Project Management

Low-Code or No-Code....What's the difference?

From the Citizen Development Insights Blog
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Citizen development is a disruptive approach to digital transformation and organizational innovation, where teams are empowered to turn ideas into applications using no-code/low-code technology. This blog provides insights, advice and practical knowledge from thought leaders and practitioners in Citizen Development.

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Have you been wondering what the difference is between Low-Code and No-Code is? Read our quick primer to learn about these key terms in citizen development.

In a recent interview between Sunil Prashara, President and CEO of PMI, and Praveen Seshadri, founder of AppSheet, Praveen drew a comparison between building software and driving a car.

In the early days, driving a car was a very involved affair.  Features we take for granted today simply didn’t exist; the automatic starter was not standard equipment in cars for many years. You had to physically crank the engine. You didn’t have a gear box or stick shift. There was no speedometer, water pressure or fuel gauge.  Driving a car was clumsy and hard.

In a similar way, early software engineering was tedious, painstaking and required a great deal of knowledge. The software pioneers had to be competent in many domains – being able to write instructions the computer could understand, how to write programmes to memory, how and where to store the data. All of this required the flicking of switches and the loading of punch cards or magnetic film in precise orders, making even small mistakes very costly.

Most people will agree that driving a modern car today no longer requires experience akin to having a doctorate in mechanical engineering. Similarly, software engineering has evolved such that it is no longer the exclusive domain of the dedicated IT professional.  In both these cases, over time, the relentless drive to make things easier, faster and more user friendly has meant that today pretty much anyone can drive a car, or build an application.

Chances are you are already familiar with the terms low-code and no-code application development platforms.  Essentially, they are what they say on the tin; low-code platforms started to make an appearance around three decades ago. Many of them born out of software houses’ desire to minimise repetitive, tedious very error prone tasks that are common when coding.  No-code platforms are a natural evolution of low-code, with the ambition being total obfuscation of the complexities of code.



Low-code platforms can be defined as tools that let you build software applications with a minimal amount of coding. Software developers can leverage pre-fabricated “blocks of code” to rapidly create applications.

Rather than focusing their efforts on hand-coding the application end-to-end, they these pre-fab code blocks to construct the application, and then use code for fine-tuning where and when desired.

In the strictest sense, low-code platforms require some level of coding knowledge, and this makes sense given that the target market, by and large, has been the existing IT department and software houses – these tools were designed to speed up what they were already doing, rather than trying to make software development more accessible to non-IT folk.  That said, some low-code platforms do also appeal to the non-coder and indeed are being used by them to great effect, for example in building MVPs which could then be handed over to the IT team to finish off and publish.

Low-code is markedly faster than hand-coding, and as a result projects are cheaper. Many prominent platform vendors feature use cases demonstrating 10x faster project delivery times compared to hand-coding approaches. This is one reason that Gartner estimates that the low-code market will be responsible for more than 65% of applications by 2024.


While conceptually similar, no-code platforms go a step further and attempt to completely eliminate the need to write even a line a of code when creating an application. Boasting clean, intuitive graphical interfaces with point-and-click and drag-and-drop mechanics, no-code platforms are designed to be approachable to those outside the IT department. This is one of the fundamental drivers behind the growing global interest in the Citizen Development movement.

Users of no-code platforms have demonstrated orders-of-magnitude faster delivery times when compared to hand-coding and even low-code.  Application development projects that would ordinarily take months to simply mobilise, can now be delivered in a few days by a trained user of a no-code platform.

It is important to note that no-code platforms are not inherently better than low-code platforms. For the increase in speed, there is a reduction in control. Indeed, many organizations prefer their existing low-code platforms, given they are likely less locked-down and offer a greater level of flexibility and control.  There are numerous instances of core systems and highly complex applications that have been built using low-code platforms, but notably fewer examples on no-code platforms. 

It is also worth stating that low-code and no-code are sometimes used interchangeably and some platforms can justifiably be viewed as having both low-code and no-code characteristics (and catering to both the IT department and the non-IT business user at the same time). There are numerous no-code vendors out there that allow users to code, for example.



Low-code and no-code platforms have demonstrated incredible return on investment for those organizations that have taken the plunge.

  • Speed of build – Both low-code and no-code greatly accelerate the development process. Low-code can make the process 10x faster. No-code doubles this, and then some.

  • Less resource demand – Forrester estimates that there will be a deficit of 500,000 developers by 2024 in the US alone. With minimal understanding of programming required for low-code and no understanding of programming required by no-code, the typical business user can step in to fill this gap.

  • Rapid deployment – Time from build to deployment is significant reduced. Low-code and no-code are optimized for quicker decision making and lighter project governance. E.g. change requests applied in real-time, rather than being scheduled for periodic release cycles. It transforms how software is developed and reshapes how development teams are assembled and operate, with business resources taking the lead and minimal IT approvals required.

Posted by Arjun Jamnadass on: January 08, 2021 01:11 PM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Eduin Fernando Valdes Alvarado Project Manager| F y F Fabricamos Futuro Villavicencio, Meta, Colombia
Very interesting, thanks for sharing

Jelili Odunayo Kazeem Co-Founder| Convosync Solutions Limited Enugu, En, Nigeria
No doubt, Low-code/No-code is a new revolution. The world is evolving, business environment is evolving and organizational strategies are evolving too. Every CEO would prefer to deliver products or services cheaper and in less time. It is a win - win to both the organization and the customer.

Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Financial Management Specialist | US Peace Corps / Cameroon Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
Thanks for sharing

Debbie Rivenburg Project Manager| Florida Department of Revenue Tallahassee, Fl, USA
This is an excellent explanation! As a non-IT project manager I had not truly understood what these terms meant, and now I do. Thank you!

Luis Alberto Pedroza Páez CoFounder| ARS Aromatica Studio Santiago De Queretaro, Que, Mexico
Very helpful explanation. I have been fascinated since I heard about the Citizen Development effort being undertaken by PMI. Being an "IT ignorant" it would be great if anyone could share some day to day examples of what can be achieved and even some platform non-code platform names.

Jonathan Campos Business Owner| Fight Kitchen Fires Ltd Co Spring, Tx, USA
I have seen its proliferation and have realized the same. We are all now able to make apps without prior knowledge/experience in coding!

Andrea Caccamese PM III Ivrea - To, Italy is a popular term, indeed nothing really very new, In the last decade of last century (1990's) there were a number of so-called CASE platforms (IEF, HPS and others) that switched the effort from coding to modeling of data and processes. They were low-code platforms indeed

Aws Shehab Deputy IT Manager & Financial Affairs Support| ATU Duty Free Salalah, Dhofar, Oman
Agree with Point of Speed of build.

Jelili Odunayo Kazeem Co-Founder| Convosync Solutions Limited Enugu, En, Nigeria
True, the speed of delivery in less time keeps citizen developers tall, always.

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