As businesses seek cost-effective ways to automate and streamline their operations, the no code movement is arming a growing community of citizen developers with the tools they need to build their own applications and automate business processes, without having to write code. Businesses are increasingly drawing on no-code platforms to drive their digital transformation initiatives.
Interest in no-code development has ramped up during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’ve seen our community grow 30% this year, and since 2018 it’s tripled in size,” says Nile Frater, who runs the NoCode.tech online community. “As soon as the first lockdown started traffic spiked and hasn’t slowed down yet.”
Frater says his community was initially dominated by tech enthusiasts, but that the no code movement is now more widespread. “The majority of people we see now are small business people, or those who have grown up with computers and are tech-savvy, are looking at a career in tech but don’t have coding skills,” he explains.
Businesses and IT are overloaded – they need solutions which are simple to implement and easy to use.
Emmanuel Walckenaer, CEO, Yseop
Emmanuel Walckenaer is CEO of Yseop, a French artificial intelligence (AI) provider that has just launched a no-code platform to help with reporting in the financial services sector. No-code platforms are becoming more popular because “businesses and IT are overloaded – they need solutions which are simple to implement and easy to use,” he says.
What is the no code movement and how is it different from low code?
As the name suggests, no-code systems allow users to develop software without the need for programming skills. “Typically no-code systems are very visual, drag-and-drop programmes,” Frater explains. This distinguishes them from ‘low code’ platforms, that do require a degree of programming knowledge.
Popular ‘no-code’ tools include Glide, which allows users to build an app from a simple spreadsheet, and Airtable, which is designed to help build integrated business processes and databases.
How are businesses using no code?
The no code movement began in the grassroots tech community. But the model is increasingly being embraced by industry, as it allows business users to put cutting-edge digital functionality to use.
For example, Yseop’s Walckenaer says no code can help businesses exploit AI without the need for highly specialised staff. “We see a real gap between the promise of AI and its real usage,” he says. “AI is still too often exploited by data scientists, developers, specialists in algorithms. The end-user without coding skills often doesn’t realise AI’s potential because they don’t or can’t use it.”
Frater is head of engineering strategy and innovation at Lloyds Bank, the largest retail bank in the UK. He set up an internal no code team during the first Covid-19 lockdown.
“I was doing a lot of work to help the bank get people working from home, and at the same time our operations area was being hit,” he explains. “We had a high demand for services but many of our workforce couldn’t work effectively. We were quickly trying to look for different solutions and quick ways to get new software to help.”
What no code is really great for is filling all the little gaps it’s not cost-effective to fill with real engineering.
Nile Frater, engineering strategy & innovation, Lloyds Bank
Lloyds used a no-code platform designed for building internal tools to develop a series of systems to streamline processes for its operations team. “Things have calmed down a bit now, but the team is still working on new tools, and automating connections between the different systems we use,” Frater says.
“For big organisations like Lloyds you normally have to spend a lot of money to do anything. What no code is really great for is filling all the little gaps it’s not cost-effective to fill with real engineering.”
How the no code movement can help digital transformation
Frater says no code can be useful for companies embarking on digital transformation projects as a way of helping staff embrace new automated systems.
“With organisations that are going through digital transformation, you often see the gap widens between those who understand tech and those who don’t,” he says. “No code is good because, even if people don’t use it every day, it’s a really visual way to show them how a programme works, and get them used to computational thinking.”
For businesses considering the introduction of no-code solutions, he says the best place to focus is on internal processes, as the market for customer-facing no-code products is still in its infancy.
“Where you can get real value from no code is using it in underserved areas like operations or marketing, which find it difficult to get engineering time,” he says.
Walckenaer says careful planning is key to a successful, long-term no-code deployment. “No-code solutions are deployed rapidly, and the benefits are immediate, but a key element is to think about the medium and long-term usage and evolution of these solutions,” he says. “Business departments need to plan maintenance and sustainability when they onboard any solution made available to end users.”