No-code, a type of software that allows both non-programmers and programmers alike to create software without writing code, is booming.
In Tonkean’s 2021 State of Business Operations Report, 80% of IT and operations professionals surveyed believe no-code solutions empower operations teams to get more work done. 95% said they’re either already using no-code (or low-code) tools, or are actively seeking such tools out. As we’ve written about before, much of the excitement comes from the holistic value no-code provides. By enabling non-developers to build and manage their own software solutions, no-code not only increases the innovative and productive capacity of non-developers, but helps IT scale, in that it allows IT to spend less time building and maintaining tactical solutions, and more time focusing on higher-level, strategic priorities.
But for as popular as no-code tools are becoming, there remains confusion regarding what exactly no-code platforms can be used for. A monolithic technology category this is not.
So what are the different uses for no-code? Let’s break it down.
No-code web development
The first widely adopted use of no-code came in the form of web builders.
These were no-code tools that allowed non-developers to build websites—a task that, before no-code, mandated knowledge of programming languages such as HTML and CSS.
No-code web builders remain popular today. Examples include Wix.com, Shopify and Bigcommerce.
Perhaps the most common use of no-code technology is app development. The kind of apps you can build with no-code include mobile apps, web apps—consisting of dynamic websites, landing pages, forms, and other customer-facing elements—and internal business apps.
You see no-code being used for this purpose all the time in fields such as business process management, or BPM, which can be defined as the designing, mapping, execution, and management of business processes. No-code BPM tools allow non-developers to do things like draw out a process diagram, flesh out a checklist of items involved in the process, and, of course, build an app to be used to execute the process.
Most no-code app builders, however, likewise come with limitations. For example, no-code app builders are typically used for simple, team-specific apps. To build anything more complex or widely adopted, app builders would likely still require heavy involvement of IT developers.
Additionally, BPM platforms need heavy integration to work within an enterprise environment—something that will also require technical resources.
Tools like Tonkean transcend such limitations, however, by leveraging the idea of composability into the no-code software creation process—allowing technical teams to provide building blocks that enable business teams to construct complex, natively-integrated solutions.
One primary way organizations are using no-code today is as a means of allowing non-developers to automate their own tasks. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)—developed over a decade ago as a method of automating tasks and mimicking how human workers interact with desktop applications—is evolving to be friendlier to citizen development, for example.
Historically, however, automation initiatives have fallen squarely into the purview of IT, mostly because automation tools (such as RPA) have traditionally required a fair amount of programming ability to use effectively.
But by abstracting the technical requirements of automating tasks into simple drag and drop interfaces, certain no-code automation tools eliminate those barriers. No-code tools like Zapier, for example, allow users to create simple software solutions that automatically pass data between apps. An example of such a solution is an automation that alerts you in Slack when a certain important email is received inside Gmail.
Zapier is an example of iPaaS (integration platform as a service.) These are platforms which, using APIs, move data from system A to system B with “triggering” events that can be added to and supplement business logic.
But no-code tools like Zapier have their limits, including the inability to automate combinations of tasks or workflows. That’s where a tool like Tonkean comes in. The Tonkean no-code platform goes several steps further than task-automation and empowers business teams to build solutions that automate even complex, human-centric workflows, consisting of many different tasks and implicating even wide varieties of people and systems.
Tonkean facilitates this in part by taking the APIs that other no-code tools, like Zapier, utilize in a sort of one-off fashion and supercharging them by making them reusable, modular, and far more dynamic. Inside Tonkean, IT can create large libraries of technical capabilities which non-developers can use in the manner of Lego blocks to facilitate the creation of complex, automated workflows. These building blocks can be based on APIs, or even automation blocks like RPA bots that automate interactions with legacy systems. They can also be custom applications, and even be chatbots that interface with multiple communication platforms—Slack, MS Teams, email—allowing for more seamless collaboration and connections between enterprise systems and people.
The key aspect is that these building blocks offload the more innately technical demands of solution building so that business users don’t have to think about that stuff. Rather, in designing and deploying their own internal automation solutions, built with their unique understanding of the problems they’re trying to solve, they can simply select the building block that does the function the solution calls for and go from there. They can mix and match in the manner of real developers, building programs using open source libraries.
This kind of automation makes possible the creation of the Composable Enterprise.
Perhaps the newest and possibly most advanced use of no-code today is process orchestration. Process orchestration platforms are platforms built for both non-developers and IT. They sit a layer above other technology solutions, and can be used not only to build no-code solutions, but to manage and orchestrate the tasks for which all other tools are typically used. They can integrate with your entire tech stack, and be used to automate entire processes end-to-end. Hence the name: one way to think of process orchestration is as a tool for the conductor of your company’s operational orchestra.
This turns process orchestration platforms into both a key example of what no-code can do, and a means of transcending no-code’s typical limitations, such as those evident in iPaaS solutions, or task automation platforms. Process orchestration platforms allow ops and IT teams the ability, finally, to manage—harmoniously and with strategy—all of a company’s various moving parts. In effect they allow you to streamline and optimize entire processes end-to-end, in part by incorporating functional elements from across your available tech stack, from the integration capacity of iPaaS to the repetitive power of RPA.
Tonkean is an example of such a platform.
In the future, the true power of no-code will emerge. That power revolves around its ability to democratize the ability to build legitimately complex software solutions, and to in effect tear down traditionally limiting internal silos and bottlenecks. An organization that’s embraced no-code—and that’s become integrated, modular, and composable, in part so as to maximize the ability of its users to deploy no-code effectively—is an organization of unique and potentially future-changing innovative capacity.
At Tonkean, we’re seeing this happen everyday. Click here to see what we mean.