First meetup of No Code Community in NL

First MeetupOn July 9th we had our first No Code Community in NL meetup at Transcriptum. During this inaugural meetup there were different No Coders present. Some were completely new to No Code while others already were using No Code for multiple years. We had 2 special subjects prepared:

  • Skills to Succeed with No Code by Bertil Schaart from Webbit21
  • No Code platform selection by myself

There were a lot of interesting discussions and even talk about creating a No Code platform.

 

Resources for finding the right no code platforms

Search for resourcesThe market for no / low code platforms only has been recognised fairly recently. Also more and more vendors start using this for marketing purposes as well. This has resulted in a growing list of vendors and more choices for users. Use the following resources as a starting point:

  • G2Crowd is a review platform based on user reviews. G2Crowd distinguishes between no and low code platforms. This website contains the largest number of vendors of all resources I have encountered to date. Unfortunately many vendors only have limited number of reviews.
  • Gartner started in 2017 with publishing a separate High Productivity Application Platform as a Service (HPAPaaS) Magic Quadrant. In April 2018 a new version was published and evaluates 20 vendors. Gartner positions Salesforce, OutSystems, ServiceNow and Mendix as leaders.Typically you can get a ‘free’ copy from 1 or more of the leaders. Gartner also lists 13 honorable mentions of vendors. These are not discussed in detail within the report.
  • Forrester started in 2016 with publishing the Forrester Wave – Low-Code Development Platforms For AD&D Pros Report. The most recent version is from Q4 2017. The more recent report evaluates 13 vendors. Forrester considers Salesforce, OutSystems, Appian, Kony and Mendix as leaders. Typically you can get a ‘free’ copy from 1 or more of the leaders.
  • PCMagazine reviewed 10 platforms in July 2017 and provides extensive individual reviews.
  • Infoworld published 25 tools/platforms in April 2018 for building mobile apps
  • Gartner has a peer review website where you can get insights from actual users of various platforms – 18th August 2018

The resources will by no means mention all potential platforms. To be listed they must have a reasonable market presence. Finding specialised or niche players can remain a challenge. The list of vendors is likely to change significant. I will update this list regularly as I do my own research into platforms.

Is a No Code platform enough to create a great solution quickly?

No Code platforms* are great tools to help develop solutions quickly. You can focus on the solution itself. Others have taken care of the hard parts such as deployment to infrastructure or testing the code itself. But you can still create a solution that does not meet the challenges you are trying to address.

You can quickly create an ugly and inefficient user interface with too many screens to click through. You can create data structures that make it difficult to do (management) reporting. You can create workflows that are counterproductive. You can create informatie security risks through the lack of authorisations. You can do things that make the legal / compliance people squirm like storing data in the wrong location.

A fool with a tool is still a fool – Grady Booch

In order to be successfully create a solution you need to perform many different roles. You need to be a business analyst to identify the right challenge to solve, an information analyst to understand how information should flow, an application architect to make sure the solution is structured correctly, an user experience designer to make it look good and support users correctly, a security consultant to avoid security incidents, a legal counsel to understand potential legal implications and sometimes a project manager or change manager as well.

Do you have to be an expert from the start? For some of the roles you can learn along the way because you can easily adjust your solution to improve it in minutes or hours. For other roles like the ‘legal counsel’ it may require some research or using your network regularly.

Having to perform many of these roles, projects become much more fun because you get to design and deliver all aspects of the solution. It probably means you have to admit to yourself that there are roles you are not good at (yet).

*) including any platform that reduces effort to create, deploy and maintain software to an absolute minimum

No Code vs Low Code

Why is there a distinction between No Code and Low Code platforms? I asked myself the same question as it was not very clear to me either. Is it a marketing thing, is it some kind of religion, and is there a major difference?

No code implies that there is absolutely no programming involved. You can compare this with assembling standard LEGO blocks to create an application or mobile app. Like with LEGO you are dependent on the available blocks and your own creativity to create some thing awesome. But you are also limited to the available blocks. If the block provided do not do what you want you can be stuck.

Low code implies that there is still some programming involved. The way I see it is that these platforms provide you with standard LEGO blocks as well but also with the possibility to create new LEGO blocks or determine what a programmable block, like in LEGO Mindstorm boxes, can do yourself.

What is better you ask? As with many things it depends what you want to do and whether it fits with the app you want to create. And how much you can compromise if functionality does not exist (yet…).

For example I have used a ‘no code’ platform to create an assessment* where I wanted to send the results in a PDF to the participant. I discovered that there was a very useable spider diagram that I could show on the screen but there was no way to get it to also be part of the PDF. Because I am no programmer this left me with 3 options:

  1. Wait for the platform provide to add this functionality (as it exists for bar charts)
  2. Use another diagram
  3. Create a new diagram (myself or hire someone) using the ability that exists to extend the platform.

 

*) I hear you think why not use SurveyMonkey… I had my reasons but that is a story for a different time 😉