Is No-Code the Next Big Thing in HR Tech?

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Apr 26, 2021

The latest advance in HR automation is called a “No Code” development platform. The idea of No Code software is that you don’t need to hire a programmer to automate a task — the work can be done by what’s called a “citizen developer.”

A citizen developer is just an analytically minded HR professional who has taken the time to learn the No Code software. The easiest analogy is with Excel. Learning to use Excel takes some time and some aptitude, but you don’t need any formal training in programming. It’s the kind of thing you learn on the job over the course of a few weeks. It’s the same with No Code software.

Automation is important, of course, because even with modern HR technologies, HR pros end up having to do a lot of repetitive tasks. The traditional solution to this — other than just putting up with it — has been robotic process automation (RPA). RPA does a good job of automating tasks, but it requires hiring a programmer and that gets expensive. It also means that if there is some change to the task, then you need to bring in the programmer again to update the system. No Code software, on the other hand, offers the promise of doing the automation and updating the automation yourself.

The most famous No Code vendor is Unqork, which raced up to a $2 billion valuation. Focusing more directly on HR is Catalytic. Finally, Zapier is a popular choice, and you can get a free trial to get a feeling for how No Code works.

Speaking of, using No Code software is largely a drag-and-drop, fill-in-the blanks kind of process. If your task starts with an email request and requires you to enter something into, say, Kronos’ time and attendance system, then you search for the “transfer data from email to Kronos” widget, fill in the data you are transferring, and that little task is now automated. You keep adding widgets for each step in the process.

Ultimately, you will likely end up with dozens or hundreds of tasks automated just like you have dozens or hundreds of Excel spreadsheets. And then like Excel, No Code will just be one of your standard tools.

The challenge with No Code is that if your HR department hasn’t used it before, you cannot know how well it will work in your case. I think this is a situation where the best feasibility study is just to try it out. The key will be to find a smart individual who understands your workflows and is keen to learn to be a citizen developer. Then just give the person time to try it out, put aside a little budget, and learn if this innovation will become, as I suspect, as important to HR as Excel has been.