Entrepreneurs

Don’t Get Left Behind By the No-Code Wave


I started a profitable business using only no-code tools and platforms. You can too. But whether or not anyone can scale a business on a no-code foundation isn’t the point of no-code. There’s another, broader movement going on that everyone should be aware of.

No-code tools aren’t just for building cute apps. They’re becoming essential in scaling companies of all types and sizes, in every industry, no matter how much or how little of a role technology plays in your offering.

If you don’t want to get left behind on the innovation and competition front, it’s time to start paying attention.

No-code isn’t a trend.

I’ve got a long and winding past in technology and startups. I can point back to three examples of similar waves that were marked by the same skepticism and pushback. 

  • Mobile-first software development

Back in 2007, the pushback was that the mobile device simply didn’t have the processing power or the user interface to replace the laptop, let alone the desktop. Today, with a universal business evolution to software as a service (SaaS) and the mainstream adoption of mobile UX, “mobile-first” is now “mobile-or-die.”

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning

In 2010, the skeptics were pushing a straw man argument about whether computers would ever be able to replace a human. Today, like it or not, AI and machine learning make it possible for computers to decide what we read and watch (Facebook and Netflix), drive us around (Waymo), protect our homes (Ring) and bank accounts (all of them) and otherwise enter almost every aspect of our daily lives.

We’re still debating the “realness” of digital currency. Is Bitcoin really worth what it’s worth? Are non-fungible tokens (NFTs) really anything more than just an epic nerdy scam? What can’t be debated is the number of major financial institutions–and in some cases national governments–opting into digital currencies. 

So as we argue over whether or not no-code can be used to build an app like Twitter or Uber, what gets lost is the fact that no-code has value right now, for every business, and the divide between those companies that adopt and those that don’t is growing wider every day.

No-code isn’t a new concept.

Probably the biggest misunderstanding about no-code is that it exists as a bunch of Lego-style blocks that can be stuck together to accomplish very niche coding tasks. While this is a good starter view of no-code, it’s actually an incorrect view.

No-code is just packaged code. Think of no-code tools not as Lego blocks, but as boxes. Inside a no-code box is a box with lower-level code, maybe an elegant and flexible set of application programmer interfaces (APIs). 

If you use that no-code box, you don’t have to know what an API is or how to make one, you just have to know what an API does. And if built right, the no-code box makes knowing what it does simple to understand. 

But what the heck is an API if not just another box? Inside that box are the commands needed for one application to talk to other applications. And guess what? Inside that box are more boxes. It’s like a set of Russian nesting dolls with that one little tiny doll at the end pushing all the ones and zeros of what the most hardcore programmers call “code.”

My first startup was a technical consulting firm that pivoted to selling our most re-used code-snippets to other technical consulting firms. That was in the 1990s. And we weren’t inventing fire there. The concept of packaging code has been in place since roughly a little bit after the invention of code. 

No-code is stackable, fast, and mature.

No-code isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. No-code platforms can be used with no-code tools, and even no-code concepts, in harmony with real code, real code platforms, real code tools, and even real coders. The result is the ability to test new logic and flow, allowing developers to extend existing software or even create new software to solve existing or new problems without a large up-front time and money outlay. 

No-code is fast. In today’s world of two-week release periods, no-code tools can speed development and knock out a lot of questions and variables associated with any new development. This creates an obvious time-to-market advantage, whether the project is a brand new application or just a new way to track sales.

No-code is mature. Forget about time-to-market, no-code is mature enough to take to market. Any serious developer wouldn’t have put too much confidence in that proposition as recently as a couple years ago, but now it’s a fact. The sole remaining gating factor of no-code today is how much processing it can handle. But one only has to look at the expandable nature of the cloud and players like the AWS cloud platform to understand that it’s a solvable problem.

That’s why developers like me have started building projects, products, and entire companies with no-code. It’s why smart business people with a technical orientation are running with no-code tools and platforms. And it’s why industrious entrepreneurs aren’t spending months and years trying to learn Java, but are getting started building and releasing today. 

Don’t get stuck on straw man arguments and skepticism. Start picking up what no-code is offering today, and you’ll be building tomorrow.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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