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Three low-code software variants explained

Low-code application development is becoming increasingly popular. This is good news, because it is a true revolution in business software. It allows a much faster delivery of business applications with a minimum of manual programming and minimal investments in training and implementation. However, like many other things, low-code platforms come in all shapes and sizes. And that is precisely the problem. Because, for what purpose do you want to use the various options?

Broadly speaking, you can divide the low-code platforms into three categories, all of which offer a solution for the same problem: the slow delivery speed of business applications. With a low-code platform, programming is limited to a minimum and a lot of functionality no longer needs to be developed from scratch. Moreover, low-code applications can always be easily modified, in contrast to a software package or customized software. When low-code software development came into vogue, the available platforms were mainly suitable for creating simple web-apps with limited functionality. However, since then the low-code landscape has grown considerably. There are currently a lot more different platforms, and the depth in terms of possibilities and areas of application has increased immensely. Let us examine the three individual categories.

No-code apps

In the low-code landscape, no-code development is the lightest variant. No-code is often introduced by the business as a reaction to an inflexible IT department and usually without any consultation. The available development platforms are mainly focused on end-users within organizations with little or no technical knowledge, who want to have easier access to their business applications through a visual (web-based) environment. These people are also referred to as ‘citizen developers’. In practice, no-code is purchased by the business and used for small applications with limited functionality, for instance, for dealing with maintenance activities or to develop specific additional options that are not available in a large software package. No-code development is accessible and can quickly provide added value, but the fact remains that both the functional possibilities and the integration with other applications are limited.

Low-code apps

A more powerful category than no-code are the low-code application platforms. Low-code is often used as part of the strategy to extract data from the legacy systems, sometimes driven by the business and in other cases by the IT department. Low-code platforms are also intended for citizen developers with a business or IT background. Developing with a low-code app platform is less visual and slightly more technical, which means that it requires more training. However, there is a much wider range of possibilities available than with no-code development, as well as the opportunity to integrate with other business applications. The resulting low-code applications, however, still remain apps. What they mainly do is provide a way to combine information and functions from various other applications into one integrated app. For this reason, low-code apps are often used to fill functional gaps in large software packages or for the development of business dashboards.

Low-code ERP

The most advanced low-code variant consists of platforms with which you can build fully-fledged ERP systems. The implementation of low-code ERP is by definition a strategic choice to be made by top management. Software development with these platforms requires more technical knowledge and training than no-code/low-code app platforms, but the resulting applications can be modified just as flexibly. It requires far fewer developers, which is a great advantage. For the development, you mainly need business analysts to identify the functional requirements and subsequently modelers who incorporate these requirements into models. As a result, the development is on average ten times faster than with traditional tools. The main advantage of this type of low-code development platforms is that they can be used to develop fully-fledged ERP systems, which can also integrate flexibly with other applications. Companies such as VDL and Vacansoleil are already running on business software that was built with low-code ERP platforms. In addition, these versatile low-code development platforms are increasingly used by software producers to modernize their existing software packages to a model-driven solution. This means that they will never have to replace their software because it is outdated, and they can modify and expand their product much more flexibly.