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No Code, No Problem: The Enterprise UI Revolution

What to know about the emerging trend of no-code/low-code development platforms, and how it’s revolutionizing efficiency for business users.

If you’re in the business of user interface (UI) development for enterprise software, then you’ve no doubt been immersed in the world of “no code” design for at least a few years now. Offering a customer-facing no-code software for which your end users don’t need to know a single line of CSS or even HTML? It is, in short, the dream.

On the flip side, if you’re an IT leader using an older, more manual, platform, you’re probably itching to implement a no-code or low-code platform into your company’s development processes.

So what is this coveted trend? Let’s break it down.

What is No Code Design?

A platform designed with no-code UI is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a team of professional developers and programmers making all the updates behind the scenes, every user in the company is able to customize their own interface with drag-and-drop tools and out-of-the-box functionality. And they can do so without having any coding skills or knowing any programming languages. 

Even if most of your business users think “javascript” is a coffee shop for screenwriters, as long as they’re savvy enough to use social media, they’re savvy enough to use no-code platforms.

In other words, using a no-code solution gives every role in the company—from quality managers to product marketing to financial officers—the operational power of a software developer simply by using clicks, not code. That’s what makes no code adoption the beating heart of digital transformation.

No Code, No Limits

Once upon a time, something as simple as building a landing page or a reporting dashboard would require putting in a request to a team of coders who would add it to an already lengthy queue of IT requests from all over the organization.

Decades-old companies still manage their business needs this way, tracking IT requests in Excel and going back and forth in emails to the end-user to determine precisely what’s required. 

No-code development platforms are easier on everyone—including those who run it behind the scenes. Most developers share the dream of working in module-based code with no dependencies. The entire development process can be harnessed for innovation rather than day-to-day fixes. 

Nowadays, startups are lightyears ahead because they begin with no-code applications to build their frontend UI and web applications right from inception. 

You may have already heard of some of the best no-code applications out there such as Bubble, Airtable, or Salesforce Flow (more on that in a moment). Such platforms enable speedier business processes and workflow automation, primarily because interface changes can be made in real-time. 

How does it work?

1. Easy object customization

In a cloud-based enterprise platform such as Propel, database tables are modeled as objects. Each object is yours to fill with whatever information and functionality you need—no custom code required.

Every custom object comes with several out-of-the-box capabilities such as page layout, fieldsets, default actions (i.e. edit), reports and dashboards, search, list views, application program interfaces (APIs), mobile app UI, and many more capabilities. Plus, you can find templates if you don’t want to start from scratch and any number of plugins in case you’re looking to build something more elaborate.

To demonstrate:

You create a custom object. The platform automatically builds a page layout with a drag-and-drop interface. As you build your landing page or report (or whatever it is you need), you’re able to manage, extend, and customize your data models to fit your business needs.

To do this you’ll use your Object Manager. Object Manager enables you to view, edit, and delete custom objects, manage fields, manage object relationships, and perform other related tasks. 

Consider all the common data types you may be working with: short text and long text, date and time, currency, and formula-calculated fields.

When working in Excel, you’re risking errors due to manual data entry with no built-in approval process. In Object Manager, all of these fields can be marked as required and validated when a record is created or updated. 

Also, the fields may be grouped together as fieldsets. In addition, the Object Manager also supports tools to manage the page layouts, buttons, and fieldsets for the user interface. 

2. Automation

A business process often involves navigating multiple use cases within the application. For example, when an Engineering Change Order (ECO) is released, the relevant items must be shared with the specified suppliers. 

Without automation, these mundane tasks have to be performed manually, taking up time and resources and creating the potential for errors. Also, some business processes span multiple enterprise applications and external web services. To continue growing as a company, it’s crucial to combine all these business apps into a cohesive and seamless experience for your end-users allowing them to focus on high-value tasks.

Events such as updating the content of an existing record or approving an Engineering Change Order can automatically trigger an action or series of actions. Another way to think about this is with an “If This, Then That” structure:

If a specific Event occurs
AND (optional) certain criteria are met,
Then perform Action(s)

For example, IF a new revision of an Item is released, THEN your platform can generate a PDF with the new Item details AND send a notification to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system using a chatbot or other automated chat forum to update the other members of your team. In addition, these actions can be scheduled to occur if you don’t need them to happen right away, and they can be configured for mobile applications as well.

And, as a reminder, you can create all of these new processes (and more) without writing a single line of code. 

The takeaway here is that building your business on a highly adaptable platform is crucial to succeeding in a constantly evolving market. You’ll want an enterprise-grade solution that supports multiple no-code and low-code tools with a graphical user interface.

3. Go with the Flow

Creating and automating workflow processes for your business needs with a series of triggers seems like a daunting undertaking in and of itself, but with no-code tools like Salesforce Flow, you’ll be able to construct them as you go.

Salesforce Flow is the preferred tool when designing processes that require user interactions and input. To put it simply, if your goal is higher collaboration and more cohesive workflows, this is the platform that will accomplish that. That’s why enterprise solutions such as Propel center Flow in their development processes.

Included is the Flow Builder tool, a point-and-click no-code feature that lets you easily automate if/then business processes using a graphical user interface (visual representation) of your process as you build it. 

Flow Builder supports the creation of forms and includes several out-of-the-box screen components, like text boxes, radio buttons, and file uploads. Salesforce describes it as “an application that automates a business process by collecting data and doing something in your Salesforce org or an external system.” 

The screenshot below shows an example of a process using the builder UI. The end result is a behind-the-scenes process or service that will automatically run and perform the action if the criteria are met. This enables even non-technical end-users to easily understand and create more complex, multiple-step processes.

The three major building blocks of Flow are:

  1. Elements (your custom objects or tasks)
  2. Connectors (pathways to tell your objects/tasks what to do)
  3. Resources (containers for all the information your Flows generate)

This highly customizable UI can be integrated directly into any Salesforce-based platform, such as Propel. In addition, the UI flow may also be configured to invoke a process that was built using external web apps or other services.

4. Role-based User Experience

Often, any of these UI pages can also be configured to be role-based. In other words, a specific UI page can be assigned to be viewed or edited only by a subset of end-users who meet the criteria of a particular role in the business. 

The Lightning App Builder is a drag-and-drop tool to build custom UIs. Custom applications can be built by combining lightning components on a single page. These components may be built internally by your IT team or sourced from Salesforce AppExchange. 

Custom, role-based UI enables individuals and teams to work both independently of each other and also stay in close collaboration with the organization as a whole at the same time.

No Code or Die Trying

In the current market landscape for product manufacturers, keeping up means flexibility, agility, and constant evolution. Not one of these things is possible without full-scale digital transformation.

Adopting a no-code or low-code platform to automate your business needs is not just the first step, it’s a hyper accelerator. If your go-to-market deadline is dependent on how quickly basic tasks can get done, with built-in time for collaborative breakdowns and manual errors, then imagine the alternative.

With every user designing their own interface, every team designing their own workflows, and your developers focused solely on rapid application development, your imagination wouldn’t even be able to keep up.

Learn more about user interface development with our previous posts on the flexibility of Lightning Web Components (LWC) and the power of extensibility.

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Post by
Kishore Subramanian
CTO, Propel

Kishore hails from Google, where he was a Sr. Software Engineer. At Google, he most recently worked on a Java/Kotlin library for the Google Assistant and led key areas for the Files Go Android App and Google Web Designer. His previous experience includes senior engineering roles at Motorola Mobility, JackBe and Agile Software.

Fun Fact: Kishore led the team that built Agile PLM's first web-based user interface.

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Kishore Subramanian