The No-Code Movement Makes Innovation Everyone’s Job
Christian Monberg, Forbes Councils Member
No-code/low-code is more than a feature in your marketing tools; it’s an investment in data usability and business agility.
Christian Monberg, Chief Technical Officer and Head of Product at Zeta Global.
Innovation isn’t something we do. It’s how we work. The main barriers to innovation are processes and tools, and they’re increasingly linked. The biggest line item in most marketing budgets is not media, agencies or labor; it’s technology, and yet Gartner’s research shows that marketers use only 58% of their existing technology capabilities. And no one measures the ROI of a critical investment by what it can do in theory.
The simple explanation for that 42% gap is that technology is technical. Legacy systems and siloed processes are barriers to autonomy. Marketers filing IT support tickets to try new ideas is the antithesis of agility. This struggle compounds as toolchains get more complex—because often, the biggest “technical” hurdle is getting different apps to talk to each other.
In this context, no-code/low-code (NC/LC) solutions seem like a godsend. They give marketers access to data and insights they would otherwise struggle to obtain and use. They make technical tasks intuitive, enabling ordinary folks to harmonize data sources, activate campaigns and drive better outcomes without burning IT resources. The buzz from every corner of the industry just shows that marketing leaders recognize an urgent need to make technology more usable.
According to Gartner, the worldwide low-code development technologies market is projected to total $13.8 billion in 2021, an increase of 22.6% from 2020.
While the buzz is warranted, the hype around using “citizen developers” to scale engineering skills misconstrues the transformational value these capabilities represent. No-code/low-code isn’t just a workaround. It’s a building block in a broader movement toward data usability and business agility. It’s an infrastructure investment that enables you to realize more value from the resources—technology, talent, data—you have. It’s a case study for technology making sophisticated marketing easier. The real value of NC/LC is not eliminating an IT support request—it’s putting the power to innovate into the hands of the people who are closest to your customer.
If you treat NC/LC like a silver bullet, you’ll be disappointed. If you treat it like a feature, you’ll just keep buying it over and over again. Instead, treat it as a catalyst to embracing the idea of “tightly aligned, loosely coupled” in practice as well as in theory by building agility into your systems—and your teams.
Think LEGO Set, Not Model Airplane Lit
Digital transformation initiatives cannot be centralized, monolithic, one-and-done events. We need to enable innovation and adaptation to be perpetual and distributed. If you gave 100 people a model airplane kit, they would all come out more or less the same. If you gave 100 people a box of LEGO bricks and asked them to build an airplane, you’d get 100 different airplanes. Some would look real wonky, but some would be incredibly innovative. When it comes to enterprise technology, sometimes you need the model airplane—precise, controlled, predictable—and the full-stack engineers to build it. But in so many more instances, the LEGO version is not only good enough; it’s better.
You don’t want to use NC/LC technology to build a single source of truth across the enterprise; you want it because it enables every individual to build their personal single source of truth. That complex new product launch or company-wide system update? That’s where your valuable engineering talent should be spent. Writing a connector script so a marketer can pull data from a CRM into an email automation platform? Not so much, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.
Three Big-Picture Benefits Of NC/LC For Marketing Organizations
Marketers are already using NC/LC tools to streamline workflows—connecting data sources, building automated workflows, creating personalized dashboards—but the longer-term view of how NC/LC will reshape marketing is even more exciting.
1. Innovation Sandbox
There are hundreds of “wouldn’t-it-be-cool if...” ideas that never happen because they don’t merit the technical resources needed to build them. With NC/LC tools, teams can actually build what they need. If it proves useless, no big loss. However, if it proves so useful that it needs IT support to customize it or scale it, great! You can prioritize engineering resources against a solution that has already proven its value.
1. Integration Efficiencies
There’s a joke about spending $1 million on software and $3 million to integrate it that plenty of CFOs don’t find funny. A huge cottage industry has grown up around systems integration consulting because it’s hard work to do right. NC/LC can enable smaller scale integrations (e.g., custom databases, dashboards, cross-functional workflows, etc.) to be performed by end users. But it also enables you to replace larger parts of your ecosystem more efficiently—which, bonus, means you aren’t tied into vendor contracts in the same way.
1. Adjacent Opportunities
Organizations miss out on potential synergies because tools remain siloed, and systems don’t talk to each other without a developer to translate. If you buy an SMS messaging tool for marketing campaigns, it will add value to your marketing campaigns. But, if that tool has a drag-and-drop interface for integrating different customer databases, it won’t be long before that same platform is being implemented for sales, support or logistics. You get more value out of the software faster, and your customers get a more integrated, 360-degree experience.
Trade The Illusion Of Control For Actual Control
If the ability to create technology solutions is limited to a small, specialized group, you’ll have confidence in what is built, but you won’t be able to build what’s really needed at the speed the market demands. IT is essential to the future of modern marketing, but it has to be more distributed. We’ve all agreed that every company is a software company, but what if every team could be a software development team? NC/LC technology doesn’t just distribute developer skills to more teams and individuals; it distributes the innovation those skills make possible.
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