- Enterprises need to look for six fitnesses (Purpose Fit, Cost Fit, Ops Fit, User Fit, Use-Case Fit, and Organisation Fit) while choosing a LCNC platform
- You don’t need to select only one LCNC platform, instead, leverage different LCNC platforms to meet specific needs
- Choose the provider’s cloud when the number of applications is significant, isolated, and there is no export option offered
- ‘Template-driven’ LCNC platforms can better suit internal application development whereas ‘Code-Enabler’ LCNC platforms better suit external applications
- The IT team needs to play a pivotal role in adopting the LCNC platforms in the enterprise as they are in the best position to guide the citizen developers towards innovation while also maintaining enterprise standards
Low Code/No-Code (LCNC) platforms allow programmers and non-programmers to build application software typically in a drag-and-drop fashion with minimal to no coding and one-click deployments, offering a path away from the traditionally slow, costly, and not-so-efficient development and deployment process.
These platforms are designed to expedite that process to offer a rapid application development and deployment platform as a service.
State of LCNC
A Nasscom report states that adopting LCNC has resulted in a three to seven-fold reduction in development and deployment time, and a three to five-fold reduction in cost.
And according to Gartner research, 70% of application development will be low-code by 2025, and spending on low-code development technologies is expected to grow to almost $30 billion.
A recent McKinsey study reveals that organisations that empower citizen developers score 33% higher on measures of innovation than those who do not.
Enterprises that want to stay competitive, need to draw up a clear strategy to adopt LCNC as it changes the paradigm of application development providing a faster and more democratic approach to innovation.
Choosing LCNC for your Enterprise
Myriad of LCNC platforms — created using WordClouds.com
There are over 300 LCNC platforms in the market with varying purposes, pricing, and lock-in options. Given the multitude of options available, the decision-making process can become quite challenging. Choosing LCNC platforms that cater to the long-term requirements of an organisation can be even more demanding.
Here I will guide you to simplify that decision-making process by explaining the six fitnesses that you should look for while choosing LCNC for your enterprise.
1. Purpose Fit : Catering the Requirement
The primary purpose driving organisations to build an application tends to fall into one of the following categories:
- Prototypes: to validate an idea before building a full-fledged application
- One-off requirements: for example, a marketing/campaign site
- Continuously evolving applications: these are typically Line-of-Business applications
For prototypes and one-off requirements, choosing a no-code platform would be better. For instance, Citizen Developers should create a prototype using a no-code platform to validate and showcase their requirements. And IT could then later develop it as a full-fledged application. Also, Citizen Developers could fulfill one-off requirements such as surveys or campaign pages on their own using a no-code platform.
For evolving applications, choosing a low-code platform is more helpful since it allows for enhancing the application via code. If the nature of requirements is unique (not fulfilled via templates) or frequently changing, then standard development practices would be a better fit.
LCNC platforms also cater to developing specific types of applications such as websites, web apps, voice apps, mobile apps, APIs, or databases. There are LCNC platforms for every purpose. So, picking the right category of LCNC for a specific purpose tends to be a good start. You don’t have to stick to only one enterprise-wide LCNC platform.
Here are some LCNC platforms that are known choices for specific types of applications:
Example LCNC platforms
Leverage different LCNC platforms to meet specific needs.
2. Cost Fit : Choosing the Right Pricing Model
The pricing models of LCNC platforms come in different sizes and shapes. Typical licensing models include per-end-user, per-editor, per-app, per-request, per-database-row, or per-seat.
For instance, the per-end-user pricing model is based on the number of end users who will be using the application that was developed on the LCNC platform.
You need to pick the tool with the right pricing model for a given purpose. For example, you may consider a tool with a per-end-user pricing model for your internal-facing (B2E) applications but not for your customer-facing applications as your costs might shoot up.
Go for the per-end-user pricing model only for your limited-audience applications
The cost of lock-in should be considered as part of the Cost fitness. You should look for whether the LCNC platform offers code-export and self-hosting features to reduce the risk of lock-in.
3. Ops Fit : Choosing the Right Hosting
LCNC platforms usually offer more than one hosting option. Typical hosting options include the LCNC provider’s cloud and self-hosting within your own infrastructure.
Choosing the provider’s cloud has the benefit of making use of their end-to-end DevOps toolchain which should be operationally easy to manage and in turn, cost-effective. Note that this benefit is best when a significant number of applications are hosted within their environment, and those applications are isolated in nature (meaning, limited integrations with existing applications residing in your hosting infrastructure). You also need to check if the provider’s cloud offers transparency to your deployed resources and offers support tiered to your application’s criticality.
For example, if you have a significant number of applications developed on the Mendix platform and you plan to build more applications on it, then choosing Mendix Cloud may be cost-effective and operationally simplistic.
Choose the provider’s cloud when the number of applications is significant, isolated, and there is no export option offered.
LCNC platforms should also be reviewed from security, observability, performance, and support standpoints as part of the Ops fitness. For instance, if you have more stringent data requirements then choose a platform that offers self-hosting or integration to self-hosted databases.
4. User Fit : Balancing the Perspectives
In the context of adopting the LCNC platform, there are three user personas involved: Buyer persona, Platform-User persona, and Enterprise Architect persona. The platform-user persona can be further subdivided into the Citizen Developer persona and the Pro-Developer persona. Balancing the requirements of all three personas is really important.
Balance of Personas
The Buyer persona will be more focused on cost whereas the Enterprise Architect persona might be worried about lock-in. Finally, the Platform-User persona will care more about a good purpose fit.
Platform-User’s needs such as purpose fit, customisation support, learnability, or integrability support should be given first preference but compromises will have to be made. In the case of the Enterprise Architect’s demands such as standards compliance, security, lock-in risk, or service support should be given second preference but significant compromises should not be made as they might adversely affect the organisation. The Buyer’s needs, such as cost, should be given last preference but they should be evaluated against the value returned.
For example, a LCNC platform’s white-labelling feature shall be given first preference while mandating enterprise security requirements as second preference. Evaluating the pricing model of the platform against its returned value shall be the last preference.
Balance all 3 personas : Buyer, Platform-User, and Enterprise Architect
5. Use Case Fit: External or Internal
In an enterprise, application use cases can be broadly classified into external-facing apps and internal-facing apps. With respect to LCNC platforms, they can be further divided into Citizen Developer apps and Pro-Developer apps.
Application use cases and LCNC Platform users
Certain LCNC platforms are suitable for Citizen Developers for building internal employee-facing apps. Whereas some LCNC platforms may be suitable for Pro-Developers building customer-facing apps.
Most of the LCNC platforms are typically designed to expedite the development of certain types of applications such as form-esque CRUD apps or spreadsheet-ish apps. This limitation can be attributed to the set of templates offered by the platform and their configurability options plus the avenues offered for extensibility in terms of custom coding.
In general, template-driven tools, focusing on workflows/automation or spreadsheet-ish apps, are more suitable for internal business applications than customer-facing (B2C) ones. Typically, B2C applications warrant more differentiation via a customised user experience. Template-driven platforms have limitations with respect to customisation (which is much needed in B2C applications) and developing those custom features may cost you more effort. So, platforms which improve developer productivity (in coding and deployment) by automating the generation of boilerplate elements are more suitable for B2C applications.
For example, choosing TeleportHQ might prove to be better for developing a B2C website due to its code-export option (along with per-editor pricing) than a platform with a per-end-user pricing model, assuming both platforms offer similar features. Similarly, GitHub Copilot (which enables faster coding via AI) suits better for building B2C apps as it enables faster coding to build all those differentiative customer-facing features.
‘Template-driven’ LCNC platforms are better suited for internal apps; ‘Code-enabler’ LCNC platforms are better suited for external apps.
6. Organisation Fit : The Incumbents
Choosing a LCNC platform depends on the incumbent platform (ServiceNow, Salesforce, SAP), incumbent technology (Java, .NET), incumbent skills (Citizen Developer), incumbent compliance standards (WCAG), and also on the integrations with existing systems or tools.
LCNC adoption needs a governance model to avoid application sprawl and security issues when citizen developers are given a free hand. You also need to have a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for LCNC to prescribe the platforms, drive their adoption, and upskill relevant people (business technologists).
Be aware of your incumbents : platform, technologies, skills, standards, and governance model.
In terms of support for upskilling, there are many communities available for no-code and low-code platforms. These communities provide access to templates, discussion forums, and more. Below are a few examples:
There are also conferences relating to LCNC platforms like LowCodeCon which are useful to connect with others using these platforms.
When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. When you desire a consequence, you had damned well better take the action that would create it.
— Lois McMaster Bujold
To navigate through the six fitnesses, organisations need to come up with a decision tree to help the business technologists and IT teams choose between the traditional development, low-code platforms, and no-code platforms. The decision tree should consider all six fitnesses such as the platform user type (Citizen Developer, Pro-Developer) and use-case (external, internal). Apart from the decision tree, organisations need to prescribe a set of LCNC platforms catering to all the decision tree scenarios.
LCNC Adoption Approach
Organisations can plan to adopt a LCNC platform in the following way.
LCNC adoption approach
- Select a LCNC platform considering all six fitnesses
- Perform a PoC using your IT Team or IT delivery partner
- Assign a team to review the nitty-gritty of Ops Fitness of the platform focusing on security, monitoring, and support. If it doesn’t fit, return to step one.
- In the case of a no-code platform, upskill the citizen developers on the chosen platform
- Form a CoE to oversee the adoption and compliance. The CoE shall draw up a decision tree and demarcate the use cases for which a specific LCNC platform should be utilised.
- Establish LCNC development workflow.
- Have your Citizen Developers or Pro-developers build applications
- Have the IT team deploy the applications after audit and review.
- Establish an operating rhythm between Citizen developers and the IT team for continuous collaboration.
- Keep track of the metrics on the saved developer effort and cost of the platform.
Role of IT
Lastly, your organisation’s IT team needs to play a pivotal role in the adoption of LCNC, especially the adoption of no-code for citizen developers, as they are in a better position to guide the citizen developers to innovate and also maintain enterprise standards since it holds the responsibility of the entire IT estate including any LCNC platform hosted applications.
The role of the IT team in LCNC adoption using the Team Topologies approach
Your Infrastructure/Ops portion of the IT team can act as a ‘platform team’ (as defined in the book ‘Team Topologies’) pushing the operations capabilities of the LCNC platform. And the application team specific to a business portfolio can play the role of an ‘enabling team’ by guiding the citizen developers (in the respective business portfolios) to build applications and prevent application sprawl.
As a first step of LCNC adoption, you can learn more about LCNC platforms from the curated directory of LCNC at NoCodeTech as well as the well-known Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave. This will give you a view of the options available.
Next, you can look for a simple B2E application or requirement in your organisation. For instance, a compliance related application with one or two CRUD screens and limited users will be a good choice.
Once you have your first application selected, the six fitnesses explained here should help you select an appropriate LCNC platform to meet your needs.