The no-code development approach requires no coding skills at all. Without a single line of code and solely via drag & drop, simple applications can be created at top speed. This may sound quite promising at the first moment. However, no-code tools quickly reach their limits whenever individual adaptations, integration options or ensuring data quality are required:
Flexibility and functionality: Primarily, this approach works for simple use cases, i.e., smaller apps that are only to be used in a single department. No-code tools are often vendor-specific and thus limited to specific functions. Individual extensions or integrations are rarely supported. Flexibility is also limited by a strongly monolithic architecture. Often, no-code tools require operation in their own public cloud and cannot be used on an on-premise structure or in a private cloud.
Integration capabilities and scalability: The focus of the use cases is to increase operational efficiency. At the same time, this means that the user experience takes a back seat: the lack of ability to create user-defined integrations for third-party solutions or home-grown systems also means that legacy systems cannot be connected.
IT governance: A major challenge facing no-code development tools is the question that arises with regard to IT governance. Due to the independent character of no-code applications, data structures often vary or are not managed at all – keyword: shadow IT. This has a negative impact on data quality and represents a high risk, especially with regard to customer management and the GDPR.
Low-Code: All the way from Drag & Drop to Coding
With this approach, too, the reduced coding effort accelerates the time-to-market of an application: Low-code platforms offer simple no-code functionalities as well, such as the modeling of processes or graphical components for the creation of the interfaces, to enable employees from different departments for their own software development. In addition, however, own code can also be added manually in a development environment like this for individual enhancements. This makes low-code a bridging technology between professional software developers from the IT and citizen developers from the business departments.
Furthermore, apps developed using the low-code approach can be integrated much better into the existing IT infrastructure. Scalable architectures simplify bringing the application in compliance with IT governance requirements. In addition, the IT department always retains control of all applications as well as data streams and provides support with defined framework parameters during application creation. The necessary roles and rights can be assigned to the business departments accordingly. The ability to add functionality via open APIs means that low-code can be used to build more complex apps that can be deployed across the enterprise. This means that the use cases that can be implemented in digital apps with the technology are almost limitless. Low-code platforms are able to run in the cloud as well as on-premise.
Low coding effort
no coding effort
Strong relief, while IT governance remains within the IT department
Strong relief but with risk of uncontrolled shadow IT
Only simple applications
High flexibility for individual requirements
Only access to predefined components
Run in public cloud, private cloud or on-premise possible
Requires vendor-specific public cloud to run
Low Code or No Code?
The question of which of the two approaches is preferable will depend on the type and complexity of the applications, as well as the size of the company. Whereas you can get the finished app quickly and easily with a no-code platform, these tools cannot be used to solve complex use cases. Additional coding work may be required for customizations and modifications, which requires the use of a low-code platform to implement.
When choosing the right platform, there is more to consider than just the fundamental technology. Instead, the decision should be based on the strategic orientation of the application development. The decisive factor here is the intended results to be achieved by implementing the technology.
Low code is the right approach if…
… you want to support communication and collaboration between your departments and the IT unit.
… you want to support both employees from the business departments and professional software developers in the creation of applications.
… you want to integrate your applications into your parent IT infrastructure.
… the IT department should retain full control (IT governance) over all applications created.
… complex business-critical applications are to be created, for example end-to-end process chains that are digitally supported by several coordinated applications.
All right, I got it!
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