“No code” refers to visual development environments that allow workers to design applications without directly interacting with back-end systems. This environment is usually called a “platform,” meaning it provides a base upon which users can build new applications and technologies.
In short, “no code” refers to platforms that allow employees without technical training to build fully-functioning, enterprise-ready applications from scratch.
No code platforms provide, first and foremost, a development environment, usually in the form of a graphic user interface. These interfaces let anyone drag and drop elements into place, create rich functionality through event-based triggers and if-then logic, and track performance data as the app runs.
Example No Code Development Environment
The benefits to no code are immediate and substantial. They include:
Better allocation of IT/engineer hours – if business users can design, build, implement, and iterate without IT intervention, IT and software engineers can devote their time to mission-critical work.
Solutions built in lock step with business problems – Because no code platforms enable customized solutions, no code developers can build solutions tailored to their problems, with exactly the features and functionality they need.
Ability to iterate and improve faster – Until recently, development shuttled back and forth between front line workers and IT. If workers wanted a new feature, they made a ticket, and someone in a different department hard-coded the new feature on their behalf. There was lag. Mistakes or miscommunications could lead to weeks or months of delay, as well as simmering frustrations on both sides of the technical divide. Now, no code eliminates this dance. Employees can make the changes they need without enlisting IT support.
Who is No Code For?
The short answer is: everybody.
Commentators commonly refer to no code as “democratizing development.” According to marketing materials everywhere, no code is bringing power to the people.
And there’s truth to the hype.
Just as Blogspot made it possible for anyone to be an author, and YouTube democratized video, no code platforms remove the technical barriers previously required to develop robust, production-ready applications. No code blurs the boundaries between producers and users of software (whom media theorists refer to as “produsers”) by creating an infrastructure for further development.
Since the advent of no code, commentators have settled on the term “citizen developer” to describe the democratization of development technology. Just as citizen scientists are vital to data collection and analysis on some of the world’s largest experiments, citizen developers leverage their hard won domain expertise without being limited by technical barriers.
Gartner has written that no code is a key pillar of a broader digital strategy precisely because it broadens a company’s development base. Their argument is that businesses will succeed faster if they can radically shorten the development cycle, and involve significantly more business personnel in the development process. According to the research firm, “citizen development is fundamental to digital transformation.”
Low Code vs. No Code
These two phrases are often spoken in the same breath. Quite often, they’re used interchangeably. It’s worth stating this clearly: low code and no code are not the same thing.
Low code still requires coding. It’s designed for developers, and its core benefit, among others, is a faster, more agile development cycle for business applications.
With no code, the name says it all.
Adrian Bridgwater, a journalist writing for Forbes, has pointedly differentiated low and no code platforms:
“It’s important to remember that low-code is not the same as no code. It’s not the same at all. no code is for businesspeople… and is really all about telling the system the functions you want and knowing that the technology can build it for you. Low-code is still for developers and (as we have said before) is still pretty complex, but it does offer a means of making things faster for people who have tangible software engineering skills.”
That said, the difference in complexity does not mean that no code development can only produce basic apps. As one commentator in Forbes has noted,
“The number one misconception is that no code is only for simple apps.”
Forbes continued, “no code platforms have become extremely sophisticated and support rich functionality in apps. It is now possible to build most end-to-end enterprise applications on a no code platform.”
This is a drum analysts, researchers, and advocates have beaten over and over. “Citizen development” does not mean “toy” applications without significant business utility. In fact, entire industries have shifted toward a no code model. Writing of the creep of “applications” and “citizen technologists” into marketing, Scott Brinker writes,
“And I don’t mean mobile apps, or at least not just mobile apps. That’s certainly one kind of app that can be built on aPaaS (application-based platform-as-a-service)-like platforms. But app building also encompasses business process apps, web apps, chatbot and messenger apps, etc. These are all different cases of the things citizen developers can create.”
For manufacturing, the list of applications is longer, nearly endless. They are as varied as factories themselves and, without indulging in hyperbole, limited only by an engineer’s creativity.
For Brinker, the effects of no code have been surprising. With a more powerful, flexible set of tools available to everyone, job descriptions in marketing are more fluid than ever. The same is true in web design, data analysis, and countless other industries and job functions.
And, as you’ll see below, this is especially true in manufacturing.