What Is Low-Code Automation? Everything You Need to Know

Benjamin Babb

What is low-code automation?

Low-code automation refers to software that lets business teams build and automate their processes and workflows without coding skills or experience. Instead, they use a visual interface to make changes and access features. As a result, low-code automation speeds up development cycles and accelerates scalability.

The term low-code automation may be used interchangeably with low-code process automation, low-code workflow automation, and low-code business process automation (BPA) solutions.

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Why use low-code automation?

Low-code automation makes it easy to automate and optimize processes and workflows. This degree of accessibility makes it ideal for scaling processes quickly and for empowering business teams to take a more collaborative role in problem-solving and strategic planning.

Low-code automation software also enhances existing stacks by augmenting systems, apps, and databases. It helps dissolve data silos and improves user experiences for employees and customers. Low-code automation can also be used to standardize processes, a feature that makes it easier to control, modify, and secure processes throughout the enterprise.

In addition to automating workflows, low-code automation software typically includes process management features such as: 

  • Process visualization
  • Process orchestration
  • Document generation
  • Forms and portals
  • Approval flows
  • Request management
  • Monitoring and reporting

Learn about how to use low-code automation software.

Low-code vs. no-code automation

Low-code automation is sometimes used interchangeably with the term no-code automation. The difference between low-code and no-code is subtle, mostly a matter of semantics, and really comes down to user perspective. 

Low-code automation software

Low-code automation minimizes the amount of total coding required to automate a process or workflow. Business teams use a visual interface to build workflows and create automations on their own, rather than depending on a developer or IT team to create or make every change.

As a result, the software requires less overall code than an in-house solution that’s built from scratch. Low-code software also allows for faster scaling and typically costs less than in-house options or the deep customization of a legacy stack component.

No-code automation software

There is no such thing as software that doesn’t require any coding from anyone ever. At some point, every type of software requires some coding order to manage security, integrations, or updates. 

But from the business user’s perspective, there are automation options that don’t require any coding skills to use. This is what is meant when software is termed “no-code automation.” The end users can access the features and build their automations without having to write code.

Low-code vs. no-code: The verdict

Both low-code and no-code refer to the same category of automation software. No-code simply emphasizes the fact that business team members do not need coding experience to use it. 

Low-code is a more precise term because it acknowledges that even when software doesn’t require coding experience from business users, it may require some coding support from the IT team, no matter how limited it may be. 

Why companies need low-code automation software

Low-code automation helps businesses increase their agility and efficiency by empowering business teams and reallocating vital IT resources toward higher priorities. Other benefits include: 

Business agility

For business teams, low-code automation increases the speed at which they respond to competitor activity, customer feedback, and market changes. A visual interface and accessible features mean these teams can create, automate, and adapt their workflows and processes quickly.

Process standardization

While not as glamorous a benefit as increased agility, low-code automation software also makes it easier to standardize processes across the organization. This is especially important for businesses in which the same process is executed differently across teams, departments, or locations. Standardized processes are easier to manage, monitor, and secure. Process standardization also creates better user experiences for employees and customers. 

Learn more about the different types of business processes

Closer collaboration

The most efficient and effective processes result from the close collaboration between business teams and IT. Business users have a deep understanding of the issues their teams and customers are facing, and IT has the expertise needed to solve the most complex problems. 

Low-code automation puts business and IT teams in a co-creator relationship in which business users have the tools to solve some of their problems on their own, while IT maintains guardrails that guide the overall security and quality of the solutions. 

See how low-code keeps business teams agile and IT in control
Low-code Automation: Good for Business, Great for IT
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Stack extensibility

Another benefit of low-code automation that is sometimes overlooked is its impact on the tools and systems of the existing tech stack. Low-code integrates with current components and allows teams to solve the manual processes that are often required to support the components of the existing tech stack. 

Learn more about stack extensibility

Examples of low-code automation

Low-code automation is highly adaptable and can be used to address a variety of issues with existing processes. For example:

Quickly automating a manual process. 

In order to stay agile and efficient, businesses need a quick solution for automating manual and repetitive tasks. Low-code automation is designed for ease of use, to enable faster automations and process optimizations.

Low-code automation lets IT teams retain control of security, governance, and user permissions, while simultaneously allowing business teams to build workflows and automations as they need them. For example, HR teams can configure and automate elements of their employee onboarding processes without having to send a request to the IT team. 

See how Dasa reduced SLA lead time by 75% through automation.

Solving process rigidity in the existing stack.

Another obstacle for many business teams is what we refer to as “process rigidity.” This occurs when the elements of the existing tech stack — such as the ERP, CRM, or other apps — do a great job of managing common processes, but lack the flexibility to automate new workflows quickly and with ease. 

Rather than depend on expensive and time-consuming customizations, low-code automation complements the existing components by providing a faster path to automation for processes that fall outside the business core. 

See how Samsonite integrated low-code automation with their ERP to create the flexibility needed to automate finance workflows

Standardizing processes across the enterprise. 

While not the most glamorous benefit of low-code automation, process standardization plays an important role in optimizing user experiences. This is true for customers and employees. Standardized processes create consistency, avoid unnecessary errors, and deliver faster results. 

Process standardization also has benefits for IT teams. Instead of having to manage multiple iterations of the same process, low-code automation allows teams to map and build a single process flow. This makes it easier to monitor and manage processes, and enforce security requirements. 

See how Coplacana standardized processes across 30 different branches

Common use cases

Request management: Used for receiving, routing, and approving requests of any type including ITSM. Any requester — internal or external to the organization — can track the progress of their request using a secure portal. 

Intake processes: Low-code automation makes it quick and easy for teams to build forms and workflows that bring speed and consistency to the intake process

Supporting BPM: Many business process management (BPM) goals can be achieved using the features and capabilities of low-code automation. For example, low-code automation helps teams visualize and view processes, as well as view common reporting metrics and identify bottlenecks. 

Finance: Some of the most common finance processes that can be automated through low-code include procurement, purchasing, reimbursement, and budget approvals. 

Sales: Businesses that are looking to perfect and scale their sales process can use low-code automation to create their sales pipeline stages.  

Human Resources: Some of the most dynamic and quickly evolving workflows in any organization are HR processes. Low-code automation helps HR teams adapt their processes to build better employee experiences and improve employee engagement. 

Challenges to adopting low-code automation

Low-code automation is becoming more popular each year, but it’s still a newer category of software. Although low-code automation is an evolution of business process management (BPM) software, there some teams may be hesitant to adopt low-code until they know more about it.

Security and compliance

IT teams need complete visibility and control of workflows and processes in order to enforce security, compliance, and internal requirements. They also need to understand the overall process architecture for the business so that they can devise solutions to problems without creating unintended consequences. 

Unfortunately, business teams sometimes turn to shadow IT or unsanctioned workarounds in order to meet their needs. Low-code helps reduce the risk of shadow IT by giving business units an IT-approved toolkit they can use to create some solutions as they need them.

Low-code automation includes a range of built-in security features that help reduce risk and make the IT team’s jobs easier.

Anticipated learning curve

Every new technology or tool that’s added to the existing stack will require some learning curve. How much time it takes for teams to fully embrace a new app or system depends on its complexity. Low-code automation is designed for ease of use.

An intuitive visual interface, conditional logic, and other practical features lower the threshold of time it takes for teams to gain proficiency with low-code automation. Low-code automation also simplifies manual and repetitive tasks, including those that depend on complex spreadsheets and endless email threads.

Compatibility

The prospect of adding another component to the existing tech stack may chill enthusiasm for any new tool. The addition of low-code automation may actually benefit existing stack components by extending the automation capabilities of the existing components and providing an orchestration layer for automated processes.

Perceived impact on jobs

Rather than take away jobs from IT or process managers, the point of low-code automation is to make it possible to reallocate resources and direct them to more important tasks. IT teams can focus on security and complex problems instead of managing every minor change request. Business and support teams have more face time with employees and customers, and have more time to spend building value for the organization. 

Learn more about human-centered automation.

The future of low-code process automation

Gartner anticipates the rapid expansion of low-code development platforms to the point that by 2025, 70% of new applications will be developed using low-code. Already, 58% of legacy systems have been transformed or replaced by low-code applications.

As a subcategory of the broader low-code trend, low-code automation (or low-code BPA) will continue to gain traction for businesses and organizations in every industry. The reason why low-code automation will continue to surge is two-fold. 

First, the low-code functionality of these tools helps change the dynamic between business and IT teams by moving them into a co-creative relationship. Business units have a tool that allows them to apply their expertise and insights into solving their process problems, while IT teams retain control of the overall framework. Shadow IT is eliminated, the enforcement of security requirements becomes easier, and the IT backlog is reduced. 

Second, the automation component of this technology helps business teams stay agile and efficient. Beyond this, low-code automation unlocks time and other resources that can be redirected towards innovation and competitive strategy. 

See how Pipefy helps businesses achieve agility through low-code automationPipefy BPA
Written by
Benjamin Babb
Senior Writer at Pipefy, where I focus on helping businesses manage workflows, optimize processes, and deploy automation. I'm also a ghost story aficionado who listens to more Enya than anyone should.

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