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A complete guide to low code

Learn more about low code and how it can help your organization automate workflows and develop apps more efficiently

What is low code?

Low code is a software development approach that simplifies the process of automating workflows and building applications. Traditionally, low-code platforms use visual, drag-and-drop elements and prebuilt components designed to reduce the need for manual coding. Instead, teams can focus more on business rules, governance, and configuration, freeing up resources to work on the most complex projects and highest priority business initiatives.

What is low code?

Introduction to low code

Model-driven development

A core principle of an enterprise low-code platform is model-driven development. Developers create applications based on high-level models that define desired functionality and behavior. They specify the application's data model, business logic, workflow, and even UI by dragging and dropping components like forms, buttons, or data sources onto a canvas. The platform then generates the underlying code and infrastructure to bring the model and workflow to life.

Reusable components

It isn't just about visual elements. Low-code software leverages reusable libraries with prebuilt components, modules, and connectors. This speeds up development time because developers don't need to recode the same elements over and over. Sometimes referred to as "enterprise reuse," low code allows developers to recycle existing components instead of creating something new for every project, increasing consistency and reducing mistakes.

Embracing low code

Learn more about the benefits of enterprise low code – for both business and IT.


Why use low code?

Companies everywhere, including some of the world’s largest enterprises, are discovering how low code drives digital transformation by streamlining development and improving collaboration between business teams and IT. Low-code solutions offer many advantages for developers, from quicker time to deploy even the most complex applications to increased efficiency and cost savings.

Why use low code?

Benefits of low-code technology

  • Faster deployment
    Reducing manual coding enables developers to speed up the development cycle without sacrificing quality and stability. In fact, in a 2022 report, McKinsey predicted that low code could reduce development time by as much as 90% compared to traditional coding. New developments in AI only support that prediction as low code evolves.

  • Democratizing development
    Although some coding knowledge is helpful, low-code technology reduces the need for extensive technical skills. In fact, Gartner predicted that non-developers would build 80% of technology products by 2024.

  • Enable fusion teams
    Low code with effective governance enables a cross-functional approach to application development and delivery that involves the collaboration of fusion teams throughout the organization. Low code also enables citizen developers – those with little to no formal coding experience – to work alongside IT to create applications that create business value.

  • Cost savings
    Streamlining the development process improves efficiency. A faster, yet still reliable, development cycle with shorter feedback loops allows companies to launch new products and applications while lowering the cost of development and maintenance. For example, Forrester found an ROI of 598% – with $12.5 million in savings from productivity gains over three years – from enterprises using Pega's low-code platform.

  • Greater agility
    Low-code platforms empower organizations to adapt quickly and modify applications as business requirements evolve. Visual interfaces and configuration-driven development make changing the application easier – whether that's functionality, UI, or business logic. Even better, low code enables more effective governance, improving security by reducing human error and spaghetti code.

Low code and artificial intelligence

More sophisticated enterprise low-code platforms are beginning to leverage the advancements of generative artificial intelligence (AI). AI algorithms automatically generate code or suggest code snippets based on the developer's requirements and context. In the right (human) hands, generative AI provides intelligent suggestions and reduces manual coding to help projects take shape more quickly.

Low code and artificial intelligence

Low code in the real world

Learn how Ford turned to Pega App Factory™ to empower citizen developers to build and launch low code apps across the organization.

Why use low code?

What are common use cases for low code?

Low code enables large organizations to modernize internal workflows and improve process automation. Many IT teams are already overwhelmed handling massive data volume, digital transformation, and new computing environments like the cloud. Low-code platforms empower teams to take responsibility for building their own custom applications for document and project management, expense tracking, employee onboarding, claims management, and much more.

Low code use cases in the modern enterprise

  • Automating workflows: Leveraging low code with effective governance allows organizations to optimize and automate even the most complex processes continuously, freeing up development resources for the most high-priority projects.

  • Customer-facing applications: Low-code platforms allow companies to quickly create customer-facing applications like portals, mobile apps, and pop-up e-commerce platforms while ensuring quality and consistency.

  • Data integration and business intelligence: Grappling with multiple data products prevents companies from using the data they have for insights. Low-code platforms can help integrate and visualize data from different sources through custom dashboards, reporting tools, and other business intelligence applications

  • Rapid prototyping and development: Low-code platforms put people who know customers well at the forefront of development and allow organizations to validate concepts, gather feedback, and deliver personalized experiences in earlier deployment stages before committing to full-scale development
Learn more about low code automation

Low code vs. no code

If minimal coding is good, no coding at all is better, right? Not always. Although the boundary between low-code and no-code platforms can sometimes blur, these two solutions have different ideal use cases.

Low-code platforms are well suited for:

  • Developing enterprise-grade applications that require specific business logic, integrations, and complex workflows
  • Complex applications requiring scalability
  • Fine-tuning advanced functionalities
  • Advanced integration with internal or external systems
  • Creating fusion teams and enabling collaboration between professional developers and citizen developers

No-code platforms are best suited for:

  • Simple standalone applications
  • Automating a single business task like data collection
  • Limited functionality, e.g. a department-specific task
  • Self-service app development without governance or oversight from IT

Explore what's possible with Pega for low-code app development

Adopting low code successfully

How can companies successfully adopt low-code tools into their development workflows? By focusing on a few strategic concepts:
High-value use cases

Start with targeted, high-value use case pilots

Choose use cases where developing a customized solution would deliver significant value. These types of projects build confidence with stakeholders.

Use cases
Encourage collaboration

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate

Leveraging the expertise of developers, business teams, and IT is crucial for the success of a low-code program. Effective governance reduces the emergence of “shadow IT” within an organization.

Training and education

Focus on training

Low code simplifies the development process, but most users will need some training to use it to its full potential. Learn more about low-code training from Pega Academy.

Consider new technologies

Embrace advances in AI

Advances in AI and the evolution of cloud processing can enable streamlined deployment and better scale. For example, new technologies enable organizations to focus on application development rather than managing infrastructure, or ensure low-code automation where possible.

New technology
Drive business value with low code

Democratize development and drive business value with low code

Low code enables accelerated development cycles and ensures increased agility for businesses delivering dynamic customer and employee experiences. Companies can empower citizen developers to contribute by collaborating with IT and saving resources, all while maintaining the difficult balance between scalability and savings. Following a strategic approach that includes effective governance and stakeholder oversight helps organizations unlock the benefits of a low-code application while mitigating risk and ushering in the era of the autonomous enterprise.

The future of low code

Gartner predicts that half of low code purchases will come from outside IT by the end of 2025. According to Forrester, Pega clients can expect to a 12% increase in productivity and 16% savings for every departmental application created by citizen developers. Clearly, citizen development has a lot of promise. But a low-code platform is a tool, and it's only as effective as the organizations that wield it. 

Watch this recent PegaWorld panel to learn how citizen development program leaders from large organizations think about citizen development, the structure of the programs they have built, challenges they have overcome, lessons learned, successes, and plans for the future with low code.

Frequently Asked Questions about low code

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Low-code development is generally easier to learn than traditional coding, which requires in-depth knowledge of programming languages and complex software development concepts. Low-code platforms are designed to simplify the application development process by providing a visual interface and pre-built components, allowing users to create software applications with minimal coding.

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Low code differs from traditional coding in several ways including:

  1. Visual development: Low-code platforms provide visual interfaces and drag-and-drop tools that allow users to build applications by assembling pre-built components. This eliminates the need to write extensive lines of code.
  2. Abstraction of complexity: Low code abstracts the complexity of coding by providing pre-built functionalities and templates. This allows users to focus more on the business logic and requirements, rather than the technical implementation details.
  3. Faster development: With low code, applications can be developed much faster compared to traditional coding. The visual development approach and the availability of pre-built components accelerate the development process.
  4. Democratized development: Low-code platforms enable citizen developers, who may not have extensive coding knowledge, to actively participate in application development. This empowers business users to contribute to the development process and reduces the dependency on professional developers.
  5. Iterative and Agile development: Low code supports iterative and Agile development methodologies, allowing for quick iterations and continuous improvement of applications.

Overall, low code simplifies the application development process, reduces the time and effort required for coding, and promotes collaboration between business users and IT professionals.

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Due to its accessibility and ability to streamline the application development process, low code can benefit a wide range of individuals and organizations including:

  1. Citizen developers: Business users with limited or no coding experience can leverage low-code platforms to build their own applications and automate workflows, empowering them to solve their specific business challenges.
  2. Professional developers: Experienced developers can benefit from low-code platforms by accelerating the development process, reducing the need for repetitive coding tasks, and enabling them to focus on more complex and critical aspects of application development.
  3. IT departments: Low-code development allows IT departments to address the backlog of application requests more efficiently, enabling them to deliver solutions faster and allocate their resources to more strategic initiatives.
  4. Business analysts: Low-code platforms provide business analysts with the tools to translate business requirements into functional applications without extensive coding knowledge, facilitating collaboration between business and IT teams.
  5. Enterprises: Organizations of all sizes and industries can benefit from low-code development by streamlining their application development processes, reducing costs, and enabling faster time-to-market for new applications.
  6. Digital transformation initiatives: Low-code development plays a crucial role in digital transformation efforts by enabling organizations to quickly build and deploy innovative applications that enhance customer experiences, automate processes, and drive operational efficiency.

Low code offers benefits to both technical and non-technical users, empowering them to build applications faster, more efficiently, and with greater collaboration.

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Yes, low code is suitable for complex or large-scale projects. While low-code platforms are often associated with rapid application development for simple solutions, they are also capable of handling complex and large-scale projects.

Low-code platforms provide a visual- and model-driven approach to application development, allowing developers to design and configure complex workflows, business rules, and integrations without the need for extensive coding. These platforms offer a range of advanced features – such as AI-powered decisioning, data modeling, and enterprise-grade security – that are essential for complex projects.

Furthermore, low-code platforms support collaboration between business and IT teams, enabling them to work together on complex projects and iterate quickly. The visual nature of low-code development makes it easier to understand and communicate complex requirements, reducing the risk of misinterpretation and improving overall project efficiency.

It's important to note that while low-code platforms can handle complex projects, they may not be suitable for every scenario. In some cases, custom coding or traditional development approaches may be more appropriate. It's recommended to assess the specific requirements and complexity of the project before deciding on the development approach.

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While low-code platforms offer many benefits, it is important to consider security concerns when using them. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Data protection: Low-code platforms should provide robust security measures to protect sensitive data. This includes encryption of data at rest and in transit, access controls, and secure authentication mechanisms.
  2. Application vulnerabilities: As with any software development, there is a risk of introducing vulnerabilities in the application code. It is important to follow secure coding practices and conduct regular security testing to identify and address any potential vulnerabilities.
  3. Access controls: Low-code platforms should have granular access controls to ensure that only authorized users can access and modify applications. Role-based access control (RBAC) and user authentication mechanisms should be in place to enforce proper access management.
  4. Compliance requirements: Organizations may have specific compliance requirements, such as GDPR or HIPAA. It is important to ensure that the low-code platform and the applications built on it comply with these regulations. This includes data privacy, consent management, and auditability.
  5. Integration security: When integrating with external systems or APIs, it is crucial to implement secure communication protocols and validate inputs to prevent security breaches or data leaks.
  6. Ongoing monitoring and maintenance: Security is an ongoing process. Regular monitoring, patching, and updates are necessary to address emerging security threats and vulnerabilities.

By addressing these security concerns and following best practices, organizations can mitigate risks and ensure the secure use of low-code platforms.

Explore how your organization can benefit from low-code collaboration

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