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Amazon’s Low-Code/No-Code Approach: What You Need to Know

As more cloud services companies begin offering tools to enable users to build applications to improve business processes, we are taking a closer look at the big three cloud providers' low-code/no-code services. Here, we break down Amazon’s Honeycode.

Editor’s Note: This is the third article in our feature series about the low-code/no-code tools being offered by Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

As the ability to process, analyze and act upon data becomes more vital to enterprises’ lines of business, the demand for hands-on applications and tools is going up. More employees want greater hands-on ability to use tools to help with specific aspects of their jobs. Enter low-code and no-code tools.

Low-code/no-code tools allow non-programmers to develop business workflow applications via drag-and-drop interfaces. This allows users to craft tools that reflect specific data inquiries and workflow processes; they can also integrate their low-code/no-code-crafted programs into larger business processes.

For example, using a low-code or no-code tool, a marketing professional could set up an app that automatically files a qualified lead in a customer database and then triggers a series of targeted communications if certain events happen.

Several big players in tech are now offering low-code/no-code tools tied into their cloud service offerings. Here is what Amazon is offering.

What is Amazon’s approach?

Amazon’s introduced their low-code/no-code offering, Honeycode, in late June of this year.

Amazon Honeycode avoids the use of the terms low-code and no-code throughout their documentation and information sites about the service. Instead, they mention "no programming required," "without writing any code" and "you don’t need programming skills" as the marketing phrases associated with their service. This is like Google’s approach of only using the phrase "no-code" relating to their AppSheet service while Microsoft fully embraces the "low-code/no-code" label.

Note that Amazon’s low-code/no-code offering differs markedly from Google’s approach or Microsoft’s. While those two vendors allow their customers to connect to databases on any platform via connectors, then build out the low-code/no-code apps from there and thus allowing the data to reside someplace other than the low-code/no-code environment, Amazon is locking users into a closed system.

The only option for Honeycode users is to use the workbooks provided for creating the app. Users can then either input the data they want included in the app or import it via CSV. It is not very handy if a would-be Honeycode user already has data out there in other cloud platforms, so Amazon is encouraging users to export that data and bring it to the service or build from scratch.

What kind of interface does Amazon's low-code/no-code tool have?

Just as Microsoft and Google have implemented web-based interfaces for their low-code/no-code services, so has Amazon’s Honeycode. Once work begins to build an app, three key tiers of functionality are laid out for a business app.

  • Database: This is the data at the core of the app. This could be a list of equipment for an inventory app, customer information for a customer tracker app or ideas for a brainstorming app.
  • Business Logic: These are automations that allow workflows to be created to process data as it comes into the app without manual intervention. This could be approvals, calculations based on the data, or to create forms to display the data in the app.
  • User Interface: This is the interactive element of your app so that data can be viewed on the screens of the app. This could be a list, search results or an input form.

The workflow for the app focuses on these three areas and walks you through with a very visual process as you build out the application. The interface is very visual with icons representing functionality that is then dragged into the app canvas.

Do enterprises need to have existing cloud contracts or subscriptions to access the low-code/no-code tools?

Unlike Microsoft and Google, Amazon offers their Honeycode service with a completely free tier rather than a 30-day trial account. According to Amazon, this option targets small projects and teams of fewer than 20 people.

Otherwise, Amazon Honeycode’s tiered subscription system is based on the number of data rows in your workbook database. There are 2,500 rows allowed in the free tier, 10,000 rows in the Plus channel, and 100,000 rows in the Pro option. Each option includes the baseline 20 team members with an option to add extra users in Plus for $9.99 or in Pro for $19.99 per month/per person.

Each plan allows the creation of unlimited apps and each can be cancelled at any time with no long-term contract or commitment. 

No additional AWS cloud service subscription is required to use Amazon Honeycode.

How many app integrations/connectors are available? What are they?

Unlike Microsoft and Google, Amazon Honeycode does not offer any connectors to enable access to your data on other cloud storage platforms. There are just two options for data sources in Honeycode.

  • Manual: Source data can be pre-populated in the apps workbook for access in the application once published. Additional data can be collected through user input as part of the app. That data would be added to the workbook for storage and future access in the app.
  • Import: Data stored in a CSV formatted data file that has been exported from compatible databases can be imported into the workbooks. That data will then be available within the app. Additional data in this scenario can also be added through the app where it will also be stored and accessible for future use.

This can be a big differentiator and limitation for any organization that wants to use their data stored in other cloud locations.

What kind of apps can be made with this low-code/no-code offering?

Amazon’s Honeycode provides multiple templates to help a citizen developer begin the process of building their business-related apps.

Some of the options they include as templates are:

  • Applicant Tracker: People can track the status of active job postings and how many candidates have submitted applications.
  • Budget Approval: This app allows users to review and approve budget expenditures requests.
  • Collaborative Brainstorming: This app lets teams pose questions, share suggestions, and then come to decisions through voting.
  • Customer Tracker: Assign customers by business unit, status of customer relationship, date of contract agreement and amount of contract.
  • Employee Onboarding: Help new employees onboard to the job with a list of tasks to complete – hyperlinked to helpful instructions or contacts – and due dates for completion.
  • Event Management: Plan a departmental or company event. Includes options for agenda and schedule building, plus a viewing option for attendees.
  • Field Service Manager: People can craft an app that updates work orders with descriptions of the order, location and date.
  • Inventory Manager: Users can catalog and track devices by name, catalog numbers and availability.
  • Team Task Tracker: This app allows managers to assign and monitor tasks across a team, including fields for due dates, status reports and task priority level.

Each template includes an information page which provides the app’s full description, its benefits, and how to implement it in an organization once it is deployed.

Check out the Amazon Honeycode Community website for announcements, tutorials, discussions and tips on getting started.

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