Low-Code 101: Making Sense of Key Terminology and Acronyms

Author: Michelle Gardner, Appian

To those unfamiliar with low-code platforms and solutions, the jargon (and the copious amount of acronyms) can be overwhelming. If you’re looking to learn more about the terms used in the low-code world, this blog is for you. Below, we define key words and phrases you should know as you learn about low-code and its benefits. 

It’s important to remember that not all low-code platforms have the same capabilities, and vendors may define things differently. This is how we at Appian define these terms and how they present in our platform and solutions for our customers. 

Low-code technology terms.

  • Citizen developer: A citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and run-time environments sanctioned by corporate IT. 
  • Low-code: Low-code is a software development methodology that allows organizations to build applications faster and fosters collaboration between IT and business people. Low-code allows you to program a machine through a visual interface, such as by drawing a workflow diagram. It’s a much more intuitive and human way of interacting with a machine than high coding
  • Low-code applications: Low-code applications are built using a low-code platform. This visual development environment utilizes tools like drag-and-drop modelers, smart services, components, and prebuilt connectors. 
  • Low-code data: Low-code data is a fast and easy way to access, combine, and take action on data from any source with no need to write code or migrate your data from the system where it resides. A visual interface with point-and-click functionality—just like the one used when developing low-code applications—is leveraged to make interacting with the data much easier than in high-code environments. Low-code data creates an actionable virtual data fabric that requires no data migrations, making application development faster and data highly performant because it is not constrained by the structure of underlying data sources.
  • Low-code solution: An out-of-the-box, prebuilt offering, a low-code solution can be used as is, but is also highly customizable to meet an organization’s specific business needs.
  • No-code: No-code platforms allow users to create simple interfaces, such as portals, websites, and landing pages. The functionality of true no-code platforms is limited. Most no-code platforms marketed to citizen developers do still require some coding for the creation of simple applications.
  • Workflow: Workflow is the orchestration of people, systems, and data, and it connects capabilities like process mining and automation. Workflow is most effective when it sits at the center of a low-code platform.

Automation terms.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI): AI is a method of reproducing human intelligence with computers. AI can range in applications from simple cognitive decision making to machine learning that uses experience and data to improve over time (e.g., intelligent document processing, chatbots, etc.).
  • Automation: Automation refers to digital workers doing human-based tasks as part of a process and includes things like robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent document processing (IDP), and business rules. Automation is one of three categories in the converging low-code market, with workflow and process mining being the other two. 
  • Business rules: A business rule is a statement describing a business policy or decision procedure. Some programming languages run business rules together into very complex algorithms.
  • Complete automation: Complete automation is the combination of specific automation capabilities including artificial intelligence (AI), smart services, intelligent document processing (IDP), and business rules, ensuring the right automation capability for the right job. 
  • Hyperautomation: Hyperautomation is a term coined by analyst firm Gartner. According to Gartner, hyperautomation is a business-driven, disciplined approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet, and automate as many business and IT processes as possible.
  • Intelligent document processing (IDP): IDP provides AI-based data classification and extraction capabilities to eliminate the manual work associated with processing  documents for use with other downstream systems. 
  • Machine learning (ML): ML is a branch of artificial intelligence and describes the “learning” of a digital system on the basis of real data. An algorithm examines large amounts of data according to certain patterns or rules and generates output according to those patterns and rules. An example of this is in spam filters that “learn” the types of words and phrases generally associated with spam messages and move messages containing those words or phrases from your inbox into a spam folder.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA): RPA is a technology for automating high-volume, rules-based, repetitive tasks normally performed by people or for connecting systems without modern APIs.
  •  Smart services: Smart services is an automation capability available within robust low-code platforms that automates common business activities, like integrations with databases and web services, orchestration with other automation technologies like RPA and AI, generation of documents, and management of users and groups.

General technology terms.

  • Business process management (BPM) software: BPM software automates, executes, and monitors business processes from beginning to end by connecting people to people, applications to applications, and people to applications.
  • Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS): COTS refers to an out-of-the-box solution that has minimal room for customization. And since these solutions are largely prebuilt, even when customization is possible, it’s costly.
  • Process mining: Process mining is a data-driven approach that comes from the fields of process management and data science. It is designed to help organizations discover, monitor, and improve business processes. It uses data from process event logs, which contain vital information about all the tasks carried out within a process, such as start and end times, the order in which the tasks are carried out, whether tasks are repeated or skipped, etc.

This is just a subset of the many facets of low-code. It is a robust technology that comprises vast functionality and capabilities. Not all low-code platforms offer each of these features, as their maturity levels vary. To learn more about low-code capabilities and trends, read the Ultimate Low-Code Buyer's Guide

Date: July 6, 2022

Michelle Gardner


Michelle Gardner is a contributing editor of lowcode.com. She has written about enterprise technology for companies including Appian, OpenText, and Logi Analytics. 

Low-Code Guide

Low-Code development is the way to build apps more quickly by reducing the need to code.