What is no-code operations?

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The tech industry is no stranger to job category creation. Pew Research estimates that there are at least 15 job categories that the industry has created in the last 20 years alone. Jobs like “informational security analyst” or “computer network architect” have been coined by, and widely adopted by tech.

“No-code operations” may soon join these ranks. Based on the need to create highly specific internal tooling—and fast—no-code operations is the practice of using no-code and low-code tools to build internal systems without reliance on engineering support.

The goal isn’t to eradicate the need for coding in your internal tooling. Instead, the goal is to empower a wider range of people to get more done, faster.

The need for no-code operations

Especially for the non-technical, creating internal software has historically been a lengthy and painful process. First, you’d have to encounter a problem that you run into repeatedly—say, for example, an approval workflow. To justify solving it, you’d then need to encounter the problem often enough to demonstrate a need to solve it.

And if you met those two requirements: great! From there, you might ask your engineering team to build the tool in question. But engineering priorities rarely center around the world of internal tooling. So more often than not, you’d be stuck with makeshift solutions until they made that tooling onto the roadmap.

That’s where no-code operations comes in.

How no-code operations is shaping internal systems

It’s rare you’ll find someone that debates the need for internal tooling—it is, after all, the lifeblood of a smooth-operating organization. But why create internal tools through a no-code approach (as opposed to a code-based approach)?

Airtable’s own David Peterson, who originated the term, explains that the need for no-code operations stems from two primary tooling needs: speed and specificity. Both, as he points out, are needs that no-code operations is uniquely poised to solve.

Removing speed as a limiting factor

Formal internal tools are generally prefaced by manual, jury-rigged processes. Think about your most repetitive tasks in a job—like data entry or approval workflows.

Take, for example, a pricing approval workflow. If a member of your sales team wants to discount your product, they probably have to coordinate with a combination of sales operations and sales management to approve it. And depending on factors like the depth of the discount, that workflow might involve even more stakeholders. If you’re responsible for facilitating those approvals, it can take hours, or even days to complete—even when the process is standardized.

While manual processes like these get the job done, they also eat into valuable time. Workarounds like manual coordination can take hours out of your week. And it takes longer still to build a tool that can solve for it. So for many, tackling it manually becomes the only option.

The no-code operations approach can widen the range of people who can solve those types of problems effectively. So instead of pushing the workflow problems of the entire organization into the lap of engineering—or into a complex suite of point solutions—it more evenly distributes the burden.

And the nature of no-code operations means that you can get a functional tool up and running even faster. By using pre-made “building blocks,” teams can build internal tools in a fraction of the time it’d take to build a custom-coded solution.

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