No-code know-how: 9 key considerations before choosing your platform

Low-Code or No-Code – Crucial Considerations

We’re all for honest conversations and a right fit when it comes to solution sales. In this article, we share our tips for assessing no-code and low-code platforms and sizing up partners (us included) - giving you the tools you need to make confident, informed decisions and get you started on your no or low-code journey.

In No-code or low-code – what’s the difference and what's right for you, we shared some of the reasons no-code and low-code platforms are making an impact on the technology landscape. Make no mistake – no-code and low-code are here to stay and it has a lot going for it. It’s may be only just out of the adolescent stage, but we predict it will go from strength to strength as a new layer of digital enablement that many architects will make room for in their tech stacks.

Organisations of all shapes and sizes are recognising the agility, cost and architectural benefits of these platforms and what this means for them. At the same time, vendors are responding by evolving their platforms for usability, robustness and scale. Watch this space, it’s exciting and there’s undoubtedly more to come.

At DXLabs, we’re strong advocates for no/low code. Combined with a sound understanding of the organisation’s needs and capabilities, a good no/low code platform and strategy can deliver outstanding results. With that said, experience has shown us that there are some common misconceptions, and even deceptions, when it comes to platforms and it pays to be aware of them. These  certainly don’t detract from the potential, but they should be on every buyer’s radar when determining the right platform for their organisation.

Considering a No-Code or Low-Code platform for your organisation?

1. Start Small

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Know your needs. Start small.

With the right platform in front of you, it’s easy to get carried away with the art of the possible. While it’s good to understand how you can get added value from your investments, it’s also important to be clear on the what and why of no code or low code. What is your main goal? Is it speed, the promise of simpler skill demands, unlocking critical IP, business autonomy?

Being clear on what’s driving you towards no/low code is important – and it should stay front of mind when it comes to platform selection.

Why is this important?

Enterprise no-code and low-code platforms introduce new design patterns that don’t conform to traditional application development thinking – true enablers that spark ideas and get you thinking differently. That’s a marvellous thing, but it’s important to stay on track and deliver the solution that originally set you on this path, at least until you have established a good understanding of what that new tech means to your organisation. It’s useful to remind yourself of why you started the journey, so you don’t find yourself deviating off the roadmap.

Planning a staged introduction will help you get familiar with the platform and make better decisions about where it fits within the broader ecosystem. This brings us neatly to the next point.

2. Is it part of the solution or the whole solution

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Is it part of the solution or the whole solution?

There is a plethora of no-code and low-code platforms out there, offering different benefits. Some are enterprise platforms that incorporate a range of disciplines, like rules automation, workflow, BI, orchestration and more. Others are more niche and focus on a particular set of capabilities, like forms, apps or document generation. What’s right for you depends very much on your organisational goals and capabilities.

Regardless of what capability you’re after, though, it’s wise to determine whether the platform is your entire solution or just one part of it.

Why is this important?

Quite simply, it’s easy to get carried away. No-code and low-code platforms offer speed and flexibility. They get you thinking about new possibilities and you start to see how other problems can be solved. It sounds like a good thing – and it is – but, it’s also important to know how many eggs one basket can carry. Of course, this is true of any platform, not just no/low code.

The question then is: do you have other baskets that are capable of carrying some of your precious eggs?

Your platform may be capable, but what happens if an issue occurs? Let’s face it – even the most robust software has issues from time to time. Whether your business will be crippled by one system failure or whether you can minimise this to a partial interruption is where a good overarching architecture makes a difference.

In reality, it’s not just about interruption either. Being critically dependent on one technology or vendor is never a good idea, no matter how big or small your organisation is. Fundamentally, spreading the load and creating and maintaining a sustainable architecture just makes sense.

3. Consider your capabilities.

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Consider your capabilities.

What really separates no-code and low-code platforms is the extent to which they support extended or advanced functionality through a visual design paradigm, rather than reverting back to coding or complex, layered algorithms (e.g. regular expressions and SQL) to achieve business outcomes.

It’s important to be clear about how technical you want your no/low-code designers/developers to be. If you don’t have developers and don’t plan to bring any onboard, you need a no-code platform. If you have developers, no-code or low-code may suit, but it’s important to understand where you’re headed so you know exactly how much coding will be required. Getting this wrong means you may end up needing to invest in skills you hadn’t budgeted for, build long-term partner relationships you didn’t want, or in the worst case scenario, wind up with an unfinished or underwhelming solution.

Asking the right questions before investing and perhaps even more importantly, testing the platform will help you reach a sound understanding of where the no-code road ends.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Asking the right questions before investing and perhaps even more importantly, testing the platform will help you reach a sound understanding of where the no-code road ends and what skillsets you’ll need to deliver the outcomes you want or need. With multiple platforms out there, there will be at least one – probably several – that can deliver.

Bear in mind also, genuine no-code platforms generally require the skills of someone like a Technical Business Analyst – someone who knows process, can engage in active conversation with the business about needs and wants, and can get hands on and translate those requirements into real solutions. On the other hand, a low-code platform typically requires some development skills, so find out (a) what languages/frameworks and (b) how senior.

Why is this important?

Frustratingly, a few well-known platforms have built business models that capitalise on the businesses that don’t consider ongoing skills needs, knowing they can go lean with initial pricing and make their margin on ongoing professional services in the later stages. Somewhat like the printer you can buy at a bargain price of $50, but end up spending $500 a year on replacement toners – if only you’d known the real cost of running it. Considering your capabilities before selecting a platform will ensure you’re on the right road from the outset.

4. The citizen development promise.

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The citizen development promise.

No-code and low-code platforms offer the possibility for the business to manage its own changes, something that just can’t be done on a coded platform.

There’s no doubt citizen development comes with a host of positives, empowering employees to design and build applications that can evolve according to the needs of a business – needs that are generally well understood by the people within the business. Each platform, however, has different capabilities when it comes to testing, code/configuration management and deployment and there are a few important things to consider when it comes to boundaries.

Ask yourself these things when delving into your platform of choice:

  • 1 Can I give my user a ‘safe’ environment to work in where their changes will not impact others, inadvertently create issues or technical debt, or destabilise the platform?
  • 2 How is the security context defined and applied?
  • 3 Should a business user be able to deploy a change into production? What are the risks and how does this fit with broader change governance expectations and processes?
  • 4 How do the actions of individuals fit with the broader solution? Is the solution used by many, with varying priorities and objectives?

Why is this important?

Platforms will often provide guardrails and tools to support these issues – and others – but it’s crucial to take a moment to understand what citizen development really means within your organisation before heading down this path, especially if the solution is part of a broader ecosystem, where critical dependencies may not be obvious. Much of this actually points to governance, not platform, but process and expectations will need consideration alongside the ability of the platform to support rapid change.

5. Platforms have evolved, not all pricing models have

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Platforms have evolved, not all pricing models have

As innovative as some of these platforms are, many still have complex pricing models based on antiquated concepts, like:

  1. server specifications (CPU, cores)
  2. number of users or designers
  3. number of processes
  4. number of objects

Trying to understand the true definition of "processes" or "objects" can require a degree in everything you never intended to learn and can come with several important caveats that tend to surface at invoice time.

Why is this important?

Businesses need to be able to forecast their cost to scale and have ROI expectation when it comes to platforms, so to avoid surprises, it’s important to ask the right questions to identify future costs.

Our advice is to steer clear of object or resource-based pricing, if you can. There are other options out there that have adopted simple, transparent pricing models, with the buyer's needs in mind. If you must go down this path, get your partner involved – and accountable – in the development of reliable pricing forecasts.

6. Champion the challengers

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Champion the challengers

When looking for an Enterprise platform, it doesn’t always pay to focus on the top-quadrant players. Many of the established platforms haven’t evolved and innovated beyond a refreshed UI and a new sales deck.

We’re not saying they’re all like this; just that you may want to dig a little deeper before you commit.

Why is this important?

There are many different types of no/low-code platforms and almost every corner of the market now has challenger products – platforms that have learned from the mistakes of their predecessors and have been re-architected to suit the modern business and empowered user. Often, these are built on modern, scalable foundations that are out of reach for the older platforms. Not that they'll openly share that with you or a reseach house. That alone makes them worthy of consideration.

7. Look past the smoke and mirrors.

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Look past the smoke and mirrors.

Ready-made demos should look fantastic, after all, they’re designed to get you salivating over what may be possible. Go to any big product expo or conference and you’ll walk out with a bag full of hopes and dreams, but when the afterglow fades, you’ll need to delve into the detail about what’s needed to make those scenarios a reality.

Why is this important?

When it comes to low-code in particular, you can do a lot with what’s available on a platform’s toolbar and with good old drag and drop. No matter which platform you choose, though, the chances are it won’t be long before you start thinking about more advanced functions.

By tapping into the Help function and some active Googling, you can work your way into more complex logic, but may hit a roadblock when you start getting into some of the more ‘interesting’ capabilities. They’re there, but they are harder to access, difficult to learn and hard to master. That’s when you realise that unless you commit to learning a new trade or hiring, you’ll need to look at other options or refocus on your goals, and keep things simple. Understanding what it really takes to deliver an outcome is worthy of deeper analysis.

8. Be prepared to POC.

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Be prepared to POC.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Be armed with a sample process or requirement and ask for a proof of concept (POC) that:

  1. Focuses on areas where you have identified concerns/doubts
  2. Allows for a detailed walkthrough of
    1. how it was built
    2. how it runs
    3. what skill level was required to build it and how long it would take for someone new to get there
  3. Can be handed over to you to pick apart – this is where vendors get nervous if the POCs are held together by sticky tape.

Access to a trial environment with sample solutions or patterns is also a great way to get a real feel for how things work. Even better, get a POC and ask for it to be loaded into your trial environment so you can play with it yourself.

Why is this important?

Demos serve a purpose – clarify and excite within a short window of time. This is great, but no amount of demonstration or slideware is going to give you the confidence of seeing and feeling something for yourself. It’s like buying a pair of shoes online without being sure of your shoe size - blisters don't lie.

9. Choose your partner wisely

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Choose your partner wisely

You may be planning to handle implementation yourself, which is one of the major perks of no-code / low-code, but partner engagement can often mean the difference between confidence and consequence.

All platforms have strengths and weaknesses. Finding a knowledgeable partner can result in advice that pairs your architectural goals and constraints, capabilities and business needs with a platform that will drive success.

When speaking to partners or vendors, it’s perfectly reasonable to request engineers and architects who are involved in and accountable for solution delivery to join in the sales discussion. Establishing open and honest dialogue is also important, so you can ask directly about the areas of weakness a platform may have and expect a straight answer.

Why is this important?

The right partner is one that knows the depths of the product very well and takes the time to understand your organisation’s architecture and capabilities. That way, you’ll be rewarded with unbiased recommendations about the suitability of the platform and how it can complement your existing architecture and processes. Unfortunately, we see too many examples of partners who are laser-focused on a sale and compromise the needs of the client by dodging conversation that might point to platform weakness or misalignment with organisational goals.

Finding the right platform

Choosing the right platform for your business is a big decision, but a rewarding one. We hope this article helps you navigate your way through the no-code and low-code buyer journey. Armed with this knowledge, you can choose a platform and a partner, or at the very least, give you a few ideas to follow up on that will set you off in the right direction to achieve your company’s digital transformation goals.

We’re always here to help if you need it, so if you’re looking for a partner to guide the way to some great outcomes, let’s chat.

Luis Nejo | Founder & CEO

Luis Nejo | Founder & CEO

Prior to founding DXLabs in 2018, Luis spent 20 years leading technology innovation and strategy within the Banking, Insurance, FinTech & Contact Centre industries. Luis is well known for his customer centricity, provocative thought leadership and an ability to demystify complex business problems.

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