The early days of customer relationship management (CRM) technology were fraught with challenges for businesses. Tools were expensive and customisation was complex and required specialist developer skills. This was a significant barrier to mid-sized businesses who needed specialised capabilities to compete with their larger rivals. The quest for greater agility and faster speed-to-market was countered by platform inflexibility from off-the-shelf solutions. 

The availability of low code and no-code development tools have reduced the need to build, customise, maintain and update systems. These tools have brought down costs and complexity while eliminating the need to deal with risks associated with writing your own code or fixing legacy code. 

Choices for expanding CRM capabilities

There are several options available for businesses and their technology teams trying to integrate CRM systems with accounting software, social media apps, email, telephony, team communications, forms and data collection.

Pure customisation is the most time-intensive and risky. Most organisations believe that their needs are unique but the integration risk plays out in a similar way each time. For every line of custom code that is written, the risk of errors, bugs and issues escalate.

Alternatively, organisations can choose a pre-built app ecosystem, similar to how we do on our smartphones. The CRM application starts with most of the required functionality, and then relies on plug-ins provided by either the CRM vendor or third parties. This is easier than building a customised system and more affordable than maintaining code. Although it delivers most of the required functionality quickly it may still lack everything the business needs.

An Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) can connect standalone systems together. It acts as a bridge between the different systems for data sharing as well as providing a platform for team collaboration and communications. As the connectors to these systems are pre-built, it supports a low-code development approach and reduces testing time. As the iPaaS platform maintains these libraries of connectors, an organisation does not need to consistently review individual software API changes. However, it still presents a risk of human error as organisations have to develop the business logic on their own. 

A more recent innovation in integration strategies involves templating the business logic in a configurable manner. This approach adopts the iPaaS strategy of prebuilt elements, and takes it to the next level by codifying best practices into reusable and configurable templates. 

There may still be some last mile work, but this achieves the vast majority of what the business needs with much less risk than other options. 

Gartner expects low-code development technologies in platforms such as CRM to become a $29 billion USD market by 2025, saying democratisation is one of the major drivers behind this growth. It is important for businesses assessing no-code and low-code CRM solutions to find one which meets your needs and has the best potential to scale and adapt as your business grows. 

Organisations can be both unique and use commoditised business processes which are undifferentiated from other organisations. Coupled with knowledge of best practices and market insights, businesses can leverage what they find within the marketplace of integrations and add-ons to enhance productivity, streamline workflows and maximise customer sales and retention.

While the trend to adopting low code and no code CRM solutions is accelerating globally, it is only just emerging in Australia. The rate of adoption is expected to increase over the coming years as Australian organisations recognise the benefits and seek to leverage cost and time savings and reduce risk.