No-Code Brings New Speed and Quality to the Innovation Process

Driving Innovation With No-Code

Image: Driving Innovation With No-Code
In discussions with clients, I am always struck by how many well thought-out concepts disappear in a file drawer eventually. They are too expensive, take too long to implement, and are not feasible for busy IT departments. If all these great ideas were turned into innovations, our economy would be in a completely different place. This is one of the reasons why we at Iconstorm explore the topic of no-code/low-code. With the help of such applications, we can empower people without a programming background to develop their own software ideas. With these Citizen Developers, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls them, teams can be slimmed down, development times accelerated, and innovations driven forward from more than “just” a technological perspective. For a design agency in particular, this opens up a great opportunity to collaborate with development teams.

Exploding costs in product development. Is no-code the solution?

The Uneven Ratio Between Design and Development

To develop prototypes for a client, a design agency or department will usually use the most efficient methods at its disposal: Mock-ups, Figma, Click-Dummies – you know the proven options. However, it happens again and again that a prototype quickly encounters obstacles if it is to be realized on existing systems. When technology comes into play, costs explode and the process becomes inefficient, as a lot of time and manpower are often needed in IT to adapt an idea for legacy systems. As a result, even in highly innovative digital companies that have recognized design as an essential factor in solving complex problems, there are currently between six and ten developers for every designer; in other companies, the ratio is even more disparate and good ideas will be shelved more often than not.

It is therefore commonplace that a large number of people are involved in the creation of new digital products, and that projects ultimately require a surplus of developers. And yet, specialist media predict that there will soon no longer be enough coders on the market, as our IT landscape becomes increasingly dense. The reason for this is, among other things, the many individualized software solutions that companies have to develop in order to remain competitive. So what to do? At Iconstorm, we have been working intensively on no-code/low-code solutions for some time to solve these problems; this not only reduces costs, but also improves collaboration and opens up new possibilities in a given project.

Low-code/no-code platforms promise to simplify software development so that more people can participate.Felix Guder, Iconstorm

Why No-Code Is Useful For Companies

The Low-Code Year

We have found a good solution to the problem in the new wave of no-code/low-code applications that has emerged in recent years: Since these favor remote work and automated workflows in particular, they have become widespread during the COVID-pandemic, especially since 2020. The German Trendreport, for example, has elevated 2021 as the “low-code year,” writing that 75 percent of enterprise software will be developed with low-code applications that year. A Gartner report also estimates that around 41 percent of employees outside the IT sector within companies are adapting or co-developing technical solutions. Gartner expects that by the end of 2025, half of all no-code customers will come from outside the IT sector.

As a designer, I am very excited about no-code and low-code applications, because they have reached a remarkable level of professionalization after a long time on the market. More and more no-code based applications are being used in various industries. No-code places itself in the sweet spot between custom developments, RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and ready-made but customized applications (standard applications), combining the advantages from all worlds. With the help of a No-Code development platform for the uncomplicated digitization and automation of processes, people can develop individual software directly in the specialist departments and define processes; and they can do all of this using drag and drop, in the shortest possible time and precisely adapted to the respective requirements. Basically, the applications are graphical user interfaces for non-programmers that generate and document proper code.

Image: No-Code and Citizen Developers
The Idea of the Citizen Developer
In practice, No-Code enables people with no (or only a little) programming knowledge to map prototypes themselves, to try them out, to develop them further. This makes them more independent from the IT department and they no longer need to wait for backlogs to be processed before their project can start. At the same time, it also becomes possible for them to test more ideas as they can now do so on their own. The idea of the Citizen Developer is out in the world and marks a turning point.

Image: Code on a screen
No-Code vs. Low-Code
No-code platforms are accessible to technically interested employees without programming knowledge, while low-code platforms primarily address and support experienced developers from classic programming languages. Low-code is especially recommended when the desired development becomes more complex. At Iconstorm, our focus is on design, but our developers can also provide excellent consultancy in the area of low-code.

Empowering People to Develop Their Own Software Ideas

No-Code also changes our work as a design agency, both internally and with the client, because our team can now produce significantly more cost-effective solutions; in some cases even without initiating complex IT processes for this. In the best case, we can realize an already marketable Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for testing in the field in the shortest possible time. And of course, this kind of work also does wonders for collaboration with developers. And that’s important, because both design and development are needed to arrive at meaningful innovations: While on the one hand, from the developer’s point of view, technical aspects are in the foreground, designers focus on topics such as UX, business model or brand. These must come together for a successful project.

In essence, this means the work has to be done hand in hand. Designers can now participate in the development of applications as Citizen Developers, and conversely, it is just as conceivable to turn people without a design background into Citizen Designers. Our idea is to familiarize people from development with design methods and mindset, so that they can also design good usable interfaces themselves. Both concepts complement each other and can lead to better collaboration between design, development and third parties alike. At an even more tangible level of specialization, the company can then integrate no-code tools and design systems, for example, to enable collaboration on a common platform. This increases the degree of networking among systems and employees as well as productivity throughout the company.

Using No-Code: Some of the Questions You Need to Consider

Is on-premises operation possible in your own data center or in the private cloud?

Can interfaces be connected easily?

What about APIs from external providers/software/in-house systems?

Can APIs be generated and made available with just a few mouse clicks?

Is it possible to migrate inventory data from legacy systems to new systems cost-effectively?

Can data from different systems be merged? Whenever regulatory requirements are involved, data from different systems must be processed and the necessary forms filled out and sent as PDFs.


Getting Started With No-Code: This is the Way

We believe that no-code will permanently change the work of design and product development. Low-code/no-code platforms promise to simplify software development so that more people can participate. That’s why we’ve now come up with a number of ways to help clients address the issue. It starts with our design sprints: When we conduct a Visioneering Sprint or a Strategic Design Sprint, for example, the end result is actually always a tangible prototype for a product. To create this, No-Code applications are basically “just” another method in our playbook. During the sprint or workshop, clients can gain direct practical experience with the tools and, depending on the scope, may even end up with a finished MVP solution that they can test on the market.

In long-term projects, on the other hand, we have set up our own Iconstorm development team for cooperation with the client. This helps with direct exchange with a client’s developers and we can jointly determine which applications we use in the project, what possibilities they offer us and where their limitations are. Based on this, we can then deliver solutions that can be implemented much more effectively on the client side in the end. And last but not least, another entry point into the topic are the training programs we now offer in our Strategic Design Academy on Citizen Design and No-Code.


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