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No-code tools: optimising business operations with the next iteration of no-code

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The Commodores famously said they were ‘easy like a Sunday morning’, but when it comes to building applications to manage your business operations, it can often feel more like The Bangles’ ‘Manic Mondays’. 

Our point is that building internal apps has historically been no easy ride. It has required an in-depth understanding of digital best practices, and significant experience honing the necessary skills using cutting-edge techniques and technologies.  

That’s until no-code came to town. 

No-code is an evolutionary approach to software development that requires very few programming skills in order to build functional applications. 

Now we know what you’re thinking: this isn’t exactly breaking news. No-code has been a hot topic of conversation over the last few years as the market has matured and platforms have begun providing a lot more features and functionality than they have historically. Remember that even popular long-standing platforms like WordPress could be considered no-code when used with certain themes.

So why are we still talking about no-code today? Surely in the age of mind-blowing breakthroughs like artificial intelligence and machine learning, no-code is old news…right?

Far from it! 

In fact, the next iteration of no-code available in the market today has the power to democratise the technology landscape and make tools available to anyone. And spoiler alert: AI actually has a big role to play in that…

What does the next iteration of no-code look like?

OK, so it’s safe to say that ‘democratising the technology landscape’ certainly sounds pretty impressive, but what does this actually mean?

To answer this, first we need to establish what these tools are. 

Let’s start with traditional no-code. These no-code tools are effectively a UI or visual interface that allows the user to create a visual map of how your application should operate, look and feel. They’re considerably more straightforward to implement than your traditional developer tools, as they remove obstacles like specialist programming languages and syntax in favour of a more visual and logical approach. This empowers individuals without traditional programming skills to better understand how to build and deliver apps, and in this sense, these tools democratise development by lowering the barriers to entry. 

But while this all might sound smooth sailing, it’s vital to understand one thing: the majority of these platforms still have a learning curve, meaning you can make mistakes just as easily as you can with traditional approaches to coding. And so to utilise no-code most effectively, tools should be harnessed by someone with enough technical competency and understanding to optimise use and maximise output. You have been warned! 

So what about the next iteration of these tools?

Well, although it might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of ‘no-code’, we now have the ability to create tools that support our daily professional (and personal) lives using an approach we’re all pretty competent and confident in already. That’s right: we can now use the power of the English language!

Natural language understanding has come a long way in the last 12 to 18 months, meaning it’s now possible to use natural language commands - or, to be a bit less technical, words - to create your own tools.

What’s that you ask; prove it? Alright, let’s take GitHub as an example. GitHub has had a tool called Copilot for some time that enables users to input prompts and commands using natural language, and receive code outputs and suggestions based on the project's context and style in return. Yes, yes, we know: this technically isn’t no-code, but it’s a good indication of where the landscape is heading. 

And this direction is where it starts getting really exciting. If you have a premium version of ChatGPT (and if you don’t, we hate to break it to you, but you’re definitely missing out!), you’ve been able to add your own custom instructions in English for some time. However, you’re now able to create your own refined GPT using, drumroll please….you guessed it: natural language! That’s right: using the power of English, you can now create your own custom GPT to support whatever the aim of your model might be - and we know we’re not the only ones who think this is very cool.

What does this mean for your business? 

We’re sure you agree that this all sounds awfully exciting, but how does it actually relate to business operations? Well, the next iteration of no-code looks set to impact businesses like yours in a couple of ways, and knowing the right steps to take today will help you to unlock the internal benefits of these tools well into the future. 

But you need to spruce up your housekeeping. 

Traditionally, the majority of businesses have been somewhat reliant on spreadsheets to manage their business, and while the way in which data is stored in these spreadsheets means that it is ‘readable’ most of the time, it often isn’t well structured or modelled to be effectively queried. 

This isn’t always a problem; there are tools out there which will attempt to read and interpret your data regardless of the way it has been presented. But with a lot of no-code tools now having a layer of AI built into them to support features, functionality, and value, now is the time to carry out a review of your business in order to place yourself in the best position to take advantage of everything AI and natural language understanding can offer. 

To do this most effectively, analyse how your data is structured and consider what no-code tools can support you from the very start when getting your house in order. And to be perfectly clear, this data can be a wide variety of things from a wide variety of sources, encompassing anything stored in your business which provides information - it doesn’t even have to be numerical, content counts as well!  

Let’s take a look at a couple of hypotheticals below to provide a broad overview and map this out a bit further. 

Example 1: A business uses Spreadsheets to manage production and manufacture. This spreadsheet is business critical but prone to errors and is not easily integrated without hours of work - it uses lots of sheets, some formulas and some magic Barry from IT did a long time ago, and no one else really knows how it works. 

In this instance, the business could look at a tool such as ReTool. This is a no/low-code platform that can streamline business processes and is specifically designed to optimise ‘back of house’ operations.

Apart from all of the standard advantages of building out operations on a tool such as this compared to spreadsheets (we’re talking benefits like better visualisation, collaboration, and more), this business could also build out applications which would store data in a database of their choice. This then opens up the possibility of adding a layer of AI onto the application - like querying using natural language to source data on demand or predict inventory levels based on historical data - to optimise data management with far greater accessibility and effectiveness. No more pestering Barry from IT is required!

Example 2: A business is growing but a lot of their information is spread out all over the place. Some of it is out of date, other times it is simply inaccurate, or in some cases multiple copies exist. This has led to a lot of mistakes being made and some poor decision making costing the business money. 

So in this example, how could the business use no-code and AI to address this issue?

Notion is a powerful combination of spreadsheets, documents and databases, with a lot of other cool stuff all baked in. This means you can use this tool as a basis for all of your data storage - think calendars, client information, internal SOP and guidelines to compliant policies.  

Platforms like Notion are a great solution for businesses facing similar challenges to those in our example, as they make you think about and review your current content architecture. And better yet, when you have migrated all of your data to Notion, you can benefit from Notion AI and the ability to interrogate all of your data using natural language, from client meeting minutes to holiday entitlement (or the disciplinary procedure). 

In short, it is one central source of truth that can be implemented into your business, and being able to take advantage of AI with these tools empowers your team and improves both productivity and output.

And it’s for this reason that the uptake of no-code solutions is accelerating so rapidly. In fact, Gartner predicts that a mammoth 70% of new applications will have been created with the use of no-code and low-code tools by 2025, up from fewer than 25% in 2020.

These types of statistics are a testament to the power of the no-code revolution: but remember to heed our warnings and not just dive right in head first, however tempting it may be. In order to properly take advantage of these tools, some housekeeping needs to be carried out to ensure you have the appropriate data strategy and plan in place to maximise not only what no-code has to offer, but all the amazing potential that AI offers along with it.

The ability to create tailored programmes to suit your business using natural language is here. And even more excitingly, it will only get more advanced over the foreseeable future.

Need help optimising business operations with no-code?
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