How familiar are you with Low-Code already?

The topic of Low-Code is currently everywhere and is not sparing the SAP world: SAP Build (soon supported by the SAP GenAI assistent Joule), SAP Fiori Elements, SAP Business Application Studio – Low-Code already plays a significant role on the SAP BTP. In this whirlwind of continously emerging tools and buzzwords one can quickly lose track. What exactly is Low-Code, and how does it relate to No-Code and Pro-Code? What are Citizen Developers, and how do they differ from a traditional software developer? And why is no company able to avoid the Low-Code topic anymore? Our Head of Development, Jakob Frankenbach, dives into these questions in this blogpost. 

When I currently engage with my team or our clients about new trends in the field of IT and software development, or follow discussions in the media, I observe a trend towards increasing confusion surrounding the floating terminologies. This is not surprising because often when a new wave of hype arrives, there is considerable confusion, and terms are used and interpreted in presentations and reports in contradictory ways. Therefore, I would like to share a few definitions and classifications. 

Does No-Code really not need the use of code? 

No-Code refers to methods and tools that allow the creation of software solutions without the need for writing program code. However, this does not mean that the resulting software is entirely managed without code. Instead, visual tools are typically employed, where predefined components are assembled to form the desired solution using techniques like drag-and-drop. The generation of the source code required for the executable software artifact then occurs automatically in the background, requiring no manual input from trained software developers. 

How Citizen Developers work 

In the No-Code environment, as described above, no source code is written, as is the case with traditional software development approaches. This opens up the possibility of allowing software to be developed by “non-IT professionals.” For example, employees in various business departments of a company can be empowered to develop software solutions. These users of No-Code tools, who do not have the traditional educational background in computer science, are referred to as Citizen Developers. 

Citizen developer instead of digitalization expert: are we abolishing ourselves with Low-Code?

The low-code approach offers almost countless possibilities for supporting processes with little effort. It is almost praised as the solution for every problem – with the citizen developer on the …

Pro-Code – nothing really new! 

Pro-Code is not a new trend in software development but rather a newly coined term describing the opposite of No-Code – the traditional software development approach by professional and trained software developers. 

The mix of both? Low-Code! 

Low-Code ultimately covers the open spot between the two worlds of “No-Code development without any code” and “Pro-Code development exclusively with classical, manual code generation.” The use of the term Low-Code is currently quite ambiguous and unclear, leading to misunderstandings and misclassifications in discussions. From my perspective, it is crucial to distinguish between two fundamentally different forms of Low-Code: 

  1. Low-Code/ No-Code (LCNC)
    Often, No-Code tools provide the option to enhance components beyond pure visual configuration with small, self-written code fragments. This allows, for example, the realization of additional functionality that the No-Code standard component does not offer. In this context, one frequently encounters the acronym LCNC, which stands for “Low-Code/No-Code,” illustrating that application development is possible entirely without code. However, it also emphasizes the flexibility to selectively extend or customize functionality with Pro-Code if needed. This can occur either by involving software development experts or theoretically, if Citizen Developers possess programming knowledge, by them in a dual role. 
  2. Low-Code-Tools
    Concurrently, there are increasing representations using Low-Code methodologies, tools, and software libraries, designating them as allowing professional software developers (Pro-Coders) to develop software with less code than before. This is achieved, for instance, by auto-generating the code framework or encapsulating standard functionality in libraries, making these code blocks easily reusable. 
The first interpretation of the Low-Code concept continues to focus on the role of the Citizen Developer and allows additional flexibility through minor Pro-Code injections but does not assume knowledge in this regard. Conversely, Low-Code according to the second interpretation facilitates the work of traditional software development, requiring less self-written code. However, it does not inherently provide the potential to involve Citizen Developers in the development process.
Jakob Frankenbach
Head of Development, sovanta

Why is everyone speaking about Low-Code?

But what are the reasons for the current rapid spread of the Low-Code trend, with many companies starting their first flagship projects in the Low-Code environment? Firstly, the shortage of IT professionals currently stands out as one of the main reasons for an innovation backlog in the field of digital transformation. Millions of positions worldwide cannot be adequately filled today, and the trend in these numbers is increasing. This problem can be mitigated either by outsourcing parts of the activities to Citizen Developers or by allowing software development projects to be carried out much faster and more efficiently by IT experts than before. However, even apart from the shortage of skilled professionals, the world of IT is constantly changing. Requirements are changing more and more frequently and rapidly, and high pressure for innovation requires increasing flexibility and speed in the development process. Therefore, efficiency-enhancing tools and methodologies are sought after, enabling both software development and Citizen Developers to create solutions even faster and better, as well as to respond more flexibly to changing requirements. 

Feel free to reach out to us if your company is currently exploring Low-Code. We are happy to share our experience and support you on your journey. 

Jakob Frankenbach
Head of Development, SAP BTP Solution Architect

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With his broad expertise, Jakob is the perfect contact person for our customers in cloud projects as Head of Development.
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