Using No-Code Platforms to Build Collaborative Apps

No-code platforms such as Pipefy give end users the ability to build cross-functional, workflow-driven applications that add accountability and automation.

Michael Caton, Contributor

July 8, 2020

4 Min Read
Using No-Code Platforms to Build Collaborative Apps

When it comes to collaboration, no-code platforms can be a middle ground for organizations looking to avoid both expensive development projects and generic workarounds.

Collaboration technology generally focuses on unstructured work, and for good reason: Applications that can be modified to support a process require either expensive development or have very generic workflows. IT often doesn’t implement content management processes, for example, because the cost of customization can be greater than the business value delivered. Allocating developer resources to building an internal, department-specific document management solution doesn’t make sense when generic workarounds such as email routing or collaborative editing often suffice. But there are downsides to those methods, including lost productivity, poor documentation of decisions, and general errors in judgement or practice.

Giving end users access to no-code workflow or process-centric platforms can provide a way for teams to build apps, provided the cost is reasonable and the platform really doesn’t require any coding. The key things to look for in no-code platforms include a simple form builder, the ability to define a workflow, support for conditional logic or business rules, integration services, some commenting or feedback capabilities, and built-in reporting.

Pipefy, like Trello, is a Kanban task management application. But where Trello focuses on being a project management platform with automation, Pipefy is more of a workflow automation platform for building task-oriented applications presented in the Kanban methodology.

Pipefy uses Zapier to integrate with third-party applications, which gives it a broad reach of integration options. IT organizations have to determine the use cases under which they can support the use of Zapier for integration. It might be desirable to use Zapier to only read data from a third-party application, such as Salesforce, and then have the Pipefy app perform some tasks on the data so there’s no risk to the source of truth.

While Pipefy doesn’t have a true business process engine, with sophisticated routing it does have a couple of nice capabilities that exceed what are typically found in workflow-based applications. Applications can be linked, so, for example,  if a marketing organization were to build a marketing request application, it could be linked to the team task management applications of the individual marketing departments: A request submitted for the design department would appear as a card in the design team’s tasks. This saves them from having to check more than one application, and it gives that team’s manager visibility (from a single view) into the types of requests flowing in.

The real benefit for IT organizations in adopting no-code platforms is that it moves “spreadsheet” style processes off of the desktop to applications that can support governance, risk and compliance policies. These processes become documentable, discoverable and archivable.

It’s important to consider available templates when evaluating these solutions, as they illustrate a range of use cases that can be demonstrated to business stakeholders. Pipefy includes a few templates that cross a range of departmental use cases, including collaborative idea management and press release management.

Collaborative idea management is a discipline unto itself that requires either a dedicated application or enterprise social network. Dedicated applications tend to be more complex and support features, such as patent management, that a company just starting an idea management process may not be ready for. Building something basic, but cross-departmental and process-driven, would be a good first step to see if it adds value.

While a press release management process isn’t a business-critical application, providing a tool like this could eliminate the need for more dedicated media and analyst relations applications. A marketing business analyst could build a collaborative process linked to the marketing request application that involves cross departmental stakeholders, approvals and distribution through a third-party service. As a dedicated online application, it allows maintaining institutional knowledge and best practices while providing an audit trail and metrics to help determine how efficient the process is.

About the Author(s)

Michael Caton


Michael Caton has been involved with collaboration technology for over 15 years, either covering the technology as an analyst at Aberdeen Group and eWEEK or researching the market while working for vendors. As an analyst, he's also covered IT service management, middleware and data analytics. He has a strong interest in using data-driven analysis to make sound decisions.

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