What is low code development?

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A low code development platform allows business workers to quickly create and deliver custom business applications without the need for extensive programming to boost organizational agility.

Though low-code development platforms in their current form have been around for over a decade (there’s the popular Zoho Creator, for example), in principle, they’ve actually existed much longer. This development approach works on a common premise of high-level programming abstractions and offers a visual development approach to application development for non-technical users.

Low-code platforms are now a first-class development approach and a way for businesses to pivot and adapt to rapidly shifting work requirements. The low-code market is predicted to grow to $45.5 billion by 2025.

Benefits of low-code development

Essentially, low code is a disruptive software development method that allows office workers to create enterprise-grade business apps – like conference apps for event attendees or internal apps for procurement and employee onboarding processes – using drag-and-drop functionality and visual guidance—with “very little or no coding experience or knowledge”. Low code platforms can help businesses make internal workflow applications, build timesaving automations, and create seamless integrations.

The idea is to allow almost everyone—with no high-level technical or programming expertise—develop professional-grade apps that solve specific business challenges. These business users are referred to as ‘citizen developers,’ and helps frees up developer resources so that they can work on more complex, business-critical projects. Low code development platforms make businesses more productive and agile by allowing existing staff as citizen developers. It’s also a quicker approach and reduces costs.

Low code application development isn’t all easy-peasy though. For most enterprise-grade solutions, the citizen developers still need IT guidance or support from the development team.

Low code vs No code

Low code and no code are quite similar alternative approaches to traditional application development with several things in common. Both enable citizen developers develop apps in a fast, affordable, and accessible manner.

Of course, no code is the best approach if speed is a consideration, and the intended apps need to accomplish simple automation tasks and not require any customizability or scalability. While a low-code development platform needs minimal manual programming, there’s still a need for basic understanding of programming. No code solutions, on the other hand, do not require any coding knowledge. As a corollary of that, apps built with no code solutions have limited capabilities but the low code ones allow developers to create more sophisticated apps.

To summarize, while low code platforms are useful for both business users and professional developers to create apps without IT guidance, a developer is still required for any significant customization. No code platforms, on the other hand, allow anyone with moderate computer skills to rapidly develop apps. That said, these apps can be difficult to customize and do not allow for greater flexibility and control as the ones developed with low-code platforms.

Microsoft Power Apps

Microsoft Power Apps is a low-code development platform to easily build low-code apps that help modernize business processes, optimize efficiency with time-saving automations, and integrate other Microsoft products and services like Teams.

Part of the Microsoft Power Platform, Power Apps offers a suite of apps, services, connectors, and data platform to build custom business apps that connect to your business data stored either in the underlying data platform (Microsoft Dataverse) or in other data sources like SharePoint, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, et al. It offers a visual development experience with a drag-and-drop user interface and prebuilt templates allowing business workers to add rich business logic and workflow capabilities to their apps.

That said, do note that Power Apps is a low code platform, and not a no code one. Despite what the marketing suits will tell you, to build anything that fits an organizational need, you’d probably need professional developer guidance. On the other hand, the Power Platform also has Power Automate that allows workflow automation directly in your apps with a no-code approach.

Of course, Power Apps is an extensible platform so that professional developers can programmatically interact with data, apply business logic, create custom connectors, and integrate with external data, if needed. They can also use Azure to extend these low-code apps and create enterprise solutions that scale to meet the organization’s needs.

Source: The Forrester Wave – Low-Code Development Platforms for Professional Developers

Essentially, Power Apps aims to democratize app development experience and enables business workers to build feature-rich, custom business apps with only a little bit of code.

Since Microsoft is ubiquitous in enterprise, Power Apps is fast becoming a standardized low-code platform of choice and in a recent report, Forrester declared it to be a Leader among 14 providers in low-code development platforms for professional developers.