The Rise Of The No-Code Economy

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In 2011, tech investor Marc Andreessen famously observed that “software is eating the world.” Now 10 years later, all modern companies run on software — exploding IT workloads in the process because only a tiny percentage of people can actually write code. With these developer shortages and the pandemic accelerating the urgency for every organization to create new digital applications and workflows in hours or days — not weeks or months — we’re witnessing a historic shift in how work gets done. 

While not new, no-code tools have hit the mainstream with endless options, heavyweights such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon entering the space, and significant valuations for emerging companies such as Airtable, Notion, Zapier and Bubble. However, beyond the shininess of the tools themselves, is a plethora of new companies, communities and education systems, and jobs built entirely on or around no-code and the non-technical business user. Cue the rise of the No-Code Economy. 


No-code vs. low-code

Low-code tools first started gaining traction in 2014, but according to Forrester, the term originated around 2011. Now, Gartner has estimated that low-code tools and application development will make up more than 65 percent of application development activity by 2024. But low-code tools only help those who understand code, enabling developers to do their jobs more quickly and efficiently. This still leaves a massive gap for those business users who want to achieve technical projects without that level of technical expertise.

No-code tools, on the other hand, do not require any code, allowing anyone to create incredible workflows, applications, websites and more. Faced with new technology demands, shrinking budgets and developer shortages, no-code tools are a game-changer for the digital transformation era. Driven by these changes, Gartner has estimated that more than 50 percent of medium to large enterprises will adopt a no-code tool by 2023.


How no-code drives transformation

COVID-19 forced many businesses to transition nearly overnight to remote work and new digital tools and workflows. Now, nearly a year later, many employees are experiencing remote challenges extending far beyond working with noisy kids in the background or setting up a home office. 

The real challenge for businesses is that for many, those new digital tools they implemented aren’t making the cut or solving the problems they promised to fix. Often, the tools are too complex and don’t offer pre-made templates or “building blocks” that help business users with how to approach solving collaborative problems. In fact, IDG found that 70 percent of employees aren’t empowered with the technology they need to address complex issues with creative problem-solving or to change business processes on the fly. And that has only been exacerbated by remote working.

The fact is, digital transformation was never meant to happen overnight. It is a process that takes time, planning, careful consideration and training. It isn’t as simple as implementing a bunch of flashy, new technologies; it’s about thinking through the biggest issues your organization faces and choosing the best technologies to solve them while making your employees’ lives easier and helping them do their jobs better. 

During the pandemic, no-code tools have become the answer to help companies reach these goals and get them up to speed. They require minimal training and enable even the least technically skilled employees to feel like coding pros, but digital transformation still takes careful planning and consideration. Implementing a no-code tool to build a better website won’t help solve your problem if your goal is to make internal processes more streamlined, for example. But implementing no-code tools opens up a world of possibilities for your business and employees to easily solve broader business issues, whether in the office or at home.


Enabling a new generation of workers and entrepreneurs

No-code tools enable anyone to be a citizen developer, opening up new career and business opportunities. Companies such as Visualize Value have already created new roles for no-code operations, builders and automation experts. No-code consultants and agencies such as Luhhu have begun to emerge to help people automate their businesses. 

And just like the coding academy boom of the 2000s, no-code communities and education systems such as Makerpad and Apps Without Code are training the next wave of entrepreneurs and builders. No longer must entrepreneurs need to seek out a technical co-founder to start their business. Content marketing startup Scribly, for example, was built almost entirely on no-code tools like Airtable, Zapier and Webflow

At a time when so many people are out of work, no-code tools can create tremendous opportunities to upskill or build something new with just an idea and a few clicks. This is the real power of these solutions. No-code may not be new or flashy, but in 2021 it will be a powerful tool for companies and individuals to empower employees, create new opportunities for businesses, and reinvigorate America’s solopreneurs as we heal the economy. 

Chris Byers is CEO of Formstack, a workplace productivity platform helping companies digitize what matters, automate workflows, and fix processes — all without code. Launched in 2006, Formstack is trusted by more than 27,000 organizations worldwide — including Cleveland Clinic, NHL, Netflix, Twitter, and Butler University — to quickly and easily build custom forms, create documents, and collect eSignatures. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

  • Originally published March 18, 2021, updated March 19, 2021