How to decrease development time and cost for custom web applications?

Are legacy or traditional development technologies holding you back?

If current development stacks limit your ability to scale and develop faster, consider another option: No-Code/Low-Code software development.

The use of legacy or even traditional technologies and methodologies for software development offers several potential disadvantages that often hinder a company’s ability to compete and innovate:

  • Development Speed and Ease:  Legacy or traditional software development typically requires more time and technical expertise, involving writing code from scratch.
  • Skill Requirements:  Legacy or traditional software development requires high programming knowledge and experience.
  • Maintenance and Updates:  Legacy or traditional software development requires in-depth codebase knowledge and can be complex, especially for large applications.
  • Cost:  Legacy or traditional software development often requires more significant upfront costs and ongoing expenses related to skilled developers, infrastructure, and maintenance.
  • Use Cases:  Legacy or traditional software development is best for complex, highly specialized, or mission-critical projects where customization and control are paramount.

To mitigate these disadvantages, especially in today’s fast-paced business environment,  several strategies that organizations can consider include:

  • Agile Methodology: Adopting Agile methodologies, such as Scrum or Kanban, can help make the development process more flexible and responsive to changing requirements. While Agile encourages incremental development, continuous feedback, and close collaboration between development teams and stakeholders, it does not necessarily translate to faster development time. 
  • Offshore Resources offer lower labor costs, which won’t necessarily translate to efficiencies in your software development projects.  On the contrary, it could result in frustrations and lost time due to differences in time zones, language, culture, or lack of specific business knowledge, along with challenges enforcing security/legal compliance and quality control.
  • Code Reusability: Encourage the reuse of code components and libraries by creating standardized libraries, frameworks, and microservices to serve multiple projects.  Yet, such an approach still requires specific skills, maintenance, and associated costs.
  • No-Code/Low-Code Platforms allow technical and non-technical users to participate in the development of custom web applications, reducing the need for extensive coding and development effort.  We will spend the rest of this article examining and detailing this approach.

Leveraging no-code/low-code technologies to decrease development time and costs

What is no-code/low-code, and how can it help my project?

No-code and low-code are names for software development approaches aimed at simplifying and accelerating the process of creating software solutions. It empowers non-technical users, such as business analysts, program managers, and citizen developers, to build, customize, and maintain applications with minimal or no traditional coding experience.

No-Code Development No Code Low-Code Development 
  • No-code platforms provide a visual interface where users can design and build applications by dragging and dropping components, configuring settings, and defining workflows without writing code.
  • No-code platforms often offer pre-built templates and integrations to speed up development.
  • No-code platforms are well-suited for tasks like creating simple web and mobile apps, form builders, and workflow automation.
  • Low-code platforms offer a flexible approach, allowing users to design parts of the application visually and allowing custom code when needed.
  • Low-code platforms balance visual development and traditional coding, suitable for various applications.
  • Complex applications with advanced customizations are better suited for low-code platforms.

No-code and low-code development platforms have gained significant attention and popularity recently. However, along with their advantages, several misconceptions exist surrounding these platforms. Here are some of the most common misconceptions associated with no-code and low-code development:

  • Myth: No-code/low-code is only for simple applications. 

Reality: No-code and low-code platforms have evolved to support complex and enterprise-level applications. While they excel in rapidly creating simple apps, they can build sophisticated, scalable, and feature-rich applications.

  • Myth: Developers are not needed with no-code/low-code. 

Reality: Developers are not replaced by these platforms but can be more productive with them. Skilled developers can use no-code/low-code tools to accelerate development, collaborate with non-technical users, and focus on more complex and critical tasks.

  • Myth: No-code/low-code leads to poor quality code. 

Reality: No-code/low-code platforms generate code that is often high-quality and maintainable. They follow best practices and industry standards. However, the quality of the code can also depend on the use of the platform and the developer’s expertise.

  • Myth: No-code/low-code is a fad. 

Reality: No-code and low-code development is becoming a permanent part of the software development landscape. It is continually evolving and expanding in capabilities. According to a 2021 Microsoft-commissioned Forrester Consulting Total Economic Impact™ study of Microsoft Power Platform and Microsoft Azure for Corporate IT, professional developer efficiency with low-code platforms significantly increases over time, averaging 62% over three years. These efficiency gains are necessary as 45% of IT pros say they first adopted low-code platforms to compensate for staff shortages.

  • Myth: No-code/low-code is only for business users. 

Reality: While no-code/low-code platforms empower non-technical users to build applications, they are also valuable tools for professional developers looking to speed up development and reduce mundane coding tasks.

  • Myth: No-code/low-code is always cost-effective.

Reality: While these platforms often reduce development time and costs, they are exceptions. The choice between traditional software development and no-code/low-code development depends on the specific project’s requirements, budget, timeline, and the available skill set.

Traditional development provides maximum control and flexibility but demands greater technical expertise, time, and resources. No-code/low-code development offers rapid application development with reduced technical barriers but comes with limitations regarding complexity and customization.

For some projects, combining both approaches could be the most effective solution.

Getting started with a no-code/low-code approach

Leveraging no-code/low-code technologies can accelerate application development and streamline processes, but getting started may seem daunting. Here are steps to effectively use these tools:

  1. Understand Your Needs and Goals: Identify your specific business or project requirements. What processes or applications do you need to automate or create?  Documenting high-level requirements in a Requirement Traceability Matrix is highly recommended and establishes your baseline.
  2. Assess the No-Code/Low-Code Landscape: Research and compare different no-code/low-code platforms to find the one that best suits your needs. Consider criteria such as:
    • Hosting:  Do you need your solution hosted in the cloud or on-premise?
    • Licensing:  Many platforms charge per user, so carefully forecast your anticipated usage.
    • Mobile Capabilities:  Do you need a mobile application or mobile browser solution?
    • Security:  How should your users be authenticated and authorized?
    • Integration:  Identify platforms that support your integration requirements.
    • Reporting tools:  Who should have access, and will the provided tool be suitable for all needs?
    • Training and support.  Will differing levels and types of training be necessary?  Who will be responsible for the solution on an ongoing basis? 
  3. Popular options include Microsoft Power Platform, Appian, OutSystems, Mendix, etc.
  4. Start with a Simple Project: It’s usually best to begin with a straightforward project to assess the platform and learn its capabilities and limitations. Customer portals are often a good use case for low-code solutions.
  5. Training and Skill Development: While no-code/low-code platforms are inherently user-friendly, some learning and training will create the basis for you and your team to use the platform effectively and lead a successful implementation. This training also lets you introduce your non-technical resources to the development team. 
  6. Our team recently adopted Microsoft’s no-code/low-code Power Platform. Several developers attended training and obtained a Microsoft certification in Microsoft’s Power Platform suite of no-code/low-code tools such as Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents. 
  7. Build and Test: Use the no-code/low-code platform to build your application or automate your process. Many platforms offer visual, drag-and-drop interfaces to design workflows, forms, and logic.  Depending on the size and scope of your application, the below steps could apply to your build:
    • System configuration, development, and staging environments.
    • Creation of the data model and configuration of the database.
    • Security, user management.
    • Core pages and database operations.
    • Enhance the user interface (UI) for each user role.
    • Reporting.
    • Administrative functions.
    • Final User Acceptance Testing (UAT), documentation and training.
    • Go-Live
  8. Test at each step of the development process, ensuring your requirements are met, including drawing in your stakeholders directly.
  9. Collaborate and Share: Collaborate with your team and stakeholders throughout the development process. Most no-code/low-code platforms allow for easy sharing and collaboration, enabling multiple team members to work on projects simultaneously. 
  10. Monitor and Optimize: Continuously (at least monthly) monitor the performance of your no-code/low-code applications and gather user feedback.  Tools such as Microsoft’s Application Insights can help.  Optimize and update as needed to ensure your custom web applications remain effective and efficient.

Beyond cost savings

No-code and low-code solutions offer several benefits for businesses, enabling streamlined operations, reduced costs, and accelerated digital transformation. Here are some critical advantages achieved by this rapid development approach:

  • Faster Time-to-Market: No-code and low-code platforms allow businesses to develop and deploy applications and software solutions much faster.  This speed-to-market advantage is crucial in lowering risk, staying competitive, and swiftly responding to changing market conditions by providing the ability to innovate and adapt rapidly.
  • Cost-Efficiency: Traditional software development can be expensive due to the need for skilled developers and the time required for coding. No-code and low-code solutions often require fewer development resources, reducing development costs and ongoing maintenance expenses.
  • Reduced Dependency on IT: Business owners can build applications and automated processes without the need for extensive coding expertise or reliance on IT teams. Reduced coding empowers non-technical staff to take control of their digital initiatives, allowing them to prototype ideas and make changes quickly.  
  • Scalability & Customization: Low-code platforms provide the flexibility to add custom code when necessary, giving you the best of both worlds for standardization and customization, allowing scalability towards more complex and enterprise-level applications.
  • Integration & AI: Many no-code and low-code platforms offer pre-built integrations with popular software tools, allowing you to easily connect your application with other systems and services, including pre-built AI Components such as natural language processing (NLP), image recognition, sentiment analysis, and predictive modeling tools.
  • Accessibility: No-code and low-code platforms typically come with user-friendly interfaces accessible to many employees, democratizing the development process, allowing more team members to contribute to digital initiatives, and improving customer experience that helps attract and retain customers.
  • Reduction of ongoing Support and Maintenance: No-code and low-code solutions inherently reduce manual code to maintain. These platforms’ visual nature leads to more maintainable code since it’s generated or configured using standardized practices.  In addition, it can gradually replace or modernize legacy systems, reducing the burden of maintaining outdated technology.

Embracing No-Code and Low-Code platforms can empower your organization to innovate, collaborate, and adapt more efficiently in a fast-paced digital world. By strategically incorporating these technologies into your development strategies, you can accelerate project timelines, reduce costs, and improve collaboration across departments, as demonstrated by these statistics:

  • 89% of CIOs and IT pros surveyed say low-code is effective in increasing efficiency.
  • 87% of CIOs and IT pros say low-code is very useful in helping their organizations modernize legacy applications.
  • 87% of CIOs and IT pros surveyed say low-code is effective in helping reduce costs.
  • Power Platform and Azure helped reduce costs by 24% due to increased developer efficiency, increased DevOps efficiency, and reduced spending on third-party solutions.

The choice between No-Code and Low-Code depends on the specific project requirements and long-term goals. Still, both can transform how your organization develops and delivers software applications.

Selecting your no-code/low-code development partner

We thrive in helping organizations build and maintain the next generation of custom web applications faster and cheaper.  We deliver each step of the process outlined in this article, but we most often help with:

  • Analysis and requirements gathering.
  • Low-code rapid development.
  • Monitor and Optimize through our Wellness Check plan

Our approach works best with forward-thinking organizations, leveraging our drive to increase value while being organized about work and communication.

References:

Charos Boboyorova. “An Introduction To No-Code/Low-Code Platforms: Seven Things You Should Know.” Forbes, 2023. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2023/03/07/an-introduction-to-no-codelow-code-platforms-seven-things-you-should-know/?sh=70ca3d545fe2).

“Low-code signals 2023 – Microsoft. Apr 2023” (https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com/powerplatform/2023/04/13/low-code-signals-2023/)