(This article originally appeared in Forbes)
If you’re a very small company — maybe less than ten or twenty people — it’s likely that you can use a number of off-the-shelf, cloud-based customer relationship management applications right out of the box. Which means that you will not need to make any customizations. The features contained in these popular, mainstream offerings pretty much will have everything you’ll need for your business to manage contacts, leads, opportunities, activities and marketing campaigns.
But as you grow, your needs will grow. And I’ve found that the majority of my clients that tend to be a littler larger than the smallest of companies need their CRM systems to do a little bit more than just what’s out of the box.
For example, one client of mine has a very customized workflow process for selling real estate. Another wants to track equipment that it sells along with notifications and emails to customers depending on what they own. I have a client that leases airplanes and wants to store maintenance information, as well as information about the pilots and passengers with alerts for when repairs are needed. Still another has a very unique way of tracking sales and follow-ups from their website and Amazon store. And another client landscapes in the winter, plows snow in the winter and sells Christmas trees during the holidays, which is essentially three businesses sharing customers and employees and activities, all with their own unique operational needs, and he wants it all customized under one CRM package.
These are not big businesses. But they have bigger, more complex requirements than the typical out of the box CRM application. They required advanced workflows, data transfers, automation and communications. A few years ago, building these solutions required programmers, programming languages, programming tools and programming dollars. They needed complex specifications and complicated project plans. And, oh, they also need to be supported and maintained after these programs were written because…well…programmers, you know?
But this is all changing and it’s changing quickly. There is now a rapidly growing industry of “low code” CRM applications that are taking away much of this complexity — and reducing costs for companies both big and small.
One such company is Creatio, a low-code CRM application provider with customers in 110 countries that recently a scored a coup by being included in research firm Gartner’s “magic quadrant” of low code CRM providers.
Creatio isn’t the only low-code CRM provider of course. The Gartner report highlighted a dozen other LCAP vendors and says there are hundreds in the market. If there’s a “magic quadrant” for these applications that should tell you just how fast they’re catching on.
So what exactly is low code? It’s really just a methodology for building software applications — almost always cloud-based software applications — that use mostly pre-built tools, components and connectors. The idea is that developers aren’t really needed for these types of applications but I don’t think that’s really true. Developers will always be needed, particularly by smaller companies that don’t have the in-house resources to play around with these kinds of things. But thanks to these tools, both professional developers and “citizen developers” (non-professional developers, according to Creatio) can use a low-code platform to create apps of varying complexity to meet business demands for development, automate processes, and accelerate digital transformation.
This is not just hype. Gartner says that the popularity of these low code applications will result in 70 percent of new applications developed by enterprises will use low-code or no-code technologies, up from less than 25 percent in 2020.
“Low-code and no-code application development has become a real game-changer for many organizations worldwide,” Katherine Kostereva, CEO and Founder of Creatio says. “We are happy to see that the market matures, and we are inspired by how our customers leverage (these) low-code platform(s) to automate enterprise-grade workflows across thousands of use cases without touching the code.”
Kostereva says that products like Creatio provides an “enterprise-ready” and flexible low-code capabilities that “empowers businesses from various industries to automate workflows faster than ever.” The tools make it much easier for both business managers and IT teams to automate operational and CRM workflows “of any complexity and gain the freedom to own their automation.”
For now, I’m seeing these applications mostly being used by larger organizations. But my prediction is that, like all other new technologies, this trend will work its way to the SMB market quite quickly. So if you’re running a smaller business and need a customized CRM application, it’s important to consider the low-code offerings that your vendor may already have…or look to other applications that offer these tools.