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The Comprehensive Guide to Low-Code

Low-code is changing the way companies optimize their processes as business and customer demands change.

Without the need for extensive coding, low-code applications can be created quickly to improve data management, production efficiency, and much more.

This guide covers all there is to know about low-code and its impact on modern application development. Enjoy the read!

What is low-code?

Low-code is a development approach that uses visual user interfaces for building applications, moving away from traditional hand-coded programming often associated with application development. This method requires little programming knowledge, relying on visual elements that can be dragged and dropped to create applications relatively quickly and easily.

Think of flowchart web applications like Miro or Lucidchart. Now imagine each shape is a reusable component of code that can be pieced together to create a process model: the visual representation of the steps and processes that an application will automate, along with the business processes it can support.

Clevr graphic
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Code terminology
What does it all mean?

Low-code refers to an application development approach that employs visual tools and pre-built components to simplify application creation. This approach reduces the need for extensive hand-coding, making application development more accessible to a broader range of users, i.e., non-developers.

Low-code platforms 

A low-code platform, like Mendix, is a software environment that provides the necessary tools and frameworks for low-code development. These platforms enable users to build, test, and deploy applications through intuitive visual interfaces and built-in integration capabilities. 

Low-code applications

Low-code applications are pieces of software created using low-code platforms. They can range from simple tools for smaller businesses to complex enterprise systems that keep manufacturing companies and other industries on top of their assets and processes. These applications are developed with minimal manual coding and often with significant involvement from non-technical professionals. 

No-code 

No-code platforms help users build applications entirely through visual interfaces and pre-configured components without writing code. These platforms are designed for non-developers, allowing them to quickly create and deploy simple applications to solve specific business problems without any intervention from IT. While no-code has an even lower barrier to entry than low-code, it doesn’t offer the same flexibility for developers, who can easily add custom code while developing applications on a low-code platform. 

High-code 

High-code development refers to traditional software development methods that involve extensive manual coding by professional developers. It often relies on JavaScript frameworks like React or Angular, or those specifically designed for mobile or native applications. While it provides maximum control over the application, it requires significant time, specialized programming skills, and resources to build, maintain, and scale complex applications. Using only high-code makes businesses rely on developers, taking time away from creating new features and improvements.

 

 

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The benefits of low-code
How can low-code help?

Low-code has several functionalities that make it an easy choice for companies looking to digitize their existing processes, upgrade legacy systems, and establish protocols that avoid messy data silos with no ownership or transparency.

Low-code visual development

Low-code development relies heavily on visual interfaces to help teams create applications. This includes using pre-built templates that can be dragged and dropped into certain positions to develop a process model.

Rapid application development

Without the need for extensive hand-coding, low-code allows businesses to quickly develop applications and make iterations. This is also helped by the low-code platforms’ visual interfaces, allowing non-technical personnel to easily see, understand, and comment on an application’s process model. The more precise the feedback, the quicker an application can be adjusted.

Accessibility and collaboration 

As described above, low-code platforms make software development accessible to non-technical individuals. Sometimes referred to as “citizen developers,” these individuals often don’t have extensive programming knowledge, if any. Fortunately, low-code platforms use visual interfaces with visual components, allowing those from different professional backgrounds to understand the how and why of an application through a process model.

Low-code integrations

Low-code platforms often come with pre-built integrations, meaning that the applications you build using low-code development can be linked to existing systems and data sources. This could mean connecting to inputs such as physical sensors on the factory floor or outputs like a customized data dashboard that gives an overview of production rates and machine statuses. This also means that low-code applications can be integrated with Siemens Xcelerator, SAP, Salesforce, IBM, and SIG.

Flexibility

Low-code platforms aim to minimize coding, lowering the barrier to entry for non-technical personnel to provide helpful input during the creation of an application efficiently. However, if there are specific requirements, low-code platforms allow developers to step in, so to speak, and add custom code and integrations.  

Scalability

Applications built on low-code platforms allow businesses to scale without needing to be completely redeveloped. This is because low-code component templates can be added or expanded as needs evolve without disrupting the entire process model.  
Low-code platforms also support horizontal and vertical scaling. This could include adding more copies of an existing component to distribute an increasing workload or simply enhancing the capacity of a single resource by upgrading its memory, CPU, or storage.

Cost efficiency

Low-code platforms reduce the time required and specialized skills needed for application development. Extensive training is unnecessary as low-code interfaces are more intuitive than Python, Java, and PHP coding environments. Maintenance for low-code platforms is also more straightforward, as platforms are cloud-based with integrated security protocols. In short, fewer resources are required to keep a low-code platform securely up and running. 

Who does low-code help?

Low-code applications are designed to streamline processes while providing the smoothest user experience possible. They can be tailored for industries requiring specific functionalities, whether it's for behind-the-scenes business processes or customer-facing applications.

For Manufacturing:

Factory floor applications

  • Workers use applications to control machinery
  • They provide real-time data integrations and reporting

Automated quality control applications

  • Use sensors to flag defective products
  • Ensure high consistency with minimal human intervention

Production scheduling applications

  • Analyze machine availability to create production plans
  • Optimize scheduling to reduce downtime

For Consumer Products and Retail:

Customer-facing order tracking systems

  • Provide real-time shipment updates
  • Use smooth interfaces that integrate with key data sources

Personalized shopping experiences for customers

  • Offer recommendations based on real-time and historical data
  • Improve engagement with interactive interfaces

Product development : 

  • Centralize product management and automate merchandise planning

  • Reduce manual processes and accelerate creation with 3D design integrations

For Energy and Utilities:

Smart grid management 

  • Low-code applications monitor and control energy distribution
  • Enable predictive maintenance by analyzing sensor data
A journey of abstraction
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The Mendix low-code platform
Application development with Mendix

Mendix is a comprehensive low-code development platform that accelerates application creation and deployment. 

In the 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms, Mendix was positioned as the leader for the seventh year in a row.

It offers several features that make life easier for a project team, while its scaling capabilities ensure that companies will not have to think twice about integrating it with their existing processes.

Visual drag-and-drop interface

Mendix simplifies application development by allowing users to create applications using visual components, reducing the need for extensive coding. Ready-made code components can seamlessly integrate with new and old systems for greater interoperability.

Quicker deployment

Mendix easily integrates with other applications and systems thanks to strong API capabilities, smooth data exchange, and connectivity. These integration capabilities allow for quicker deployment of applications that meet business needs as and when they change.

Collaboration on the cloud

Mendix can be deployed on cloud platforms, providing the flexibility and scalability to handle varying workloads and user demands across multiple sites. Its real-time collaboration tools are adept at handling cloud-based environments, resulting in greater alignment across entire organizations.

Scalability

Mendix enables applications to be built using separate, reusable template components that can be individually customized. It also offers horizontal scaling by adding more instances of an application to handle increased traffic, vertical scaling by enhancing existing resources, and automatic scaling with cloud integrations to keep up with business demands. Microservices architecture is used for the independent scaling of application components, while continuous deployment and updates ensure business continuity without significant downtime.

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Low-code and manufacturing
Make life(cycles) easier

Using low-code platforms with a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system like Siemens Teamcenter helps companies rapidly deploy new applications or processes—keeping them agile, productive, and innovative in a competitive market. That’s good news for manufacturing companies that promise customization but may be scratching their heads when it comes to delivering these products on time.

Enhanced flexibility and adaptability

Low-code platforms enable manufacturers to quickly customize and adapt their PLM software to meet specific business needs and respond to market changes without extensive redevelopment. 
 
A manufacturer using Siemens Teamcenter for PLM could, for instance, use Mendix to quickly develop an application that integrates with their existing PLM system to track real-time changes in production schedules. This flexibility allows the manufacturer to easily adjust to shifts in demand or supply chain disruptions.

Improved efficiency and collaboration

By integrating low-code platforms with PLM systems, manufacturers can streamline workflows, automate repetitive tasks, and improve collaboration across departments. This helps to reduce errors while increasing productivity. 
 
Through low-code development, for instance, a manufacturer could create an application that integrates with Siemens Teamcenter to automate the approval process for design changes. This application could route requests to the appropriate personnel, gather necessary approvals, and update the PLM system automatically, speeding up the entire process and ensuring all stakeholders are on the same page.

Rapid prototyping 

As outlined earlier, low-code platforms enable rapid prototyping and deployment of applications, allowing manufacturers to quickly test and implement new processes or solutions within their PLM framework. This encourages more out-of-the-box thinking and reduces the time it takes to release applications to the wider business or customers. 

A journey of abstraction
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Digital transformation with CLEVR
Low-code in action

The digitization of our world means companies need to prioritize precision and speed more than ever. Simply put, CLEVR helps companies optimize their business processes and achieve their lofty goals through digital transformation. Low-code development is an integral part of this.

Manufacturing

CLEVR used Mendix low-code to optimize Optime Subsea processes by developing the PIN Tool. This application allows users to create Problem/Improvement Notifications (PINs) directly from Teamcenter, assign them via Azure AD, and register issues quickly. Features like all-device compatibility, Single Sign-On, and public cloud deployment ensure ease of use. By extending Configuration & Change Management benefits beyond the Engineering department, the Pin app significantly enhances overall organizational efficiency and performance.

Consumer Products and Retail

Etos, a prominent chemist chain in the Netherlands, sought to streamline its promotional workflows away from manual, spreadsheet-based processes. Partnering with CLEVR, Etos implemented the Promotion Manager, a centralized low-code application that automates campaign management and monitoring. This solution provides a unified platform for all teams, enhancing data consistency and accuracy. The automation has improved decision-making, reduced redundant promotions, and allowed employees to focus on more strategic tasks. The system’s comprehensive dashboard with access to historical data has also enabled better campaign planning and adjustments.

NEa low-code application
Better together

Our expertise in digital transformation is what separates us from other solution partners. We combine extensive industry knowledge with digitalization expertise to implement tailor-made Mendix solutions that automate and streamline business processes.

Business processes need to remain flexible as your company grows. Let CLEVR guide you through today’s bold decisions with even greater peace of mind.

Energy and Utilities

The Dutch Emissions Authority (NEa) partnered with CLEVR in 2015 to make the most of Mendix’s low-code platform, significantly enhancing its environmental governance capabilities. This partnership led to the development of three low-code applications that would significantly enhance data accuracy and operational efficiency.

Low-code applications like the Energy for Transport Registry (REV), shown above, streamlined complex fuel registration processes for companies, while the Emission Trade Portal automated monitoring plans. As a result, NEa achieved 100% compliance during the EU ETS year-end cycle for the first time—a testament to the application's usability, even when dealing with some tricky cross-referencing of data sources. With the regulatory landscape constantly changing, the impact of low-code development is clear for NEa and companies that are used to performing administrative acrobatics when collecting data.

How can I build an app without coding?

You can build an app without coding using a low-code platform. These platforms offer a visual development environment where you can drag and drop code component templates. Low-code platforms like Mendix simplify the app-building process, making it accessible to users without programming skills.

What is low-code application development?

Low-code application development uses visual interfaces with pre-built components and logic to create applications with minimal hand-coding. This approach allows non-technical users to take part in app creation, often in a much more time-efficient manner.

What is visual software development, and how does it work?

Visual software development allows users to create applications using graphical interfaces instead of writing code. It enables users to assemble pre-built code components through drag-and-drop functionality to construct an application’s functionality and workflow, which is also known as a process model.

How does low-code accelerate digital transformation?

Low-code accelerates digital transformation by enabling rapid application development and deployment, meaning that processes can be optimized and automated more quickly. This helps companies easily adapt to changing business processes and the needs of their customers. 

What is the difference between low-code and no-code?

Low-code platforms require minimal coding and are suitable for developers and non-technical users, offering flexibility for fine-tuning within template components. No-code platforms cater entirely to non-technical users, providing a visual development environment requiring zero coding at the expense of customization.

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