Low-code and no-code in CRM: are citizen developers the future?

Charlotte Malz
Head of Marketing, BSI

No-code, low-code and citizen developers: Anyone currently involved in programming or software evaluation cannot ignore these three terms. Yet what do they mean, and how can you benefit from these trends and developments when it comes to your CRM systems?

Key points:

  • No-code is a visual interface that enables even non-specialists to develop process-optimizing applications.
  • IT-savvy employees without classical programming skills are called citizen developers and are a cost- and time-efficient alternative to trained programmers in specific application areas.
  • No-code is becoming increasingly relevant for CRM solutions as well, and some established software companies offer such platforms already – the result is a “democratization of IT.”

What do low-code and no-code mean?

Classical application development done by trained developers is time- and cost-intensive. Even the acquisition of qualified specialists is a challenge in an employee market shaped by a “war for talent.”

As a result, low-code and no-code platforms continue to emerge. In contrast to the classical development by hand-coding, they use a type of modular system with a graphical interface and Drag and Drop principle, which enables a technically savvy user to program simple applications. The Italian insurer Generali (Seedmatch, 2018), for example, works on this basis – and the Dutch bank Rabobank even developed an app and an online banking portal for its 500,000 customers on its own (Mendix, 2020).

The advantage is that users often know about their own needs, their customers’ needs and any lurking pitfalls better than external developers do. Easing the burden on the IT department and utilizing power or standard users is also a driving force for digitization. With low-code and no-code platforms, access to programming is no longer reserved exclusively for an elite circle – experts speak of the “democratization of IT.”

What is the difference between a low-code and a no-code platform?

The transitions between low-code and no-code are fluid, and it is almost impossible to draw a clear line. Yet, there is one big difference: While low-code platforms offer the option of expanding and changing the user interface (or the “building blocks of the modular system”) with one’s own code, the UI of a no-code platform is rigid and consistent.

Gartner, the leading IT market research firm, expects that by 2024, around 65% of all applications will be built based on low-code or no-code platforms (Gartner, 2019).

Examples of this development are already available in a wide variety of industries, including retail: “Open Standard Point of Sale” is an intelligent cash register for retail based on no-code that the user can adapt flexibly to the organization’s needs (Compex News, 2019). Examples of low- and no-code platforms are particularly widely used in modular systems for websites or workflow tools. According to a study, one-quarter of all business applications will be created by so-called “citizen developers” by 2024 (Gartner, 2019).

What is a citizen developer?

The new generation of programmers are called citizen developers, which literally means something like “civil developer.” A better term in this context is IT-savvy employees without classical programming skills.

While hand-coding as the classical form of development is reserved for experts, low-code and no-code platforms offer citizen developers the opportunity to build applications for complex operations on their own. As with modular systems, they select building blocks from an on-screen library and drag them into a visual workflow.

What are the disadvantages of citizen development?

Citizen developers typically work in their own departments without any connection to the global IT department. Yet, besides the advantages of efficiency improvements and cost optimization, there are also disadvantages. Since it is so self-sufficient and detached from the existing infrastructure, citizen development poses a risk of creating a “shadow IT group.” There are clear rules, documentation and processes in typical IT systems that may not be implemented consistently in citizen development.

Another problem associated with citizen development is that on no-code platforms, individual adaptations to the respective operating environments are impossible without help from classical programmers who make changes to the code. In addition, citizen developers typically do the work for themselves in their departments and focus on individual application areas, limiting collective integration opportunities and integration options into the company’s global IT structure.

Conclusion: No-code is on the rise

Some experts speak of an evolution from hand-coding to no-code and citizen development. Whether this development will sustainably change the programming world remains to be seen. The fact is that even though we can currently not do without trained specialists and developers, the democratization of IT is progressing noticeably.

Good to know: BSI CRM does not require in-depth programming skills. You will find our CRM system compelling, with its modular design, high degree of configurability and open technology. It adapts to your business, processes, and IT environment – not the other way round. Hand-code, low-code or no-code, specialist developers or citizen developers – together with you, we will find the right solution for your CRM system. Please feel free to contact us.

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