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What is No-Code? How Would I Use it?

August 26, 2020

You may have heard the term “no-code” floating around. It refers to no-code software development platforms, and with all the complications of COVID-19, the no-code trend is building steam. 

What is No-Code?

No-code describes a visual approach to software development, allowing non-technical professionals to quickly build an application. 

Yes, non-technical folks can use it to build an app. 

Not an app like Facebook, but rather an application used to manage a process. We’ll dive into examples in a moment. In the meantime, think drag-and-drop features and intuitive “what you see is what you get” interfaces.

Along with building an app, non-technical professionals can also launch and manage the application through a no-code platform. A non-technical professional should be able to access the data from the application and do at least some troubleshooting. Ideally, they can even add integrations with other campus systems. The main point is that you don’t need a full-time IT member to manage the application. 

What About Low-Code? What’s the Difference?

No-code tools enable staff, faculty, and non-technical administrators to act as “builders.” They can quickly create business applications such as a change of major request, parking permit form, or a vacation request process.

No-code platforms are ideal either standalone or integrated processes that have life-cycles of months to years. No-code empowers institutions to be agile as anyone across campus can quickly build and launch applications.

Low-code application development platforms on the other hand use visual modeling tools to decrease the amount of coding needed to build complex, enterprise-grade apps. 

Low-code platforms are made for integrated, mission critical business processes with a longer life-cycle of over 5 years. Low-code is ideal for creating long-lasting, stable applications that require advanced, integrated frameworks, which typically require advanced technical expertise to build and maintain. 

Categorically speaking, no-code solutions are a subset of low-code solutions. Low-code application development platforms as a whole were created to empower the citizen developer. When the barrier to application development is lowered through low-code software, institutions can increase productivity and agility.  

No- and low-code platforms have made a surge since the onset of COVID-19, but they were growing more popular even before the pandemic. Research from 2019 by Gartner predicted that “by 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity.” Taking current events into account, that number has likely increased.

Now that we’ve covered the technical definition of no- and low-code platforms, let’s discuss the functional use.

Why Would I Use No-Code?

With no-code software development platforms, you can move faster. Let’s take a faculty member who was recently promoted to take on an additional administrative role, for example. Imagine being this individual with new responsibilities, such as dozens of requests per day. It’s difficult for you to keep up with both administrative approvals and day-to-day professorial responsibilities.

Many administrative approvals fall into the same categories; however, they arrive through different mediums. There are purchase order approvals, vacation requests, working around students with a special requirement, compliance needs with new COVID-19 policies, and so on. They might come via email, paper forms, or through another messaging platform. 

With a no-code development platform, you can build your own form and workflow so that all of these approvals come to the same place. Instead of checking three different places, or carefully sorting through hundreds of emails each day, you can check a single location to see approvals. 

Another reason to use no-code? Be empowered to do it yourself. 

Let’s use another example. You’re a research administrator with dozens of researchers who need to purchase various types of equipment for federally funded projects. The approval process isn’t exceptionally complicated, but there are lots of instructions that have to be followed carefully, including steps that apply only under specific circumstances. 

Between missing an instruction here or there, processing the information on paper forms, and the inevitable manual entry errors that occur, approvals can take a few weeks. 

Without a no-code tool, your options are to continue processing approvals slowly or get on IT’s waitlist for a custom solution to accelerate the process. IT can’t get to your request for about six months. However, with a no-code software development platform, you could build the form and approval process yourself. It could include integrations to minimize the chance for data entry errors and automated approval routing for zero time in transit between desks.  

In addition to faster approvals and empowered faculty and staff, a no-code platform can also improve the student experience. 

Imagine you’re a faculty member and you have three students with unique internship opportunities. The students will need special permissions to get credit for this particular opportunity. In fact, a form doesn’t exist yet for this kind approval. 

You could look into getting a software that could automate some of the process, but the tools you’re looking at require coding knowledge, which you don’t have. 

Instead of waiting for IT to help, or give you a custom solution, you could build one yourself within a no-code development platform. 

How Would I Use No-Code?

What about the specifics? How exactly could you use a no-code development platform to dismantle bottlenecks or improve student student experience?

Avoid bottlenecks with approval routing. With a no-code solution like Kuali Build, create approval routing unique to your institution’s processes. You can use parallel routing if an approval can be completed by multiple individuals. Additionally, you can see who is waiting on you for an approval in a visual way, giving you more insight to your approval workload. 

Be empowered to create exactly what you need without intimidating lines of code. Using Kuali Build, you can create forms without knowing any code. The form builder uses intuitive drag and drop functionality with a wide range of field options. Choose from options like a text box, multiple choice, time selection, and number ranges. 

Additionally, you can integrate the form with campus systems so information can flow to and from the form. For example, with integrations, when a student fills out a form, their name, student ID number, and campus email can autofill. Then, after the form is submitted and approved, the student’s data can be updated in the Student Information System automatically with no additional manual entry. 

With no-code platforms, you can build a process that is exactly specific to what you need—students won’t have to sort through extra information on a form or go through an approval step that isn’t absolutely necessary. 

The “office use only” section on your student-facing forms? You can finally hide that.

Kuali Build makes creating forms and approval processes easy. You can use conditional logic to show or hide sections of the form based on the filler’s input. Additionally, the approval process can be as complex or simple as it needs to be. Three approvers are needed in any order? You can do that. Ten approvers are needed in a specific order and only when unique conditions apply? You can do that too. Then, when the process is complete, automatically notify the form submitter with email notifications so they don’t need to wait on one more individual to know their request has been approved.  

No-code platforms empower you to solve your own problems. Kuali Build is a platform that gives you the ability to create custom forms and automated approval processes without writing any code. Take Kuali Build for a spin in this self-guided tour. No-code platforms not only empower you, they can also save resources like time and money. Read our infographic to learn the true cost of paper and PDF processes on campus. 

True Cost of Paper and PDFs on Campus Infographic
Higher Education's Guide to Digital Transformation
University of Hawaii Case Study

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