Feb 06 2023

Are Low-Code and No-Code Tools the Answer for Small Businesses?

The tools promise to simplify application management for small businesses, but does the reality live up to the hype?

Low-code and no-code tools are the latest iteration of solutions designed to speed application development. With roots in the visual development and higher-level language tools of the 1980s, low-code and no-code tools try to solve one of the most basic problems in IT: the need for organizations to build customized applications without development taking forever or costing a fortune.

Still, there continues to be uncertainty around just how useful low-code and no-code tools are. Can they really make software development teams, be they in-house or hired hands, unnecessary, even on vital applications? Are they truly as easy for people with little or no coding background to use as the hype suggests?

Here’s what small businesses need to know about low-code and no-code.

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Using the Right Tools to Better Define the Problem

Some low-code and no-code toolkits aim to start from bare metal and operate in a stand-alone mode; others are designed to go on top of existing infrastructure or even a very specific platform, such as Microsoft 365. Some come in the form of tools you run on your own server; others are cloud-based subscription services with monthly fees and specific capacities.

These differences mean there’s not one world of low-code and no-code toolkits with a range of competitors. Instead, it’s a world of very diverse application development solutions all sharing the same buzzword. Each solution must be matched with a specific problem and specific environment.

Small business IT teams looking at low-code and no-code will need to get very detailed very early about what they are looking for and what problem they are trying to solve in order to choose the right solutions. Just because a business had a great experience previously with a tool, it doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work for its current circumstances.

Defining the problem and application requirements can be difficult for small businesses focused on day-to-day operations, especially if they don’t have in-house application development experience. This is the paradox of low-code and no-code, which is designed to be a godsend to just those types of organizations.

LEARN MORE: What's the difference between low-code vs. no-code development platforms?

How Low-Code and No-Code Can Support Small Business

One area where low-code and no-code works especially well for small businesses is with “if only” problems. For example, “Our current driver scheduling app is great, but if only it could email mangers the next day’s schedule, it would be even better.” In this example, a low-code and no-code solution can take an existing dependable application and extend its functionality.

Starting with internal applications rather than customer-facing tools is also a good strategy for small businesses interested in low-code and no-code. Internal users will be more forgiving of small design issues or user interface clumsiness and can give direct feedback on issues to in-house developers, who can deploy updates quickly. It’s not that customer-facing applications can’t be developed with low-code and no-code tools; it’s just that such tools require a higher level of polish, dependability and ease of use, so businesses are usually wise to spend their limited development resources on those apps.

This doesn’t mean that small businesses can’t start from scratch with low-code and no-code tools to develop entirely new applications. But taking on the task of building a new application, especially a line-of-business or business-critical application, is a big commitment, whether using low-code and no-code tools or more traditional development environments.


The percentage of new applications that will be developed using low-code and no-code tools by 2025.

Source: gartner.com, “Gartner Says Cloud Will Be the Centerpiece of New Digital Experiences,” Nov. 10, 2021

How to Integrate the Use of Toolkits When Developing

Toolkits can cut the time to develop applications, but someone still must sit down and design the application and IT platform it runs on: what screens will look like, what workflows will be part of the application, what the databases will look like, how to handle errors and exceptions, what security and protections apply, and how to deploy and manage the application and data over time.

Writing code is a big part of the application development process, but is just one of many tasks that go into building and running an app.

This means that a tech-savvy employee (or CEO) isn’t going to turn into an application developer after watching a few training videos and downloading a few examples from GitHub.

The best way for small businesses to think about using low-code and no-code tools is to reduce costs and speed development for existing teams who already are developing, managing and delivering business applications. Low-code and no-code is best used to supplement existing developers, not to replace them.

EXPLORE: How low-code development could help banks embrace digital transformation.

Finding the Best Low-Code and No-Code Path

Low-code and no-code is often promoted as a “third path.” Advocates say that it’s not an application you buy, and it’s not an application you have to pay someone else to develop, but something different still. Yet these are not distinct paths; they are parts of a broad spectrum of options and can have considerable overlap. Low-code and no-code toolkits represent another option on that spectrum.

For example, small businesses often already have low-code and no-code available to them to complement of Software as a Service tools they’re already happy with. Many existing SaaS providers, such as Microsoft, ServiceNow and Salesforce, are branding as low-code and no-code development environments that are designed primarily to extend their existing cloud-based platforms. Small businesses already using SaaS apps may be able to extend those applications quickly.

Small businesses may also choose to bring in third-party developers to build applications, specifying the low-code and no-code development environments. Small businesses that don’t have existing development teams can still take advantage of the benefits of low-code and no-code by working with outside developers that focus on the tools. This way, they can get faster deployment at a lower cost, with the potential that future incremental changes and updates could be done in-house because of the simpler nature of the development environment.

Low-code and no-code isn’t a revolutionary paradigm shift in programming, and it isn’t a silver bullet that will solve all application development problems. But it can deliver applications with lower costs and shorter turnaround times to small businesses looking for agile solutions.


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