Colin McMahon - senior market research analyst at PTC focused on understanding how digital transformation empower organisations, processes, and people - outlines the value of no-code software tools.
Remember the 3D printing craze of the 2010s? With prices coming down, consumers were eager to get their hands on their own 3D printers. Marketers helped, of course, by stirring up the hype: “Create whatever you can think of!” This statement sparked imagination and was technically accurate. With only a 3D printer and the right materials, users could make anything they wanted…provided they knew how to create 3D designs with CAD or another programming tool. But just like that, the adoption of consumer 3D printing hit a wall it has yet to scale. With a programming barrier, not everyone could expect to actually use their 3D printer the way they wanted. In fact, the technology became locked behind requirements in education, restricting its user base and reducing its total market penetration. If you can understand why companies would want to avoid this situation, then congratulations - you see the inherent value in no-code tools.
So what exactly are no-code tools?
In software, no-code tools are, as their name suggests, tools, platforms, and applications that can be created without any knowledge of, or training in, computer programming. These tools have existed for some time but they’ve been gaining in popularity as more people shift their lives and businesses to the digital space.
If you’ve ever heard an advertisement for Squarespace or WordPress, these are both no-code tools that enable any user to build a functioning website. The goal of no-code tools is to replicate the capabilities of computer coding without requiring the knowledge.
Of course, being no-code doesn’t mean being strictly no-code. To go back to WordPress - many website developers use the platform because, while it has numerous templates, settings, and no-code features, it also enables the educated user to supplement and advance what has already been provided. In a sense, it becomes the best of both worlds - users without specialised coding experience can still take advantage of WordPress while professionals use the presets as jumping off points and to save valuable time.
The added value of no-code tools
By understanding what no-code tools are, their value becomes apparent. No-code tools allow organisations to expand their product reach without waiting for the knowledge-base of the market to mature. It even goes so far as to create new business models that take advantage of that lack of specialised knowledge. By selling a subscription to a no-code toolset, companies create recurring revenue that can be easily maintained and expanded upon. Again, think of WordPress, which operates as a software as a service (SaaS) provider charging clients annual fees in addition to other costs surrounding premium features.
In today’s business world, IT knowledge is at a premium. IT departments are stressed from not only maintaining existing operations, but frequently being asked to expand into new programs, platforms, and initiatives. Remember too that many of these IT groups are also ensuring their respective companies have adequate remote infrastructure to empower hybrid work, while working to maintain cybersecurity in this new operational model.
Using no-code tools allows for some of the pressure to be lifted from IT responsibility, or at least reduce the oversight needed. This makes no-code tools powerful options for marketing departments and sales teams (Hubspot CMS and Marketing Hub are no-code tools, as are MailChimp and Google Analytics). Whether it’s building a website, an online database, or an app, no-code tools are empowering the average worker without adding additional strain to IT resources.
How no-code tools can help print
When it comes to the print industry, no-code tools are already being used in a variety of ways. To go back to Hubspot, many print providers are constructing more comprehensive sales databases to help streamline customer experience and improve retention. Marketers can use no-code augmented reality (AR) solutions to add additional depth to printed marketing campaigns (which can also be managed online through additional no-code tools).
Organisations, such as Xerox, are even building their own no-code solutions. Xerox Workflow Central is, at the end of the day, a collection of specialised print-centric applications designed to let users access advanced features and functionalities of document management without programming their own in-house solutions. This no-code toolset is available, you guessed it, solely through SaaS, giving Xerox recurring revenue in exchange for continued product support and improvement.
Whether they’re being utilised for internal optimisation or for external revenue growth, no-code tools are increasingly common and here to stay. There is simply too much dependence on the digital landscape and not enough specialised knowledge to go along with it.