Why No-Code Projects Fail

Understand the four main challenges for Legal Engineers
February 7, 2024

by Wolfgang Roidl

The big no-code promise is that anyone can program almost any application in no time. Instead of costly software projects and disputes with overburdened IT departments, an IT-savvy business expert (aka legal engineer or citizen developer) simply grabs a no-code tool and solves the problem.

Of course, this sounds far too good to be true. On the other hand, it's not completely wrong either. So why do so many no-code projects still fail and no-code platforms are often only used for very simple automation steps instead of finally tackling the real pain points?

1. No-code does not mean that everything becomes simple!

Complex logic and multi-branched workflows do not become less complex just because they are digitized with a no-code tool. While visual tools are certainly much more intuitive than text-based code, the process still needs to be captured in a similar way beforehand, requirements should be clearly defined and free from contradictions, and data should ideally be structured and stored in a meaningful way.

No-code tools can easily tempt you into thinking that you don't have to worry about any of this. And it might indeed work well for rather simple workflows. However, if you tackle difficult processes in the same way, failure is inevitable and instead of saving money and time, you end up achieving the opposite.

2. No-code is not a side project!

If you compare no-code projects with classic software development, the speed advantage cannot be emphasized enough. Projects that would normally keep a team of programmers busy for months can actually be completed in a few weeks by individuals or small teams.

However, this does not mean that any subject matter expert can automate the department's core processes alongside their daily work. Citizen Developers have to devote a considerable amount of their working time to learning no-code tools and implementing projects. Ideally, they are not completely on their own, but rather part of a team with whom they can exchange ideas. Simply entrusting an IT-savvy colleague with the implementation of no-code projects without giving them the necessary time to do so, will not work for complex process automation.

3. Software development is more than just (no-)code!

No professional software team consists exclusively of programmers and the training of software developers is by no means limited to learning programming languages. Many skills and tasks beyond coding are required to successfully complete a major software project:

  • the process must be clearly captured and ideally optimized and visualized,
  • the requirements must be compiled without contradictions,
  • the data model and workflow logic must be (at least) roughly sketched out,
  • lean but effective project management must be set up,
  • all relevant stakeholders need to be involved or continuously informed about the project,
  • user feedback must be regularly collected and implemented,
  • the finished application needs to be tested in a structured manner, and
  • a support structure for the time after the project’s completion should be considered.

While there are established procedures, tools and experts for all this in custom software development, a citizen developer often has to solve these challenges alone. Of course, the methods created for large-scale software projects cannot be directly translated to no-code initiatives. However, they are still crucial to the success of any larger no-code project and citizen developers are challenged to adapt them to their needs.

4. Not every project is a no-code project!

In a way, no-code is always a compromise. While traditional software development is very flexible and can make almost any customer request possible, no-coders are limited to the capabilities offered by the respective no-code platform. And of course, not everything is always possible within each framework. There are few things more frustrating than investing a lot of time and effort in creating an application, only to realize eventually that some crucial requirements cannot be implemented. To avoid this mistake, citizen developers need to have a good nose for difficult requirements right from the start of the project and at the same time have an almost complete overview of the features of a platform.

Of course, there are projects for which some no-code platforms are better, worse or not suitable at all. And despite all the no-code enthusiasm: yes, there are also projects for which no-code is simply not a solution. However, knowing this at the start of a project is the big difficulty.

So, does no-code work for complex applications?

Yes! Despite all the difficulties mentioned, if a team of citizen developers recognizes the complexity of a process, is equipped with the necessary skills, methods and resources, and uses a suitable platform, the “big no-code promise” can be kept. If done right, no-code is an excellent way to create added value in a short time and at low cost for many use cases, including complex ones.

If this resonates with you and you would like to know more about how to tackle these challenges, please feel free to reach out to us. We would be happy to discuss in a free introductory call what is needed to make your no-code project a success.

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