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What is low-code? – Definitive Guide to Low-Code Platforms

What is Low-Code?

You may be wondering what is low-code? In this definitive guide to low-code platforms we will address how low-code can be used in your organisation, covering key topics on who can use low-code, low-code challenges and benefits, use-case low-code examples, and how to identify the right low-code vendor to work with.

So, what is low-code?

Low-code development is the process of developing applications, application extensions and web portals quickly and incrementally via a user-friendly point-and-click interface. Templates and drag and drop tools make things even faster, so even non-technical users can build low-code applications.

Picture this: you're a software developer working for an enterprise business, and you have been tasked with building a business application from scratch. Deep down, you know that this is going to take a lot of time and effort. You'll have to plan and write all the code yourself. But what if there was a way to build enterprise applications quickly, without having to write as much code?

That's where a low-code platform comes in. Low-code is a software development approach that allows you to build software applications using visual interfaces and drag-and-drop components, rather than writing code from scratch. With low-code development, you can build an application in a fraction of the time it would take using traditional coding methods.

The beauty of low-code is that it makes app development accessible to people who may not have extensive coding experience. Instead of relying solely on skilled programmers, teams can leverage low-code platforms to create applications that meet their specific business needs.

Low-code platforms typically include pre-built templates and components, allowing developers to assemble their applications quickly and easily. The platforms may also include tools for database integration, data modelling, and user interface design.

User interfaces can be generated automatically, freeing up resources to concentrate on building the actual application. Low-code also provides users of the application with the ability to configure, reconfigure and adapt solutions to exact requirements.

The term ‘low-code’ was first coined by analysis firm Forrester Research in its 2014 report New Development Platforms Emerge For Customer-Facing Applications, and, following up its initial findings, its 2016 report The Forrester Wave: Low-Code Development Platforms, Q2 2016

With access to everything required to build, manage and deploy applications in one place, even small to medium businesses can meet the demands of an increasingly complex and dynamic business environment.

What is Low-Code Development?

The low-code development approach provides organisations with the ability to reduce the amount of manual coding required to build an enterprise application, allowing senior developers to focus on the business logic and functionality of the application.

One of the biggest benefits of low-code development is that it can significantly reduce development costs and the time required to create an application. This is because low-code platforms typically come with pre-built templates and components that developers can use to quickly build their applications.

Additionally, these platforms often have built-in tools such as an integration engine, data modelling capabilities, and a user-friendly interface to further speed up the development process.

Another advantage of low-code development is that it can make application development more accessible to a wider range of people. With low-code platforms, developers don't need to have extensive coding experience to create robust and functional applications. This means that non-technical stakeholders can also be included in the development process.

However, it's important to note that low-code development is not a one-size-fits-all solution. While it can be incredibly useful for building simple or standardised applications, it may not be the best approach for more complex applications or ones that require highly customised functionality. In these cases, traditional coding approaches may still be necessary.

Organisations and employees now expect their applications to be:

  • 100% unique to their business process
  • All organisations operate differently. These differences can be due to unique processes, working locations, legal requirements or the commercial make-up of the organisation e.g. company groups.

  • Quick to develop and deploy
  • Organisations need to react quickly to new opportunities or problematic issues and therefore waiting for an application to be designed from scratch can be frustrating as well as time-consuming. Low-code development removes time and financial constraints, enabling organisations/employees to develop and roll out applications in days rather than months.

  • Cloud-based
  • Even the smallest business is now making transactions 24/7 and, as a result, organisations are looking for systems that are cloud-based and readily accessible. The growth in remote working has also stimulated organisations to look hard at the nature and capabilities of systems and the views individuals have access to.

  • Easily adaptable
  • Business circumstances change. New product lines or services are made available, and company acquisitions or new markets all require processes to change or be modified to trade successfully. As a result, organisations are looking for applications that can be rapidly adapted and rolled out to users.

Considering these demands, utilising a low-code software development platform makes perfect sense, as they provide businesses with access to everything needed to build, manage, and deploy applications in one place. Subsequently, this enables businesses to shorten the development and rollout of new systems, add-ons, and applications, which means that they can get to market quicker with the product or solve a business problem or requirement that is having a detrimental effect on the business.

The adoption of this ‘agile’ approach and use of low-code development platforms is empowering businesses to build applications fast, without relying on deep technical skills, expensive IT resources or long development projects. This agile software development approach is replacing the old waterfall development cycles with a more incremental approach, which enables businesses to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. It also provides the freedom to collaborate more with customers and end users to identify and then address the actual pain points and processes that are required.

Businesses can create applications that also satisfy their exact requirements, whether this is for data analysis and report management, or delivering a completely new product to market. One application can be built for multiple platforms/databases (Amazon, IBM, private cloud) and is a cheap way of creating a cloud proposition.

Rather than developing apps from scratch, low-code software enables organisations and/or employees to accelerate enterprise application development for specific tasks and processes by using existing code, templates, or pre-built elements, forms, and objects. Users can easily build complex process models, map database objects to user workflows, and customise UI design, as well as tweak and customise their design and processes as and when required.

Low-code platforms usually feature an intelligent, yet simple UI so that anyone can create an application no matter their technical skill level. However, the best platforms also provide additional dev and customisation tools, the ability to integrate other services, as well as the ability to add compliance and security for the more tech-savvy users.

Low-code development is an approach that can significantly reduce the time and effort required to build applications, while also making app development more accessible to a wider range of people. C-suite software developers should consider low-code platforms as a valuable tool in their software development toolbox but should also carefully evaluate whether it's the right approach for their specific application development needs.

Who can build with low-code?

Now, you may be wondering who can use low-code, and the simple answer is anyone who wants to develop business applications faster and with less coding. Low-code platforms are designed to empower software developers of all skill levels, from citizen developers, trainee programmers to seasoned veterans. With low-code, you don't need to be an expert in multiple programming languages, and you don't need to spend hours debugging your code.

Low-code platforms use visual, drag-and-drop interfaces to build applications, meaning you can create software solutions using less coding and faster development cycles. Particularly helpful for teams with limited resources or pressing deadlines, it allows rapid prototyping and testing of your applications, enabling quick iterative modifications in response to feedback.

Low-code is excellent for development teams wanting to prioritise innovation and imagination instead of code details. With a low-code platform, more time can be spent designing user interfaces, producing interesting user experiences, and working out how software can address real-world issues.

If you're a software developer seeking to create applications quicker and with less coding, low-code is worth considering. It's a great instrument for augmenting productivity, facilitating collaboration, and decreasing development time and expenses. Try one of our templated applications and discover how it can transform the way you develop software for your organisation.

What are the features of low-code applications?

As mentioned earlier in this article, low-code is a method of software development to enables developers to build applications swiftly and with minimal code. The Key features of low-code applications include:

Low-Code Features

  • Visual development:
  • One of the main aspects of low-code applications is that visual development tools enable developers to construct applications without having to write significant code, simply by dragging and dropping components. This facilitates non-technical users to take part in the production process and makes it quicker for technical users.

  • Rapid development:
  • Low-code is used to design and build business applications quickly, with developers utilising pre-built components and templated solutions to speed up the development process. This allows developers to create new business applications in a matter of days or weeks, rather than months whilst reducing development time and costs.

  • Modular architecture:
  • Low-code applications are typically built using a modular architecture, where each component can be easily reused across different applications. This allows developers to create new applications by assembling pre-built components rather than starting from scratch.

  • Low-Code Integrations:
  • Low-code platforms are often designed to integrate easily with other systems and applications. An integration engine provides end-to-end business process automation and enables developers with the ability to create enterprise-level applications that can pull in data from a variety of data sources and present it in a single, unified interface.

  • Workflow automation:
  • Common low-code applications are often used to automate business workflows, such as approval processes or data entry. This can help to streamline business operations and reduce manual errors.

  • Scalability:
  • Low-code applications are designed to be scalable, allowing them to grow and adapt as business needs change. This means that applications can be quickly scaled up or down and updated or modified to meet changing business requirements, without needing to start from scratch.

  • Accessibility:
  • Low-code applications are often designed to be accessible to a wide range of users, including those with limited technical expertise. This can help empower non-technical users to create their own applications, or enable your in-house development team to go to market quicker.

In general, low-code applications are meant to assist organisations in building applications quickly and easily. Taking advantage of pre-made templates and components and visual tools, developers can create business applications that are straightforward to use, adaptable and run in harmony with other systems.

What can you build with low-code development platforms?

Low-Code Examples and Use Cases

You're probably aware of the challenges businesses face when it comes to building custom applications. Traditional development methods can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and expensive. This makes it difficult for businesses to keep up with the ever-changing customer demands. However, with the rise of low-code platforms, organisations now have a more efficient and cost-effective way to build custom applications.

Low-code development has gained popularity in recent years due to its ability to accelerate the development process and reduce costs. With low-code platforms, developers can create functional applications in a fraction of the time it would take to build them using traditional coding methods. This enables businesses to quickly respond to changing market demands and stay ahead of the competition.

Low-code development is also helping to democratise traditional software development by allowing non-technical users to create business applications without relying on IT departments or external developers. This is known as citizen development and is becoming increasingly popular in businesses of all sizes. Citizen developers are typically business users who are not trained in programming but have a good understanding of business processes and the problems that need to be solved. They can use low-code platforms to create applications that automate their workflows, improve productivity, and reduce manual errors.

So, what kind of business applications can be built using a low-code platform? The possibilities are endless! Low-code platforms are perfect for building enterprise applications that can help automate business processes, such as workflows, approvals, and notifications.

There are generally three types of applications that most organisations develop within a low-code app development environment, these are:

  • Back office (database) applications
  • Mobile Applications
  • Portals/Web Applications

Low-code platforms are perfect for building enterprise applications that can help automate business processes, such as workflows, approvals, and notifications. For example, a low-code platform could be used to build an HR onboarding application that guides new employees through the onboarding process and automatically sends notifications to HR managers when specific tasks are completed.

Low-code platforms can also be used to build customer-facing applications, such as customer portals, and mobile apps. With the ability to easily integrate with third-party APIs and web services, low-code platforms can provide a seamless user experience for customers and help businesses stay competitive in their market.

Low-Code Examples

Back office (database) applications

Most low-code apps are created to improve internal operations and processes. This can range from small mundane tasks to full-blown CRM systems. A simple application can act as the go-to resource for managing a particular business function and has the ability to pull in data from numerous sources ranging from eCommerce and Relational databases to social data and BI/reporting tools.

Common types of applications include:

  • Asset management
  • Service desk
  • CRM solutions
  • Product information management (PIM)
  • Expense management solutions
  • Inventory management
  • HR (Time off requests, recruitment tracking etc.)
  • Service management
  • Project management
  • Time management apps
Mobile applications

With many organisations relying on remote workforces and the proliferation of smart mobile devices, there is a huge demand for targeted low-code mobile apps that can provide instant access to relevant information as well as the ability to input essential data.

Portals/web applications

Web portals or web applications can provide employees, customers, and suppliers with a single access point to information. A web portal can be used to provide the user with personalised information such as employee training, safety manuals or a customer profile. A web portal can also be used to enhance the collaboration of information and improve the way employees, customers and suppliers interact with a business, as well as bridge the gap between front and back-office functions.

Low-Code Use Cases

Low-code development is also driving innovation in industries such as healthcare, finance, and education. Healthcare providers can use low-code platforms to create patient portals, appointment scheduling systems, and electronic medical records. Financial institutions can use low-code to develop customised loan origination systems, payment processing systems, and mobile banking applications. Educational institutions can use low-code platforms to create student information systems, course management systems, and online learning platforms. Common low-code use cases may include:

  • Building custom business applications:
  • Low-code platforms can be used to create custom business applications quickly and efficiently. Users can use pre-built templates and drag-and-drop components to create applications that automate business processes, manage data, and provide insights into key metrics.

  • Rapid prototyping and MVP development:
  • Low-code platforms are ideal for rapidly prototyping new ideas and building minimum viable products (MVPs) to test market demand. Low-code tools allow developers to create functional prototypes in a matter of hours, rather than days or weeks.

  • Legacy system modernisation:
  • Many businesses still rely on legacy systems that are outdated, difficult to maintain, and incompatible with modern technologies. Low-code platforms can be used to modernise these systems by creating new user interfaces, integrating with new applications, and improving overall functionality.

  • Workflow automation:
  • Low-code platforms can be used to automate workflows and streamline business processes. Users can create workflows that connect different applications, systems, and databases, reducing manual errors and improving overall efficiency.

  • Citizen development:
  • Low-code platforms allow non-technical users to create applications without relying on IT departments or external developers. This enables citizen developers to solve business problems quickly and easily, reducing the burden on IT departments and accelerating innovation.

Another low-code development example is Laser Crystal Ltd., a renowned UK-based manufacturer of 3D laser engraved crystal awards and promotional gifts. The company was looking to upgrade its promotional products software to enhance efficiency and optimise performance while minimising operational costs. By implementing Applications Platform's low-code promotional product management template, an adaptable business management system designed exclusively for the promotional products sector, Laser Crystal has achieved a customised, highly flexible system and automated multiple business processes.

"We now have a system that we really wanted. In fact, we’ve got something much, much better, that will give us far more information to help us grow as a business. As it is cloud-based it gives us much more flexibility. It just gives you that freedom to run the business from wherever you are."

Managing Director, Laser Crystal

In summary, low-code platforms offer a fast and efficient way for businesses to build custom software applications without the need for extensive coding knowledge. From automating business processes to creating customer-facing applications, the possibilities are endless. As an IT leader or senior software developer, you can help your organisation leverage low-code development platforms to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction.

Low-Code Challenges and Benefits

If you're tired of your IT team being bogged down with mundane development tasks that slow down the pace of innovation, low-code tools can help you to increase employee productivity, improve time-to-market, and streamline the development process.

Instead of manually writing code, low-code development involves using a visual interface with drag-and-drop functionality to build enterprise-level applications. This approach reduces the amount of time and resources required to build and deploy business-ready applications, making it an attractive option for IT leaders looking to accelerate their development timelines.

But as with any technology stack, there are challenges that some organisations may need to address. One of the biggest challenges of low-code development is ensuring that the resulting applications are secure and scalable. It's important to choose a low-code platform that includes built-in security features and allows for custom integrations with your existing systems.

To help you make an informed decision on whether low-code is right for your organisation, we have outlined the key low-code challenges that IT leaders may face and have detailed the benefits that low-code development can provide.

Low-Code Challenges

Low-code software is designed to simplify application development processes to reduce the time and cost of building custom applications and make it easier for non-technical users to build business applications..

However, low-code application development also presents organisations with some challenges that need to be overcome. Here are some of the key challenges of low-code development:

  • Limited flexibility:
  • Low-code platforms provide you with pre-built components and templates to build applications quickly. However, in some instances, this may limit the flexibility of the application which may make it difficult to create custom functionality. As a result, low-code applications may not be able to meet the unique needs of some businesses. To overcome this challenge, Applications Platform provides you with a business process automation and low-code integration engine for added flexibility and customisation, allowing you to create business applications that are a 100% fit for your organisation.

  • Limited control:
  • Low-code development platforms remove much of the complexity of coding, but this also means that developers have limited control over the underlying code. This can make it difficult to optimise performance or fix issues that may arise.

  • Integration challenges:
  • Low-code applications often need to be integrated with other systems and applications, which can be challenging when the low-code platform does not support all the necessary integrations. This can result in additional development efforts and potentially limit the effectiveness of the application. Applications Platforms’ integration engine enables you to overcome any integration challenges you may have by providing you with the ability to allow integration with practically any data source via ODBC, OLEDB, Web Services or an extensive range of 3rd party APIs through connectors and can incorporate business process automation capabilities with alerts, automated reports and workflow on a database trigger or schedule if required.

  • Security concerns:
  • Low-code development platforms often rely on third-party libraries and services, which can introduce security vulnerabilities. Additionally, because low-code applications are built quickly, security may not be fully considered during the development process.

    On top of industry standard security features, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTPS), encoded Base64, single sign on and password expiration policies, look for a platform that can even be locked down to the IP address of individual users for added peace of mind.

  • Limited scalability:
  • Low-code development platforms are designed to simplify the development process, but this can result in limitations in scalability. As the application grows in complexity and scale, it may become difficult to manage and maintain using a low-code approach.

Despite these challenges, low-code software development can be a highly effective resource for your development team. When determining whether or not to employ a low-code strategy for a specific project it is worth considering the challenges that you may face to help your in-house development team to make informed decisions about when to implement low-code techniques and when to stick with more traditional development methods.

What are the benefits of low-code?

Low-code software is a powerful tool for businesses looking to streamline their software development processes and reduce the workload on their IT departments. IT leaders understand the importance of efficient and effective software development, and low-code software can help organisations of all sizes to achieve those goals. Here are some of the key benefits of low-code software:

Benefits of low-code

  • Speed
  • Low-code software provides developers to build applications quickly and easily. It reduces the need to write extensive, time-consuming code. This means that your organisation can get new business applications that match the look and feel of your company branding up and running in a fraction of the time and cost when compared to using traditional development methods.

  • Cost Savings
  • Low-code software enables you to reduce the time and resources required for custom software development. This provides you with significant cost savings for your organisation and development budgets such as reducing the reliance and costs spent on outsourcing external consultants.

  • Increased Agility
  • It's essential to be able to respond quickly to changing market conditions and customer requirements. Low-code software allows you to create and modify applications quickly and easily to scale up or down when business needs dictate, which can help you stay ahead of the competition.

  • Improved collaboration
  • Because low-code software is so easy to use, it can help improve collaboration between your IT team and other departments within your organisation. This can lead to more efficient and effective software development processes and planning which can result in an application that fits the exact needs of the business and its users.

  • Improved Customer Experience
  • Low-code software provides you with the tools to quickly build custom applications that are tailored to your customer's specific needs and requirements. Enabling your customers to self-serve enables organisations to improve customer experience and increase customer satisfaction.

In summary, low-code software provides IT leaders and organisations of all sizes with a range of benefits, including increased speed, cost savings, agility, collaboration, and improved customer experiences.

How to pick a low-code vendor?

Low-code development platforms have become increasingly popular among businesses that want to speed up their software development processes and reduce costs. These platforms offer an intuitive, visual approach to software development that allows users to create and deploy applications quickly and easily, without the need for extensive coding. However, with so many low-code no-code vendors in the market, choosing the right low-code platform can be a daunting task, especially for C-Suite IT professionals who need to ensure that their organisation's investment in low-code is a strategic one. In this section, we will discuss some of the key factors to consider when selecting a low-code vendor.

  • Functionality
  • One of the first things to consider when selecting the right low-code software vendor for your organisation is functionality. Ensure that the low-code platform you choose has the capabilities that your IT team needs to develop the applications you and your customers need. Some low-code no-code vendors offer specialised features, such as an integration engine to allow seamless integration with your existing business systems and databases with the added ability to create complex workflows unique to your business processes.

  • Ease of Use
  • The best low-code platforms are intuitive and easy to use. The low-code tools should have a drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy for you and your team to create and customise enterprise-level applications quickly. Additionally, the vendor should offer comprehensive documentation, training, and support to ensure that your development team can make the most of the platform.

  • Scalability
  • As your business grows, your customers will demand more as will your software development needs. Therefore, it's essential to select a low-code vendor that can scale with your business as and when requirements dictate. The platform should be able to handle the increasing demands of your business without compromising on performance or quality. Additionally, the low-code vendor should offer flexible pricing and licensing options that allow you to pay only for the resources you use.

  • Security
  • Security is a critical element when it comes to business software, and low-code platforms are no exception. Your chosen low-code vendor should have robust security measures in place to protect your applications, data, and infrastructure from cyber threats. The platform should have built-in security features such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTPS), encoded Base64, single sign-on and password expiration policies. Low-code platforms, such as Applications Platform should even be locked down to the IP address of individual users. Additionally, the vendor should be transparent about their security practices and provide regular updates on any security vulnerabilities or breaches.

  • Low-Code Integration
  • Your low-code platform should integrate seamlessly with your other business systems and applications. This includes integration with databases, APIs, and third-party services. The vendor should offer pre-built connectors or APIs that make it easy to integrate their platform with existing systems. Additionally, the platform should support popular programming languages, such as Java or Python, to allow for custom integrations.

    On top of a powerful API, Applications Platform provides you with an enterprise-grade integration and automation engine that allows you to connect to practically any data source via ODBC, OLEDB, Web Services or an extensive range of supported third-party APIs through connectors.

  • Support and Maintenance
  • Finally, when selecting your chosen low-code software vendor ensure that it can provide you with ongoing support and maintenance. The vendor should have a dedicated support team that can quickly resolve any issues or bugs that may arise. They should also provide you with regular updates and upgrades to the platform to ensure that it remains up-to-date with the latest technologies and security practices.

Discover Applications Platform – a powerful low-code platform

Low-code rapid application development has shaken up the way businesses think about purchasing business software. The option to not only build an application that fits 100% of requirements rapidly, but has the ability to modify and adapt equally as quick, is a refreshing alternative to the traditional procurement of business systems.

Applications Platform makes the entire process of developing, deploying and managing applications simple. User interfaces can be generated automatically freeing up resources to concentrate on building the actual application.

To learn more about Applications Platform and the opportunities it could provide your organisation, please contact us via +44 (0)330 99 800 50 or email