During the last election campaign in Germany, digitization was not really a leading topic, it was more or less ignored. Now, also after the election, we hear very little about it as other challenges dominate the discussion. And when the topic is discussed, the focus is mainly around connecting every small village in Germany to fast internet. Opinions differ widely as to what the term “fast Internet” actually means. But as we all know, everything is relative in the eye of the beholder. Fast Internet certainly is an important foundation for digitization, experienced in reality every time again when sitting on a train and not having a stable connection. In the less populated interior of Brazil, I can accept not having a mobile signal in every corner. In the relatively small and densely populated “land of inventors and engineers,” even foreign visitors probably have little understanding for this.
Digitizing business processes
But digitization is not just about fast Internet. It is astonishing how many companies, especially small and medium-sized ones, still map their business processes on paper or spreadsheets. Standard software packages are usually inflexible and many companies shy away from the high investment. When they do decide to buy, it is not uncommon for internal processes to be adapted to the software rather than the other way around. A single software package then usually is not enough, which in turn leads to even higher costs. The other alternative is to develop individual software applications. But the IT departments are usually already quite busy with their day-to-day workload and good software developers are rare. However, for some time now, we already have been undergoing a change when it comes to creating custom software applications for the automation of processes and workflows. This change is driven by no-code platforms.
What is no-code?
A no-code platform enables the development of applications, workflows, websites or online stores without any technical background or programming knowledge. But what is no-code actually? Simply put, it is the ability to develop software without writing a single line of code. Most applications or even websites are programmed in standardized languages such as HTML, Java, C, Python or SQL. These well-defined programming languages are the code. No-code means nothing more than eliminating the need for programming languages. Instead, prefabricated building blocks and a graphical user interface with drag-and-drop functions are used for programming. In principle, this enables anyone to create individual solutions in the shortest possible time, which then can be easily and flexibly adapted and extended, just as business processes and workflows change. This saves time, costs and resources.
No-code and low-code
At this point, it is perhaps important to briefly explain the term low-code and how it differs from no-code. Low-code platforms still require a certain programming effort, but are more flexible than no-code platforms. The demarcation between the two platforms is often fluid and depends on the functionality. In principle, low-code platforms are aimed at developers and no-code platforms at end users. No-code works in a model-driven, plug-and-play manner, so to speak, while low-code requires manual programming work. No-code platforms usually have a fixed user interface, low-code platforms offer more flexibility by adding manually created program code.
Everyone is a software developer
No-code platforms especially enable employees who have no technical background but have deep professional expertise to create their own applications without having to struggle with programming languages. You use standardized building blocks instead that can be assembled via a graphical user interface with simple menu navigation. Software created on the basis of no-code thus offers the advantage that the scarce resources of the IT department and programmers can be enhanced by employees from other departments. Thanks to prefabricated modules, processes can be programmed quickly and easily, and even last-minute changes can be made without any programming effort. To be fair, it should be noted that individual adaptations and complex tasks that are not covered by the building blocks of a no-code platform can also only be implemented here by using the underlying programming language.
No-code in the construction industry
As already mentioned, it is still common today, especially in many small and medium-sized companies, that spreadsheets or even the good old paperwork is used to map business processes. This is particularly evident in industries that tend to be more conservative with regard to digitization, such as the construction industry. But also here you can feel the wind of change recently, driven not least by the no-code movement. Many companies are facing a change of generation and digitization experts are being hired to automate workflows with the help of modern technologies. Where a site manager on a construction site was using the good old clipboard, pen and paper earlier to record construction defects, he now does the same with an iPad and an application based on a no-code platform. The data from the construction site including photos is now simultaneously available in the office – if there is an internet connection available at the construction site. If this is not the case, the data is synchronized later when the site manager is back in the car on the way to the next construction site.
No-code and the IT departments
No-code platforms will give digitization a major boost, as many small and medium-sized companies in particular now have the opportunity to flexibly and cost-effectively automate their processes and workflows, exactly as they look like in reality. Ideally, the business departments work closely on that jointly with the IT department and combine their expertise. However, especially within the IT departments of larger companies, there is still a quite big resistance to no-code platforms, as there is a fear to loose control of the IT landscape to the employees of the other departments. But this will certainly change very soon, too.