So you’ve decided it’s time to bring in a no-code platform. You understand no-code’s power and potential to drive efficiency, speed, and quality. Enabling non-technical people in your organisation to develop applications without code is powerful. But nowadays, no-code platforms come in many shapes and sizes, and it can be difficult to tell them apart.
Here are the top three things to consider when choosing a no-code provider.
The Spaghetti Problem: Choose a tool that can scale
One of the most common pitfalls in no-code development is choosing a platform your organisation will outgrow in a year or two. Many no-code providers have inbuilt ‘ceilings’ which limit how many and what types of solutions you can build. It’s critical to be aware of where those limits lie.
Let’s say you want to build a tool that gives regulatory advice to your team members in Germany. You map out your process and get your thoughts in order, and give it a catchy name: ‘Regulation Wizard’. You jump into your no-code tool and start building your solution: maybe a couple of questionnaires, some logical rules. Maybe you throw in a few calculations as well. Within an hour, you’ve built your proof-of-concept – how easy was that, you think!
The German team loves using Regulation Wizard and raves about the time savings. Soon, the Spanish and French teams get in touch and ask if you might build a similar tool for their jurisdictions. No problem, you think. It didn’t take long to do one country, so a couple more won’t be an issue.
So you build them out in your no-code tool. It’s starting to look a little messier on the screen – you’re finding it a bit more difficult to follow the trail of arrows, lines, and boxes, and it’s actually taking you a little longer to get going.
It’s now three months later. Your Regulation Wizard is getting great traction across the business, and you’re very pleased. Using a no-code platform made what was just an idea a reality in no time at all, and the business is seriously engaging with you and your team. But in the back of mind, there is a nagging anxiety, and you are reluctant to keep developing your solution.
Over time, you kept adding more and more jurisdictions as more of the company wanted to use the tool. But now when you look at your app, you have no idea where to start. You feel like you’re looking at an impenetrable scribble of boxes and lines. You’ve reached the limit for this tool, and if you want to grow it out further, you realise now that you might have to start again on a different, more scalable platform.
All of this originates from the type of no-code platform you choose at the outset. Most platforms are built on a decision tree architecture, where you link boxes together to model a business problem. It has its advantages: boxes and arrows are a familiar metaphor, and for simple problems can be learned quickly. But crucially, they also suffer from the Spaghetti Problem. When you get to the level of complexity and depth necessary to deliver something truly useful for the wider business, boxes and arrows alone make it extremely difficult to maintain and improve your solution.
The most scalable platforms are built with an issues-based or workflow-based architecture. With either of these architectural structures, you can quickly scale solutions up without running into time-consuming maintenance and performance issues. The Neota platform was built with both of these models in mind, which means it’s suitable for building a simple solution, but if and when you want to go further and build more powerful tools you can do so in a way that is simpler, faster, and far more scalable.
Takeaway: Choose a platform that gives you enough power for future development – don’t hit a development ceiling.
Buyer Beware: Choose a strategic partner, not a vendor
With all the amazing benefits of no-code platforms, and the promise of rapid development, many people still find themselves at an interesting crossroads. On the one hand, they feel empowered by the technology. They are able to build apps and start solving problems straight away. But on the other hand, they feel like beginners. Where should they start? What’s the best way to build their idea? How have other people achieved these results?
This is especially true when automating complex business processes involving many stakeholders.There’s added pressure for things to be done the right way. There are also more potential points of failure.
As a business user developing solutions, you rely on a technology provider who is willing and able to provide business savvy guidance and support. After all, you are not buying a car from a garage. You are buying an enterprise platform technology, and you need advisors who can show you exactly how to extract the most value possible.
Too many companies provide their technology without really understanding their customers’ business processes and challenges. They simply give you the tools, and then expect you to work it out for yourselves – with the occasional nudge in the right direction.
Instead, look for a strategic partner and not just a vendor: a provider willing and able to dive into the complexities of your work; that has experience engaging with stakeholders from all levels of the business; that can show you how to build a true no-code strategy and drive real efficiency and value across your organisation.
Takeaway: Choose a platform that has enough experience to understand your business challenges. Make sure to ask for customer references.
Measuring Success: Choose a tool that takes a data-first approach
When we look at the arc of technological change, it’s clear that we are still in the early stages of the no-code wave. Unlike Neota, most no-code offerings in the market are only a few years old. They’re at the beginning of their maturity journey and haven’t reached their full potential. They do not have experience in delivering value over time, or showing customer-driven progress in their platform.
In contrast, think about the tools you use in your day-to-day work: your email client, DMS, ELM and CRP systems (to name a few). Generally speaking, these tools have been around for several years, during which they’ve gone through multiple iterations of development.
One critical mark of platform power and maturity is its approach to data. Many no-code platforms treat data as an afterthought. These tools lack a strategy around how data is collected, organised, stored, and integrated with other systems. The market is asking for more insight into processes and performance – but it will take a while for younger no-code providers to catch up.
As your legal team matures with its technology strategy, it is vital that you have a detailed understanding about how your team is performing. The only way to do that is to develop a data strategy: capturing, structuring, and reporting on data.
A robust data strategy also enables you to prove the value of your investments and efforts. If your no-code platform has in-built data management capabilities, you can capture detailed insights about your team: where the roadblocks lie, how much time is being saved, how much risk is being reduced – and much more.
Without that data maturity, you run the risk of implementing just another tool that doesn’t communicate with the rest of the business. The last thing you want with a no-code platform is for it to exist in a silo. A strong data capability is the key to unlocking silos and getting the most value of your tools.
When reviewing platforms, make sure to enquire about how the tools collect data. Is it automatically structured, or is there some SQL programming and database administration required? Are you given access to the full data set, or are you presented with a limited menu of data points? Are you able to easily extract your data, or are you locked into their environment?
You might find that different providers have very different levels of sophistication when it comes to how they manage data.
Takeaway: Choose a platform that takes data seriously: that sees it as a core part of their offering, and not just an afterthought.
There are of course many other considerations to take into account when selecting a no-code platform, including support and educational resources and whether the commercial model fits your budget and strategy.
Now that you have started down the no-code road, take a moment to consider three questions.
- Does this tool have the power and depth of functionality for my future plans?
- Does this provider genuinely understand and care about my business?
- Does this platform have a robust approach to data management?
Asking these questions of your technology providers will help you make a better, more strategic and futureproof decision for your organisation – and safeguard your business from painful hidden costs in the future.