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What Is Low-Code Automation? 5 Helpful Things to Know

In today’s dynamic business landscape, the success or failure of large organizations often hinges on how quickly they can bring their products and services to market. To streamline essential workflows and boost productivity, these organizations are increasingly adopting process automation. This is where low-code automation shines by bringing together low-code software development and process automation.

1. What is low-code automation?

Low-code automation is a mix of robotic process automation (RPA), low-code, business process management (BPM), workflow, and AI that lets you get work done faster. Low-code apps can be used to run business processes automatically. Or they could run workflows that keep your IOT (Internet of Things) devices up to date with changes in compliance, regulation, and customer expectations.

Low-code automation creates digital workflows with flexibility built in from the start—workflows that orchestrate the humans, bots, AI, and API integrations behind customer interactions. Consider, for example, the enormous productivity benefits you could gain by integrating AI into your digital workflows, not to mention the advantages of democratizing access to AI and automating workflows without cutting corners on innovation.

See why Gartner® named Appian a Leader in Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms. ]

In this article, we'll explore what low-code automation is, how it works, its use cases, the benefits it brings to enterprises, and how you can leverage an enterprise low-code platform to unlock the power of AI process automation.

2. How low-code automation works.

Low-code automation lets you build apps by drawing a process model instead of writing code. The low-code platform then transforms your visual process representation into a digital workflow. There is underlying code, but the platform takes care of it for you.

But don’t be fooled. The apparent simplicity of low-code automation belies the sophistication of the leading low-code platforms. These platforms are built to handle the most complicated, enterprise-scale processes. They aren’t just for simple task automation. A low-code platform can connect all your workflows, technologies, and people with powerful automation, data, and AI technologies. And they are purposefully engineered to seamlessly integrate with your existing legacy systems and databases.  

See how it comes to life in these low-code automation use cases. 

3. Five low-code automation use cases.

1. Customer lifecycle management.

Low-code automation is an ideal solution for business operations teams everywhere focused on automating the customer journey and streamlining the end-to-end client lifecycle management (CLM) process. Low-code helps these teams cope with ever-changing regulations governing how, when, and where client data can be stored and accessed. Low-code doesn't require specialized knowledge of proprietary code to make minor adjustments, allowing teams to respond quickly to evolving needs. 

Low-code can also help organizations create and personalize the client journey for a more customized and relevant experience.

For instance, streamlining online transaction experiences, such as simplifying application forms, can be achieved effortlessly through low-code's drag-and-drop interface. That kind of agility sets organizations apart in highly-regulated and competitive markets.

[ Want expert advice on CLM and Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance strategies? Get the eBook: Powering Seamless KYC Operations. ]

2. Streamlining corporate functions.

In critical corporate functions, such as legal, accounting, and human resources, efficiency is paramount. But complexities often lead to challenges like inefficient processes, overlapping systems, and document version control issues. Regardless of the function, workflow efficiency is critical, impacting everything from hiring the best candidates to managing contracts and vendor relationships. 

For these functions, low-code offers distinct advantages over traditional high-code development methods. Low-code platforms offer a visual workspace for collaborative application design, facilitating a clear understanding of business needs and how automation can enhance workflows. Additionally, low-code automation platforms with native process mining capabilities enable continuous optimization of workflows and processes, making them an invaluable tool for improving corporate operations.

3. Governance, risk, and compliance.

In the context of governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), organizations face the challenge of maintaining operational integrity, mitigating risks, and ensuring regulatory compliance in industries with stringent regulations. Sectors like financial services, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences require particularly close attention to GRC efforts. However, traditional paper-based or manual processes can’t keep up. They often lack the necessary control capabilities and transparency, leaving organizations susceptible to fines and reputation damage.

Low-code effectively supports GRC needs by safeguarding customer data, managing licenses and certifications, and operationalizing compliance across various regulatory requirements. Pairing a low-code automation platform with a data fabric architecture improves data accessibility across systems, making it readily available to internal teams and external auditors and enhancing GRC practices.

See how a low-code platform can help you transform your GRC processes. ]

4. Supply chain modernization.

Enterprise-grade low-code platforms help companies develop solutions to complex business problems fast. Supply chain disruption is exactly the type of problem requiring fast solutions and quick adaptability. Amid COVID-19, global supply chains were slammed by unprecedented disruptions, thrusting this once-invisible network into the spotlight. Now, how can companies keep evolving  their supply chain management to thrive in times of change, particularly those within asset-heavy industries such as manufacturing, retail, logistics, automotive, energy, utilities, mining, and oil and gas? Enter low-code automation. Unlike consumer sectors accustomed to the fluidity of cloud-based mobility, many supply chain management systems in these industries still rely on premises-based and desk-bound management applications. 

These outdated systems, built years ago, lack mobile capabilities, constraining data entry to specific workstations. This limitation results in restricted and delayed data visibility across organizations, hindering real-time updates about crucial inventory, materials, and purchasing information. Low-code automation not only modernizes operations in these industries but also empowers teams to respond promptly to evolving demands and market dynamics, ultimately driving cost savings and enhancing supply chain resilience.

5. Bridging the insurance talent gap.

Amid a global labor shortage, particularly in software development, insurers face a dilemma. Nearly a quarter of the tech role vacancies in insurance went unfilled in 2021. To bridge this gap, insurers are turning to low-code tools and no-code platforms. With a low-code automation platform, even developers with minimal experience can perform at a high level, resulting in insurance applications being built exponentially faster than they would be with traditional methods. 

Whereas in the past it might have taken months to create an application to automate data ingestion during first notice of loss (FNOL), now the same (or a better) application can be developed in mere weeks. This kind of low-code speed and agility is a game-changer for insurers, who have historically gotten stuck in cycles of multiyear, multimillion-dollar digital transformation initiatives that underdeliver while consuming significant IT resources.

Appian Named a Leader in the 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms ]

4. The benefits of low-code automation for enterprises.

Low-code automation encompasses a powerful array of capabilities: low-code development, RPA, business process management, workflow, and AI. And because low-code platforms are unified, they are all inherently interconnected.

But the future of low-code is business process automation. Almost all low-code applications correspond to a business process that employs automation to stay agile. Low-code automation gives you workflows designed to help you stay ahead of regulatory changes and evolving customer expectations, offering flexibility right from the start. But more than that, low-code automation facilitates collaboration among humans, bots, AI, and API integrations in customer interactions.

Low-code automation empowers you to accomplish all of this more rapidly than you could with traditional application development, enabling you to reap the benefits of automation sooner. Additionally, low-code data integration simplifies data integration for non-programmers—a feature that is becoming increasingly relevant as more operational decisions rely on real-time data.

Design workflows with a visual, drag-and-drop interface.

Low-code workflow apps are designed with user-friendly drag-and-drop elements, making them accessible to both technical and non-technical users. This eliminates the need for extensive developer and user communication, streamlining the development process and fostering better communication for faster results.

Here’s an example of what a low-code development interface might look like:

Create apps with prebuilt, reusable components.

Building applications the traditional way requires a lot of slow, manual development work. Low-code lets you get work done faster by providing ready-to-use components that form the foundation of your app—all you have to do is pop them into your visual workflow design and code in any customizations you want to make the app work uniquely for your business. Most low-code platforms include these components:

  • Pre-coded actions: tasks or activities you can drag and drop into the right place in your workflow design.

  • Connectors: components that guide your workflow from one action to the next.

  • Decision rules: if/then functions that send your workflow in different directions depending on an outcome, letting you create more complex processes.

Customize apps with code extensions.

Low-code complements professional developers rather than replacing them. It provides a foundational, secure functionality that helps developers avoid repetitive tasks. This allows developers to create solutions more rapidly and concentrate on customizing and extending applications to align with specific organizational needs, ultimately reducing the risk of developer burnout.

Automate tasks.

To compete effectively, you need modern automation in your workflows. Leading low-code platforms offer built-in automation, including robotic process automation, AI, and smart services. You can easily integrate these components into your visual workflow design. Low-code platforms use data insights to identify tasks suitable for automation, helping you achieve a balance between digital and human workforces. These platforms also provide a unified view to manage all your automations, offering end-to-end insight into your business processes.

Integrate data from anywhere.

In seconds, without data migration, top low-code platforms consolidate data from various sources, like CRMs, ERPs, and spreadsheets. This eliminates the need to abandon legacy systems. Low-code platforms ensure your data remains accessible and usable, letting you avoid the time-consuming task of data preparation.

Go mobile instantly.

Low-code apps are mobile-ready, automatically generating a mobile-optimized version without extra effort. Leading LCAPs also provide offline mobile capabilities for users without internet access. Low-code is transformative, but the next step is understanding how to use it for business transformation, overcoming slow or faulty processes that can hold you back.

[ Get Gartner’s view of the enterprise low-code application platform market. Download the 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms (LCAP). ]

5. Do I need low-code?

Low-code development offers many benefits that are transforming how businesses operate and innovate. With minimal coding requirements and intuitive, visual, drag-and-drop functionality, it accelerates the app development process, enabling rapid responses to changing market conditions and customer expectations. Low-code also improves collaboration between business and IT teams, reducing the unauthorized use of digital devices, software, and services outside the control of IT. 

And, low-code's instant mobile optimization, seamless integration capabilities, and user-friendly design ensure that applications work seamlessly across all devices. 

Low-code not only enhances speed but also streamlines operations, empowering organizations to scale effortlessly, tackle enterprise-wide challenges, and maintain stringent security standards. Low-code is the catalyst for digital transformation, providing the scalability, speed, and agility necessary to thrive in today's dynamic business environment.

Organizations everywhere are searching for solutions to quickly adapt to change and uncertainty. The challenge lies in finding software that offers the flexibility to customize these solutions according to your specific requirements.

Is low-code development right for you? See how you score on the checklist.

  • IT backlog: Is your IT backlog large and perpetually growing?

  • Capitalizing on opportunities: Are you missing out on new business opportunities because you can’t build apps fast enough to take advantage of them?

  • Process challenges: Are many of your organizational challenges rooted in process issues? 

  • Business-IT alignment: Are your business and IT teams disconnected, struggling to communicate effectively? 

  • Balancing speed, security, and compliance: Are you seeking a solution that allows you to move faster while still prioritizing security and compliance?

If you answered “Yes” to two or more of the questions above, investing in a low-code platform may be beneficial for your organization. For a deeper dive into the essential capabilities offered by leading low-code process automation platforms, download Gartner's complimentary report: 

[ Critical Capabilities for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms. ]