No Code Solutions
OVER TIME, ORGANISATIONS HAVE COME TO REALISE THE GROWING STRAIN THAT HAS BEEN PLACED ON DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES WHEN CREATING SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS. TOO OFTEN, BUSINESS USERS HAVE HAD TO WAIT FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME AS IT DEPARTMENTS AND THIRD-PARTY PROVIDERS HURRY THROUGH THE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT LIFECYCLE TO DELIVER A SOFTWARE SOLUTION.
Additionally, budgetary considerations also contribute to the lengthy turnaround of delivering a solution as internal IT departments endure rigorous cost approval processes within their organisation.
Increasingly, “no code solutions” are becoming the answer to this challenge.
What are no code solutions?
A no code solution is defined as “combining data, documents and business processes in a useful, productive way by assembling, connecting and configuring the basic building blocks of functionality available to rapidly create business solutions” (SharePoint, 2013). In other words, a no code solution is one that can be developed by a business user through the use of tools they already have access to, with minimal involvement from software developers.
Common platforms and tools used to develop no code solutions
Many organisations have already begun to capitalise on the pre-built functionality of their existing systems, like SharePoint, to develop solutions that require minimal IT involvement. Certain tools within these platforms can be utilised to do this.
Over time, SharePoint has grown in popularity to become a robust platform on which no code solutions can be built. Depending on their experience, a business user can use the core functionality of SharePoint to develop a basic workflow application or other no code solution with minimal use of resources from their IT department.
No code solutions can be as simple as a custom webpage that uses a site list and several connected Web Parts to track mileage in a small business; or as sophisticated as a corporate-wide absence reporting system that is connected to a Human Resource database by using Business Connectivity Services (MSDN, 2013).
SharePoint Designer is a free tool that users of SharePoint can download and is said to be one of the most powerful tools for creating no code solutions. This is largely due to the fact that it allows integration with other Microsoft products such as Access, Excel and Visio (EE Tech News, 2012).
Another no code solution tool is InfoPath. InfoPath is a software application that allows a user to design, distribute, fill and submit electronic forms containing structured data. InfoPath Designer can be used to create forms and define data structures, and InfoPath Filler enables users to fill out and submit forms. An organisation may be able to employ the built-in functionality of basic workflow systems within SharePoint, along with InfoPath, to create the foundations of forms such as leave applications, expense submissions or purchase requests. These forms can then be accessed online at any time with the workflow working in the background to flag custom rules associated with these forms (e.g. for an accounting firm, they may create a rule to decline leave requests during high tax periods).
Adding InfoPath forms to workflows enables an organisation to gather information from users at predefined times in the life of a workflow. Additionally, it enables users to interact with the tasks for that workflow e.g. contract approval, technical specification review or processing of legal documents (TechNet, 2013).
Benefits of no code solutions
There is no doubt that using certain platforms, like SharePoint, to create no code solutions has its perks. Organisations benefit from developing such solutions as the core functionality already exists, which bypasses much of the process associated with building custom software systems.
The main benefits of creating no code solutions include:
Faster development – since the core functionality already exists, business users can quickly put an application into production as they don’t need to start from scratch. For example, the pre-built workflow in SharePoint can be used out-of-the-box without any need for coding to enable the workflow to send emails or route requests across an organisation.
Decreased development costs – simple applications can be developed without the associated expenses required in engaging business analysts, project managers and software developers. Time and cost associated with testing and deployment is also minimised.
Empowered business users – business users are able to create and change simple applications without IT involvement which reduces the low value backlog on internal IT departments. For example, line managers are able to add sites to an intranet without IT or Administrator involvement once the intranet has been configured when using SharePoint.
Examples of no code solutions
Generally, no code solutions can be used to create:
Purchase Order approvals
Employee Expense submissions
Loan and mortgage calculators
When no code applications are not suitable
Although no code solutions are a viable option in many scenarios, organisations need to be aware that it is not always the answer. Before considering no code solutions, an organisation must ensure they have a clear vision of what they want the solution to achieve.
No code solutions may not be suitable for:
Large enterprise applications that have a number of integration points and unique company processes that the platform’s basic core functionality cannot easily support;
Applications that are so specific to a company that extensive addition to the core functionality is required. In this case, the cost saving of the pre-built functionality may be negated by the additional custom development required to fit the business requirements;
An organisation that wants complete ownership of an application without relying on a third-party product
** Due to confidentiality reasons, some company names have been omitted from these examples.
No code solutions are increasingly becoming the answer for organisations looking to minimise the involvement of their internal IT departments in the development of simple applications. By empowering business users to take on more responsibility during this process, the burden on IT is minimised, allowing more customised solutions to be created.
Enabling business users to utilise pre-built functionality to create such solutions is beneficial for many organisations as these users understand what is required and needed to get the job done and can work towards building a no code solution that will achieve this. There is very little lost in translation and the resulting solution reflects the needs of end users.
Although no code solutions may seem like the right option, organisations will need to weigh up the benefits with the situation at hand to ensure these solutions are the best way to achieve their business objectives.
No-code solutions using SharePoint 2013 Composites, 2013 – (SharePoint)
Create SharePoint 2013 no-code solutions, 2013 – (MSDN)
Workflows in SharePoint Server 2010, 2013 – (TechNet)
McAllister, J., SharePoint 2010 No-Code Solutions Webinar Recording, 2012 – (EE Tech News)
Workflows in SharePoint Server 2010, 2013 – (TechNet)