Tejas Gadhia on the use of Low-Code or No-Code applications
In this special episode of Small Biz in 15, Shawn Hessinger, Managing Editor of Small Business Trends, traveled to Austin, Texas for Zoho Day 2022 to interview Zoho Product Manager Tejas Gadhia, which discusses low-code and no-code solutions and how small businesses can use them to improve their workflow.
When to use no- or low-code automation
Shawn: When we say no code and low code, what do we really mean? What? What is that? What do we mean when we say these are no-code or low-code apps?
Tejas: Low or no-code is a term that I think has gotten a bit confusing because now everyone wants to be a low-code provider. The way I separate them is that no code product is purely point-and-click configuration driven.
So it can be anything that points and clicks, drags and drops, creates something, and has fields and customizations. Your workflows should be easily configurable by simply entering certain criteria and adding actions.
Low code for workflow takes that and ups the ante a bit where the base is still codeless drag and drop capabilities, but the added benefit or low code part of it is usually in a language of abstract script.
Another way to differentiate a scripting language from a programming language is this: if you’re somewhat familiar with Excel and its formulas, and maybe even the macro space, then it’s like the space low code for you. I think most people are perfectly fluent in Excel and are a bit scared off by the low-code codeword, but a good product will have a good scripting language that will make it very easy to understand and use very quickly.
Shawn: Is it easy to build an app with a low-code or no-code solution?
Tejas: It’s super easy, but more than that, I think there’s been a big change. We are now actually the smaller the organization the more agile it is and it actually has access to better software than larger organizations which gives them a head start in order to really grow faster than their competitors maybe bigger.
And what I mean by that is local tools, especially as a small business owner, maybe, let’s say less than 50 employees and even smaller, the more nimble it is. On the other hand, the bigger you get, the more administrative tasks you have to deal with. But the smaller you are, the more control and knowledge you have over the process you are trying to solve. And low-code allows the process owner who is the key player to define the created process and, more importantly, to quickly make changes to it.
Shawn: Can you just give a few examples, maybe from your own experience of things you’ve seen customers do with a low-code or no-code solution?
Tejas: I saw the simplest or the most complex things. I saw a simple registration form and I saw ERP systems and everything.
Whenever someone starts, I always tell them to start with the registration form. Start with something as simple as possible, and sometimes even personal things like trying.
Like my sister got married five or six years ago, more or less, and she wanted an RTP system for her wedding. I said, “Okay, well, we looked at the market. Indian weddings are a bit complex. They have like all these events and different people are invited to a different event, whatever.
And so, it was a bit difficult to find a good solution on the market. And I was like, you know what? I am quite familiar with low-code and no-code tools. Let me build something for you real quick. So we built a system with logic in there where people can sign up, you type in your email address and so on. But it’s like a non-work related thing that allows me to think about what the workflow is and what the process will be like.
And that gives me that confidence when it comes to a business. And I can translate those same questions that are being asked as what happens next? what should happen first? what data do I need to make sure it’s there for it to work, etc.
Shawn: Let’s take a concrete example of a company that may not be very technical in terms of what it does, let’s say a remittance company. What is a no-code or low-code solution they would want to implement without hiring a whole tech team on top of everything they have to worry about?
Tejas: A lot of people who are looking at low-code, no-code solutions kind of embrace that build-first mentality because they want to fix problems and fix their own problems; build it themselves from scratch, in other words. I sometimes believe that it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel.
So sometimes for a customer management and installation company, it might be good to have a CRM and have your low-code tool augment or expand on an existing CRM functionality. You can build a CRM in a low-code way. You have tables for contacts, leads, and deals. You work on installations and appointments. These are all, you know, CRM foundations.
But sometimes it’s best to leave that part to the CRM and then focus on creating a customer experience for… maybe the installers going into the field, having a way for them to verify a location, d add photos and take notes of whatever they install, have a customer sign it on the spot. It’s all sorts of ways outside the scope of CRM, but somehow where the Low-Code X-factor is.
I mean there is one size fits all but I almost always tell people to make sure they check the market and see if there is something that does exactly what you need before you jump in in this build-first mindset.
Do you need to hire someone for low-code development?
Shawn: I’ve talked to small business owners who use low-code and no-code solutions and they always end up hiring someone to help them through the process. Is there an advantage to low-code, no-code if you have to hire someone else just for the time constraint rather than going to hire a developer?
Tejas: I think working with the developer or the partner is not always a bad thing. At least he’s someone to brainstorm ideas with and make sure you’re doing something the right way. The problem is finding a really good developer or partner who is sort of on the same page as you.
But you want to make sure someone isn’t selling you or telling you the wrong thing, all that kind of stuff. But working with the partner, in general, there are things you can build that can take a long time to build, but you also want that person to bring additional expertise to solve a problem that you wouldn’t think of yourself. same.
Shawn Hessinger: Suppose I want a low-code or no-code solution, how do I know what to look for? How do I know if I’m getting something as simple as you say I’ll be able to build myself or if they’re using that as a marketing term, and maybe that’s not really the case?
Tejas: It’s always difficult to get through marketing. Especially nowadays when marketing is becoming so important. Good things to ask are whether it’s the only thing they do or one of many things they do.
Another thing to ask is the evolution history and if it has improved over time. For example, does it actually add more features that you could use that seem reasonable? And are their characteristics what you see bringing value to your type of business?
And by that, I mean it’s something like a new feature with AI capabilities that provide analysis or predictions on trends? Or is this new feature an NFT marketplace that you have to help determine which features really bring value to my business and align with the type of things you’re looking for long term?
Another thing to consider is how your interaction with this company and how that relationship is because these low-code platforms are very proprietary and you can’t really switch from one to the other the second you you sign up and you start building on it and you’re like, maybe there for a year or whatever, this company kind of knows they kind of had you by the handles. Namely, you are signed up for a one year contract, you get 10%-20% renewals year on year because you are not going anywhere since they know they have you. That says a lot about their company philosophy more than any marketing blogger or anyone else.
Be sure to watch our Small Biz in 15: On Location with Zoho Product Manager Tejas Gadhia video to learn more details on how using point-and-click configuration can help automate your workflow.
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