Low-code: What you need to know before taking the development short route.

March 2021

Low-code and No-code software development platforms have become the topic of much discussion as companies race to quickly build new applications that boost efficiency internally and help take new products to market faster. While many larger organizations are finding success with low-code solutions, smaller companies should proceed cautiously and understand the full picture of how low-code can provide value while also creating unintended consequences.

What is Low-code and what are the benefits?

Low-code and No-code platforms (for simplicity, we’ll refer to both as Low-code in this article) enable both non-technical “citizen developers” and professional developers to create applications quickly using drag-and-drop visual tools that automate the back-end technical, coding, and systems integration aspects of software development. Practically anyone who has a basic understanding of business software can become a developer with a low-code platform.

Organizations with limited internal technical resources can assign non-technical team members to develop new applications easily without much training. Companies can also get more productivity out of their limited team of professional developers by enabling them to use low-code solutions that make their jobs faster and easier by cutting out much of the time-consuming heavy lifting of software development.

Low-code application development is often a much less expensive alternative to hiring a team of professional developers to create a fully custom piece of software, at least at first. Software development talent is in high demand and short supply, putting upward pressure on the cost of labor. The ability to repurpose other team members as pseudo-developers can bring the cost of development down significantly.

Low-code is also a good way to prototype a solution or get stakeholder buy-in to a new idea before investing more resources into a project, whether it be a new product concept or a new way to improve efficiency internally by digitizing processes. Also, many low-code platforms are sophisticated enough to integrate new applications with legacy systems so organizations can make use of their existing data.

Low-code has drawbacks.

While these are all real benefits, there are also some challenges that should be considered before going down the low-code road, especially for smaller companies. While the prospect of repurposing employees as non-technical developers is enticing and more cost-effective, it’s not quite as simple as it looks at first glance. Many development projects experience scope creep, where the essential features of a new system grow as stakeholders change requirements. Pro developers are often still needed to build out specific functionality, as lower-skill citizen developers don’t have the requisite capabilities and experience. Larger companies that already have internal professional developers are in a better position to make use of low-code platforms. However, smaller companies without technical resources internally that set out on the low-code path to save costs can find themselves paying far more than they budgeted at the end of the project as they bring in professionals to finish the job.

Low-code platforms also have functional limitations that can be frustrating to work through and inhibit innovation. Users frequently find that low-code functionality and out-of-the-box features are simply not powerful enough to meet operational requirements. For instance, customizing the user experience may be limited by the kind of drag-and-drop, template-based design that low-code platforms are known for. Innovation suffers as users are boxed-in to the system, constraining the ability to dream or imagine outside the box and invent new processes and digital tools that create more value for the business.

Another disadvantage of low-code platforms is the lock-in effect to a specific vendor due to a lack of connectedness. Some platforms can only connect to other services within the vendor’s product family, limiting the ability to integrate with other services outside the vendor’s ecosystem that could provide better functionality. Patch works to overcome these limitations can get expensive and adds layers of complexity that can ultimately defeat the purpose of using a low-code platform to begin with.

How is B3 different?

B3 is not a low-code platform. B3 is a more powerful alternative to low-code that delivers software faster with greater flexibility (like low-code), but with more robustness and scalability. Based on C# and F#, our software is built on the leading, most flexible, most powerful and feature-rich programming ecosystem.

B3 takes a web standards-based approach to development and uses current best practices in scalable software architecture such as Kubernetes, the dominant system in microservices infrastructure. Our out-of-the-box User Experiences are created from proven design heuristics and backed by research, while custom UX designs are easy to implement.

Applications built on B3 are made with real code, not visual design tools found in low-code solutions that limit creativity and functionality. We provide the B3 platform, and anyone can provide the code for their application (we do too, of course). Whatever you can dream of can be built with B3. Software is most valuable when it is innovative, and this is a big part of what separates B3 from low-code solutions.

If you’re considering a low-code solution to test out a new product concept or an idea to improve operations, we say go for it. We’ve said the same about off-the-shelf software. But if you find the low-code route is simply not going to cut the mustard, make the step up to B3.

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