How to Build Software Apps – Without Coding!

Central to the success of every franchise business today, is the ability to strive forward in the digital world.

How to Build Software Apps – Without Coding!

Central to the success of every franchise business today, is the ability to strive forward in the digital world. Software and the ability to build innovative digital services, interfaces and processes now have to be at the core of everything you do. Your franchisees expect to be able to present digital channels to their customers and are more likely to be at home with digital ordering and reporting systems than with mountains of paperwork. It’s a capability you can’t live without.

Franchisors now need to complement their business skills with the ‘tech savvyness’ required to digitise both go-to-market activity and the back office. Often, there are standard off the shelf software applications and packages you can deploy. But that’s not always the affordable, easy solution you might expect!

Sometimes, you just can’t find the right application at a decent price. Or what you can find requires either significant customisation or for you to change your processes to suit the software. So you’re left with a choice: go without, bear the cost and risk of customisation, bend your trusted processes to suit the app, or of course to get a bespoke application written.

“What,” you might ask? “Get a bespoke application written? “Isn’t that risky and expensive?” – Well, actually no. Things recently got a lot easier and more affordable.

There are now ‘low- and no-code’ development platforms that allow anyone in business with an idea for an application, to build it themselves without writing a single line of code.

Here’s how it works

Software development is a field traditionally left up to IT professionals who write code, a process shrouded in mystery for the rest of us. Within most businesses, that means only a handful of people can contribute to specifying and building applications. No-code platforms remove the barrier of technology, which traditional programming presents, to ensure everyone in your organisation can contribute towards digital innovation.

To give you a bit of technical insight into how no-code platforms work, they use what’s called code abstraction and encapsulation. Essentially, the platform vendor’s team of professional developers pre-create the building blocks (or modules) and features needed to build a custom application from scratch. Once built, the developers define these blocks and place them in a toolbox for users to select, drag and drop into an onscreen workflow. Think of it as building a prefabricated home where all the nitty-gritty work is handled off-site. You just assemble it.

For the franchisor or business owner, this means that building applications is quick, easy and without the cost of hiring expensive developers. It also means that you can build applications iteratively; experimenting and innovating creatively as you turn ideas into real, working applications – for web, mobile, and back-end applications. Everything from User Interfaces, Data Models, and Actions can be connected with a few simple clicks. What would normally be a time-consuming process (even for experienced programmers) can be achieved in just minutes.

Take the brakes off your digital transformation

Conventional wisdom tells us that patience will be rewarded. That if we “wait and see where the market is heading” we can align better with the competition and stand out with a higher quality product. Today however, winning new customers requires being first to market with new innovations.

No-code platforms allow companies to leverage all of their human capital (not just IT) to develop applications quickly. First crafting a minimal, viable but demonstrable product to test at low cost, your team can bounce ideas for improvement back and forth or zero-in and swiftly correct potential flaws. This process promotes the evaluation of good ideas, pushing the best ones further into the testing and development funnel and towards deployment. While this process could take months using conventional coding, it takes just days or weeks with a no-code platform.

Identify your Citizen Developers

In the past, IT professionals would be solely responsible for application development and delivery while ‘the business’ simply provided a list of their requirements. However, no-code platforms give organisations the ability to turn that formula on its head. Without the need for programming knowledge, your most innovative minds from any department can actively contribute new software solutions as ‘Citizen Developers.’

What advantage do Citizen Developers provide? These are the people who work with your customers, franchisees or your internal and external systems every day. Their innate understanding of core processes helps them identify problems and opportunities quickly through their own efforts or in collaboration with clients. Equipped with a no-code platform, Citizen Developers can begin creating software solutions without simply placing their ideas in the long queue outside the door of your IT team.

Working together with IT

While the whole principle of low- and no-code development is to allow business users to build applications themselves, it doesn’t mean that your IT department becomes irrelevant. Your IT professionals have a wealth of practical knowledge. This can further push your Citizen Developers to new heights, guiding them with practical tips and perhaps whole new ideas as well as directing or collaborating around matters of governance.

Across thousands of businesses today, many of them franchises, no-code is enabling business users and IT to collaborate on software projects instead of holding separate roles. The bottom line is this: by working together, they are building stronger, attractive, more competitive businesses that are marching ahead in today’s digital world.

Chris Obdam
Chris Obdam