The low-no-code series – Contentstack: Making a conscious compromise

The Computer Weekly Developer Network gets high-brow on low-code and no-code (LC/NC) technologies in an analysis series designed to uncover some of the nuances and particularities of this approach to software application development.

Looking at the core mechanics of the applications, suites, platforms and services in this space, we seek to understand not just how apps are being built this way, but also… what shape, form, function and status these apps exist as… and what the implications are for enterprise software built this way, once it exists in live production environments.

This piece is written by Mayank Mishra in his role as vice president of engineering at Contentstack – a company known for its pioneering work in the headless CMS market.

Mishra writes as follows…

The growth of LC/NC platforms can be attributed mainly to the need to improve turnaround time for development projects to solve business problems faster. While low-code development platforms demand some basic coding skills for users to develop & integrate complex applications, no-code development platforms do not require programming knowledge at all.

No-code platforms are based on the principles of model-driven design, automatic code generation and visual programming. These platforms are developed to target users acquainted with processes and workflows within their business division, regardless of their coding background. 

While some apps are entirely based on the LC/NC approach, others are partly so. Most organizations have a wide range of technical skill sets within their workforce, and consequently, many platforms offer both low-code and no-code (LC/NC) tools. 

The bounty of benefits

With LC/NC, development gets simplified, reducing the need to build apps from scratch. This also addressed the shortages of resources in short term. Further, LC/NC makes maintenance activities less complex, reducing costs and the burden on IT

Rapid and easy development helps businesses respond quickly to changing opportunities and regulatory/compliance issues. Users can more easily adjust and adapt their applications’ main components & code, driving the actual development faster.

Overall, we can say that keeping applications & workflows up-to-date and responsive to customer feedback enhances customer experience and loyalty.

The chalice of challenges 

LC/NC platforms are faster and easier but may lack some important functions. The challenge is how to manage, maintain and scale these apps. Some LC/NC platform offerings may not cover all the security requirements, so IT departments still need to remain proactive, providing and maintaining the guardrails that assure the security of such implementations. 

Many LC/NC platforms do not offer high customisation options. Businesses have also reported that these platforms can be less flexible due to limited integration… and many platforms may not be compatible with the required third-party apps. In some cases, scalability may be challenging in the long term.

As we know, in some instances, LC/NC tools may lead to a rise in shadow IT projects, whereby people develop apps without proper supervision or consideration – meaning, no visibility of the data being generated. The consequences can be security concerns, compliance issues, integration problems, and increased technical debt.

Mishra: Choosing LC/NC is a conscious compromise that aids faster development cycles, but knowingly lets go of some long-term benefits of a full-code app environment.

To evade such issues, businesses can set compliance & governance protocols in place that support best IT practices with strong and workable collaboration models between IT, citizen developers, and their teams.

The good, the clean & the scalable 

Interestingly, strong and scalable LC/NC platforms do exist too. Platforms such as Notion, Mailchimp and Zendesk have been built on the LC/NC development approach and they are pretty secure, robust and scalable in line with business needs.

Then there are examples of scalable and flexible LC/NC modules within a full code app, such as ‘modular blocks’ in Contentstack CMS. Despite being based on LC/NC, it offers high flexibility to business users, allowing them to create dynamic pages on the go, without having to include a developer.

Furthermore, some LC/NC tools also use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and employ Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) for automation based on existing data sets.

The LC/NC tradeoff

LC/NC is a valuable tool, with pros outweighing the cons. Like most advances in software, LC/NC is an inherent trade-off. Such as platform is an option that helps a business achieve its goals. It never promises to cover all security requirements, nor does it offer solutions to all our user cases or customisation requirements. It makes good sense to look at LC/NC from this perspective.

Choosing LC/NC is a conscious compromise that businesses make to aid faster development cycles, while knowingly letting go some long-term benefits of a full-code app.

According to a recent Gartner survey, LC/NC platforms will be used in more than 65% of application developments worldwide by 2024.

To sum up, LC/NC is here to stay, and it will grow in the future, given the clear value it offers – faster development cycles. The key is in using it wisely, consciously, and without letting it impact your business growth.






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