The internal (or admin) tools are solutions that business teams use to streamline their processes and services. As a company that heavily relies on low-code platforms to develop custom internal tools, we know how effective they are.
They make your sales and customer service departments more productive, and your business becomes more transparent as a whole. Specifically, the introduction of internal tools at Akveo helped us revamp meetings management, data analytics, and many resource management activities.
Internal tools conundrum
From automating data management and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), to introducing robust business applications and revenue dashboards, the world of internal tools is vast. According to Retool’s report, about 55% of respondents state that they’re developing internal tools for their operational teams.
At the same time, when talking to CTOs, it’s not unusual to hear that their teams have way too many tasks and requests in the backlog. Sometimes ops teams wait for ages before their request goes into development. And that’s a bummer: the lack of internal tools considerably slows down business processes within the company. Considering the current downturn in the economy, this slowness (i.e unpreparedness) may come real costly for businesses that can’t adapt to the current economic situation.
According to Pipefy’s post, 40% of project managers believe that as much as half of internal processes can be automated using low code platforms. Platforms such as Retool and JetAdmin allow you to create internal applications and digital tools, while, say, Creatio helps you solve marketing and sales-related tasks. This way, if you employ people with some basic app development experience, such low-code solutions come in real handy.
Here’s a little bit of theory before we plunge into details. What's the difference between low-code and no-code? Although you often see these two used interchangeably, it’s not quite so. To cut a long story short, low-code systems are suitable for complex and high-load tasks and require basic technical skills from users (so-called citizen developers).
No-code systems are the perfect match for solving simple tasks such as optimizing routine operations and creating unsophisticated systems for internal purposes. In the vast majority of cases, no-code platforms are provided only as cloud SaaS solutions. Plus, they also have large restrictions on the load and the number of allowed transactions, and high execution delays.
However, this segmentation is kind of relative. For instance, many no-code solutions require writing scripts for non-standard tasks. And some low-code tools provide functionality that can support complex processes without writing a single line of code.
The benefits of low-code
Let’s summarize the benefits of using low-code for businesses, shall we? First, more employees can be involved in development with low-code. In other words, DevOps teams no longer have to carry the burden of doing everything by themselves. Low-code platforms help:
- Accelerating problem-solving;
- Automating business workflows.
- Helping IT guys so they don’t have to manage (and code) myriads of requests;
- Drastically reducing application development costs;
- Ensuring business and sales teams get faster results.
These benefits are especially vital considering that business processes tend to change regardless of a company. Thus, you can say that business teams get more independent with low-code, and that’s the biggest benefit, I think. Nowadays, businesses require more and more applications, while developer services are becoming more and more expensive. So it’s no brainer to understand why the low-code movement is getting more popular day by day.
I don’t even mention that low-code development is often the only option available to small businesses. In turn, medium-sized businesses are attracted by the opportunity to develop an MVP (minimum viable product) in a short time and at minimal cost, launch it on the market, debug the unit-economy and eventually create a full-fledged product.
Large businesses usually resort to external low-code platforms for testing hypotheses, creating landing pages and internal corporate websites. Using low-code tools, qualified developers get more free time which they can spend on solving complex and important tasks.
Plus, automation. Low-code automates and optimizes routine processes and workflows with drag and drop features.
Another important thing to talk about is upskilling and professional development of the workforce. Today’s workers are looking for more opportunities to gain experience working with low-code or no-code platforms. More than 80% of users and potential users of low-code tools report that they would be more willing to work for a company that invests in their technical upskilling.
When you look at low-code, you see a range of platforms that might be easier or harder to use. The most common question we get from clients is “How can we develop a low-code strategy in a safe and manageable way?”
Well, talking about strategy, companies should concentrate on training citizen developers rather than hiring new expensive staff. It totally makes sense: employees are already familiar with other team members, the company's culture, goals, and business processes. In other words, it's easier for them to navigate in a familiar environment among friendly people they know.
Technical challenges in using low-code
Surely, low-code is not a silver bullet, and technical limitations exist. Let’s dive straight into the challenges of using low-code solutions. First of all, the low-code approach can’t solve the problem of increasing complexity that grows non-linearly while developing an IT solution. In the case of visual programming, the complexity grows too fast and the system may become unmanageable.
Secondly, you can build simple tools using low-code platforms, but what about complex ones? Sadly, there are problems that low-code platforms cannot solve in any way:
- Refactoring is either impossible or difficult. At the moment, no low-code platform has refactoring tools that come close to the level of advanced IDEs.
- Autotesting is impossible or extremely difficult. Without autotests, it becomes impossible to safely make changes, and the release of one feature requires a complete manual regression of the entire system. Certainly, that’s not something a reputable business needs.
- High loads, custom integrations, and security. These tasks require qualified engineers and cannot be completely solved by visual programming, which focuses on solving typical problems.
Another constraint is security issues and requirements for the protection of personal data. What information are you willing (or entitled) to entrust to a third-party platform? Low-code or not, you still need developers to organize data storage and develop security systems.
No wonder that many organizations rely on 3rd party low-code consultants and developers in their digital journey. However, low-code can’t compete (or let alone replace) with classical development, and both approaches just complement each other. The secret of success lies in choosing the right tool (and the right team) for solving a specific business problem.
To wrap up
Currently, the most popular internal tool builders in the market are Retool, Internal.io, Bubble Appsmith, UI Bakery, and JetAdmin. Such low-code systems help businesses lower their dependence on expensive developers, cut costs, and accelerate digital transformation.
Fair enough, challenges exist. However, the low-code approach remains a major trend for developing innovative solutions for enterprises and startups. As low-code advocates, we provide low-code related services, from consultations to development itself. Contact us to discuss how we can accelerate low-code-powered digital transformation for your business.
P.P.S. The graphs in this article are taken from this source.
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