When you think about implementing new software in a public sector environment such as local government, what comes to mind? For many of us, we imagine large scale projects that’ll be created by a team of software engineers and developers over many months, and typically at a significant cost.
For years, and still today in many cases, that’s exactly how new software solutions were put in place. But this slow, high-cost style of development is directly at odds with public sector CIOs and CTOs’ need to move quickly and efficiently to meet new demands. And with the urgent, novel issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry has been forced to react with even more speed and agility.
Enter no-code & low-code platforms: software that allows people to build applications for a wide variety of use cases with little to no software development knowledge required.
With these tools, software solutions can be implemented quickly and cost effectively, with less need for traditional IT and software development resources. The speed, flexibility, and cost savings that no-code and low-code platforms provide make them a great fit for the modern software needs of the public sector – leading to a significant increase in their popularity.
The Basics of No-Code & Low-Code Platforms
No-code and low-code platforms enable technical users and business users to work faster without deep development work or expertise. No-code generally means the user has very limited (if any) access to a code environment. In a similar way, low-code simplifies the user experience but generally requires some base level of technical know-how to fully flesh out the solution being created.
No-code and low-code platforms both use visual interfaces with easy-to-use features instead of complex programming languages. If you can send an email or create a PowerPoint presentation, the idea is that you should be able to use one of these platforms to build an application or software program.
One could compare no-code and low-code platforms to the popular Lego building blocks. The average person would struggle to create a model in their home by molding plastic, but even a child can build something with the blocks Lego provides. Similarly, creating software by writing code takes years of training and experience, but low-code and no-code platforms give non-developers pre-built “blocks” they can use to create powerful solutions.
No-code and low-code platforms are more mainstream than you might think. You may have already used some of the popular, simpler examples of no-code and low-code tools like Airtable, Google Forms, or Webflow. Even more robust platforms like OutSystems, Bubble, and Unqork are becoming more widely known. As these new development approaches gain traction, industry-specific solutions are starting to emerge as well – more on this later.
The Benefits of No-Code & Low-Code Platforms for the Public Sector
No-code and low-code platforms present substantial opportunities to the public sector. Digital transformation has happened more slowly in the public sector compared to other industries, but no-code and low-code solutions can enable public sector organizations to advance their technology far more quickly.
No-code and low-code platforms help public sector organizations:
- Quickly create software solutions to help address new challenges and opportunities as they arise
- Reduce costs required to create and implement new software
- Minimize the need for IT resources for each solution, freeing up their IT teams to work more effectively across the organization
- Improve their ability to scale and/or modify software solutions while simultaneously reducing resources required for maintenance
- Give CIOs, CTOs, and other senior technology leaders the margin (in terms of time and budget) to focus on big, impactful technologies that are quickly advancing– like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the internet of things, data science, and more
- Overcome the increasing national shortage of programmers
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, we had the opportunity to help Los Angeles County take advantage of these benefits to address an issue affecting their community.
As the pandemic began to spread through the area, some businesses in Los Angeles County increased prices of essential items such as toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, and more. Raising prices by more than 10% in response to a disaster is illegal in the state of California, and this price gouging was creating a real problem for LA County residents.
The county needed a way to help the public, and fast. By the time a traditionally-developed software solution could be rolled out, it was likely that shoppers would be victim to price gouging for many months. But with low-code development, that wasn’t the case.
Within 48 hours of receiving the request from the County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA), we used the low-code 3Di Engage platform to create an anti-price-gouging solution that allows county citizens to file price gouging complaints through an online portal and help to launch investigations to enforce consumer protection laws.
That type of response is only possible with no-code or low-code solutions. But there was one additional factor that allowed for such a right-fit solution to be created so quickly: a low code platform that was specifically designed for the public sector.
Sector-Specific No-Code & Low-Code Platforms
Not all no-code or low-code platforms are built the same. Many are general-purpose, offering a wide variety of functionality that can be used in any industry. This may sound appealing at first, but it can require extra time and effort to configure these high-level features for the specific use cases of any one industry in particular.
The unique processes, systems integrations, and compliance requirements of the public sector often won’t be a priority for general-purpose platforms. That’s where sector-specific solutions shine.
Platforms that specialize in government and community organizations incorporate common (but complex) use cases in the public sector – so your teams already have a firm starting point to work on those areas.
For example, our 3Di Engage low-code platform offers a variety of turnkey use cases and solution accelerators that enable public sector organizations to implement software solutions even more quickly and easily than traditional low-code and no-code platforms. Built with a deep understanding of how public sector organizations operate, the 3Di Engage platform can be deployed quickly, customized for your organization, and easily scaled up.
Here’s a closer look at how the public sector uses 3Di Engage to power its organizations:
Turnkey Use Cases
3Di Engage’s turnkey use cases (or “products”) are preconfigured modules that are ready to address specific needs off the shelf, with relatively little customization or configuration needed. The platform currently has products available for:
- Housing: off-the-shelf solutions for common housing use cases like rent stabilization, rental inspection, rental registry, eviction management, preservation databases, and grants management
- Public Safety: immediate implementation of products for common public safety use cases like annual fire inspections, brush fire inspections, victim assistance program management, and community policing
- Community Engagement: easy-to-use applications for common engagement use cases like service request management, code enforcement, permits, and licensing
Similar to turnkey use cases, solution accelerators are pre-configurations of the 3Di Engage platform’s features. But these are a bit more flexible for use in a wider range of needs. The price gouging example we referenced earlier was made possible through solution accelerators. The platform currently offers solution accelerators for:
- Case Management
- Field Service Automation
- Incident Management
Low-Code Application Development
The Engage platform includes a robust set of features that can be used to quickly develop a wide range of software solutions. If a turnkey use case or solution accelerator isn’t enough to address a specific need, a solution can still be developed similar to the way it would be created with a general-purpose low-code platform.
The benefits of no-code and low-code platforms will undoubtedly change how organizations think about software development. No longer will it be an expensive, time consuming process that few understand. Especially with platforms built specifically for the public sector, governments and other community organizations can now view software as a flexible, easily attainable tool to further their mission and expand their impact for the public.