If you are even remotely connected with enterprise software, chances are you have come across the terms Low Code / No Code. Even if not I am sure using software systems you must have thought “I wish I could program so I could create a better system.”Or a variation “How I wish I could visually create this system without writing code”. These thoughts/approach embodies what No Code and/or Low Code is all about, tools that help create software systems without having to program. Given that Unvired is also making investments in this area, this is probably an apt time to put down my thoughts on it.
Even prior to the last decade the term “configuration driven development” was very much in the mindset of developers. The ability to define a process as a set of metadata and have a software tool/system run it did seem a pipe dream then. We are however closer to that reality now than ever before. The investments and big moves that companies like Microsoft and Google are making in that direction are visible to all. So is it still a pipe dream? Well, it’s a sort of Yes and No answer and I will explain that with a few examples.
I am sure all of us at some point in time have hacked together an Excel sheet with some formulae and macros in them to present calculations that answer business questions. Excel in that sense is probably an excellent example of what a No Code system is. Hack in some macros and you are good to go (I am not referring to scripting in Excel here). A current example would be Microsoft BI Apps that are taking this concept further ahead and allowing to query for business insights without having to design / program Business Warehouse tools but rather use natural language and other means. Power at fingertips for sure even for non-programmers. Google is also making moves with Google Sheets and Docs and some recent acquisitions to further its No Code toolsets. AutoCAD is another good example of a Low Code tool in the design space, you don’t need to be a Civil Engineer to draw up a plan!
And therein lies the answer and the question! The adage “It’s easy to be something to someone rather than everything to everyone” best embodies this. Excel, Power BI Apps and the likes of them are solving problems in a generic way but within a domain. This is easier to do than say building an app via modelling to solve a specific problem that your company faces uniquely. And that is how Low Code / No Code systems can help with a focused toolset addressing a specific pain point or problem and giving you the power to model solutions of your choice around it.
Another great instance where Low Code / No Code systems help is in prototyping and in Proof Of Concepts. These are instances where the entire functionality is not required and such tools can quickly help visualize not just the UX but also the process that the customer desires. Putting together a solution with a simple designer, connecting it to some online services like a Zapier and pushing data from one end to another does not really signify a Low Code system. In architectures like these, the moment something needs to be tweaked the “designer” needs to start hacking around the myriad Microservices that are in play and can easily get out of hand.
Unvired is also moving in this space but in specific solutions. The Unvired Digital Enterprise Platform is meant for heavy lifting of Enterprise payloads and obviously requires some programming experience. However, the Digital Forms application that is powered by this platform is envisaged as more of a Low Code / No Code system. For example, designing a form requires no programming experience. So also simple validations like mandatory fields, minimum/maximum length, checking for valid dates, etc. are all configurations. More advanced checks and logic can be achieved with the configuration in the form of JSON definitions that are easy to learn for anyone. But the challenge in such a Low Code system is more to do with what happens after the data is collected? Customers have different requirements here. While one may want to save the document as a PDF in SharePoint or OpenText, another might want to send the data to a database or maybe to a serverless function they already have. This is also where Unvired is investing in a workflow engine and pure-deployed microservices that will help send data to standard endpoints without having into program. The user can configure workflows like “Once the form is submitted, send it to Person X for review” or “Once the form is approved, post the data to an Azure Flow and save the form as a PDF in SharePoint. In addition, send the PDF via email to me and also create a ticket for the support team if an issue has been reported”. These workflows can be configured with a simple, easily understandable domain language. And for those who require custom solutions, the platform allows us to build those specific Microservices and refer to them in the workflow.
To conclude, Low Code / No Code systems are not a pipe dream anymore. What one can achieve with them though is very specific to the problem being addressed. Domain-specific solutions have a better chance at success than do All solutions.