ITA Fall Collaborative
It was an honor to be on the panel for the Information Technology Alliance (ITA) 2023 Fall Collaborative session on Answering Customer’s Needs for Low/No Code Solutions. The ITA provides a collaborative environment for leading consulting and accounting technology professionals to share information that significantly enhance the way they and their clients do business. Low Code / No Code development for Digital Transformation integrates, automates, enhances and improves the efficiency and effectiveness of application software.
Defining Low Code / No Code Terms
Definitions of Low Code / No Code can vary based upon who is defining them. Development of low code/ no code solutions are typically performed on a cloud platform with embedded tools by “Citizen Developers”. For example, Celigo and BPA Platform are cloud based tools often used to integrate websites and Customer Relationship Mnagaement (CRM) with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Often referred to as Integration Platforms as a Service (iPaas), these “platforms” can do a whole lot more than integration.
As a panel we chose the following definitions:
Low-code a visual approach to software development that enables delivery of applications through minimal hand-coding. The graphical user interface and the drag-and-drop features of a low-code platform automates aspects of the development process. (ibm.com)
No-code development platforms are closely related to …low code platforms…However, unlike low-code, no-code development platforms require no code writing at all, generally offering prebuilt templates that businesses can build apps with. (Wikipedia)
All citizen developers are business technologists. However, all business technologists are not necessarily citizen developers. A citizen developer is an employee who creates application capabilities for consumption by themselves or others, using tools that are not actively forbidden by IT or business units (gartner.com)
Benefits of Low Code / No Code Development
Often users or departments within a company want to improve operations with existing applications provided by their IT function. A forward thinking IT department will select a tool which is compatible with their core business applications and train citizen developers. Then the business unit employee can use the low code / no code tool for digital transformation.
The key benefits are lower cost through automation of coding using tools by business unit employees who understand the process being enhanced.
- Citizen developers do not need to translate functional requirements to technical staff.
- Adjusting solutions as business processes adapt and evolve are in near real time.
- Ensures solution combability with source and destination systems to reduce overall maintenance costs.
These tools are often defined as iPaaS because they are excellent for transferring information between systems. This is especially true for common types of integration of ecommerce sites with leading ERP systems. For example:
- Ecommerce – connecting Shopify to SAP Business One or NetSuite can be as simple as specifying the source website and using standard tools to map fields and define notifications or other actions associated with integration issues.
- CRM – Converting leads from Salesforce.com, Sage CRM or Microsoft Dynamics CRM to customers in Sage Intacct or Acumatica is automated by setting default values and requiring accounting approvals.
Automation and Workflow
Once in place, low code / no code development platforms can optimize business processes. Workflows and related notifications are triggered when processes occur. For example, when the CRM system sends a new customer to the accounting software, the platform can send an e-mail or text to the accounts receivable department to set a credit limit.
The possibilities for automation are only limited by imagination and time. Some examples of automation and workflow we have created include:
- Workflow for timesheet approval and invoicing of professional services.
- Automated packaging and creation of shipping labels for EDI at a 3PL warehouse.
- Assignment and dispatch of installation service orders for a building supply distributor.
- Purchase order approval routing to multiple locations from a centralized procurement department.
Practical Benefits and Limitations of Low Code / No Code Development for Digital Transformation
A programmer can develop most anything with time and money. Solutions developed in a no code environment are limited by the features and functions of the particular tool. In a platform that accepts some programming, a citizen developer can enhance no code to low code to create further functionality.
Low code / no code development is a game changer in the evolution of business management systems. For the longest time promoting vanilla implementations with no modifications was considered “best practice.” Customizations were frowned upon due to the limitations on upgrades, and more recently for potential cyber risk. Now, with the introduction of cloud based, secure platforms for enhancement there is a new level of customization which accelerates digital transformation.
On the flip side, citizen developers infrequently have the discipline, training or experience to capture and eliminate integration or automation errors. This is where partnering with your software resellers and/or consultants experienced in the low code / no code technology can be crucial to a successful project.
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