Automation

Are low-code/no-code platforms really secure, scalable, and customizable?

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Imagine creating powerful applications without writing a single line of code. That’s the magic of low-code/no-code (LCNC) development platforms. While this technology has gained significant traction (a recent study found 82% of industry professionals are curious but lack a clear understanding), misconceptions still linger. This shroud of mystery can hinder businesses from unlocking the true potential of LCNC – from streamlining workflows to building innovative applications at record speed. Let’s demystify the landscape of LCNC development and explore its potential to empower businesses.

It’s Not Just Simple

Gone are the days when complex software development was solely the domain of highly skilled programmers. LCNC platforms like Microsoft Power Platform offer a spectrum of tools that cater to varying levels of technical expertise.

At one end, citizen developers can leverage user-friendly interfaces to construct basic applications to streamline workflows or improve data collection. Imagine a retail store creating an inventory management app with drag-and-drop functionality and pre-built templates. This is but one example of how these platforms can offer a swift and cost-effective way to address specific needs.

For more complex requirements, enterprise-grade LCNC tools empower teams to build sophisticated applications that deliver the same outcomes of custom-built solutions; much faster and at a better cost. These robust platforms integrate essential features like security, governance controls, and uptime reliability. Additionally, a key differentiator is extensibility. Enterprise-grade tools allow developers to seamlessly integrate custom code when necessary, ensuring flexibility for intricate functionalities.

A common concern is whether LCNC platforms can integrate with existing systems and scale as a business grows. The answer is a resounding yes. Leading LCNC platforms boast hundreds of pre-built connectors that facilitate seamless integration with cloud services, databases, and external applications. This ensures that LCNC applications complement, not disrupt, existing IT infrastructure. Furthermore, cloud-based LCNC platforms can effortlessly scale to accommodate growing user bases and data volumes.

Take for example, a leading 3PL provider who faced operational bottlenecks on their shop floor. Their existing ERP system, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, primarily focused on accounting tasks and lacked functionalities crucial for manufacturing and repair execution. While a custom-built application attempted to bridge these gaps, it compromised on features offered by NAV, hindering overall efficiency.

Fortude stepped in to develop a custom application that seamlessly integrated with the existing NAV system. This was executed by utilizing the user-friendly interface of Power Apps to construct specific modules for each aspect of the process, including receiving, repair, reclaim/harvest, and quality control.  This not only streamlined operations and enhanced visibility across the shop floor, but also expedited development due to the broader participation of citizen developers within the organization. The low-code development environment also ensured a faster development cycle compared to traditional coding methods, allowing the 3PL provider to implement the solution quickly and reap the benefits of improved efficiency sooner.

LCNC platforms are not a silver bullet, but they are a powerful tool in the arsenal of modern businesses. By understanding the range of capabilities offered by LCNC platforms, businesses of all sizes can unlock new opportunities to streamline operations, enhance customer experiences, and gain a competitive edge.

Customization is Key

Low-code/no-code (LCNC) platforms are democratizing application development, but it’s important to acknowledge that some customization needs might be more complex. LCNC platforms like Microsoft Power Platform offer a surprising degree of flexibility for most business use cases. Here’s how:

  • While user-friendly interfaces are a cornerstone of LCNC, their capabilities extend beyond basic building blocks. Pre-built connectors streamline data exchange with external systems and services, ensuring seamless integration with existing databases, cloud services, and popular applications. This eliminates data silos and fosters a unified information landscape.
  • For scenarios requiring functionalities beyond pre-built options, LCNC platforms offer extensibility through plugins and custom code capabilities. Imagine a retail application needing a specific loyalty program integration – a custom code extension could bridge that gap. This empowers developers to integrate specialized functionalities or address unique workflows, ensuring the platform can adapt to a wider range of needs.
  • LCNC platforms provide powerful tools for tailoring applications to specific business needs, all within the platform’s framework. Through a drag-and-drop functionality and pre-built components, users can leverage a visual interface to design applications that mirror unique workflows. Pre-built components like forms, dashboards, and data visualizations offer a foundation, but users can arrange and configure them to address specific data collection or presentation needs. Furthermore, the powerful feature of conditional logic allows applications to adapt based on user input or data conditions. Imagine an expense approval workflow that automatically routes requests to different managers based on the amount being spent. Conditional logic empowers users to build intelligent applications that streamline processes.

By understanding the evolving capabilities of LCNC platforms and acknowledging their limitations, organizations can leverage them to foster a collaborative development ecosystem. This approach empowers citizen developers to tackle tasks that don’t require extensive coding expertise, freeing up professional developers to focus on intricate functionalities. Ultimately, LCNC platforms drive agility, innovation, and operational efficiency. 

Security? Ensured.

Low-code/no-code (LCNC) platforms are democratizing application development, but security remains a top priority with the growing threat of cybercrime and cyberattacks. Rest assured that platforms like Microsoft Power Platform offer robust features to ensure user and data protection:

  • Granular Access Controls: LCNC platforms like Microsoft Power Platform provide multi-layered security, with fine-tuned access controls at the tenant, environment, and data level. This leverages Azure Active Directory for identity-based access management, restricting unauthorized individuals from sensitive information.
  • Data Encryption at Rest and in Transit: LCNC platforms like Microsoft Power Platform utilize encryption to safeguard data. Data at rest is encrypted with technologies like SQL Server Transparent Data Encryption (TDE), rendering it unreadable in case of a breach. Data in transit benefits from secure communication protocols, further protecting information as it travels between systems.
  • Regular Security Audits and Compliance: Microsoft rigorously audits Azure, the foundation for LCNC platforms, to ensure adherence to the latest security standards and industry regulations. This commitment to compliance translates to trustworthy LCNC environments for organizations in highly regulated sectors.

Beyond these core features, LCNC platforms can potentially improve security in two key ways:

  • LCNC platforms provide pre-built components and workflows, reducing reliance on custom coding. This standardization minimizes the potential for errors and vulnerabilities that often creep into applications built from scratch.
  • Citizen developers using LCNC platforms may have less coding experience compared to professional developers. By minimizing the need for complex coding, LCNC platforms can mitigate the risk of human error introducing security weaknesses.

While LCNC platforms offer a secure development environment, it’s important to remember that security is a shared responsibility. Organizations should establish clear governance policies and provide security awareness training for citizen developers to maximize the security benefits of LCNC platforms.

The Road Ahead   

Low-code/no-code (LCNC) platforms offer a compelling blend of accessibility and security: pre-built components streamline development and reduce the chance of errors, while robust features like access controls, data encryption, and regular audits ensure user and data protection. Additionally, LCNC platforms can integrate with existing systems and services, fostering a unified information landscape and eliminating data silos.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that LCNC platforms aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Highly complex functionalities or deeply integrated workflows may still require the expertise of professional developers. The key to success lies in careful evaluation.  Organizations should assess their specific needs and identify the capabilities of available LCNC platforms. By understanding both the strengths and limitations of LCNC development, organizations can make informed decisions, leveraging these platforms to foster a collaborative development ecosystem that drives agility, innovation, and operational efficiency. With the right approach, LCNC platforms can empower businesses to unlock a new era of secure and streamlined application development.

Talk to our team to learn how you can leverage a powerful combination of low-code tools to tackle your complex business problems: https://fortude.co/services/automation/