No-Code Development: A Big Deal for Our Business

By Sarah Nord

In my not-so-copious spare time, I’m rebuilding a website for my children’s school. The current site is heavily custom coded, and the school’s staff is unable to maintain it. They depend on developers to make changes, and it’s not a sustainable model for them. So I’m building a new site, using drag-and-drop configuration so the staff can understand and manage it themselves.

I can remember, not too many years ago, when a custom-coded website was the only option. You had to hire a web developer or agency if you wanted anything more than the simplest of sites. As a result, websites were expensive, and even if you weren’t completely thrilled with the outcome, you might be stuck with it for a good long while.

Today, everything has changed. Platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix and a host of others put the power of web development into the hands of everyday business people. You can create a highly personalized website, complete with animation, embedded video, responsive design, custom forms and much more—all in a matter of days and with minimal cost. Plus, you can change the site as often as you like without touching a single line of code. Today’s website platforms are powerful and affordable, and they’re changing web experiences for the better.

This same type of transformation is happening in the world of business applications. In many cases, custom-coded point solutions are giving way to a new generation of no-code platforms that allow business users to configure and manage their own applications. As TechRepublic explains,

“No-code platforms are helping businesses more quickly create custom solutions for day-to-day problems and diversify who is able to build apps.”

Forbes contributor Jason Bloomberg describes the benefits of this approach in his recent article, “The Low-Code/No-Code Movement”:

“If we take a traditional enterprise app that might require, say, six months, a dozen people, and two million dollars to build and deploy, and reduce those figures to two weeks, three people, and fifty thousand dollars—and end up with a faster, higher quality, more flexible app to boot—then who suffers?”

Good question. Who does suffer? Probably the folks who make a living developing custom, one-off applications. But on the flipside, business users are increasingly flexing the muscle of no-code platforms to innovate more rapidly than ever before.

At Onspring, this “no-code movement” is central to our business. In fact, our company was founded back in 2010 on one simple idea: to empower business users to solve problems for themselves without waiting for an army of developers or consultants. And this philosophy isn’t just for our clients. It’s for us! We use our own platform to manage nearly every aspect of our business, from marketing to release management to customer support and much more. Because we can build new business apps in a matter of hours, using drag-and-drop configuration, we can rapidly collect, analyze and report on all sorts of data, which helps us run our business faster and smarter.

Why We Think No-Code Is a No-Brainer:

1. It puts process management in the hands of process owners.

A tug-of-war often exists between the people who live and breathe a business process and the people who develop technology to manage that process. Who knows best how the technology should work? Should the business user conform to the developer’s methods or the other way around? In a healthy working relationship, you’d have negotiation and compromise, but in many cases, the relationship is plagued by disagreements over “the best way” to do X, Y and Z.

With a no-code platform, the developer provides business users with multi-purpose functionality for process automation, workflow, collaboration and reporting. Business users then employ that functionality to manage their processes, their way.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that every non-technical person on the planet will be adept at creating business applications with a no-code platform. It does require a foundational understanding of data and how it is structured and related. What I am suggesting is that creating business applications is no longer the sole domain of developers. With some basic configuration skills (and perhaps a few beers), a data-savvy business user can accomplish a lot.

2. It enables business users to iterate and improve with minimal risk.

With no-code development, you don’t need to have every little detail worked out on paper before you start building. It’s always wise to start with the end-goal in mind and to gather requirements from all impacted parties. But the project doesn’t need to be documented in infinite detail before you dive into the platform.

For example, if you’re building out a contract review process, you can start by building the contracts app (i.e., a web form for capturing contract data). Then you can relate it to contacts and vendors that you manage in other apps, built on the same platform. Then you can configure workflow and notifications for each stage of the review process. And finally, you can configure reports and dashboards that help users collaborate and prioritize their tasks. (This is a simplistic example, but you get the idea.)

As you move through the build process, you can gather feedback and implement improvements. If some part of the process isn’t running smoothly, you can modify it. No-code platforms give business users the freedom to test, learn and make incremental improvements without fear of incurring significant development costs.

3. It encourages creative thinking and innovation.

That freedom I mentioned in the previous point? It’s great for spurring creativity. When you can quickly test various options for solving a problem, you’re more likely to find the best solution, not just a solution.

This freedom can get out of hand, though, if your no-code platform turns into the wild west. You still need processes and controls to ensure that business users don’t step out of bounds (or stomp on each other’s toes). But with appropriate controls in place, you can really free up your business users to test new methods, streamline processes and report in new ways.

If you’re interested in reading some real-world stories of no-code development, I encourage you to check out our Case Studies page. You’ll find impressive business users who are innovating and solving problems without touching a single line of code.

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