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No-code vs low-code automation

No-code versus low-code automation: two types of process automation that may look and sound alike, but differ in several ways.

Process automation has quickly transformed the way the world does business over the last few years. Thanks to AI-powered, easy-to-use automation software, workers in businesses around the globe, across industries, and throughout organizations have reclaimed time and resources previously spent on repetitive manual tasks.

No, they’re not software developers – they’re citizen developers. Low-code and no-code softwares, which have lowered the cost of entry to the application development world. These tools are designed to empower workers with no formalized training in software development (that is, no prior knowledge of coding languages) to build applications and automate workflows independently.

What is low-code automation?

Low-code automation is a type of process automation software that requires almost no knowledge of software development to use. Some coding knowledge is required, but nowhere near the level of professional developers, who have deep, extensive understandings of coding languages and other advanced concepts. Low-code automation’s accessible architecture, visual modules, and emphasis on basic logic make it user-friendly and promote speedier application development.

Advantages of low-code automation

Customizability

Low-code automation tools let users customize applications in ways no-code automation tools can’t. Because the ideal user approaches low-code software with some working knowledge of coding, they can take greater control of different features and adjust them according to their needs. (For example, some low-code automation softwares allow users to add integrations for their organization’s existing systems with APIs. Of course, being familiar with APIs helps.)

Maintenance

Applications and workflows created with low-code automation software are easier to maintain than fully custom-coded creations. As organizations change and grow, the tools they use need to change and grow alongside them. Low-code automation tools are often designed to scale with the businesses that use them, allowing for speedy ongoing adjustments. Furthermore, because citizen developers can make those adjustments, fewer requests languish in software developers’ backlogs.

Disadvantages of low-code automation

Programming knowledge

You don’t have to be a professional software developer to work with low-code automation tools. But having a little working knowledge of coding (like basic logic, APIs, and command line interfaces) goes a long way in onboarding workers to become citizen developers. In the end, low-code doesn’t mean no-code, and while you don’t need to be certified in any programming languages, you should still expect to see a few lines of code here and there.

Developer dependency

Citizen developers are non-IT workers who can use low-code automation software to build applications independently. Keyword: build. Because when it comes to finalizing that project, they’ll still need a helping hand from their organization’s professional developers to ensure what they’ve made is bug-free and ready to implement. Citizen development teams generally lighten the workload for the pros, but some experienced oversight will always be necessary.

What is no-code automation?

Unlike low-code automation, no-code automation tools require absolutely no knowledge of software development or coding. Almost anyone can start using them to build apps right out of the box. Like their low-code cousins, these tools’ features are visually easy to understand; many of the platforms offer drag-and-drop functionalities to make development as simple as possible. They also include many pre-built tools and templates to help speed the process along.

Advantages of no-code automation

Speed

One of the reasons the number of global citizen developers is growing so rapidly is thanks to easy-to-use automation tools. No-code automation software takes a huge portion of the credit here: simple user interfaces, pre-built features, and a code-free environment all expedite application development times. Because anyone can use this software, anyone can build a workflow solution as soon as the need arises.

Reduced costs

Imagine training every worker in an organization to become a professional software developer. The costs would be astronomical! It’s not practical, and more than that, it’s not necessary, thanks to no-code automation tools. The only costs the business incurs is the fee for purchasing or subscribing to the software. (Not to mention the savings that come from freeing up professional developers’ time, once citizen developers step in to take over the simpler tasks.)

Disadvantages of no-code automation

Customizability

Earlier, we mentioned customizability as a perk of low-code automation. The reason: a little more knowledge gets you a lot more in the way of flexibility. But with no-code automation, and no knowledge required, workers have to lean heavily on pre-built templates and widgets. Adjusting certain features means having a deeper understanding of how they work – and that means few to no customization options for any applications your citizen developers may build.

Reliance

Part of the reason no-code development platforms are so easy to use is because of the hard work done by the vendors who created them. On the backend, these softwares are maintained and updated by a team of professional developers to ensure they’re efficient and accessible for citizen developers. Unfortunately, that also locks organizations into their vendors of choice; businesses change and grow, and if they want to switch to another platform, they’ll likely have to leave their old applications behind.

Is low-code or no-code better?

Trick question. Neither low-code nor no-code software is an overall “better” option for any business. Just as no two businesses operate exactly the same, no two businesses will get the same benefits from a process automation platform.

Rather than pitting low-code and no-code softwares against each other, it’s far more valuable to ask how they can each aid digital transformation in different areas of an organization. And to do that, you’ll first need a deep understanding of that organization’s goals. Questions worth asking could include…

  • What’s the current state of our IT department? Could our professional software developers benefit from a lighter workload? Are there tasks that citizen developers could take on to free up their time and allow for better use of skills and resources?
  • What percentage of our workers are familiar with software development? Are most of them newcomers to the coding world, or do some have a little experience or training? Can we offer a citizen development initiative to help onboard workers to a new automation software?
  • Which low-code and no-code software features would have the greatest impact on our capabilities? Is it worth investing in workplace training to ensure we have greater customization capabilities going forward? Or is speed and simplicity the name of the game, even if we sacrifice some flexibility?

Keep in mind that even though low-code and no-code platforms often exist separately and independently of each other, there are still plenty of solutions that offer the best of both. Depending on your organization’s wants, needs, goals, and capabilities, the right process automation tool might offer a combination of features that offer both convenience and flexibility. Contact us to learn more about low-code and no-code tools (or see ours in action with a free demo).