7 innovative ways to use low-code tools and platforms

Some developers and business leaders believe that low-code is only for small, lightly used applications such as replacing spreadsheets and building dashboards. “These tools, in general, aren’t well suited to more advanced applications,” says Steve Jones, devops advocate at  Red Gate Software. With heavier use and more complex data manipulation requirements, he says, “they often start to fail and cause workload and performance issues.”

I’ve used low-code and no-code platforms for over two decades and have written extensively about them, including articles on how generative AI is changing low-code, using low-code to accelerate application modernization, and how no-code drives innovation. I’ve also discussed the eight signs your low-code platform is overpromising and underdelivering on business needs.

For this article, I set out to explore advanced low-code use cases where platforms deliver more than basic capabilities and business value. I found a variety of examples that illustrate the breadth and scale of low-code platform capabilities, and challenge the notion that low-code doesn’t scale or enable innovation.

7 ways enterprises can do more with low-code

  1. Develop LLMs with low-code RAG
  2. Customize integrated business processes
  3. Modernize user experiences without reengineering
  4. Build specialized departmental workflows
  5. Deploy game-changing analytics
  6. Build workflows on public cloud services
  7. Upgrade login and authentication capabilities

Develop LLMs with low-code RAG

While it might seem an unlikely pairing, there is a place for low-code in generative AI. Say you are considering developing a large language model (LLM) that leverages retrieval-augmented generation (RAG); should you build from scratch, buy what you need, or consider a low-code option? Many large enterprises with strong technical acumen and hordes of intellectual property are exploring the option to build in-house. Smaller enterprises are unlikely to have those resources, however, and will look to low-code options to close the gap.

“The majority of the AI industry is trying to sell enterprises on them having to construct their own LLMs or fine-tune open source models to support a range of internal and external applications,” says Igor Jablokov, founder and CEO at Pryon. “With RAG, it’s actually possible to surpass the accuracy of these systems just by pointing and clicking to document repositories and automatically building AI models that are anchored to that content.”

Large enterprises can also benefit from developing applications with low-code, process automation, and generative AI capabilities.

“AI-generated applications in high-code development still necessitate advanced knowledge in computer science to understand the AI-generated application design,” says Malcolm Ross, SVP of product strategy at Appian. “Low-code’s visual design concepts are ideal for embedding AI into end-to-end process automation. Additionally, low-code and generative AI raise developer productivity while ensuring humans remain aware of and can control the output.”

Appian, Coveo, FlowiseAI, OutSystems, and Pyron are some of the companies using low-code for generative AI. 

One emerging use case is using low code platforms and generative AI capabilities to streamline the development of data pipelines and genAI applications. Benefits include rapidly developing and deploying applications in areas where companies are unlikely to allocate developers or data scientists.

Manish Rai, VP of product marketing at SnapLogic, shares a couple of examples. “Two use cases that have generated great excitement are automatically documenting existing pipelines and creating genAI-powered conversational apps for helpdesk and customer support.”

Customize integrated business processes

Business processes and workflow optimizations are two more areas where low-code options may be better than custom-tailoring SaaS solutions. For example, there are many SaaS options for asset management and customer relationship management (CRM), but what happens if strategic workflows span these two functional areas?

Consider this real estate example, where Stag Industrial, a real estate investment trust managing over 100 million square feet of property across 14 states, sought a transparent and automated workflow to provide a competitive advantage. “Unlike residential property where information is easy to access, reliable transaction data about industrial real estate is hard to acquire,” says Anthony Offredi, director of customer advisory at Quickbase. “Having a dynamic work management platform to manage its business with transparency and insight enabled Stag Industrial to build its deal pipeline from $400 million to over $1 billion in just a few years.”

The intersection of asset management and CRM is one area where low-code can offer advantages when developing integrated workflows. Another example, from the United States federal government, is transforming a complex, large-scale, paper-based data collection process into a more automated data quality-driven workflow.

“The US Census Bureau used low-code to help them take a historically paper-based process and turn it into an automated digital process to collect data from every household in the country,” says Don Schuerman, CTO of Pega. “This helped the team of 600,000 enumerators count 152 million households in half the time as the previous census with zero downtime.”

Other examples of integrated workflows built on low-code include:

Low-code platforms can accelerate the development of integrated experiences with their capabilities and tools for configuring workflows to support different departmental responsibilities.

Modernize user experiences without reengineering

One of the 7 Rs of cloud app modernization is to replatform components rather than lift and shift entire applications. One replatforming approach is maintaining back-end databases and services while using low-code platforms to rebuild front-end user experiences.

This strategy can also enable the development of multiple user experiences for different business purposes, a common practice performed by independent software vendors (ISVs) who build one capability and tailor it to multiple customers. 

Deepak Anupalli, cofounder and CTO of WaveMaker, says, “ISVs recast their product UX while retaining all their past investment in infrastructure, back-end microservices, and APIs. They leverage low-code to build custom components that plug into their existing systems and use them to accelerate implementations on the web and mobile. Examples include a self-service portal for an insurance company and modernizing customer onboarding for a bank.”

Build specialized departmental workflows

Departments use SaaS platforms for their standard and scalable workflows, but what happens when they need to automate a specialized business process? Developing workflows using a low-code or no-code tool that integrates with the department’s primary systems can be a viable approach. Below are two examples:

  • In marketing departments: “Low-code platforms can also be utilized to rapidly prototype and deploy AI, with human assistance, in customer communication strategies across various channels,” says Anurag Shah, VP and head of products and solutions at Newgen Software. “Tapping into these platforms helps businesses automatically generate and customize marketing collateral, reports, and other documents at scale, driving efficiency and enhancing customer engagement.”
  • In information security: “Ease of use is the key factor driving low-code as it democratizes the process of building, meaning anyone can create automated workflows easily,” says Eoin Hinchy, CEO of Tines. “For example, when Elastic’s infosec team faced an influx of alerts, their analysts built an investigation automation workflow that saved 93 days. Utilizing low/no-code for automation makes running a business more efficient, letting different teams concentrate on impactful work.”

Other examples include streamlining employee onboarding experiences, customized training programs, and field service management.

Deploy game-changing analytics

Developing reports and dashboards are common no-code applications, and many organizations help business users discover new data sets with data catalogs and prep tools. Beyond these capabilities, low-code can help improve collaboration and enable real-time analytics.

Jay Henderson, SVP of product management at Alteryx, says, “With no-code/code-friendly analytics tools, experienced data scientists can collaborate with non-technical individuals on the same platform while also having the ability to contribute to the user experience and process automation—bridging the skills gap and fast-tracking the data management and analytics process.”

I’ve seen examples of this collaboration firsthand, where organizations use agile methodologies as a collaboration process between data scientists, technologists, and business subject matter experts. That collaboration can lead to game-changing applications.

Julian LaNeve, CTO at Astronomer, shares this real-life Moneyball use case from The Texas Rangers in major league baseball. “They use pipelines to collect data on player and game statistics, which are fed to the coaching staff right after every game. The coaches use this to ensure players perform well and are not at risk of injury.”

Build workflows on public cloud services

Another innovative use case is choosing low-code as the development tool for one component of a product or service. Developers work on components with engineering and scalability requirements, while low-code tools are used for simple interfaces, administrative tools, or reports. The approach works when developing on public clouds and interfacing with third-party services. 

“Low- or no-code platforms on Google Cloud enable streamlined app development and revolutionize data processing and analysis by allowing users to construct intuitive interfaces for inputting data directly into Google Sheets or BigQuery tables,” says Heather Sundheim, managing director of solutions engineering at SADA. “Automated report generation is facilitated by integrating Google Cloud Functions with these platforms, triggering data-driven reports based on predefined criteria and empowering teams to focus on decision making. Furthermore, these platforms enhance team collaboration and communication through innovative use cases like building chatbots and image recognition applications, fostering innovation and unlocking new possibilities in business operations.”

Upgrade login and authentication capabilities

Another area of innovation to consider is when low-code components can replace in-house commodity components. Building a rudimentary register, login, and password reset capability is simple, but today’s security requirements and user expectations demand more robust implementations. Low-code is one way to upgrade these non-differentiating capabilities without investing in engineering efforts to get the required experience, security, and scalability.  

“Identity touches all business teams, and user journeys include many steps, including signup, login, multi-factor authentication, information collection, syncing with CRM tools, and other capabilities,” says Meir Wahnon at Descope. “The extensibility of no / low code tools simplifies integration with other tools and brings non-technical teams into the process. No / low code tools can abstract away the implementation details of complex auth processes and let developers focus more on the core product.”

More developer teams should embrace low-code

“I have all the development resources I need to modernize applications, develop new digital capabilities, automate business processes, and innovate with emerging technologies,” said no CIO ever. Low-code and no-code platforms present an opportunity to close some of the gaps, and the examples I’ve shared show some innovative and scalable applications.

“IT teams typically believe that low-code is used for lower-impact processes and workflows behind back-office environments like HR or finance,” says Tiago Azevedo, CIO of OutSystems. “The truth is it can and should also be used to deliver high-impact applications that enhance customer experience and drive innovation across business operations. By harnessing low-code capabilities, developers can create applications in a fraction of the time, significantly reducing the time to deliver value to an organization.”

As businesses’ technology needs grow, low- and no-code platforms offer a third option beyond build versus buy, and many organizations are delivering sophisticated applications using them.

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