What Are the Benefits of Low-Code Tools?
As digital programs accelerate, few organizations can resource all potential digital initiatives, with development teams being a frequent bottleneck. Low-code applications are flexible by nature, and can be changed as business needs evolve. Although not all applications are suitable for this approach, resulting benefits of implementing a low-code tool are:
- Increased business productivity. Adoption can increase business growth and customer satisfaction by speeding creation of new digital applications. Some organizations have reported a 5x increase in productivity over traditional approaches.
- Reduced development costs. This approach can reduce IT spend on professional development resources, potentially cutting costs for some projects by up to 50%. Time freed up in this way can also improve the productivity of development teams.
- Tangible Year-1 ROI. An FMCG company building mobile applications for its field-based staff with low-code tools saved $500,000 in the first year of implementation, and $2 million overall
What Are Scenarios of Use?
In smaller businesses without a dedicated IT team, low-code tools can enable the creation of simple applications without the need to pay for external services. In larger enterprises they are a good fit with the requirement for rapidly developed digital applications. It is estimated that they could be used for approximately 50% of enterprise-developed applications. Use cases include:
- Citizen development. Enable untrained business users to build simple web-based or mobile applications
- Data integration/dashboards. For example, applications where business rules change frequently and the computing processes are confined to simple data gathering and reporting
- Business process automation. Examples include creating replacements for paper-based processes
- Rapid prototyping. Common use case includes example co-creation or for more complex enterprise applications
What Are the Alternatives?
Other than continuing with traditional development approaches, the main alternative to low-code tools are so-called no-code tools. Although the lines between low-code and no-code platforms are increasingly blurred, low-code typically requires some degree of coding to create the final deployed application, while no-code aims to forgo this element altogether.
What Are the Costs and Risks?
The costs that should be factored in when implementing a low-code tool are as follows:
- Tool/platform license costs. Costing low-code tools can be complex and requires careful assessment. Most vendors offer a free tier which can be useful for evaluation purposes, then have multiple pricing tiers with increasing features, based either on per-user per-month pricing or a single platform price per-month.
- Additional usage costs. In addition to the core platform, some vendors have additional charges for the number of external users accessing applications, cloud infrastructure required to host applications, API calls to external systems, and enterprise-grade support services.
- Training costs. Training will be required for development teams and business users.
Low-code tools come with a relatively low degree of risk. The following challenges and risks should be considered when implementing a low-code tool:
- Low code application sprawl. Because they are so easy to build, low-code applications can proliferate into an unmanaged sprawl without appropriate oversight.
- Data security and governance. Low-code tools can be used to create complex applications but IT, security, and operations should still be involved in the process to ensure compliance with corporate standards.
- Project selection. It can be difficult to assess the boundary of suitability between a low-code app and a professional development project (though this is mitigated if the chosen tools can scale from one to the other).
- Multiple tool proliferation. Low-code tools are increasingly a part of enterprise application and collaboration platforms, so there is a danger that multiple tools may be used for different tasks, reducing the ease of collaboration and reuse.
- Developer discontent. Development teams may feel threatened by the introduction of low-code tools into the business without appropriate change management.
- Incomplete testing. While is typically automated and built into the platform, this still needs to be planned and managed
The focus of low-code tools is on rapid adoption and a return on investment, so it should be feasible to see results from an initial project within 90 days, and to get a clearer understanding of the scope and potential for these tools. To achieve this, we recommend the following 30/60/90 Plan:
- 30 Days: Assessment and level setting. Assess tools already in use for suitability, or evaluate and select a new tool. Identify one or two opportunities as potential pilot projects. Agree on ground rules with development and ops teams.
- 60 Days: Business and IT buy-in. Debrief with LoB and development teams to refine and define standard process. Identify strengths and weaknesses of tools, and pilot alternatives if required.
- 90 Days: Training and metrics setting. Review application pipeline against new guidelines. Introduce training for line-of-business users (citizen developers) and developers. Introduce project metrics that enable comparison to traditional development.
For organizations struggling to gain momentum in their digital projects due to developer skill shortages and resource bottlenecks, low-code tools should be given a high priority, with the aim of accelerating the development of digital applications.