By Mahdi Shariff
From startups to corporates, ‘low-code/no-code’ will revolutionise your operations – are you ready?
The power of low-code and no-code (LC/NC) applications creates a huge opportunity for start-ups and large companies that many have not yet realised. LC/NC is set to revolutionise the way companies, both young and old, build a faster, leaner business and scale more efficiently.
Some start-ups make the mistake of trying to custom build every application, including internal tools, they create from scratch. For large organisations, like Facebook or Google, this makes sense. If you are a small, rapidly growing company, it often doesn’t. Given limited funding and talent available means you will never get priority or the engineering resources to serve all your internal business needs.
There are many great applications covering every area of small business operations. So there is no point paying time constrained engineers to tailor software when a no-code application or lightweight tools such as Google Sheets can achieve the same thing more quickly, cheaply and meet the need.
Focus your technology budget only on developing core areas that bring you market advantage and differentiation. For all other areas, choose from the many software as a service (SaaS) and LC/NC tools available.
Say if you’re a fintech developing a machine learning model for credit scoring. It would not be the best use of your engineers’ time to build tools for internal operations — whether that be human resources, marketing or internal data management — when they could be developing your core model, product or platform.
Saas versus LC/NC - the long term view
According to Gartner, the SaaS market is growing at around 18% a year and LCNC at around 23%. Both have been driven by digital disruption and accelerated demand for flexible technologies during and post-pandemic.
SaaS is ready out-of-the-box and often has a defined approach and works well when it’s built to do the very specific thing you need. However, there are trade-offs:
1. SaaS has a fixed structure with a high time and cost to customise
SaaS is great where it does exactly what you need. However, if you have custom requirements that it’s not built for, the tool may not always be fit for purpose.
If you want something that’s not in the product, you have to wait in the queue for support from your in-house engineering team or cross your fingers that the SaaS vendor has your requirements in their roadmap.
When engineering resources are scarce, often internal operations and tooling is the last area to be prioritised. This leads to inefficient and less scalable operations that aren’t able to keep up with the pace of changing requirements in the market.
In reality, this means you miss out on having tools that adapt and are fully aligned to your processes and the market (optimal) and having to tolerate and accept changing your internal processes to adapt to the tools you use and being out of line with the true requirements (sub-optimal).
2. There’s often duplication and redundancy across your IT application estate
According to BetterCloud’s State of SaaSOps Report, the average company uses over 110 SaaS apps, up 38% from last year. With nearly a third of respondents saying they waste 20-39% of their total SaaS spend on unused or under utilised SaaS licences, this is an increasing challenge for organisations.
This redundancy creates inefficiencies across many fronts - as a time burden for IT in maintaining apps and seats across the organisation, in addition to increasing and ongoing licence fees, and from adding new seats as you scale - SaaS costs quickly can become a significant financial cost for organisations.
This is coupled with limited visibility and high complexity for central teams to understand how much each tool is even being used, alongside the duplications of features across SaaS tools, it can be a significant financial burden and a challenge to sunset older applications.
All in all, it means wasted time, effort and costs as you manage an increasing SaaS IT estate.
3. The hidden cost of SaaS tools - reducing organisational agility
Slowing organisational agility and data fragmentation are some of the hidden costs of an ever-expanding SaaS landscape. As the number of SaaS tools continues to grow and spending increases, organisations often put measures in place to mitigate the risk.
To prevent misspent investment, with good intent, companies add further governance such as involvement of internal procurement review, budgets alignment and central IT checks. However this leads to a long and often painful approval process for every new application from a central team - in addition to functional teams spending time preparing business cases vs focussing on execution and growing the business.
The alternative? Either find a technology partner to deliver this or wait in line with IT or engineering, fighting for support from scarce engineering resources with your requirements at the bottom of the priority list.
With many SaaS tools in place and all the data available, firms find themselves downloading data, manually reconciling across an increasing number of siloed tools, leading to further wasted time and effort to get a true picture of what’s happening.
The impact of which is operations and getting a true view of analytics becomes a key chokepoint for growth and reduces your organisational agility, bringing momentum to a stand still.
"When your product, technology and teams are built to be agile - why wouldn't your operations be?"
Growth of Low-Code and No-Code (LC/NC) and its role in empowering users
To address the key challenges of scalable and agile operations is where LC/NC comes in.
LC/NC empowers users to solve their own problems by building their own custom applications with no IT background and less training. This releases your engineering talent from building internal tools to driving development on your core products and platforms, whilst enabling more organisational agility as functional teams can automate and orchestrate their own operations faster.
Big organisations in sectors like banking and insurance have been deploying technologies such as robotic process automation of large, fixed processes to drive efficiency. But for small companies where many processes are not fixed or where the world is changing fast this requires agility. By enabling users to customise and rapidly build their own solutions, LC/NC enables this agility.
Even better, users with no IT or coding background can automate tasks and workflows, massively increasing the supply of capable talent; and leverage advanced features in minutes not months.
For example, LC/NC tools such as Microsoft Power Automate are helping make automation available to smaller organisations by building it into their functionality. It is a perfect fit for next-generation companies like payment provider Stripe, which focuses on decentralised and remote teams and a culture of empowerment. Furthermore, the integration of low-code into tools we use everyday such as Spreadsheets become a powerful combination to empower and enable your teams through an approach which is widely accessible.
This decentralised approach to the customising of applications and automation can make LC/NC immensely powerful for start-ups - but only if they have the right structure around it.
Building the right structure, support and governance
Your decisions about whether and where to deploy SaaS, no-code or low-code tools have wide-ranging implications for how you structure your model, teams, and governance.
As the number of applications built by LC/NC increase, it’s important to help ensure you help implement best practices and share learnings across the organisation.
This can be achieved through a number of routes:
- Implement dedicated Centres of Excellence, to help advise and support teams on building their own applications
- End-user communities with internal experts, to support share best practices, training and pre-built ‘recipes’ to help teams get started
- Leverage tools that help control, monitor, and manage the identity and data access rights, to enable empowerment and experimentation in a safe way
- Transfer applications to for governance, improvement and maintenance by a central IT function as they mature
There’s no one size fits all approach so best consider the gains and trade offs of any approach or seek advice on how best implement an automation programme.
Helping you scale in a fast-changing environment
All in all, start-ups have to deal with many fast-changing environments, both inside and outside the company. Whether that be responding to the pandemic, handling the Ukraine war, to even a company pivot. In such situations, SaaS or engineered internal tools often cannot change fast enough to react. But LC/NC tools can.
Such flexibility and agility are hugely empowering for users, and give small, fast-growing companies a significant advantage. The key is to understand when to use it and how.
How Ciklum can help
Whether navigating whether to "buy or build", or gaining a better understanding on how best to leverage the LC/NC or intelligent automation, Ciklum is well placed to help. We have decades of experience advising Fortune 500 companies and fast-growing companies on product and technology to delivery. To discuss how these solutions can benefit your organisation, contact us today.