Skip to main content

Low-Code Automation Defined, Plus Use Cases and Benefits

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

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

Learn more about IT’s Changing Mandate in an Age of Disruption in this Economist Intelligence Unit report, sponsored by Appian.

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. You can build low-code applications that automate tasks or pieces of workflows or applications that orchestrate end-to-end processes spanning multiple departments and systems in the enterprise.

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 development 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. Imagine, 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. And these platforms are purposefully engineered to seamlessly integrate with your existing legacy systems and databases.  

Let’s see how they work, along with a few common low-code features.

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:

Example of adding automation into a workflow with a low-code process automation modeler

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 interface 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, encompassing a powerful array of capabilities: low-code development, RPA, business process management, workflow, and AI. 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. Low-code platforms ensure your data remains accessible and usable, letting you avoid the time-consuming task of data preparation and giving you a way to get more out of your legacy systems. 

Go mobile instantly.

Low-code apps are mobile-ready, automatically generating a mobile-optimized version without extra effort. Leading low-code application development platforms also provide offline mobile capabilities for users without internet access. 

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

Want to learn even more about low-code? Get examples, advice, and tips in our guide to low-code. 

5 low-code automation use cases.

Once you’ve chosen to adopt a low-code platform, the next step is understanding how to use low-code for business transformation to overcome slow or faulty processes that can hold you back.

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. 

With low-code, IT teams can iterate rapidly to meet business team requirements. 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.

[See why Gartner® named Appian a 2023 Magic Quadrant™ Leader in Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms.]

The benefits of low-code automation for enterprises.

Agility. 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.


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. 

Speed. With minimal coding requirements and intuitive, visual, drag-and-drop functionality, low-code automation accelerates the app development process, enabling rapid responses to changing market conditions and customer expectations. 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. 

Data-driven operations. Additionally, low-code data integration makes it possible to gain a 360-degree view of your customer. This ability is becoming increasingly important as more operational decisions rely on real-time data.

Collaboration. Low-code also improves collaboration between business users and IT teams, reducing the unauthorized use of digital devices, software, and services outside the control of IT. Low-code platforms offer a visual workspace for collaborative application design, facilitating a clear understanding of business needs and how automation can enhance workflows. 

Does your business need low-code?

Low-code automation platforms are transforming how businesses operate and innovate. 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 technologies are the catalyst for digital transformation, providing the scalability, speed, and agility necessary to thrive in today's dynamic business environment. 

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 solutions 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 users 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 closer look at low-code solutions, get Gartner’s view of the market in the 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms.