Should I Integrate Using Code, Low Code, or No Code?

According to Forrester, the current no code market will grow to $21.2 billion by 2022.

No code solutions are popping up in every corner of the development hemisphere, from business apps, to CRMs, to integration platforms. The perceived benefit of no code is the ability to develop solutions faster and with less overhead/technical knowledge.

While this concept holds potential for many use cases, one use case remains an outlier: integration. Now, you may say to yourself, “What do you mean? There are already several no code integration solutions on the market.” Yes, there are, but while no code can be suitable for some projects, that doesn’t mean it’s the ideal fit for all. Then, there are traditional code integrations, but many find them to be overly complicated and time consuming. Luckily, there doesn’t have to be a choice between one extreme and another. Low code is the middle ground between no code and code integration, and it has the potential to bring together the best of both worlds. Let’s take a look at no code, low code, and code integration to break this down.

The Basics of Integration

Integration can be tackled using a low code, no code, or coded solution. Before we get into the pros and cons of each approach, let’s define low code, no code, and coded for integration.

No code: Unlike traditional development which requires a trained developer, no code uses drag-and-drop features to create graphic interfaces that are accessible for non-technical users. This puts the power of development in the hands of non-programmers (aka citizen developers) who want to build their own solutions.

Low code: Low code aims to simplify the integration for the user without hindering the ability to customize the experience. For that reason, low code automates time-consuming manual processes but also offers the option to write in custom code if the user desires. This creates more dynamic and personalized integration capabilities.  

Code: Code integrations are what we think of when we envision the “traditional” way to integrate systems.  First, you pick your favorite development environment, favorite languages and start coding the authentication to end point. Begin writing code to move data either through an API or direct access to the data.  These types of integrations cannot be done by a citizen developer because they require deep knowledge of the coding languages.  

Option 1: Use No Code Solutions

No code advocates point to faster development times and lower resource overhead as two of the major draws of no code solutions, and many businesses are seeing real benefits related to that. Forrester notes that software development with no code can be up to 10x faster than traditional development.

So, if it’s faster and easier, then it’s always better, right? Well, not exactly.

There’s a time and place for no code, a time and place for detailed, traditional coding, and a middle ground with low code integrations. Let’s break down all three options, starting with no code.

No code is an ideal solution in the following situations:

  • The project is simplistic
  • The process is defined, and the user knows their objectives relative to that process
  • The business applications are “typical” and are easily handled using the no-code tool
  • The project does not require customizations outside of what the no-code tool’s ability

No code technologies work best in environments where the project is fully defined, only basic data needs to be integrated, and the processes are standardized. For integration, no code could be useful for connecting two out-of-the-box, compatible applications and only the parallel data.

If you were integrating Salesforce and HubSpot, for example, you could use no code integration if you only needed to integrate basic contact and lead information and the connecting fields were standardized. However, it’s important to note that that does not mean the user can integrate without having any technical knowledge. No code removes the need for coding, but it does not replace the need for understanding the databases and business processes you are working with.

When you’re working with software solutions that aren’t fully compatible, or when your business has one or more customized systems, the no code approach won’t cut it. It’s too superficial and cannot access the added fields and tables or do the necessary data transformations that make two completely disparate systems compatible.

No code limits how much of the applications you can access, so expanding outside of that blueprint is usually impossible. For example, if you are integrating your CRM and ERP, most CRM systems do not have out-of-the-box fields to hold financial data. You may be able to share the basic contact information and log that an invoice was sent as an attachment, but if you want the actual ERP data in CRM fields you will need to add those to your CRM, and most no code solutions won’t be able to access those new fields you have added.

A lot of today’s no code platforms only support cloud-based solutions. Their connectors are built utilizing APIs or Web Services and do not support locally installed, database driven applications supporting Microsoft SQL, Oracle or even legacy databases like Providex.

Option 2: Code Your Own (or pay to do it)

Some companies choose to build bespoke integrations or pay someone to do it. This is especially true for organizations running on-prem or legacy apps.

If you are coding your integration, the basics seem easy. And, they might be easy. You get access to an API and start coding. Complexity happens when things change. For example, one of the end point’s API’s change. Or, you have new requirements, or you don’t trust the data that is getting integrated. Or, worse, the original developer leaves and with them the knowledge of how the integration works. Now the integration gets really complex. Code is easy. Relatively. The hard part is supporting it and maintaining it as things change.

Option 3: Low Code Integration (aka iPaaS)

Most organizations have integration projects that fall into the more “complex” category. Creativity and technical acuity are needed for goal setting and problem solving in these situations, and a purely no code solution is too rigid to adjust to that. Using no code for these types of integrations risks a less flexible, stable, and dynamic integration.

Using a traditional integration with full coding can also be a hinderance. Coded integrations require detailed documentation, acute understanding of scripting languages, and experience with testing code and resolving issues that may arise. Fully coded integration may take the IT team longer to complete, be more prone to error, and pull technical staff away from other critical development projects.

So, where’s the balance in this Goldilocks conundrum? If coded integration is too time consuming and difficult to maintain and no code is too standardized, then low code must be our middle ground.

Low code offers the best of both worlds between no code and code integration. Automation and visual representations help speed along the process while custom coding options enable IT to jump in and build your system-specific preferences.

StarfishETL is an example of a low code iPaaS solution. It offers a full suite of No Code features and just enough non-proprietary, low code features to handle complex requirements. It gives you the simplicity and speed of a no-code solution, but also powerful enough to handle highly complicated integration projects. Here’s what the convergence of those code capabilities looks like.

No Code Features

Low Code Features

Coded Features
-Field mapping
-End point metadata
-Job administration
-Job management
-Field mapping
-End point metadata
-Job administration
-Job management
-Code your own connectors
-Data transformations
-Foreign key cross references
-The sky is the limit depending on how much time and money you want to invest.  To build a single integration from the ground up with all the features of a low-code solution would be a very long, expensive journey.

Like many of the major integration players, StarfishETL offers low code features for simpler integrations. The click-to-map low-code experience in the Cloud Designer lets a user input the necessary fields, check the data, and run the project.

Boom. Integration.

The entire process is monitored and visually displayed on the process map, allowing the user to see a complete picture of what’s happening and jump to specific actions when desired.

What differentiates StarfishETL is its ability to deliver those low code capabilities for less, with non-proprietary scripting, options for both iPaaS deployment and tactical iPaaS deployment, and a library of pre-packaged maps that help users complete the project faster.

The Bottom Line

Before you decide on an integration solution, it’s crucial to understand just how complex your project is going to be. If your integration needs are basic, cloud-based, already compatible, and do not include any custom fields or functions, a no code integration could work just fine. As a reminder, you would still need an individual with SOME technical database and business process knowledge to get the job done correctly.

However, if you’re like most businesses, you need a solution with a little more “Oomph!”. With the option of an iPaaS that offers low-code features, plus the ability to code where needed, you are in control of your data and you can personalize it down to every detail, all while tracking the code for errors and keeping backlogs to reference later.

If you’re not sure which coding bucket your project falls in to, a discussion with your integration partner will shed some light. A good integration partner will be able to review your project goals and advise you on the best approach.

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