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Can you build complex enterprise-level applications without coding?

Before we dive into all of the ways organizations can put low-code/no-code platforms to use, let’s first cover some important terminology.

When we say “enterprise applications,” what exactly do we mean?

Enterprise applications, also referred to as enterprise software applications, are defined as software that large organizations use to build and run core business functions, such as sales, customer support, marketing, supply chain, or business intelligence. They interface or integrate with other enterprise applications, which together create a larger enterprise system.

What qualifies an app as “enterprise-level”?

Technology that is categorized as “enterprise-level” is designed to serve corporations that have hundreds or thousands of employees. These organizations have demand for comprehensive, robust, scalable, and secure solutions. 

Implementation, onboarding, & security: 3 major challenges of enterprise apps

Although they are designed to serve large businesses, the very scale of enterprise-level software can be an obstacle. Enterprise solutions often come with disruptive and lengthy implementations that require expertise to bring to life. 

For example, many organizations hire consultants to help them compare vendors or determine how to fulfill needs for enterprise apps in-house. Aside from the cost of the software itself, the implementation can be expensive in terms of lost productivity. Finally, ongoing management is demanding on IT professionals, which often results in the need to expand the IT team and recruit platform-specific experts.

Enterprise business applications also usually require significant time, energy, and resources devoted to user onboarding. Let’s face it, no one ever thinks of enterprise apps as something fun or easy to use. In fact, onboarding is one of the most challenging aspects of enterprise tech. 

Without effective onboarding, users will struggle to use enterprise apps. According to a study by WalkMe, 74.1% of employees said poor software training is the biggest barrier to usability. A mere 14.5% said they are very satisfied with the usability of their workplace software.

Ineffective training and usability issues contribute to low digital adoption, which means users will be unable to utilize the software’s important features and capabilities that drive business value. If users are only taking advantage of a few basic functions, the technology’s ROI is automatically lower. In the worst-case scenario, employees will avoid using it altogether. For many employees, sticking to outdated or inefficient processes seems like an easier alternative than undergoing time-consuming training on a confusing new platform.

Security is another important issue to consider when implementing and using enterprise-level software. Identity and access management is a primary concern for security teams, which are tasked with ensuring all software solutions and users are in compliance with the highest security standards. 

Enterprises need the platforms they use to have granular but clear permissions to securely manage thousands of users, which makes SSO integration crucial. Additionally, two-factor authentication has become a common requirement for many enterprises. It’s important to note that many low-code and no-code platforms still lack this capability, so it’s crucial to check that the solution you are considering offers it before you buy.

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Common SaaS enterprise applications examples

SaaS enterprise applications are driving massive growth in global IT spending. Worldwide, SaaS represents the largest market segment, with revenue projected to rise from $99.5 billion in 2019 to $116 billion in 2020, according to Gartner. By 2022, the SaaS industry is expected to be worth $151 billion. 

SaaS products account for a large portion of enterprise applications, and will continue to dominate the IT market. Here is a list of common SaaS enterprise applications:

  • Communications software (Zoom, Slack)
  • Customer service software (Intercom, Zendesk)
  • Email marketing systems (Hubspot, Marketo)
  • Customer relationship management (Salesforce, Oracle CRM)
  • Human resources software (Workday, SuccessFactors, Talentsoft)
  • Enterprise resource planning software (Netsuite, Microsoft Dynamics AX, SAP)

Off-the-shelf vs. custom apps 

A major decision software buyers and enterprise applications managers face when pursuing an enterprise application investment is whether they should purchase off-the-shelf enterprise applications or custom apps. Unfortunately, both of these options have significant drawbacks that overburden internal IT departments and result in higher costs.

Off-the-shelf applications are prebuilt with a set of functionality that is designed to serve as broad a user base as possible. They may be loaded with features and capabilities, but only a subset will be relevant to the precise business need or problem you are trying to solve (and you’ll still be paying for all of them). 

While off-the-shelf apps might be less expensive upfront, many impose limitations on when and how often they can be updated and how they can be adapted for new or changing business scenarios. After purchasing the software, you may need to pay for subsequent updates or new functionality.  

Another drawback is that getting the most of these applications require users to change the way they work. Instead of adopting a tool that can be adapted to fit your organization’s needs and enhance current processes, off-the-shelf apps often require you to change your processes to fit the software. 

This creates a major adoption challenge. First, employees are likely to resist changes to processes they are familiar with and believe in, especially when they also need to learn a new software on top of it. The cost of understanding which processes need to change, training employees, and reinforcing these changes are incredibly high for large companies. 

Finally, adopting a generic solution doesn’t do much for your competitive advantage or your brand’s ability to seem innovative. 

Custom-built software is a popular alternative because of its ability to cater to each business’s individual requirements. Unlike off-the-shelf software, custom solutions are built specifically for each organization that buys it, ensuring that it fulfills your organization’s unique needs. 

User adoption also tends to be easier. Custom-built software is tailored to fit into existing employee workflows and is flexible enough to be modified as business needs and practices change over time. 

However, building new software from the ground up is highly resource intensive and expensive. Most often, organizations that desire a custom application choose this option because there is no off-the-shelf solution that meets their needs. Whether they choose to hire a contractor to build the software for them or develop it in-house, the broad scope of the project will require a much higher budget and more time. 

The cost of keeping custom-built software maintained and hosted are also important to consider. Each time the enterprise wishes to implement software updates or identifies the need to fix security issues, that will require large amounts of developer time — which is expensive for all enterprises and scarce for many.

How low-code/no-code platforms are disrupting enterprise applications development

Often, neither off-the-shelf software nor custom solutions fulfill enterprises’ need for rapid deployment of highly tailored business apps. 

Low-code/no-code platforms have emerged as a vital force and a popular alternative to  application development. 

Indeed, by 2024, three out of four large enterprises will be using a minimum of four low-code development tools to support IT application development and citizen development initiatives, according to Gartner. By the same time, low-code application development will account for more than 65% of all app development activity.

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What is driving up demand?

There are a few primary factors that are fueling demand for low-code/no-code platforms. 

There is the crucial need to modernize aging legacy systems, the shortage of qualified full-stack developers, and the skyrocketing need for advanced enterprise apps. 

Organizations experience these challenges to varying degrees, but they are all interconnected. For traditional companies and even some startups, reliance on legacy systems that are deeply embedded into core business processes can be hard to uproot, even when the need for a more sophisticated tool is clear. 

Finding qualified developers is always a challenge, and attracting them to your organization is another. However, without talented developers, creating new internal systems from scratch will not be an option. Even with them, building new tools in-house is often unjustifiably expensive. 

Meanwhile, teams and departments throughout the enterprise are all demanding new tools to enable them to better do their jobs. Internal IT developers simply cannot keep up. 

Dealing with all of these concerns requires valuable time and resources, which slows down the business.

This is where the true value of low-code/no-code platforms comes into play.

Low-code/no-code platforms equip enterprises to fulfill demand

Low-code/no-code platforms enable and empower businesses to fulfill the demand for new enterprise applications without overburdening IT, depleting resources, or filling high-cost talent shortages — three significant barriers to enterprise application acquisition and development.

As Gartner states in its Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms report, “[Low-code application] vendors represent the vanguard of the movement to democratize application development by increasingly replacing standard business application development in Java or .NET, and providing differentiating alternatives to commercial off-the-shelf or SaaS applications.”

The ability of “citizen” employees to use no-code visual development tools and fulfill their own needs not only democratizes a crucial capability in enterprises, but it also unlocks new levels of speed. 

Compared with traditional software development, low-code/no-code platforms can increase programmers’ efficiency by 50%-90%, according to a study by 451 Research

John Rymer, VP and Principal Analyst of Forrester, suggested that low-code can make software development 10-times faster than the method of writing complex code.  

At the same time, low-code development tools will allow developers to achieve unprecedented speed with automation and visual editing. With both low-code and no-code platforms, organizations can quickly transform mere ideas into functional, time-saving apps. The result is greater speed and agility while raising the overall quality of work. 

What kinds of applications should be built with no-code/low-code platforms?

When most people think of enterprise apps, they automatically think of the core systems of record, such as CRM, ERP, and HCM solutions. These systems — while large in scope — represent only a small part of the digital ecosystem with which employees interface on a daily basis.

In reality, employees use dozens of apps designed to fulfill specific, niche use cases within larger domains. For example, marketers don’t only use the CRM. They require a wide breadth of tools, including those that can monitor their specific KPIs, automate email marketing, perform data analytics and reporting, manage social media planning, track content journeys, manage campaigns and events, and much more. Each of these tools come with their own costs, training requirements, security concerns, user adoption challenges, IT administration needs, etc. 

According to Blissfully’s 2019 SaaS Trends report, the average enterprise employee uses eight apps per day. Organizations of 501 to 1,000 employees use an average of 151 apps, while enterprises of 1,001+ employees have a stack of 203 apps. 

This is one reason low-code/no-code tools have arised as essential assets. As the need for new, specific applications emerges, organizations can position themselves to build highly customized, scalable, and secure solutions in-house at a low cost with low-code/no-code platforms. With them, you can empower employees and turn business ideas into functioning solutions in a short period of time.

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