Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

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Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

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Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

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About the Episode
As the world continues to rapidly change around us, it can be hard to keep up. But there’s a new kind of technology that allows any employee to be agile and go digital. Tech expert Nile Frater explains how no-code and low-code software empowers anyone to rethink processes, launch ideas, and solve problems. Listen now to learn how agile technology can help you reimagine your world of work.
Episode Highlights

Software is changing
No matter what you do for work, there’s probably a no-code tool that can help make your job easier. 


Process matters most
You need to understand the process before trying to fix issues with tools and software. 


Start small
Don’t try to tackle your dream project first; focus on a smaller, simpler problem instead.

Meet our Guest

Nile Frater has been immersed in technology and software since around the age of 9. What started out as an interest in hacking has grown into a powerful drive focused on using technology to empower people. His days are spent leading engineering strategy at Lloyd’s Bank, which includes everything from DevOps to Operations. But Nile doesn’t stop there! His nights involve acquiring, growing, and selling micro-SaaS companies as the Managing Director of ConcreteCapital. This includes NoCode.Tech, the Internet's biggest NoCode tool directory and education site.

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I am Chris Byers of Formstack. This episode, we're focused on an area that many of us are starting to explore. And it's the low-code, no-code space. Nile Frater is on the show today to really teach us a little bit more about the no-code space, how it's evolving, how it's enabling teams across organizations to do really better work. Nile is the Head of Engineering Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group. He's also the managing director at ConcreteCapital and owner of NoCode.tech. Nile, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Nile Frater:
Glad to be here. Thank you very much. 

Chris Byers: Now, I've got a, you know, terrible American accent that, you know, I'm sure I did not pronounce your name right. So tell the world how you're really supposed to say it. 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's pronounced a Nile. There's a lot of debate over that because technically, I'm named after the river in Egypt. So people kind of debate how you pronounce that, but I pronounce it Nile. Most people pronounce it Nile. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, I know we in the U.S. are not not well regarded for our sophistication and our words. So I appreciate that. Well, maybe you could jump in for us and really define for us. Tell us maybe the difference between low-code and no-code for the audience who's listening and really trying to understand the space. Can you describe that? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, totally. So I'll start with low-code, which is probably the easier one. So low-code is still very much coding, very much used by developers, but typically lets you speed up the things that you do a lot but take a lot of time, you know, think how many engineers it would take to build a log in interface or forgotten password feature, low-code is really a bit abstract in a way that these things that you do again and again or let you build things once so that you can free up your developers. No-code, on other hand, for me, is a real paradigm shift. So no-code is traditionally an ecosystem of tools and platforms that allow you to create reusable software without actually writing any code. You're still essentially coding under the hood, but you're doing it completely by a drag-and-drop, visual interface. You're connecting things together, you're using different tools to connect services. 

Where I think no-code is really, really interesting is given the name, you know, no-code, people use that to refer to building an app or a website. But really, what no-code is doing for me, it's taking something that used to be done by professionals, software engineers in this case, and it's making it easy and accessible. Actually that a lot of tools which make, say for example podcasting easier, you know, they make it easier to record, to edit to Macs. They make things better and way easier. They make graphic design easier. I can settle all these things to fall under the umbrella of no-code. For me, no-code has taken complicated software related tasks on the computer and making that essentially accessible to the 99 percent. 

Chris Byers:
So tell us a little bit about how you got really you found the no-code, low-code space and how you got interested in it. 

Nile Frater:
Actually, I'm originally a coder. I've been coding probably since I was 8 or 9 years old, something like that. And I first got my start because I was really interested in hacking and making a claim to fame, for example, was hacking all the computers in Moscow and almost getting expelled. But as I kind of grew up a little bit and started to learn more about actual software and less about hacking tools, I really began to get an interest in product and market and this kind of thing. And I quickly found that for me, coding was becoming a bit of a chore. You know, I was really, really interested in the end product of the app that I may code, but I really hated the process. I hated sitting their two nights in a row, wondering why my software wouldn't work, and then finally find that I'm missing code and I'm missing a quotation or something like that. And any programmers or anyone who has tried that before, you were really familiar with that experience.

So around the time, you know, 2014, something like that, I discovered tools like Webflow, discovered tools like tree lighting, etc. and I found that these tools would essentially let me either, you know, write code faster or do the bits I wasn't good at. Just because you can code doesn't necessarily mean you are good at design interfaces or making that kind of thing work. And what no-code tools are really good at is not only simply take a recording, but also they tend to help you do things like design, like make a backend work quickly or, you know, even taking away having to worry about infrastructure in the first place. And so what I quickly found is I really care about building products and no-code essentially abstracted away everything that stood between me and the product to get into customers hands. 

Chris Byers:
Well tell us what's going on in this space. What are you seeing happen?

Nile Frater: So the size of the space, kind of over the last couple of years. I mean, the growth has just been incredible. I've been in what I would call the no-code space since probably around 2014. I think my first real taste of it was when Webflow launched and I started playing with that back in the early days. And, you know, most people would kind of say the no-code concept has been around for a very, very long time. And you maybe remember a tool called Adobe Dreamweaver, kind of allowed you to build websites with a bit of a drag and drop interface, with some code involved. But really since kind of 2017, 2018 onwards, the space has grown and more tools have started to come in and the real kind of concept of no-code started to evolve.

You know, back in 2014, 2015, you really needed to know how to code if you wanted to stitch together the three or four tools that existed, whereas today you pretty much have new companies come out every single day. I mean, if you look at producthunt.com and scroll down, there was a no-code company that launched yesterday that had the top spot. There is literally no-code companies launching every single day with new capabilities and new integrations with tools and new use cases you couldn't use before. And you know, a lot of people sort of refer to no-code as having a real kind of 80-20 problem, where you can accomplish 80% of what you want without code. But to really get that last 20 percent, at some point, you've got to get a developer. And in some ways I agree with that. But what I find is literally every week, every month, new tools are coming out. And that 80-20 is becoming 90-10, you know, 95-5 and so on, so forth. 

Chris Byers:
You actually mentioned a little bit of this, which is this idea that the tools that are out there now are getting people closer and closer to really producing what they're looking for. So what do you think the future is? What do you think the next few years are going to look like? 

Nile Frater:
So I think part of it is really just building on what we've got today. I mean, so many things have come out, you know, in the last year, like Andola or Parabola. And for people who don't know, Andola makes mobile apps, Parabola, essentially can let you drag and drop data signs or otherwise do things you would usually do in Excel. So that's probably a bit unfair but we'll stick with that. You know, these kind of tools are just coming out, people are just starting discussions on what's actually possible with them. And I think importantly kind of where the space is starting to go is as more and more of these tools come out, they're starting to integrate with each other, you know, Bubble,  for example, which is probably the best known app builder out there. They just integrated with Airtable, which is kind of the best known sort of database, a spreadsheet, that kind of thing. But as more and more of these integrations come out, the things that you're able to do, the functionally to create, the services you're able to connect, every single time one of those connections becomes possible. 

There's literally exponential growth in terms of what you can build with no-code and what you can kind of achieve. So, you know, I think that's a really, really exciting just growth that we're just waiting to see there. And I think on top of that as well, people's work will evolve in terms of their understanding. You know, when you learn to code you, as I sort of touched on earlier, you learn concepts like how to connect APIs, how logic works, how to do an if statement where if one thing happens you do something else, all these kind of fundamental blocks that let you build software and a lot of people who are committed to no-code don't necessarily understand that yet. They're just dragging and dropping their own affairs, figuring out how something works but actually over time as they start to play with these tools and you start to learn more about coding concepts and apply them visually, the things that these people are going to be able to achieve, the things that are going to be able to turn into templates, tutorials, and guides, and share with other people. That's going to be immense. And I think you're going to start to see the same increase you've seen over the last 10 years in terms of what tech could do in 2010 vs. 2020. You're going to see that in the no-code space as well, and more and more is going to become possible. 

Chris Byers:
Well, I'm curious as I think about our own product. One of the things I will tell people is, you know, it can be used by absolutely anybody in any company, anywhere. But there is a huge problem. And that really is it coming to mind when you have a problem. So if you have a problem and we happen to intersect you at the right time, that's gonna work out great. But I'm curious what you're learning as you're trying to introduce no code into kind of an organization, because I feel like that's got to be one of the most challenging places to get people to stop and say, oh, I'm not going to do the normal things I do when I want to solve a problem, like call IT or do it in Excel. I'm going to try to advance this a little bit. How are you learning what's working there? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. And I think the biggest problem in both, you know, internally and within the enterprise, but also on the no-code side itself, the biggest problem is it's almost too good to be true. You know, people have kind of spent the last 10 years watching stuff with the social networks you know. Kind of starting to come to some sort of majority with Silicon Valley and the way people work there and the things people do. And so when you kind of turn to say, well, actually you can build all this complicated software yourself, and it's not just the, you know, 14 year old wiz kids at Harvard. People tend to need a lot of convincing to understand that. And, you know, the way we've been approaching it, certainly in Lloyd's is, you know, starting off small, showing people no code, showing people what it can actually do, and then sort of that it's less about the software and more about the mentality. 

So there's this kind of concept of systems thinking, and systems thinking to me, and there's probably a systems thinker who's going to listen to this and think I'm really vilifying them here. But, you know, systems thinking to me is essentially taking the way a programmer thinks, that real logic, object-system based approach and applying that to business problems. Systems thinking essentially is the concept of, you know, looking at process as a whole, you know, looking at your job or your department or the work that you do and thinking about it from step one all the way through it to step 10, whatever it may be. Thinking, you know, how does work come into the system? How does it flow through? 

How is it outputted and then based off the back of that, trying to make some adjustments to your process and that kind of thing. And I think the best thing you can do in terms of adopting no-code or adopting a tool like Formstack is to first teach people to think like this, to think in terms of process and how you fix up process or how you improve that process. And then for me, Formstack, no-code, this kind of thing, that's just giving them the tools to do what they can already imagine. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of teaching people how to think about process. I know for me, you know, my general nature is you know I see a problem. I just kind of dive into the mess and I don't really know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to solve it. And then I start to tinker around with processes. And then eventually I can kind of pull back out, zoom back out and say, all right, I think I can see how can a process come together? How do you teach that? How do you get people really thinking that way? 

Nile Frater:
I think it's definitely a tricky problem and it's one that I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out. For me, it's very much about speaking to someone about the kind of work they do, have them describe what they're up to, who they speak to on a daily basis, and just sort of mapping that out. And then the thing I start to do is really just challenge the assumptions and sort of peel away things. OK. So why do use that? Why do you have to speak to, you know, Barbara in account? Why does it take as long as this? And it's really about pulling someone out of the work that they do every day to almost sort of, you know, eagle eye from above. 

Okay, let's look at it together. Let's figure out why you do every sort of step. And I think when you'd improving a process or when you are trying to do systems thinking about software, the most important thing you can do is cut out things you don't need. You know, there's no point in going in looking at a process that someone doesn't say, okay, we're going to replace that with software, we're going to give you a software tool to do it. If you don't first look and say, well, do you have to be doing this, actually can we cut 50% out or can we make it easier. 

And I think it's just really about making it feel relevant to someone. You don't want to kind of come in and talk about systems thinking, that's just the concept. You want to just look at what's the work that you do today? How can you do it? If we actually look at and examine it, what other bits can you peck out or what are the parts that, you know, you don't have to do that you could pass off to someone else. And I think it's really just, you know, there's a real growth there that if you start small with a little bit of work you build up from there. And hopefully people start to take an understanding what you're doing, understand the techniques and get it from there and, you know, eventually apply it themselves. 

Chris Byers:
One of the things you are talking about is this idea of reimagining work. Because as you give people tools and really the mindset to redo processes, even observe that there are broken processes or slow processes, you're really helping them advance the way that they do their work, saving time, which is ultimately saving money. How do you think this is going to impact workers around the world going forward? 

Nile Frater:
There's this concept called Crossing the Chasm. It was a book by Geoffrey Moore. And the idea is that when a new piece of technology comes out, there are early adopters and then over time, you know, the more conservative people pick it up and adopt that. And I think if you zoom out and look at that from the business world, then that is a pretty obvious thing to say but start ups, small companies, individual entrepreneurs. These people pick up technology fast and then over time it is adopted by enterprise. You know the interesting thing for me and I tend to think about it as if you go back, you know, say a century ago or maybe to the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds, even as recently as sort of the 50s or 70s, if you wanted to create a big business, if you wanted to make one of these tech companies something the size of Google or Facebook, then you needed to own a factory. And that was going to cost you millions or whatever it may have adjusted to back in the day.

But then if you go back to just the year 2000, actually all you need is a laptop. You know, your laptop becomes your factory. And if you go back to, you know, even as recent as 2015, you know, OK. You had your laptop. But you needed to spend, you know, months and months learning to code, needed to spend a lot of money on servers and all that infrastructure that would let you run a business. And actually if you zoom forward to now literally all you need is a laptop. You can take anyone in this day and age who is familiar with something like Microsoft Office, you know, anyone who's got the skills to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and have them use a no-code tool to get to the point where actually they can create software. And so that's really, really powerful for small businesses. Right. Your average Joe can now come online, come to a website, like nocode.tech or YouTube or something like that. Watch a few tutorials, learn how to use these tools. And within a few days, they can have their own business up and running. 

And I think as the enterprise starts to adopt that, then quickly, you're going to go away from this concept of the business and IT, where you have one group of people who are completely nontechnical, have nothing to do the tech. They simply make requests and they get something back. And you have this other group of people in IT who, you know, are the guardian angels of technology, who hold the keys and all the software, who know everything there is to know. And actually, you know, both of those premises are wrong. There are people in IT who know nothing about business or people in the business who know nothing about IT and can you know, the two shall never meet.

No-code is all about bridging that gap and no-code is essentially allowing more and more people in the business to prototype things, to better communicate their ideas, to eventually start to, for example, replace some of the processes I might use in areas like finance and accounting and HR. And on the IT side there are projects which a no-code tool could complete in a day, which IT are currently spending, you know, hundreds of thousands on. And that's where I think the really big impact is going to be over the next two, three years as people start to really get over that small software bump. I'm not saying no-code is ready to take on the big time yet. You know, you're not going to build the next Google with no-code necessarily. Not the next Facebook, but you might start it there. And I think when you look within the enterprise, that are a lot of little projects, a lot of things here and there. There are so many people in there with so many ideas, so many ideas that just don't ever see the light of day because enterprise is too big. 

Chris Byers:
So, you know, I will tend to tell people, if you can learn some of just the advanced formulas in Excel, you can get a lot accomplished that, you know. Otherwise you're going to think I've got to go use a developer or an engineer to get this done. And yet it's actually built for the non-technical user. You need to learn a little bit of what's the nomenclature, what are the words. But if you can do that, you can solve some pretty interesting problems and pretty fast, you can speed up efforts. I'm curious how you're seeing no-code really do this exact same thing for people and maybe some examples of where you've seen no code be successful. 

Nile Frater:
I think the Excel analogy is spot on. You know, we've seen a lot of people adopt no-code who traditionally, you know, mocked up items in macros or Excel or that kind of thing. And one of the interesting places where I've seen it used in that manor, as you know, often in enterpirse, a lot of people who've been responding to COVID-19 and, you know, that kind of thing as it's happened across the world, really, and disrupted operations and disrupted places like call centers and this kind of thing. You know, we've seen a lot of people trying to use no-code to bridge some of the gaps with the technology that they have working from home and that kind of thing. 

A really good example, a really simple one. But from a call center, typically a few are working in an operational environment and you want to make sure that callers have been answered in time and that kind of thing. You know, you usually have a bunch of agents. They are taking calls. They all have a cell next to the computer, it brings the next call in call. They can put people in queue or they can take a break if they need to go to the bathroom, etc. The way that you attend to it and monitor productivity in the environment is you have a manager and they look up from their computer monitor and they look around and they see everyone then they see who looks busy and see who doesn't, see who's chatting etc. And the minute you go to remote working from home, that kind of becomes impossible.

You know, you might have status codes coming from the cellphone software, etc. But for the vast majority of industries where people are traditionally managed by other people in a very sort of oversight kind of way. It's kind of maybe different from say how a lawyer or a doctor works, it becomes really difficult to monitor productivity. And so one of the things that we've seen is just people building tools for this kind of use case. We've seen someone build a tool that let people write down what kind of calls they were getting and how long they were spending on them, where they were, where they were sort of taking place to go do this thing or the other thing, these kind of tools. I mean, I think this specific example probably took about a day to build. I think this was using Retool, which is kind of one the more popular internal tool builders. And that was literally just a day's work and probably saw a 5% productivity gain. 

And when you look at the kind of dropoffs people are seeing, especially in the enterprise world, as a result of COVID-19, you know, that kind of thing is massive. And previously, that would have been let's go talk to a software vendor. Or let's bring in some, you know, five hundred thousand pound piece of software to do it. Or it would've been an Excel macro, difficult to use, difficult to have multiple people editing it at the same time. Someone's got to put it all together. You take 400 agents' Excel spreadsheets and figure out who would spend what where.

And, you know, the minute you start talking about that, you quickly see how some of the solutions that are available today, as amazing as they are, they get convoluted, they get expensive, they get really tricky to run. That's a really good example of something that no-code just takes away because, you know, you kind of imagine if you took everybody within your organization who knows how to do Excel macros and you give them the ability to build software. What kind of difference is that going to make for your business, in a month? In a year? 

Chris Byers:
I think you're right. I think just giving people who already have energy and as you know, there are mindsets that already exist out there of people who they can envision the process and how it's supposed to go. They may just not have spent the time to learn how to code. And so you're really just bridging that gap and kind of is this beautiful thing. I'm curious, how have you been able to see no code actually impact some of your company goals at Lloyd's? 

Nile Frater:
Probably the biggest advantage it brings to us is when we look at internal systems and internal software. You know, Lloyds is a company of somewhere around 65,000 people and the hometown that I grew up in, which is a place called Kilmarnock in Scotland, good luck translating that one, that's 44,000 people. So you quickly kind of look at a company that size and say that is huge. That is really gigantic. And the level of sort of internal processes and hierarchies and little groups here and there, they've got a little bit of knowledge but don't know about this other group, that kind of thing. You know, just the sheer size or complexity that emerges in a system as big as that, be it at Lloyds, be it any other organization, it really is just immense. 

And where we're really seeing the benefit is not trying to come in and say, okay, how can we replace this big system with no-code or how can we deliver something to a customer with no-code, but actually just first of all, looking at the individual person on the ground and saying, let's just give this person the skills that they need. Let's make it really easy for them to build something. Let's make sure we've got some guardrails in place that mean that people are not going to build some software that's got some bug in that a coder would have spotted instantly.

You know, let's keep it safe, but let's just empower the person on the ground, because that's kind of what the technology is about. You know, the thing that kind of gets bandied around in the no-code space is no-code is all about democratizing access to building software. And it can be really tempting in an organization to come in at a high level and look down and say, you know, okay, we see these five projects, they try to apply no-code to them and that may save us money or make them feel faster. But actually, I think the really interesting thing is when you do a bottom up, you just give people the tools. You give people the environment, you give them the guardrails. But you say to them, okay, now you've got us power. How can you use it to save us money? How can you use it to help improve our processes, to make things go faster? And we are absolutely at the early stages of that in Lloyds Banking Group. 

Chris Byers:
Earlier, you mentioned some great sets of tools, Bubble, Parabola, Airtable. There's all kinds of varieties of ways, really you can tackle this. I'm curious, are there some use cases that you think if someone's listening right now and you knew they were thinking about a few use cases that come to your mind, what are those that you think about no-code fast because this may be the way you get the problem solved faster?

Nile Frater:
First of all, if you want to create a job board, I mean, there are literally about 100 million tutorials out there. And doing that is kind of the hello to no-code. So if you're creating a job board at any other kind of less than or direct to the site, that's absolutely the way to do it. But I think the scope of no-code is really, really big now. You know, the majority of people are either building a mobile app or a website. And there's a lot of people who would build a marketplace, which is something like Airbnb or Ebay, where you have kind of consumers who want to, you know, rent an apartment or buy a product, and then you have sellers who want to rent that apartment or sell a product. And no-code is becoming really, really good at those kind of things. And I think the marketplace is a good example of a business that's really, really complex, because there are you know, those buyers, those sellers, transactions, et cetera. But now, there are no-code platforms which can let you build this, which make it really, really simple, and just take away all the complexity of the business logic. 

Chris Byers:
As you think about really helping people. You know, as people get into no-code, as they start to use it in their everyday life, what do you think are some of the things where it actually can go maybe off the rails a little bit and you need to help bring it in? And kind of keep some guardrails? Are you seeing places where that's happening? 

Nile Frater:
So I think, you know, the thing about no-code is much as you're dragging and dropping, you are in some ways still coding, you know, you still have to think about the little bugs or the little quirks or behaviors that emerge. When you're programming, one of the things people often say to developers is to make an estimate, and then that estimate may as well be, you know, plus or minus one hundred percent of the time. Developer says it's going to be two weeks, then it might be four. And the reason for that is when you actually really, really start to get into something, you start thinking about all of the edge cases and all of the things that could go wrong or make not good on. 

You know, for example, you know, let's say you're building a login system. You start writing the part that lets you plan your full name or let your user put in a full name. But then you start to think, well, I actually need to think about how long am I going to let that name be? If I let that not be too long, then I'm going to be, you know, crowding out someone who, for example, does not have a typical Western name. Am I going to be missing certain characters from, you know, say Celtic or a language like that. And you start to get into all these little, you know, what ifs. And that's where the real impact the program. And that's why it takes so long and why it's so complicated.

The problem with no-code is it doesn't take that away, but what you are doing is giving these tools to people who haven't necessarily had that experience before because they haven't programed, you don't necessarily know that you're going to bump into these pitfalls. And so, you know, that can be a real danger. And then you get some other things which are sort of well known, for example, security concerns or things like that, again, a lot of coders know but people from the no-code space are just not familiar with yet.

I’ll give you an example. Let's say you forget your password on a website and you go to the forgotten password and sometimes it will say, you know, give an email address and you put your email address in. And then one of two things happens. It pops up like most websites do and says if an email address with that account exists. Then we will send you an email. You can reset your password or we'll see that email address was correct, but the password is wrong or some sort of flavor of that. And the problem with that second option is essentially it can tell a hacker or an attacker that that email address does have an account here. And so if I let's say, for example, you are one of most people who, you know, reuse the same password for everything. And I know your password. I don't know what accounts you've got, I've got your typical email address set up, I can just go start trying it on Facebook and go start trying, you know, all these different places. It's called user intimidation. And it's as one of these little security quirks that most people don't know about, you wouldn't think about. But actually, you know, whether using code or no-code, your system still vulnerable to that kind of attack. 

Chris Byers:
Yeah, it sounds like there are just some new and interesting ways that people have to, you know, just start to think about things in terms of security. So that's a great example. You know, as someone who is listening right now, they might feel a bit overwhelmed, or a bit excited about the opportunities that you've talked about. But really, they're not sure where to start. What do you suggest as a first step to using no-code solutions? 

Nile Frater:
Well, the obvious first step I've got to recommend is my own website. If you go to nocode.tech/learn we've packed in over 500 lessons on using a bunch of different tools, building mobile apps, building web apps, etc. But, you know, more conceptually, I really have to say that the best thing to do is start small, you know, build a small bit of software. Don't necessarily jump in to, you know, your dream project.

For instance,a marketplace for cars where you're going to have to, you know, look up license plates or check for car makes and models or this kind of thing, you know, keep it simple. What's a simple thing you can start with? Why don't you build the website for your idea or, you know, once you've built a website for your idea, why don't you try connecting that to your service? Let's say you've got your website for your car marketplace. You've got to sign up button that connects you to a newsletter and you can email people.

For me, it's really about doing it step by step. And one of the stacks, a stack is essentially a collection of different tools you might use to achieve a kind of a no-code project about something. But one of the most popular ones out there is called the WAMZ stack. That's actually what it's called. It stands for Webflow, Airtable, Memberstack, and Zapier. And Webflow lets you build website. Airtable kind of acts as a database with a kind of Excel like interface. Memberstack allows you to have login and log out features, you know, users essentially on any website. And Zapier lets you connect to tons of different services, and I believe Formstack may well be one of them.

But that's a really, really, really good way actually of going through the different levels, you know, so build your website with Webflow. And then get a Webflow form sending data through to Airtable, then use Memberstack to build a login. Then use Zapier to do whatever, like send data to different places, maybe link it to go straight for payments or PayPal or something like that. But that stack is a really, really good way to build no-code software and one of my go-tos. But actually it's also a really nice incremental way to learn how to do it. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of grabbing really a few great tools, products and helping people kind of think about, you know, if you'll learn this framework, you're going to be way ahead in terms of being able to start coding effectively. And so I love that. Love that idea. As we begin to wrap up, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, what's the number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 

Nile Frater:
So the concept I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I can't profess to being an expert and it's quite difficult, but I've been thinking about high leverage actions. When I'm thinking of doing a task, what is the highest leverage possible where I could do that task? Let's see. I've got a business and I'm over the support team. And currently every day I check all the customer support emails. And if they are, you know, basic inquiries, like, can I get a refund? Then I ping that one onto my customer support team. And if they are, you know, more complex inquiries like do you make this wardrobe in mahogany or walnut or something, then I handle that myself because I'm the business owner and I know it from my head etc.

The high leverage is all about, instead of answering that email, I should use my answer to that email to create a standard operating procedure, you know, a document or a process I write down so that the next time that question comes up, I can just hand it off to the customer support person. And so it might mean that that task takes, you know, an hour instead of five minutes. But that just happens once. And instead of that being a task I do five minutes every day, it's now one task I do once and never again. And so high leverage is all about thinking what is the best way that I can spend my time? How can I approach a task to mean that my business is going to grow or that I can spend my time in other areas, but otherwise just not thinking of this task again. 

Chris Byers:
All right. And what is your kind of go to productivity tip for others? 

Nile Frater:
Well, that's a difficult one. So I probably have tried tons of different productivity tips, tons of different productivity tools. And the one that just keeps coming back to me, you know, everyone talks about kind of idea of a flow state. And you know that you get into the mood, you can get things done. And for me, the best way to achieve that, is every day I make a to do list.

It starts off with really, really simple stuff I have to do every day, like get up, work out, shower, and I'll literally put shower on my to do list as if I'm going to forget that. I'll put lunch on there. You know, all these little basics. I'll put tidy up, put this away, you know these tiny little things that take two seconds. But what it means is I'm quickly accumulating these little tasks and not really getting this feeling of productivity and I might have, you know, five boxes or five items stacked like, you know, take my lunch out of the fridge or shower or work out. But not such stupid things that are really, really small. Like, you know, put my shoes on, but very quickly, you know, I've done the basics that set me up for a good day, like working out, etc. I've got a lot more to do, less the stuff that started to get touched down. And it really, really gives me energy. And kind of a feeling  of forward momentum as I start to look at my day and start tackling, you know, the really important business tasks of the day. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, how will you be reimagining your own work moving forward? 

Nile Frater:
So for me, the thing I've really tried to do is think about number one, for everything that I do, how can it turn into a piece of software or an automation or something that runs in the background? Someone, I can't remember who it was, but someone once said, you know, a data center is kind of like a little army of robots who just do whatever you want them to do. So everything I'm doing every day, I'm trying to think, how can I get a robot to do that tomorrow? How can I get a robot to do that the next day? Or how can I build a little bit of software? A little bit of something that can run in the background that's going to make this easier. And the more and more I do that, it really, really shapes how I start to do things. How I implement features, how I implement, marketing concepts or market strategies and everything I try to do now is automated so that it runs again and again. It can go on in the background. I don't have to worry about it. And I can keep thinking about the new things. The next thing I'm going to do tomorrow. 

Chris Byers:
Well, as we wrap up this episode featuring Nile Frater, there are a couple takeaways that I have heard from this conversation. The first is he provided a great definition for us of low-code versus no-code. And low-code really is about enabling people who probably have a little bit of technical skill really just to speed up getting the work done. And no code is really about enabling people in that more drag and drop way to get some pretty complicated processes built in software and get processes kind of moving quickly.

The other one was this idea that we really need to step back and think about what is the highest leverage we can get in this moment. I love that idea. Leverage is this idea that the boulder is too big for us to move by ourselves. But if we can get the lever, we might actually be able to move it.

And I love that idea and how no-code tools can really help make that happen. And maybe one other one is just this idea to look around your organization at things that you run on Excel or Google Sheets and ask the question, is this something we can get going and some sort of no-code tool or solution?


Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

Podcast

Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

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Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I am Chris Byers of Formstack. This episode, we're focused on an area that many of us are starting to explore. And it's the low-code, no-code space. Nile Frater is on the show today to really teach us a little bit more about the no-code space, how it's evolving, how it's enabling teams across organizations to do really better work. Nile is the Head of Engineering Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group. He's also the managing director at ConcreteCapital and owner of NoCode.tech. Nile, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Nile Frater:
Glad to be here. Thank you very much. 

Chris Byers: Now, I've got a, you know, terrible American accent that, you know, I'm sure I did not pronounce your name right. So tell the world how you're really supposed to say it. 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's pronounced a Nile. There's a lot of debate over that because technically, I'm named after the river in Egypt. So people kind of debate how you pronounce that, but I pronounce it Nile. Most people pronounce it Nile. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, I know we in the U.S. are not not well regarded for our sophistication and our words. So I appreciate that. Well, maybe you could jump in for us and really define for us. Tell us maybe the difference between low-code and no-code for the audience who's listening and really trying to understand the space. Can you describe that? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, totally. So I'll start with low-code, which is probably the easier one. So low-code is still very much coding, very much used by developers, but typically lets you speed up the things that you do a lot but take a lot of time, you know, think how many engineers it would take to build a log in interface or forgotten password feature, low-code is really a bit abstract in a way that these things that you do again and again or let you build things once so that you can free up your developers. No-code, on other hand, for me, is a real paradigm shift. So no-code is traditionally an ecosystem of tools and platforms that allow you to create reusable software without actually writing any code. You're still essentially coding under the hood, but you're doing it completely by a drag-and-drop, visual interface. You're connecting things together, you're using different tools to connect services. 

Where I think no-code is really, really interesting is given the name, you know, no-code, people use that to refer to building an app or a website. But really, what no-code is doing for me, it's taking something that used to be done by professionals, software engineers in this case, and it's making it easy and accessible. Actually that a lot of tools which make, say for example podcasting easier, you know, they make it easier to record, to edit to Macs. They make things better and way easier. They make graphic design easier. I can settle all these things to fall under the umbrella of no-code. For me, no-code has taken complicated software related tasks on the computer and making that essentially accessible to the 99 percent. 

Chris Byers:
So tell us a little bit about how you got really you found the no-code, low-code space and how you got interested in it. 

Nile Frater:
Actually, I'm originally a coder. I've been coding probably since I was 8 or 9 years old, something like that. And I first got my start because I was really interested in hacking and making a claim to fame, for example, was hacking all the computers in Moscow and almost getting expelled. But as I kind of grew up a little bit and started to learn more about actual software and less about hacking tools, I really began to get an interest in product and market and this kind of thing. And I quickly found that for me, coding was becoming a bit of a chore. You know, I was really, really interested in the end product of the app that I may code, but I really hated the process. I hated sitting their two nights in a row, wondering why my software wouldn't work, and then finally find that I'm missing code and I'm missing a quotation or something like that. And any programmers or anyone who has tried that before, you were really familiar with that experience.

So around the time, you know, 2014, something like that, I discovered tools like Webflow, discovered tools like tree lighting, etc. and I found that these tools would essentially let me either, you know, write code faster or do the bits I wasn't good at. Just because you can code doesn't necessarily mean you are good at design interfaces or making that kind of thing work. And what no-code tools are really good at is not only simply take a recording, but also they tend to help you do things like design, like make a backend work quickly or, you know, even taking away having to worry about infrastructure in the first place. And so what I quickly found is I really care about building products and no-code essentially abstracted away everything that stood between me and the product to get into customers hands. 

Chris Byers:
Well tell us what's going on in this space. What are you seeing happen?

Nile Frater: So the size of the space, kind of over the last couple of years. I mean, the growth has just been incredible. I've been in what I would call the no-code space since probably around 2014. I think my first real taste of it was when Webflow launched and I started playing with that back in the early days. And, you know, most people would kind of say the no-code concept has been around for a very, very long time. And you maybe remember a tool called Adobe Dreamweaver, kind of allowed you to build websites with a bit of a drag and drop interface, with some code involved. But really since kind of 2017, 2018 onwards, the space has grown and more tools have started to come in and the real kind of concept of no-code started to evolve.

You know, back in 2014, 2015, you really needed to know how to code if you wanted to stitch together the three or four tools that existed, whereas today you pretty much have new companies come out every single day. I mean, if you look at producthunt.com and scroll down, there was a no-code company that launched yesterday that had the top spot. There is literally no-code companies launching every single day with new capabilities and new integrations with tools and new use cases you couldn't use before. And you know, a lot of people sort of refer to no-code as having a real kind of 80-20 problem, where you can accomplish 80% of what you want without code. But to really get that last 20 percent, at some point, you've got to get a developer. And in some ways I agree with that. But what I find is literally every week, every month, new tools are coming out. And that 80-20 is becoming 90-10, you know, 95-5 and so on, so forth. 

Chris Byers:
You actually mentioned a little bit of this, which is this idea that the tools that are out there now are getting people closer and closer to really producing what they're looking for. So what do you think the future is? What do you think the next few years are going to look like? 

Nile Frater:
So I think part of it is really just building on what we've got today. I mean, so many things have come out, you know, in the last year, like Andola or Parabola. And for people who don't know, Andola makes mobile apps, Parabola, essentially can let you drag and drop data signs or otherwise do things you would usually do in Excel. So that's probably a bit unfair but we'll stick with that. You know, these kind of tools are just coming out, people are just starting discussions on what's actually possible with them. And I think importantly kind of where the space is starting to go is as more and more of these tools come out, they're starting to integrate with each other, you know, Bubble,  for example, which is probably the best known app builder out there. They just integrated with Airtable, which is kind of the best known sort of database, a spreadsheet, that kind of thing. But as more and more of these integrations come out, the things that you're able to do, the functionally to create, the services you're able to connect, every single time one of those connections becomes possible. 

There's literally exponential growth in terms of what you can build with no-code and what you can kind of achieve. So, you know, I think that's a really, really exciting just growth that we're just waiting to see there. And I think on top of that as well, people's work will evolve in terms of their understanding. You know, when you learn to code you, as I sort of touched on earlier, you learn concepts like how to connect APIs, how logic works, how to do an if statement where if one thing happens you do something else, all these kind of fundamental blocks that let you build software and a lot of people who are committed to no-code don't necessarily understand that yet. They're just dragging and dropping their own affairs, figuring out how something works but actually over time as they start to play with these tools and you start to learn more about coding concepts and apply them visually, the things that these people are going to be able to achieve, the things that are going to be able to turn into templates, tutorials, and guides, and share with other people. That's going to be immense. And I think you're going to start to see the same increase you've seen over the last 10 years in terms of what tech could do in 2010 vs. 2020. You're going to see that in the no-code space as well, and more and more is going to become possible. 

Chris Byers:
Well, I'm curious as I think about our own product. One of the things I will tell people is, you know, it can be used by absolutely anybody in any company, anywhere. But there is a huge problem. And that really is it coming to mind when you have a problem. So if you have a problem and we happen to intersect you at the right time, that's gonna work out great. But I'm curious what you're learning as you're trying to introduce no code into kind of an organization, because I feel like that's got to be one of the most challenging places to get people to stop and say, oh, I'm not going to do the normal things I do when I want to solve a problem, like call IT or do it in Excel. I'm going to try to advance this a little bit. How are you learning what's working there? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. And I think the biggest problem in both, you know, internally and within the enterprise, but also on the no-code side itself, the biggest problem is it's almost too good to be true. You know, people have kind of spent the last 10 years watching stuff with the social networks you know. Kind of starting to come to some sort of majority with Silicon Valley and the way people work there and the things people do. And so when you kind of turn to say, well, actually you can build all this complicated software yourself, and it's not just the, you know, 14 year old wiz kids at Harvard. People tend to need a lot of convincing to understand that. And, you know, the way we've been approaching it, certainly in Lloyd's is, you know, starting off small, showing people no code, showing people what it can actually do, and then sort of that it's less about the software and more about the mentality. 

So there's this kind of concept of systems thinking, and systems thinking to me, and there's probably a systems thinker who's going to listen to this and think I'm really vilifying them here. But, you know, systems thinking to me is essentially taking the way a programmer thinks, that real logic, object-system based approach and applying that to business problems. Systems thinking essentially is the concept of, you know, looking at process as a whole, you know, looking at your job or your department or the work that you do and thinking about it from step one all the way through it to step 10, whatever it may be. Thinking, you know, how does work come into the system? How does it flow through? 

How is it outputted and then based off the back of that, trying to make some adjustments to your process and that kind of thing. And I think the best thing you can do in terms of adopting no-code or adopting a tool like Formstack is to first teach people to think like this, to think in terms of process and how you fix up process or how you improve that process. And then for me, Formstack, no-code, this kind of thing, that's just giving them the tools to do what they can already imagine. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of teaching people how to think about process. I know for me, you know, my general nature is you know I see a problem. I just kind of dive into the mess and I don't really know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to solve it. And then I start to tinker around with processes. And then eventually I can kind of pull back out, zoom back out and say, all right, I think I can see how can a process come together? How do you teach that? How do you get people really thinking that way? 

Nile Frater:
I think it's definitely a tricky problem and it's one that I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out. For me, it's very much about speaking to someone about the kind of work they do, have them describe what they're up to, who they speak to on a daily basis, and just sort of mapping that out. And then the thing I start to do is really just challenge the assumptions and sort of peel away things. OK. So why do use that? Why do you have to speak to, you know, Barbara in account? Why does it take as long as this? And it's really about pulling someone out of the work that they do every day to almost sort of, you know, eagle eye from above. 

Okay, let's look at it together. Let's figure out why you do every sort of step. And I think when you'd improving a process or when you are trying to do systems thinking about software, the most important thing you can do is cut out things you don't need. You know, there's no point in going in looking at a process that someone doesn't say, okay, we're going to replace that with software, we're going to give you a software tool to do it. If you don't first look and say, well, do you have to be doing this, actually can we cut 50% out or can we make it easier. 

And I think it's just really about making it feel relevant to someone. You don't want to kind of come in and talk about systems thinking, that's just the concept. You want to just look at what's the work that you do today? How can you do it? If we actually look at and examine it, what other bits can you peck out or what are the parts that, you know, you don't have to do that you could pass off to someone else. And I think it's really just, you know, there's a real growth there that if you start small with a little bit of work you build up from there. And hopefully people start to take an understanding what you're doing, understand the techniques and get it from there and, you know, eventually apply it themselves. 

Chris Byers:
One of the things you are talking about is this idea of reimagining work. Because as you give people tools and really the mindset to redo processes, even observe that there are broken processes or slow processes, you're really helping them advance the way that they do their work, saving time, which is ultimately saving money. How do you think this is going to impact workers around the world going forward? 

Nile Frater:
There's this concept called Crossing the Chasm. It was a book by Geoffrey Moore. And the idea is that when a new piece of technology comes out, there are early adopters and then over time, you know, the more conservative people pick it up and adopt that. And I think if you zoom out and look at that from the business world, then that is a pretty obvious thing to say but start ups, small companies, individual entrepreneurs. These people pick up technology fast and then over time it is adopted by enterprise. You know the interesting thing for me and I tend to think about it as if you go back, you know, say a century ago or maybe to the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds, even as recently as sort of the 50s or 70s, if you wanted to create a big business, if you wanted to make one of these tech companies something the size of Google or Facebook, then you needed to own a factory. And that was going to cost you millions or whatever it may have adjusted to back in the day.

But then if you go back to just the year 2000, actually all you need is a laptop. You know, your laptop becomes your factory. And if you go back to, you know, even as recent as 2015, you know, OK. You had your laptop. But you needed to spend, you know, months and months learning to code, needed to spend a lot of money on servers and all that infrastructure that would let you run a business. And actually if you zoom forward to now literally all you need is a laptop. You can take anyone in this day and age who is familiar with something like Microsoft Office, you know, anyone who's got the skills to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and have them use a no-code tool to get to the point where actually they can create software. And so that's really, really powerful for small businesses. Right. Your average Joe can now come online, come to a website, like nocode.tech or YouTube or something like that. Watch a few tutorials, learn how to use these tools. And within a few days, they can have their own business up and running. 

And I think as the enterprise starts to adopt that, then quickly, you're going to go away from this concept of the business and IT, where you have one group of people who are completely nontechnical, have nothing to do the tech. They simply make requests and they get something back. And you have this other group of people in IT who, you know, are the guardian angels of technology, who hold the keys and all the software, who know everything there is to know. And actually, you know, both of those premises are wrong. There are people in IT who know nothing about business or people in the business who know nothing about IT and can you know, the two shall never meet.

No-code is all about bridging that gap and no-code is essentially allowing more and more people in the business to prototype things, to better communicate their ideas, to eventually start to, for example, replace some of the processes I might use in areas like finance and accounting and HR. And on the IT side there are projects which a no-code tool could complete in a day, which IT are currently spending, you know, hundreds of thousands on. And that's where I think the really big impact is going to be over the next two, three years as people start to really get over that small software bump. I'm not saying no-code is ready to take on the big time yet. You know, you're not going to build the next Google with no-code necessarily. Not the next Facebook, but you might start it there. And I think when you look within the enterprise, that are a lot of little projects, a lot of things here and there. There are so many people in there with so many ideas, so many ideas that just don't ever see the light of day because enterprise is too big. 

Chris Byers:
So, you know, I will tend to tell people, if you can learn some of just the advanced formulas in Excel, you can get a lot accomplished that, you know. Otherwise you're going to think I've got to go use a developer or an engineer to get this done. And yet it's actually built for the non-technical user. You need to learn a little bit of what's the nomenclature, what are the words. But if you can do that, you can solve some pretty interesting problems and pretty fast, you can speed up efforts. I'm curious how you're seeing no-code really do this exact same thing for people and maybe some examples of where you've seen no code be successful. 

Nile Frater:
I think the Excel analogy is spot on. You know, we've seen a lot of people adopt no-code who traditionally, you know, mocked up items in macros or Excel or that kind of thing. And one of the interesting places where I've seen it used in that manor, as you know, often in enterpirse, a lot of people who've been responding to COVID-19 and, you know, that kind of thing as it's happened across the world, really, and disrupted operations and disrupted places like call centers and this kind of thing. You know, we've seen a lot of people trying to use no-code to bridge some of the gaps with the technology that they have working from home and that kind of thing. 

A really good example, a really simple one. But from a call center, typically a few are working in an operational environment and you want to make sure that callers have been answered in time and that kind of thing. You know, you usually have a bunch of agents. They are taking calls. They all have a cell next to the computer, it brings the next call in call. They can put people in queue or they can take a break if they need to go to the bathroom, etc. The way that you attend to it and monitor productivity in the environment is you have a manager and they look up from their computer monitor and they look around and they see everyone then they see who looks busy and see who doesn't, see who's chatting etc. And the minute you go to remote working from home, that kind of becomes impossible.

You know, you might have status codes coming from the cellphone software, etc. But for the vast majority of industries where people are traditionally managed by other people in a very sort of oversight kind of way. It's kind of maybe different from say how a lawyer or a doctor works, it becomes really difficult to monitor productivity. And so one of the things that we've seen is just people building tools for this kind of use case. We've seen someone build a tool that let people write down what kind of calls they were getting and how long they were spending on them, where they were, where they were sort of taking place to go do this thing or the other thing, these kind of tools. I mean, I think this specific example probably took about a day to build. I think this was using Retool, which is kind of one the more popular internal tool builders. And that was literally just a day's work and probably saw a 5% productivity gain. 

And when you look at the kind of dropoffs people are seeing, especially in the enterprise world, as a result of COVID-19, you know, that kind of thing is massive. And previously, that would have been let's go talk to a software vendor. Or let's bring in some, you know, five hundred thousand pound piece of software to do it. Or it would've been an Excel macro, difficult to use, difficult to have multiple people editing it at the same time. Someone's got to put it all together. You take 400 agents' Excel spreadsheets and figure out who would spend what where.

And, you know, the minute you start talking about that, you quickly see how some of the solutions that are available today, as amazing as they are, they get convoluted, they get expensive, they get really tricky to run. That's a really good example of something that no-code just takes away because, you know, you kind of imagine if you took everybody within your organization who knows how to do Excel macros and you give them the ability to build software. What kind of difference is that going to make for your business, in a month? In a year? 

Chris Byers:
I think you're right. I think just giving people who already have energy and as you know, there are mindsets that already exist out there of people who they can envision the process and how it's supposed to go. They may just not have spent the time to learn how to code. And so you're really just bridging that gap and kind of is this beautiful thing. I'm curious, how have you been able to see no code actually impact some of your company goals at Lloyd's? 

Nile Frater:
Probably the biggest advantage it brings to us is when we look at internal systems and internal software. You know, Lloyds is a company of somewhere around 65,000 people and the hometown that I grew up in, which is a place called Kilmarnock in Scotland, good luck translating that one, that's 44,000 people. So you quickly kind of look at a company that size and say that is huge. That is really gigantic. And the level of sort of internal processes and hierarchies and little groups here and there, they've got a little bit of knowledge but don't know about this other group, that kind of thing. You know, just the sheer size or complexity that emerges in a system as big as that, be it at Lloyds, be it any other organization, it really is just immense. 

And where we're really seeing the benefit is not trying to come in and say, okay, how can we replace this big system with no-code or how can we deliver something to a customer with no-code, but actually just first of all, looking at the individual person on the ground and saying, let's just give this person the skills that they need. Let's make it really easy for them to build something. Let's make sure we've got some guardrails in place that mean that people are not going to build some software that's got some bug in that a coder would have spotted instantly.

You know, let's keep it safe, but let's just empower the person on the ground, because that's kind of what the technology is about. You know, the thing that kind of gets bandied around in the no-code space is no-code is all about democratizing access to building software. And it can be really tempting in an organization to come in at a high level and look down and say, you know, okay, we see these five projects, they try to apply no-code to them and that may save us money or make them feel faster. But actually, I think the really interesting thing is when you do a bottom up, you just give people the tools. You give people the environment, you give them the guardrails. But you say to them, okay, now you've got us power. How can you use it to save us money? How can you use it to help improve our processes, to make things go faster? And we are absolutely at the early stages of that in Lloyds Banking Group. 

Chris Byers:
Earlier, you mentioned some great sets of tools, Bubble, Parabola, Airtable. There's all kinds of varieties of ways, really you can tackle this. I'm curious, are there some use cases that you think if someone's listening right now and you knew they were thinking about a few use cases that come to your mind, what are those that you think about no-code fast because this may be the way you get the problem solved faster?

Nile Frater:
First of all, if you want to create a job board, I mean, there are literally about 100 million tutorials out there. And doing that is kind of the hello to no-code. So if you're creating a job board at any other kind of less than or direct to the site, that's absolutely the way to do it. But I think the scope of no-code is really, really big now. You know, the majority of people are either building a mobile app or a website. And there's a lot of people who would build a marketplace, which is something like Airbnb or Ebay, where you have kind of consumers who want to, you know, rent an apartment or buy a product, and then you have sellers who want to rent that apartment or sell a product. And no-code is becoming really, really good at those kind of things. And I think the marketplace is a good example of a business that's really, really complex, because there are you know, those buyers, those sellers, transactions, et cetera. But now, there are no-code platforms which can let you build this, which make it really, really simple, and just take away all the complexity of the business logic. 

Chris Byers:
As you think about really helping people. You know, as people get into no-code, as they start to use it in their everyday life, what do you think are some of the things where it actually can go maybe off the rails a little bit and you need to help bring it in? And kind of keep some guardrails? Are you seeing places where that's happening? 

Nile Frater:
So I think, you know, the thing about no-code is much as you're dragging and dropping, you are in some ways still coding, you know, you still have to think about the little bugs or the little quirks or behaviors that emerge. When you're programming, one of the things people often say to developers is to make an estimate, and then that estimate may as well be, you know, plus or minus one hundred percent of the time. Developer says it's going to be two weeks, then it might be four. And the reason for that is when you actually really, really start to get into something, you start thinking about all of the edge cases and all of the things that could go wrong or make not good on. 

You know, for example, you know, let's say you're building a login system. You start writing the part that lets you plan your full name or let your user put in a full name. But then you start to think, well, I actually need to think about how long am I going to let that name be? If I let that not be too long, then I'm going to be, you know, crowding out someone who, for example, does not have a typical Western name. Am I going to be missing certain characters from, you know, say Celtic or a language like that. And you start to get into all these little, you know, what ifs. And that's where the real impact the program. And that's why it takes so long and why it's so complicated.

The problem with no-code is it doesn't take that away, but what you are doing is giving these tools to people who haven't necessarily had that experience before because they haven't programed, you don't necessarily know that you're going to bump into these pitfalls. And so, you know, that can be a real danger. And then you get some other things which are sort of well known, for example, security concerns or things like that, again, a lot of coders know but people from the no-code space are just not familiar with yet.

I’ll give you an example. Let's say you forget your password on a website and you go to the forgotten password and sometimes it will say, you know, give an email address and you put your email address in. And then one of two things happens. It pops up like most websites do and says if an email address with that account exists. Then we will send you an email. You can reset your password or we'll see that email address was correct, but the password is wrong or some sort of flavor of that. And the problem with that second option is essentially it can tell a hacker or an attacker that that email address does have an account here. And so if I let's say, for example, you are one of most people who, you know, reuse the same password for everything. And I know your password. I don't know what accounts you've got, I've got your typical email address set up, I can just go start trying it on Facebook and go start trying, you know, all these different places. It's called user intimidation. And it's as one of these little security quirks that most people don't know about, you wouldn't think about. But actually, you know, whether using code or no-code, your system still vulnerable to that kind of attack. 

Chris Byers:
Yeah, it sounds like there are just some new and interesting ways that people have to, you know, just start to think about things in terms of security. So that's a great example. You know, as someone who is listening right now, they might feel a bit overwhelmed, or a bit excited about the opportunities that you've talked about. But really, they're not sure where to start. What do you suggest as a first step to using no-code solutions? 

Nile Frater:
Well, the obvious first step I've got to recommend is my own website. If you go to nocode.tech/learn we've packed in over 500 lessons on using a bunch of different tools, building mobile apps, building web apps, etc. But, you know, more conceptually, I really have to say that the best thing to do is start small, you know, build a small bit of software. Don't necessarily jump in to, you know, your dream project.

For instance,a marketplace for cars where you're going to have to, you know, look up license plates or check for car makes and models or this kind of thing, you know, keep it simple. What's a simple thing you can start with? Why don't you build the website for your idea or, you know, once you've built a website for your idea, why don't you try connecting that to your service? Let's say you've got your website for your car marketplace. You've got to sign up button that connects you to a newsletter and you can email people.

For me, it's really about doing it step by step. And one of the stacks, a stack is essentially a collection of different tools you might use to achieve a kind of a no-code project about something. But one of the most popular ones out there is called the WAMZ stack. That's actually what it's called. It stands for Webflow, Airtable, Memberstack, and Zapier. And Webflow lets you build website. Airtable kind of acts as a database with a kind of Excel like interface. Memberstack allows you to have login and log out features, you know, users essentially on any website. And Zapier lets you connect to tons of different services, and I believe Formstack may well be one of them.

But that's a really, really, really good way actually of going through the different levels, you know, so build your website with Webflow. And then get a Webflow form sending data through to Airtable, then use Memberstack to build a login. Then use Zapier to do whatever, like send data to different places, maybe link it to go straight for payments or PayPal or something like that. But that stack is a really, really good way to build no-code software and one of my go-tos. But actually it's also a really nice incremental way to learn how to do it. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of grabbing really a few great tools, products and helping people kind of think about, you know, if you'll learn this framework, you're going to be way ahead in terms of being able to start coding effectively. And so I love that. Love that idea. As we begin to wrap up, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, what's the number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 

Nile Frater:
So the concept I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I can't profess to being an expert and it's quite difficult, but I've been thinking about high leverage actions. When I'm thinking of doing a task, what is the highest leverage possible where I could do that task? Let's see. I've got a business and I'm over the support team. And currently every day I check all the customer support emails. And if they are, you know, basic inquiries, like, can I get a refund? Then I ping that one onto my customer support team. And if they are, you know, more complex inquiries like do you make this wardrobe in mahogany or walnut or something, then I handle that myself because I'm the business owner and I know it from my head etc.

The high leverage is all about, instead of answering that email, I should use my answer to that email to create a standard operating procedure, you know, a document or a process I write down so that the next time that question comes up, I can just hand it off to the customer support person. And so it might mean that that task takes, you know, an hour instead of five minutes. But that just happens once. And instead of that being a task I do five minutes every day, it's now one task I do once and never again. And so high leverage is all about thinking what is the best way that I can spend my time? How can I approach a task to mean that my business is going to grow or that I can spend my time in other areas, but otherwise just not thinking of this task again. 

Chris Byers:
All right. And what is your kind of go to productivity tip for others? 

Nile Frater:
Well, that's a difficult one. So I probably have tried tons of different productivity tips, tons of different productivity tools. And the one that just keeps coming back to me, you know, everyone talks about kind of idea of a flow state. And you know that you get into the mood, you can get things done. And for me, the best way to achieve that, is every day I make a to do list.

It starts off with really, really simple stuff I have to do every day, like get up, work out, shower, and I'll literally put shower on my to do list as if I'm going to forget that. I'll put lunch on there. You know, all these little basics. I'll put tidy up, put this away, you know these tiny little things that take two seconds. But what it means is I'm quickly accumulating these little tasks and not really getting this feeling of productivity and I might have, you know, five boxes or five items stacked like, you know, take my lunch out of the fridge or shower or work out. But not such stupid things that are really, really small. Like, you know, put my shoes on, but very quickly, you know, I've done the basics that set me up for a good day, like working out, etc. I've got a lot more to do, less the stuff that started to get touched down. And it really, really gives me energy. And kind of a feeling  of forward momentum as I start to look at my day and start tackling, you know, the really important business tasks of the day. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, how will you be reimagining your own work moving forward? 

Nile Frater:
So for me, the thing I've really tried to do is think about number one, for everything that I do, how can it turn into a piece of software or an automation or something that runs in the background? Someone, I can't remember who it was, but someone once said, you know, a data center is kind of like a little army of robots who just do whatever you want them to do. So everything I'm doing every day, I'm trying to think, how can I get a robot to do that tomorrow? How can I get a robot to do that the next day? Or how can I build a little bit of software? A little bit of something that can run in the background that's going to make this easier. And the more and more I do that, it really, really shapes how I start to do things. How I implement features, how I implement, marketing concepts or market strategies and everything I try to do now is automated so that it runs again and again. It can go on in the background. I don't have to worry about it. And I can keep thinking about the new things. The next thing I'm going to do tomorrow. 

Chris Byers:
Well, as we wrap up this episode featuring Nile Frater, there are a couple takeaways that I have heard from this conversation. The first is he provided a great definition for us of low-code versus no-code. And low-code really is about enabling people who probably have a little bit of technical skill really just to speed up getting the work done. And no code is really about enabling people in that more drag and drop way to get some pretty complicated processes built in software and get processes kind of moving quickly.

The other one was this idea that we really need to step back and think about what is the highest leverage we can get in this moment. I love that idea. Leverage is this idea that the boulder is too big for us to move by ourselves. But if we can get the lever, we might actually be able to move it.

And I love that idea and how no-code tools can really help make that happen. And maybe one other one is just this idea to look around your organization at things that you run on Excel or Google Sheets and ask the question, is this something we can get going and some sort of no-code tool or solution?


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Nile Frater: Reimagining Work with No-Code Tools

Nile Frater, Lloyds Bank tech leader and no-code expert, explains what no-code is and how it can empower employees, revamp processes, and improve productivity.
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Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I am Chris Byers of Formstack. This episode, we're focused on an area that many of us are starting to explore. And it's the low-code, no-code space. Nile Frater is on the show today to really teach us a little bit more about the no-code space, how it's evolving, how it's enabling teams across organizations to do really better work. Nile is the Head of Engineering Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group. He's also the managing director at ConcreteCapital and owner of NoCode.tech. Nile, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Nile Frater:
Glad to be here. Thank you very much. 

Chris Byers: Now, I've got a, you know, terrible American accent that, you know, I'm sure I did not pronounce your name right. So tell the world how you're really supposed to say it. 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's pronounced a Nile. There's a lot of debate over that because technically, I'm named after the river in Egypt. So people kind of debate how you pronounce that, but I pronounce it Nile. Most people pronounce it Nile. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, I know we in the U.S. are not not well regarded for our sophistication and our words. So I appreciate that. Well, maybe you could jump in for us and really define for us. Tell us maybe the difference between low-code and no-code for the audience who's listening and really trying to understand the space. Can you describe that? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, totally. So I'll start with low-code, which is probably the easier one. So low-code is still very much coding, very much used by developers, but typically lets you speed up the things that you do a lot but take a lot of time, you know, think how many engineers it would take to build a log in interface or forgotten password feature, low-code is really a bit abstract in a way that these things that you do again and again or let you build things once so that you can free up your developers. No-code, on other hand, for me, is a real paradigm shift. So no-code is traditionally an ecosystem of tools and platforms that allow you to create reusable software without actually writing any code. You're still essentially coding under the hood, but you're doing it completely by a drag-and-drop, visual interface. You're connecting things together, you're using different tools to connect services. 

Where I think no-code is really, really interesting is given the name, you know, no-code, people use that to refer to building an app or a website. But really, what no-code is doing for me, it's taking something that used to be done by professionals, software engineers in this case, and it's making it easy and accessible. Actually that a lot of tools which make, say for example podcasting easier, you know, they make it easier to record, to edit to Macs. They make things better and way easier. They make graphic design easier. I can settle all these things to fall under the umbrella of no-code. For me, no-code has taken complicated software related tasks on the computer and making that essentially accessible to the 99 percent. 

Chris Byers:
So tell us a little bit about how you got really you found the no-code, low-code space and how you got interested in it. 

Nile Frater:
Actually, I'm originally a coder. I've been coding probably since I was 8 or 9 years old, something like that. And I first got my start because I was really interested in hacking and making a claim to fame, for example, was hacking all the computers in Moscow and almost getting expelled. But as I kind of grew up a little bit and started to learn more about actual software and less about hacking tools, I really began to get an interest in product and market and this kind of thing. And I quickly found that for me, coding was becoming a bit of a chore. You know, I was really, really interested in the end product of the app that I may code, but I really hated the process. I hated sitting their two nights in a row, wondering why my software wouldn't work, and then finally find that I'm missing code and I'm missing a quotation or something like that. And any programmers or anyone who has tried that before, you were really familiar with that experience.

So around the time, you know, 2014, something like that, I discovered tools like Webflow, discovered tools like tree lighting, etc. and I found that these tools would essentially let me either, you know, write code faster or do the bits I wasn't good at. Just because you can code doesn't necessarily mean you are good at design interfaces or making that kind of thing work. And what no-code tools are really good at is not only simply take a recording, but also they tend to help you do things like design, like make a backend work quickly or, you know, even taking away having to worry about infrastructure in the first place. And so what I quickly found is I really care about building products and no-code essentially abstracted away everything that stood between me and the product to get into customers hands. 

Chris Byers:
Well tell us what's going on in this space. What are you seeing happen?

Nile Frater: So the size of the space, kind of over the last couple of years. I mean, the growth has just been incredible. I've been in what I would call the no-code space since probably around 2014. I think my first real taste of it was when Webflow launched and I started playing with that back in the early days. And, you know, most people would kind of say the no-code concept has been around for a very, very long time. And you maybe remember a tool called Adobe Dreamweaver, kind of allowed you to build websites with a bit of a drag and drop interface, with some code involved. But really since kind of 2017, 2018 onwards, the space has grown and more tools have started to come in and the real kind of concept of no-code started to evolve.

You know, back in 2014, 2015, you really needed to know how to code if you wanted to stitch together the three or four tools that existed, whereas today you pretty much have new companies come out every single day. I mean, if you look at producthunt.com and scroll down, there was a no-code company that launched yesterday that had the top spot. There is literally no-code companies launching every single day with new capabilities and new integrations with tools and new use cases you couldn't use before. And you know, a lot of people sort of refer to no-code as having a real kind of 80-20 problem, where you can accomplish 80% of what you want without code. But to really get that last 20 percent, at some point, you've got to get a developer. And in some ways I agree with that. But what I find is literally every week, every month, new tools are coming out. And that 80-20 is becoming 90-10, you know, 95-5 and so on, so forth. 

Chris Byers:
You actually mentioned a little bit of this, which is this idea that the tools that are out there now are getting people closer and closer to really producing what they're looking for. So what do you think the future is? What do you think the next few years are going to look like? 

Nile Frater:
So I think part of it is really just building on what we've got today. I mean, so many things have come out, you know, in the last year, like Andola or Parabola. And for people who don't know, Andola makes mobile apps, Parabola, essentially can let you drag and drop data signs or otherwise do things you would usually do in Excel. So that's probably a bit unfair but we'll stick with that. You know, these kind of tools are just coming out, people are just starting discussions on what's actually possible with them. And I think importantly kind of where the space is starting to go is as more and more of these tools come out, they're starting to integrate with each other, you know, Bubble,  for example, which is probably the best known app builder out there. They just integrated with Airtable, which is kind of the best known sort of database, a spreadsheet, that kind of thing. But as more and more of these integrations come out, the things that you're able to do, the functionally to create, the services you're able to connect, every single time one of those connections becomes possible. 

There's literally exponential growth in terms of what you can build with no-code and what you can kind of achieve. So, you know, I think that's a really, really exciting just growth that we're just waiting to see there. And I think on top of that as well, people's work will evolve in terms of their understanding. You know, when you learn to code you, as I sort of touched on earlier, you learn concepts like how to connect APIs, how logic works, how to do an if statement where if one thing happens you do something else, all these kind of fundamental blocks that let you build software and a lot of people who are committed to no-code don't necessarily understand that yet. They're just dragging and dropping their own affairs, figuring out how something works but actually over time as they start to play with these tools and you start to learn more about coding concepts and apply them visually, the things that these people are going to be able to achieve, the things that are going to be able to turn into templates, tutorials, and guides, and share with other people. That's going to be immense. And I think you're going to start to see the same increase you've seen over the last 10 years in terms of what tech could do in 2010 vs. 2020. You're going to see that in the no-code space as well, and more and more is going to become possible. 

Chris Byers:
Well, I'm curious as I think about our own product. One of the things I will tell people is, you know, it can be used by absolutely anybody in any company, anywhere. But there is a huge problem. And that really is it coming to mind when you have a problem. So if you have a problem and we happen to intersect you at the right time, that's gonna work out great. But I'm curious what you're learning as you're trying to introduce no code into kind of an organization, because I feel like that's got to be one of the most challenging places to get people to stop and say, oh, I'm not going to do the normal things I do when I want to solve a problem, like call IT or do it in Excel. I'm going to try to advance this a little bit. How are you learning what's working there? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. And I think the biggest problem in both, you know, internally and within the enterprise, but also on the no-code side itself, the biggest problem is it's almost too good to be true. You know, people have kind of spent the last 10 years watching stuff with the social networks you know. Kind of starting to come to some sort of majority with Silicon Valley and the way people work there and the things people do. And so when you kind of turn to say, well, actually you can build all this complicated software yourself, and it's not just the, you know, 14 year old wiz kids at Harvard. People tend to need a lot of convincing to understand that. And, you know, the way we've been approaching it, certainly in Lloyd's is, you know, starting off small, showing people no code, showing people what it can actually do, and then sort of that it's less about the software and more about the mentality. 

So there's this kind of concept of systems thinking, and systems thinking to me, and there's probably a systems thinker who's going to listen to this and think I'm really vilifying them here. But, you know, systems thinking to me is essentially taking the way a programmer thinks, that real logic, object-system based approach and applying that to business problems. Systems thinking essentially is the concept of, you know, looking at process as a whole, you know, looking at your job or your department or the work that you do and thinking about it from step one all the way through it to step 10, whatever it may be. Thinking, you know, how does work come into the system? How does it flow through? 

How is it outputted and then based off the back of that, trying to make some adjustments to your process and that kind of thing. And I think the best thing you can do in terms of adopting no-code or adopting a tool like Formstack is to first teach people to think like this, to think in terms of process and how you fix up process or how you improve that process. And then for me, Formstack, no-code, this kind of thing, that's just giving them the tools to do what they can already imagine. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of teaching people how to think about process. I know for me, you know, my general nature is you know I see a problem. I just kind of dive into the mess and I don't really know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to solve it. And then I start to tinker around with processes. And then eventually I can kind of pull back out, zoom back out and say, all right, I think I can see how can a process come together? How do you teach that? How do you get people really thinking that way? 

Nile Frater:
I think it's definitely a tricky problem and it's one that I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out. For me, it's very much about speaking to someone about the kind of work they do, have them describe what they're up to, who they speak to on a daily basis, and just sort of mapping that out. And then the thing I start to do is really just challenge the assumptions and sort of peel away things. OK. So why do use that? Why do you have to speak to, you know, Barbara in account? Why does it take as long as this? And it's really about pulling someone out of the work that they do every day to almost sort of, you know, eagle eye from above. 

Okay, let's look at it together. Let's figure out why you do every sort of step. And I think when you'd improving a process or when you are trying to do systems thinking about software, the most important thing you can do is cut out things you don't need. You know, there's no point in going in looking at a process that someone doesn't say, okay, we're going to replace that with software, we're going to give you a software tool to do it. If you don't first look and say, well, do you have to be doing this, actually can we cut 50% out or can we make it easier. 

And I think it's just really about making it feel relevant to someone. You don't want to kind of come in and talk about systems thinking, that's just the concept. You want to just look at what's the work that you do today? How can you do it? If we actually look at and examine it, what other bits can you peck out or what are the parts that, you know, you don't have to do that you could pass off to someone else. And I think it's really just, you know, there's a real growth there that if you start small with a little bit of work you build up from there. And hopefully people start to take an understanding what you're doing, understand the techniques and get it from there and, you know, eventually apply it themselves. 

Chris Byers:
One of the things you are talking about is this idea of reimagining work. Because as you give people tools and really the mindset to redo processes, even observe that there are broken processes or slow processes, you're really helping them advance the way that they do their work, saving time, which is ultimately saving money. How do you think this is going to impact workers around the world going forward? 

Nile Frater:
There's this concept called Crossing the Chasm. It was a book by Geoffrey Moore. And the idea is that when a new piece of technology comes out, there are early adopters and then over time, you know, the more conservative people pick it up and adopt that. And I think if you zoom out and look at that from the business world, then that is a pretty obvious thing to say but start ups, small companies, individual entrepreneurs. These people pick up technology fast and then over time it is adopted by enterprise. You know the interesting thing for me and I tend to think about it as if you go back, you know, say a century ago or maybe to the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds, even as recently as sort of the 50s or 70s, if you wanted to create a big business, if you wanted to make one of these tech companies something the size of Google or Facebook, then you needed to own a factory. And that was going to cost you millions or whatever it may have adjusted to back in the day.

But then if you go back to just the year 2000, actually all you need is a laptop. You know, your laptop becomes your factory. And if you go back to, you know, even as recent as 2015, you know, OK. You had your laptop. But you needed to spend, you know, months and months learning to code, needed to spend a lot of money on servers and all that infrastructure that would let you run a business. And actually if you zoom forward to now literally all you need is a laptop. You can take anyone in this day and age who is familiar with something like Microsoft Office, you know, anyone who's got the skills to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and have them use a no-code tool to get to the point where actually they can create software. And so that's really, really powerful for small businesses. Right. Your average Joe can now come online, come to a website, like nocode.tech or YouTube or something like that. Watch a few tutorials, learn how to use these tools. And within a few days, they can have their own business up and running. 

And I think as the enterprise starts to adopt that, then quickly, you're going to go away from this concept of the business and IT, where you have one group of people who are completely nontechnical, have nothing to do the tech. They simply make requests and they get something back. And you have this other group of people in IT who, you know, are the guardian angels of technology, who hold the keys and all the software, who know everything there is to know. And actually, you know, both of those premises are wrong. There are people in IT who know nothing about business or people in the business who know nothing about IT and can you know, the two shall never meet.

No-code is all about bridging that gap and no-code is essentially allowing more and more people in the business to prototype things, to better communicate their ideas, to eventually start to, for example, replace some of the processes I might use in areas like finance and accounting and HR. And on the IT side there are projects which a no-code tool could complete in a day, which IT are currently spending, you know, hundreds of thousands on. And that's where I think the really big impact is going to be over the next two, three years as people start to really get over that small software bump. I'm not saying no-code is ready to take on the big time yet. You know, you're not going to build the next Google with no-code necessarily. Not the next Facebook, but you might start it there. And I think when you look within the enterprise, that are a lot of little projects, a lot of things here and there. There are so many people in there with so many ideas, so many ideas that just don't ever see the light of day because enterprise is too big. 

Chris Byers:
So, you know, I will tend to tell people, if you can learn some of just the advanced formulas in Excel, you can get a lot accomplished that, you know. Otherwise you're going to think I've got to go use a developer or an engineer to get this done. And yet it's actually built for the non-technical user. You need to learn a little bit of what's the nomenclature, what are the words. But if you can do that, you can solve some pretty interesting problems and pretty fast, you can speed up efforts. I'm curious how you're seeing no-code really do this exact same thing for people and maybe some examples of where you've seen no code be successful. 

Nile Frater:
I think the Excel analogy is spot on. You know, we've seen a lot of people adopt no-code who traditionally, you know, mocked up items in macros or Excel or that kind of thing. And one of the interesting places where I've seen it used in that manor, as you know, often in enterpirse, a lot of people who've been responding to COVID-19 and, you know, that kind of thing as it's happened across the world, really, and disrupted operations and disrupted places like call centers and this kind of thing. You know, we've seen a lot of people trying to use no-code to bridge some of the gaps with the technology that they have working from home and that kind of thing. 

A really good example, a really simple one. But from a call center, typically a few are working in an operational environment and you want to make sure that callers have been answered in time and that kind of thing. You know, you usually have a bunch of agents. They are taking calls. They all have a cell next to the computer, it brings the next call in call. They can put people in queue or they can take a break if they need to go to the bathroom, etc. The way that you attend to it and monitor productivity in the environment is you have a manager and they look up from their computer monitor and they look around and they see everyone then they see who looks busy and see who doesn't, see who's chatting etc. And the minute you go to remote working from home, that kind of becomes impossible.

You know, you might have status codes coming from the cellphone software, etc. But for the vast majority of industries where people are traditionally managed by other people in a very sort of oversight kind of way. It's kind of maybe different from say how a lawyer or a doctor works, it becomes really difficult to monitor productivity. And so one of the things that we've seen is just people building tools for this kind of use case. We've seen someone build a tool that let people write down what kind of calls they were getting and how long they were spending on them, where they were, where they were sort of taking place to go do this thing or the other thing, these kind of tools. I mean, I think this specific example probably took about a day to build. I think this was using Retool, which is kind of one the more popular internal tool builders. And that was literally just a day's work and probably saw a 5% productivity gain. 

And when you look at the kind of dropoffs people are seeing, especially in the enterprise world, as a result of COVID-19, you know, that kind of thing is massive. And previously, that would have been let's go talk to a software vendor. Or let's bring in some, you know, five hundred thousand pound piece of software to do it. Or it would've been an Excel macro, difficult to use, difficult to have multiple people editing it at the same time. Someone's got to put it all together. You take 400 agents' Excel spreadsheets and figure out who would spend what where.

And, you know, the minute you start talking about that, you quickly see how some of the solutions that are available today, as amazing as they are, they get convoluted, they get expensive, they get really tricky to run. That's a really good example of something that no-code just takes away because, you know, you kind of imagine if you took everybody within your organization who knows how to do Excel macros and you give them the ability to build software. What kind of difference is that going to make for your business, in a month? In a year? 

Chris Byers:
I think you're right. I think just giving people who already have energy and as you know, there are mindsets that already exist out there of people who they can envision the process and how it's supposed to go. They may just not have spent the time to learn how to code. And so you're really just bridging that gap and kind of is this beautiful thing. I'm curious, how have you been able to see no code actually impact some of your company goals at Lloyd's? 

Nile Frater:
Probably the biggest advantage it brings to us is when we look at internal systems and internal software. You know, Lloyds is a company of somewhere around 65,000 people and the hometown that I grew up in, which is a place called Kilmarnock in Scotland, good luck translating that one, that's 44,000 people. So you quickly kind of look at a company that size and say that is huge. That is really gigantic. And the level of sort of internal processes and hierarchies and little groups here and there, they've got a little bit of knowledge but don't know about this other group, that kind of thing. You know, just the sheer size or complexity that emerges in a system as big as that, be it at Lloyds, be it any other organization, it really is just immense. 

And where we're really seeing the benefit is not trying to come in and say, okay, how can we replace this big system with no-code or how can we deliver something to a customer with no-code, but actually just first of all, looking at the individual person on the ground and saying, let's just give this person the skills that they need. Let's make it really easy for them to build something. Let's make sure we've got some guardrails in place that mean that people are not going to build some software that's got some bug in that a coder would have spotted instantly.

You know, let's keep it safe, but let's just empower the person on the ground, because that's kind of what the technology is about. You know, the thing that kind of gets bandied around in the no-code space is no-code is all about democratizing access to building software. And it can be really tempting in an organization to come in at a high level and look down and say, you know, okay, we see these five projects, they try to apply no-code to them and that may save us money or make them feel faster. But actually, I think the really interesting thing is when you do a bottom up, you just give people the tools. You give people the environment, you give them the guardrails. But you say to them, okay, now you've got us power. How can you use it to save us money? How can you use it to help improve our processes, to make things go faster? And we are absolutely at the early stages of that in Lloyds Banking Group. 

Chris Byers:
Earlier, you mentioned some great sets of tools, Bubble, Parabola, Airtable. There's all kinds of varieties of ways, really you can tackle this. I'm curious, are there some use cases that you think if someone's listening right now and you knew they were thinking about a few use cases that come to your mind, what are those that you think about no-code fast because this may be the way you get the problem solved faster?

Nile Frater:
First of all, if you want to create a job board, I mean, there are literally about 100 million tutorials out there. And doing that is kind of the hello to no-code. So if you're creating a job board at any other kind of less than or direct to the site, that's absolutely the way to do it. But I think the scope of no-code is really, really big now. You know, the majority of people are either building a mobile app or a website. And there's a lot of people who would build a marketplace, which is something like Airbnb or Ebay, where you have kind of consumers who want to, you know, rent an apartment or buy a product, and then you have sellers who want to rent that apartment or sell a product. And no-code is becoming really, really good at those kind of things. And I think the marketplace is a good example of a business that's really, really complex, because there are you know, those buyers, those sellers, transactions, et cetera. But now, there are no-code platforms which can let you build this, which make it really, really simple, and just take away all the complexity of the business logic. 

Chris Byers:
As you think about really helping people. You know, as people get into no-code, as they start to use it in their everyday life, what do you think are some of the things where it actually can go maybe off the rails a little bit and you need to help bring it in? And kind of keep some guardrails? Are you seeing places where that's happening? 

Nile Frater:
So I think, you know, the thing about no-code is much as you're dragging and dropping, you are in some ways still coding, you know, you still have to think about the little bugs or the little quirks or behaviors that emerge. When you're programming, one of the things people often say to developers is to make an estimate, and then that estimate may as well be, you know, plus or minus one hundred percent of the time. Developer says it's going to be two weeks, then it might be four. And the reason for that is when you actually really, really start to get into something, you start thinking about all of the edge cases and all of the things that could go wrong or make not good on. 

You know, for example, you know, let's say you're building a login system. You start writing the part that lets you plan your full name or let your user put in a full name. But then you start to think, well, I actually need to think about how long am I going to let that name be? If I let that not be too long, then I'm going to be, you know, crowding out someone who, for example, does not have a typical Western name. Am I going to be missing certain characters from, you know, say Celtic or a language like that. And you start to get into all these little, you know, what ifs. And that's where the real impact the program. And that's why it takes so long and why it's so complicated.

The problem with no-code is it doesn't take that away, but what you are doing is giving these tools to people who haven't necessarily had that experience before because they haven't programed, you don't necessarily know that you're going to bump into these pitfalls. And so, you know, that can be a real danger. And then you get some other things which are sort of well known, for example, security concerns or things like that, again, a lot of coders know but people from the no-code space are just not familiar with yet.

I’ll give you an example. Let's say you forget your password on a website and you go to the forgotten password and sometimes it will say, you know, give an email address and you put your email address in. And then one of two things happens. It pops up like most websites do and says if an email address with that account exists. Then we will send you an email. You can reset your password or we'll see that email address was correct, but the password is wrong or some sort of flavor of that. And the problem with that second option is essentially it can tell a hacker or an attacker that that email address does have an account here. And so if I let's say, for example, you are one of most people who, you know, reuse the same password for everything. And I know your password. I don't know what accounts you've got, I've got your typical email address set up, I can just go start trying it on Facebook and go start trying, you know, all these different places. It's called user intimidation. And it's as one of these little security quirks that most people don't know about, you wouldn't think about. But actually, you know, whether using code or no-code, your system still vulnerable to that kind of attack. 

Chris Byers:
Yeah, it sounds like there are just some new and interesting ways that people have to, you know, just start to think about things in terms of security. So that's a great example. You know, as someone who is listening right now, they might feel a bit overwhelmed, or a bit excited about the opportunities that you've talked about. But really, they're not sure where to start. What do you suggest as a first step to using no-code solutions? 

Nile Frater:
Well, the obvious first step I've got to recommend is my own website. If you go to nocode.tech/learn we've packed in over 500 lessons on using a bunch of different tools, building mobile apps, building web apps, etc. But, you know, more conceptually, I really have to say that the best thing to do is start small, you know, build a small bit of software. Don't necessarily jump in to, you know, your dream project.

For instance,a marketplace for cars where you're going to have to, you know, look up license plates or check for car makes and models or this kind of thing, you know, keep it simple. What's a simple thing you can start with? Why don't you build the website for your idea or, you know, once you've built a website for your idea, why don't you try connecting that to your service? Let's say you've got your website for your car marketplace. You've got to sign up button that connects you to a newsletter and you can email people.

For me, it's really about doing it step by step. And one of the stacks, a stack is essentially a collection of different tools you might use to achieve a kind of a no-code project about something. But one of the most popular ones out there is called the WAMZ stack. That's actually what it's called. It stands for Webflow, Airtable, Memberstack, and Zapier. And Webflow lets you build website. Airtable kind of acts as a database with a kind of Excel like interface. Memberstack allows you to have login and log out features, you know, users essentially on any website. And Zapier lets you connect to tons of different services, and I believe Formstack may well be one of them.

But that's a really, really, really good way actually of going through the different levels, you know, so build your website with Webflow. And then get a Webflow form sending data through to Airtable, then use Memberstack to build a login. Then use Zapier to do whatever, like send data to different places, maybe link it to go straight for payments or PayPal or something like that. But that stack is a really, really good way to build no-code software and one of my go-tos. But actually it's also a really nice incremental way to learn how to do it. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of grabbing really a few great tools, products and helping people kind of think about, you know, if you'll learn this framework, you're going to be way ahead in terms of being able to start coding effectively. And so I love that. Love that idea. As we begin to wrap up, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, what's the number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 

Nile Frater:
So the concept I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I can't profess to being an expert and it's quite difficult, but I've been thinking about high leverage actions. When I'm thinking of doing a task, what is the highest leverage possible where I could do that task? Let's see. I've got a business and I'm over the support team. And currently every day I check all the customer support emails. And if they are, you know, basic inquiries, like, can I get a refund? Then I ping that one onto my customer support team. And if they are, you know, more complex inquiries like do you make this wardrobe in mahogany or walnut or something, then I handle that myself because I'm the business owner and I know it from my head etc.

The high leverage is all about, instead of answering that email, I should use my answer to that email to create a standard operating procedure, you know, a document or a process I write down so that the next time that question comes up, I can just hand it off to the customer support person. And so it might mean that that task takes, you know, an hour instead of five minutes. But that just happens once. And instead of that being a task I do five minutes every day, it's now one task I do once and never again. And so high leverage is all about thinking what is the best way that I can spend my time? How can I approach a task to mean that my business is going to grow or that I can spend my time in other areas, but otherwise just not thinking of this task again. 

Chris Byers:
All right. And what is your kind of go to productivity tip for others? 

Nile Frater:
Well, that's a difficult one. So I probably have tried tons of different productivity tips, tons of different productivity tools. And the one that just keeps coming back to me, you know, everyone talks about kind of idea of a flow state. And you know that you get into the mood, you can get things done. And for me, the best way to achieve that, is every day I make a to do list.

It starts off with really, really simple stuff I have to do every day, like get up, work out, shower, and I'll literally put shower on my to do list as if I'm going to forget that. I'll put lunch on there. You know, all these little basics. I'll put tidy up, put this away, you know these tiny little things that take two seconds. But what it means is I'm quickly accumulating these little tasks and not really getting this feeling of productivity and I might have, you know, five boxes or five items stacked like, you know, take my lunch out of the fridge or shower or work out. But not such stupid things that are really, really small. Like, you know, put my shoes on, but very quickly, you know, I've done the basics that set me up for a good day, like working out, etc. I've got a lot more to do, less the stuff that started to get touched down. And it really, really gives me energy. And kind of a feeling  of forward momentum as I start to look at my day and start tackling, you know, the really important business tasks of the day. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, how will you be reimagining your own work moving forward? 

Nile Frater:
So for me, the thing I've really tried to do is think about number one, for everything that I do, how can it turn into a piece of software or an automation or something that runs in the background? Someone, I can't remember who it was, but someone once said, you know, a data center is kind of like a little army of robots who just do whatever you want them to do. So everything I'm doing every day, I'm trying to think, how can I get a robot to do that tomorrow? How can I get a robot to do that the next day? Or how can I build a little bit of software? A little bit of something that can run in the background that's going to make this easier. And the more and more I do that, it really, really shapes how I start to do things. How I implement features, how I implement, marketing concepts or market strategies and everything I try to do now is automated so that it runs again and again. It can go on in the background. I don't have to worry about it. And I can keep thinking about the new things. The next thing I'm going to do tomorrow. 

Chris Byers:
Well, as we wrap up this episode featuring Nile Frater, there are a couple takeaways that I have heard from this conversation. The first is he provided a great definition for us of low-code versus no-code. And low-code really is about enabling people who probably have a little bit of technical skill really just to speed up getting the work done. And no code is really about enabling people in that more drag and drop way to get some pretty complicated processes built in software and get processes kind of moving quickly.

The other one was this idea that we really need to step back and think about what is the highest leverage we can get in this moment. I love that idea. Leverage is this idea that the boulder is too big for us to move by ourselves. But if we can get the lever, we might actually be able to move it.

And I love that idea and how no-code tools can really help make that happen. And maybe one other one is just this idea to look around your organization at things that you run on Excel or Google Sheets and ask the question, is this something we can get going and some sort of no-code tool or solution?


Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I am Chris Byers of Formstack. This episode, we're focused on an area that many of us are starting to explore. And it's the low-code, no-code space. Nile Frater is on the show today to really teach us a little bit more about the no-code space, how it's evolving, how it's enabling teams across organizations to do really better work. Nile is the Head of Engineering Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group. He's also the managing director at ConcreteCapital and owner of NoCode.tech. Nile, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Nile Frater:
Glad to be here. Thank you very much. 

Chris Byers: Now, I've got a, you know, terrible American accent that, you know, I'm sure I did not pronounce your name right. So tell the world how you're really supposed to say it. 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's pronounced a Nile. There's a lot of debate over that because technically, I'm named after the river in Egypt. So people kind of debate how you pronounce that, but I pronounce it Nile. Most people pronounce it Nile. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, I know we in the U.S. are not not well regarded for our sophistication and our words. So I appreciate that. Well, maybe you could jump in for us and really define for us. Tell us maybe the difference between low-code and no-code for the audience who's listening and really trying to understand the space. Can you describe that? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, totally. So I'll start with low-code, which is probably the easier one. So low-code is still very much coding, very much used by developers, but typically lets you speed up the things that you do a lot but take a lot of time, you know, think how many engineers it would take to build a log in interface or forgotten password feature, low-code is really a bit abstract in a way that these things that you do again and again or let you build things once so that you can free up your developers. No-code, on other hand, for me, is a real paradigm shift. So no-code is traditionally an ecosystem of tools and platforms that allow you to create reusable software without actually writing any code. You're still essentially coding under the hood, but you're doing it completely by a drag-and-drop, visual interface. You're connecting things together, you're using different tools to connect services. 

Where I think no-code is really, really interesting is given the name, you know, no-code, people use that to refer to building an app or a website. But really, what no-code is doing for me, it's taking something that used to be done by professionals, software engineers in this case, and it's making it easy and accessible. Actually that a lot of tools which make, say for example podcasting easier, you know, they make it easier to record, to edit to Macs. They make things better and way easier. They make graphic design easier. I can settle all these things to fall under the umbrella of no-code. For me, no-code has taken complicated software related tasks on the computer and making that essentially accessible to the 99 percent. 

Chris Byers:
So tell us a little bit about how you got really you found the no-code, low-code space and how you got interested in it. 

Nile Frater:
Actually, I'm originally a coder. I've been coding probably since I was 8 or 9 years old, something like that. And I first got my start because I was really interested in hacking and making a claim to fame, for example, was hacking all the computers in Moscow and almost getting expelled. But as I kind of grew up a little bit and started to learn more about actual software and less about hacking tools, I really began to get an interest in product and market and this kind of thing. And I quickly found that for me, coding was becoming a bit of a chore. You know, I was really, really interested in the end product of the app that I may code, but I really hated the process. I hated sitting their two nights in a row, wondering why my software wouldn't work, and then finally find that I'm missing code and I'm missing a quotation or something like that. And any programmers or anyone who has tried that before, you were really familiar with that experience.

So around the time, you know, 2014, something like that, I discovered tools like Webflow, discovered tools like tree lighting, etc. and I found that these tools would essentially let me either, you know, write code faster or do the bits I wasn't good at. Just because you can code doesn't necessarily mean you are good at design interfaces or making that kind of thing work. And what no-code tools are really good at is not only simply take a recording, but also they tend to help you do things like design, like make a backend work quickly or, you know, even taking away having to worry about infrastructure in the first place. And so what I quickly found is I really care about building products and no-code essentially abstracted away everything that stood between me and the product to get into customers hands. 

Chris Byers:
Well tell us what's going on in this space. What are you seeing happen?

Nile Frater: So the size of the space, kind of over the last couple of years. I mean, the growth has just been incredible. I've been in what I would call the no-code space since probably around 2014. I think my first real taste of it was when Webflow launched and I started playing with that back in the early days. And, you know, most people would kind of say the no-code concept has been around for a very, very long time. And you maybe remember a tool called Adobe Dreamweaver, kind of allowed you to build websites with a bit of a drag and drop interface, with some code involved. But really since kind of 2017, 2018 onwards, the space has grown and more tools have started to come in and the real kind of concept of no-code started to evolve.

You know, back in 2014, 2015, you really needed to know how to code if you wanted to stitch together the three or four tools that existed, whereas today you pretty much have new companies come out every single day. I mean, if you look at producthunt.com and scroll down, there was a no-code company that launched yesterday that had the top spot. There is literally no-code companies launching every single day with new capabilities and new integrations with tools and new use cases you couldn't use before. And you know, a lot of people sort of refer to no-code as having a real kind of 80-20 problem, where you can accomplish 80% of what you want without code. But to really get that last 20 percent, at some point, you've got to get a developer. And in some ways I agree with that. But what I find is literally every week, every month, new tools are coming out. And that 80-20 is becoming 90-10, you know, 95-5 and so on, so forth. 

Chris Byers:
You actually mentioned a little bit of this, which is this idea that the tools that are out there now are getting people closer and closer to really producing what they're looking for. So what do you think the future is? What do you think the next few years are going to look like? 

Nile Frater:
So I think part of it is really just building on what we've got today. I mean, so many things have come out, you know, in the last year, like Andola or Parabola. And for people who don't know, Andola makes mobile apps, Parabola, essentially can let you drag and drop data signs or otherwise do things you would usually do in Excel. So that's probably a bit unfair but we'll stick with that. You know, these kind of tools are just coming out, people are just starting discussions on what's actually possible with them. And I think importantly kind of where the space is starting to go is as more and more of these tools come out, they're starting to integrate with each other, you know, Bubble,  for example, which is probably the best known app builder out there. They just integrated with Airtable, which is kind of the best known sort of database, a spreadsheet, that kind of thing. But as more and more of these integrations come out, the things that you're able to do, the functionally to create, the services you're able to connect, every single time one of those connections becomes possible. 

There's literally exponential growth in terms of what you can build with no-code and what you can kind of achieve. So, you know, I think that's a really, really exciting just growth that we're just waiting to see there. And I think on top of that as well, people's work will evolve in terms of their understanding. You know, when you learn to code you, as I sort of touched on earlier, you learn concepts like how to connect APIs, how logic works, how to do an if statement where if one thing happens you do something else, all these kind of fundamental blocks that let you build software and a lot of people who are committed to no-code don't necessarily understand that yet. They're just dragging and dropping their own affairs, figuring out how something works but actually over time as they start to play with these tools and you start to learn more about coding concepts and apply them visually, the things that these people are going to be able to achieve, the things that are going to be able to turn into templates, tutorials, and guides, and share with other people. That's going to be immense. And I think you're going to start to see the same increase you've seen over the last 10 years in terms of what tech could do in 2010 vs. 2020. You're going to see that in the no-code space as well, and more and more is going to become possible. 

Chris Byers:
Well, I'm curious as I think about our own product. One of the things I will tell people is, you know, it can be used by absolutely anybody in any company, anywhere. But there is a huge problem. And that really is it coming to mind when you have a problem. So if you have a problem and we happen to intersect you at the right time, that's gonna work out great. But I'm curious what you're learning as you're trying to introduce no code into kind of an organization, because I feel like that's got to be one of the most challenging places to get people to stop and say, oh, I'm not going to do the normal things I do when I want to solve a problem, like call IT or do it in Excel. I'm going to try to advance this a little bit. How are you learning what's working there? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. And I think the biggest problem in both, you know, internally and within the enterprise, but also on the no-code side itself, the biggest problem is it's almost too good to be true. You know, people have kind of spent the last 10 years watching stuff with the social networks you know. Kind of starting to come to some sort of majority with Silicon Valley and the way people work there and the things people do. And so when you kind of turn to say, well, actually you can build all this complicated software yourself, and it's not just the, you know, 14 year old wiz kids at Harvard. People tend to need a lot of convincing to understand that. And, you know, the way we've been approaching it, certainly in Lloyd's is, you know, starting off small, showing people no code, showing people what it can actually do, and then sort of that it's less about the software and more about the mentality. 

So there's this kind of concept of systems thinking, and systems thinking to me, and there's probably a systems thinker who's going to listen to this and think I'm really vilifying them here. But, you know, systems thinking to me is essentially taking the way a programmer thinks, that real logic, object-system based approach and applying that to business problems. Systems thinking essentially is the concept of, you know, looking at process as a whole, you know, looking at your job or your department or the work that you do and thinking about it from step one all the way through it to step 10, whatever it may be. Thinking, you know, how does work come into the system? How does it flow through? 

How is it outputted and then based off the back of that, trying to make some adjustments to your process and that kind of thing. And I think the best thing you can do in terms of adopting no-code or adopting a tool like Formstack is to first teach people to think like this, to think in terms of process and how you fix up process or how you improve that process. And then for me, Formstack, no-code, this kind of thing, that's just giving them the tools to do what they can already imagine. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of teaching people how to think about process. I know for me, you know, my general nature is you know I see a problem. I just kind of dive into the mess and I don't really know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to solve it. And then I start to tinker around with processes. And then eventually I can kind of pull back out, zoom back out and say, all right, I think I can see how can a process come together? How do you teach that? How do you get people really thinking that way? 

Nile Frater:
I think it's definitely a tricky problem and it's one that I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out. For me, it's very much about speaking to someone about the kind of work they do, have them describe what they're up to, who they speak to on a daily basis, and just sort of mapping that out. And then the thing I start to do is really just challenge the assumptions and sort of peel away things. OK. So why do use that? Why do you have to speak to, you know, Barbara in account? Why does it take as long as this? And it's really about pulling someone out of the work that they do every day to almost sort of, you know, eagle eye from above. 

Okay, let's look at it together. Let's figure out why you do every sort of step. And I think when you'd improving a process or when you are trying to do systems thinking about software, the most important thing you can do is cut out things you don't need. You know, there's no point in going in looking at a process that someone doesn't say, okay, we're going to replace that with software, we're going to give you a software tool to do it. If you don't first look and say, well, do you have to be doing this, actually can we cut 50% out or can we make it easier. 

And I think it's just really about making it feel relevant to someone. You don't want to kind of come in and talk about systems thinking, that's just the concept. You want to just look at what's the work that you do today? How can you do it? If we actually look at and examine it, what other bits can you peck out or what are the parts that, you know, you don't have to do that you could pass off to someone else. And I think it's really just, you know, there's a real growth there that if you start small with a little bit of work you build up from there. And hopefully people start to take an understanding what you're doing, understand the techniques and get it from there and, you know, eventually apply it themselves. 

Chris Byers:
One of the things you are talking about is this idea of reimagining work. Because as you give people tools and really the mindset to redo processes, even observe that there are broken processes or slow processes, you're really helping them advance the way that they do their work, saving time, which is ultimately saving money. How do you think this is going to impact workers around the world going forward? 

Nile Frater:
There's this concept called Crossing the Chasm. It was a book by Geoffrey Moore. And the idea is that when a new piece of technology comes out, there are early adopters and then over time, you know, the more conservative people pick it up and adopt that. And I think if you zoom out and look at that from the business world, then that is a pretty obvious thing to say but start ups, small companies, individual entrepreneurs. These people pick up technology fast and then over time it is adopted by enterprise. You know the interesting thing for me and I tend to think about it as if you go back, you know, say a century ago or maybe to the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds, even as recently as sort of the 50s or 70s, if you wanted to create a big business, if you wanted to make one of these tech companies something the size of Google or Facebook, then you needed to own a factory. And that was going to cost you millions or whatever it may have adjusted to back in the day.

But then if you go back to just the year 2000, actually all you need is a laptop. You know, your laptop becomes your factory. And if you go back to, you know, even as recent as 2015, you know, OK. You had your laptop. But you needed to spend, you know, months and months learning to code, needed to spend a lot of money on servers and all that infrastructure that would let you run a business. And actually if you zoom forward to now literally all you need is a laptop. You can take anyone in this day and age who is familiar with something like Microsoft Office, you know, anyone who's got the skills to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and have them use a no-code tool to get to the point where actually they can create software. And so that's really, really powerful for small businesses. Right. Your average Joe can now come online, come to a website, like nocode.tech or YouTube or something like that. Watch a few tutorials, learn how to use these tools. And within a few days, they can have their own business up and running. 

And I think as the enterprise starts to adopt that, then quickly, you're going to go away from this concept of the business and IT, where you have one group of people who are completely nontechnical, have nothing to do the tech. They simply make requests and they get something back. And you have this other group of people in IT who, you know, are the guardian angels of technology, who hold the keys and all the software, who know everything there is to know. And actually, you know, both of those premises are wrong. There are people in IT who know nothing about business or people in the business who know nothing about IT and can you know, the two shall never meet.

No-code is all about bridging that gap and no-code is essentially allowing more and more people in the business to prototype things, to better communicate their ideas, to eventually start to, for example, replace some of the processes I might use in areas like finance and accounting and HR. And on the IT side there are projects which a no-code tool could complete in a day, which IT are currently spending, you know, hundreds of thousands on. And that's where I think the really big impact is going to be over the next two, three years as people start to really get over that small software bump. I'm not saying no-code is ready to take on the big time yet. You know, you're not going to build the next Google with no-code necessarily. Not the next Facebook, but you might start it there. And I think when you look within the enterprise, that are a lot of little projects, a lot of things here and there. There are so many people in there with so many ideas, so many ideas that just don't ever see the light of day because enterprise is too big. 

Chris Byers:
So, you know, I will tend to tell people, if you can learn some of just the advanced formulas in Excel, you can get a lot accomplished that, you know. Otherwise you're going to think I've got to go use a developer or an engineer to get this done. And yet it's actually built for the non-technical user. You need to learn a little bit of what's the nomenclature, what are the words. But if you can do that, you can solve some pretty interesting problems and pretty fast, you can speed up efforts. I'm curious how you're seeing no-code really do this exact same thing for people and maybe some examples of where you've seen no code be successful. 

Nile Frater:
I think the Excel analogy is spot on. You know, we've seen a lot of people adopt no-code who traditionally, you know, mocked up items in macros or Excel or that kind of thing. And one of the interesting places where I've seen it used in that manor, as you know, often in enterpirse, a lot of people who've been responding to COVID-19 and, you know, that kind of thing as it's happened across the world, really, and disrupted operations and disrupted places like call centers and this kind of thing. You know, we've seen a lot of people trying to use no-code to bridge some of the gaps with the technology that they have working from home and that kind of thing. 

A really good example, a really simple one. But from a call center, typically a few are working in an operational environment and you want to make sure that callers have been answered in time and that kind of thing. You know, you usually have a bunch of agents. They are taking calls. They all have a cell next to the computer, it brings the next call in call. They can put people in queue or they can take a break if they need to go to the bathroom, etc. The way that you attend to it and monitor productivity in the environment is you have a manager and they look up from their computer monitor and they look around and they see everyone then they see who looks busy and see who doesn't, see who's chatting etc. And the minute you go to remote working from home, that kind of becomes impossible.

You know, you might have status codes coming from the cellphone software, etc. But for the vast majority of industries where people are traditionally managed by other people in a very sort of oversight kind of way. It's kind of maybe different from say how a lawyer or a doctor works, it becomes really difficult to monitor productivity. And so one of the things that we've seen is just people building tools for this kind of use case. We've seen someone build a tool that let people write down what kind of calls they were getting and how long they were spending on them, where they were, where they were sort of taking place to go do this thing or the other thing, these kind of tools. I mean, I think this specific example probably took about a day to build. I think this was using Retool, which is kind of one the more popular internal tool builders. And that was literally just a day's work and probably saw a 5% productivity gain. 

And when you look at the kind of dropoffs people are seeing, especially in the enterprise world, as a result of COVID-19, you know, that kind of thing is massive. And previously, that would have been let's go talk to a software vendor. Or let's bring in some, you know, five hundred thousand pound piece of software to do it. Or it would've been an Excel macro, difficult to use, difficult to have multiple people editing it at the same time. Someone's got to put it all together. You take 400 agents' Excel spreadsheets and figure out who would spend what where.

And, you know, the minute you start talking about that, you quickly see how some of the solutions that are available today, as amazing as they are, they get convoluted, they get expensive, they get really tricky to run. That's a really good example of something that no-code just takes away because, you know, you kind of imagine if you took everybody within your organization who knows how to do Excel macros and you give them the ability to build software. What kind of difference is that going to make for your business, in a month? In a year? 

Chris Byers:
I think you're right. I think just giving people who already have energy and as you know, there are mindsets that already exist out there of people who they can envision the process and how it's supposed to go. They may just not have spent the time to learn how to code. And so you're really just bridging that gap and kind of is this beautiful thing. I'm curious, how have you been able to see no code actually impact some of your company goals at Lloyd's? 

Nile Frater:
Probably the biggest advantage it brings to us is when we look at internal systems and internal software. You know, Lloyds is a company of somewhere around 65,000 people and the hometown that I grew up in, which is a place called Kilmarnock in Scotland, good luck translating that one, that's 44,000 people. So you quickly kind of look at a company that size and say that is huge. That is really gigantic. And the level of sort of internal processes and hierarchies and little groups here and there, they've got a little bit of knowledge but don't know about this other group, that kind of thing. You know, just the sheer size or complexity that emerges in a system as big as that, be it at Lloyds, be it any other organization, it really is just immense. 

And where we're really seeing the benefit is not trying to come in and say, okay, how can we replace this big system with no-code or how can we deliver something to a customer with no-code, but actually just first of all, looking at the individual person on the ground and saying, let's just give this person the skills that they need. Let's make it really easy for them to build something. Let's make sure we've got some guardrails in place that mean that people are not going to build some software that's got some bug in that a coder would have spotted instantly.

You know, let's keep it safe, but let's just empower the person on the ground, because that's kind of what the technology is about. You know, the thing that kind of gets bandied around in the no-code space is no-code is all about democratizing access to building software. And it can be really tempting in an organization to come in at a high level and look down and say, you know, okay, we see these five projects, they try to apply no-code to them and that may save us money or make them feel faster. But actually, I think the really interesting thing is when you do a bottom up, you just give people the tools. You give people the environment, you give them the guardrails. But you say to them, okay, now you've got us power. How can you use it to save us money? How can you use it to help improve our processes, to make things go faster? And we are absolutely at the early stages of that in Lloyds Banking Group. 

Chris Byers:
Earlier, you mentioned some great sets of tools, Bubble, Parabola, Airtable. There's all kinds of varieties of ways, really you can tackle this. I'm curious, are there some use cases that you think if someone's listening right now and you knew they were thinking about a few use cases that come to your mind, what are those that you think about no-code fast because this may be the way you get the problem solved faster?

Nile Frater:
First of all, if you want to create a job board, I mean, there are literally about 100 million tutorials out there. And doing that is kind of the hello to no-code. So if you're creating a job board at any other kind of less than or direct to the site, that's absolutely the way to do it. But I think the scope of no-code is really, really big now. You know, the majority of people are either building a mobile app or a website. And there's a lot of people who would build a marketplace, which is something like Airbnb or Ebay, where you have kind of consumers who want to, you know, rent an apartment or buy a product, and then you have sellers who want to rent that apartment or sell a product. And no-code is becoming really, really good at those kind of things. And I think the marketplace is a good example of a business that's really, really complex, because there are you know, those buyers, those sellers, transactions, et cetera. But now, there are no-code platforms which can let you build this, which make it really, really simple, and just take away all the complexity of the business logic. 

Chris Byers:
As you think about really helping people. You know, as people get into no-code, as they start to use it in their everyday life, what do you think are some of the things where it actually can go maybe off the rails a little bit and you need to help bring it in? And kind of keep some guardrails? Are you seeing places where that's happening? 

Nile Frater:
So I think, you know, the thing about no-code is much as you're dragging and dropping, you are in some ways still coding, you know, you still have to think about the little bugs or the little quirks or behaviors that emerge. When you're programming, one of the things people often say to developers is to make an estimate, and then that estimate may as well be, you know, plus or minus one hundred percent of the time. Developer says it's going to be two weeks, then it might be four. And the reason for that is when you actually really, really start to get into something, you start thinking about all of the edge cases and all of the things that could go wrong or make not good on. 

You know, for example, you know, let's say you're building a login system. You start writing the part that lets you plan your full name or let your user put in a full name. But then you start to think, well, I actually need to think about how long am I going to let that name be? If I let that not be too long, then I'm going to be, you know, crowding out someone who, for example, does not have a typical Western name. Am I going to be missing certain characters from, you know, say Celtic or a language like that. And you start to get into all these little, you know, what ifs. And that's where the real impact the program. And that's why it takes so long and why it's so complicated.

The problem with no-code is it doesn't take that away, but what you are doing is giving these tools to people who haven't necessarily had that experience before because they haven't programed, you don't necessarily know that you're going to bump into these pitfalls. And so, you know, that can be a real danger. And then you get some other things which are sort of well known, for example, security concerns or things like that, again, a lot of coders know but people from the no-code space are just not familiar with yet.

I’ll give you an example. Let's say you forget your password on a website and you go to the forgotten password and sometimes it will say, you know, give an email address and you put your email address in. And then one of two things happens. It pops up like most websites do and says if an email address with that account exists. Then we will send you an email. You can reset your password or we'll see that email address was correct, but the password is wrong or some sort of flavor of that. And the problem with that second option is essentially it can tell a hacker or an attacker that that email address does have an account here. And so if I let's say, for example, you are one of most people who, you know, reuse the same password for everything. And I know your password. I don't know what accounts you've got, I've got your typical email address set up, I can just go start trying it on Facebook and go start trying, you know, all these different places. It's called user intimidation. And it's as one of these little security quirks that most people don't know about, you wouldn't think about. But actually, you know, whether using code or no-code, your system still vulnerable to that kind of attack. 

Chris Byers:
Yeah, it sounds like there are just some new and interesting ways that people have to, you know, just start to think about things in terms of security. So that's a great example. You know, as someone who is listening right now, they might feel a bit overwhelmed, or a bit excited about the opportunities that you've talked about. But really, they're not sure where to start. What do you suggest as a first step to using no-code solutions? 

Nile Frater:
Well, the obvious first step I've got to recommend is my own website. If you go to nocode.tech/learn we've packed in over 500 lessons on using a bunch of different tools, building mobile apps, building web apps, etc. But, you know, more conceptually, I really have to say that the best thing to do is start small, you know, build a small bit of software. Don't necessarily jump in to, you know, your dream project.

For instance,a marketplace for cars where you're going to have to, you know, look up license plates or check for car makes and models or this kind of thing, you know, keep it simple. What's a simple thing you can start with? Why don't you build the website for your idea or, you know, once you've built a website for your idea, why don't you try connecting that to your service? Let's say you've got your website for your car marketplace. You've got to sign up button that connects you to a newsletter and you can email people.

For me, it's really about doing it step by step. And one of the stacks, a stack is essentially a collection of different tools you might use to achieve a kind of a no-code project about something. But one of the most popular ones out there is called the WAMZ stack. That's actually what it's called. It stands for Webflow, Airtable, Memberstack, and Zapier. And Webflow lets you build website. Airtable kind of acts as a database with a kind of Excel like interface. Memberstack allows you to have login and log out features, you know, users essentially on any website. And Zapier lets you connect to tons of different services, and I believe Formstack may well be one of them.

But that's a really, really, really good way actually of going through the different levels, you know, so build your website with Webflow. And then get a Webflow form sending data through to Airtable, then use Memberstack to build a login. Then use Zapier to do whatever, like send data to different places, maybe link it to go straight for payments or PayPal or something like that. But that stack is a really, really good way to build no-code software and one of my go-tos. But actually it's also a really nice incremental way to learn how to do it. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of grabbing really a few great tools, products and helping people kind of think about, you know, if you'll learn this framework, you're going to be way ahead in terms of being able to start coding effectively. And so I love that. Love that idea. As we begin to wrap up, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, what's the number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 

Nile Frater:
So the concept I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I can't profess to being an expert and it's quite difficult, but I've been thinking about high leverage actions. When I'm thinking of doing a task, what is the highest leverage possible where I could do that task? Let's see. I've got a business and I'm over the support team. And currently every day I check all the customer support emails. And if they are, you know, basic inquiries, like, can I get a refund? Then I ping that one onto my customer support team. And if they are, you know, more complex inquiries like do you make this wardrobe in mahogany or walnut or something, then I handle that myself because I'm the business owner and I know it from my head etc.

The high leverage is all about, instead of answering that email, I should use my answer to that email to create a standard operating procedure, you know, a document or a process I write down so that the next time that question comes up, I can just hand it off to the customer support person. And so it might mean that that task takes, you know, an hour instead of five minutes. But that just happens once. And instead of that being a task I do five minutes every day, it's now one task I do once and never again. And so high leverage is all about thinking what is the best way that I can spend my time? How can I approach a task to mean that my business is going to grow or that I can spend my time in other areas, but otherwise just not thinking of this task again. 

Chris Byers:
All right. And what is your kind of go to productivity tip for others? 

Nile Frater:
Well, that's a difficult one. So I probably have tried tons of different productivity tips, tons of different productivity tools. And the one that just keeps coming back to me, you know, everyone talks about kind of idea of a flow state. And you know that you get into the mood, you can get things done. And for me, the best way to achieve that, is every day I make a to do list.

It starts off with really, really simple stuff I have to do every day, like get up, work out, shower, and I'll literally put shower on my to do list as if I'm going to forget that. I'll put lunch on there. You know, all these little basics. I'll put tidy up, put this away, you know these tiny little things that take two seconds. But what it means is I'm quickly accumulating these little tasks and not really getting this feeling of productivity and I might have, you know, five boxes or five items stacked like, you know, take my lunch out of the fridge or shower or work out. But not such stupid things that are really, really small. Like, you know, put my shoes on, but very quickly, you know, I've done the basics that set me up for a good day, like working out, etc. I've got a lot more to do, less the stuff that started to get touched down. And it really, really gives me energy. And kind of a feeling  of forward momentum as I start to look at my day and start tackling, you know, the really important business tasks of the day. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, how will you be reimagining your own work moving forward? 

Nile Frater:
So for me, the thing I've really tried to do is think about number one, for everything that I do, how can it turn into a piece of software or an automation or something that runs in the background? Someone, I can't remember who it was, but someone once said, you know, a data center is kind of like a little army of robots who just do whatever you want them to do. So everything I'm doing every day, I'm trying to think, how can I get a robot to do that tomorrow? How can I get a robot to do that the next day? Or how can I build a little bit of software? A little bit of something that can run in the background that's going to make this easier. And the more and more I do that, it really, really shapes how I start to do things. How I implement features, how I implement, marketing concepts or market strategies and everything I try to do now is automated so that it runs again and again. It can go on in the background. I don't have to worry about it. And I can keep thinking about the new things. The next thing I'm going to do tomorrow. 

Chris Byers:
Well, as we wrap up this episode featuring Nile Frater, there are a couple takeaways that I have heard from this conversation. The first is he provided a great definition for us of low-code versus no-code. And low-code really is about enabling people who probably have a little bit of technical skill really just to speed up getting the work done. And no code is really about enabling people in that more drag and drop way to get some pretty complicated processes built in software and get processes kind of moving quickly.

The other one was this idea that we really need to step back and think about what is the highest leverage we can get in this moment. I love that idea. Leverage is this idea that the boulder is too big for us to move by ourselves. But if we can get the lever, we might actually be able to move it.

And I love that idea and how no-code tools can really help make that happen. And maybe one other one is just this idea to look around your organization at things that you run on Excel or Google Sheets and ask the question, is this something we can get going and some sort of no-code tool or solution?


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Authorize.Net
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Chargify
First Data
PayPal
PayPal Pro
PayPal Payflow
Stripe
WePay
ProPay
Monthly Fees
$25
$25
$149+
Contact First Data
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$25
$0-$25
$0
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$4
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N/A
Contact First Data
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
10¢
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.6% + 30¢
Countries
5
8
Based on payment gateway
50+
203
3
4
25
USA
USA
Currencies
11
2
23
140
25
23
25
135+
1
1
Card Types
6
13
Based on payment gateway
5
9
9
5
6
4
4
Limits
None
None
Based on payment gateway
None
$10,000
None
None
None
None
$500 per transaction
Form Payments
Recurring Billing
Mobile Payments
PSD2 Compliant

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I am Chris Byers of Formstack. This episode, we're focused on an area that many of us are starting to explore. And it's the low-code, no-code space. Nile Frater is on the show today to really teach us a little bit more about the no-code space, how it's evolving, how it's enabling teams across organizations to do really better work. Nile is the Head of Engineering Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group. He's also the managing director at ConcreteCapital and owner of NoCode.tech. Nile, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Nile Frater:
Glad to be here. Thank you very much. 

Chris Byers: Now, I've got a, you know, terrible American accent that, you know, I'm sure I did not pronounce your name right. So tell the world how you're really supposed to say it. 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's pronounced a Nile. There's a lot of debate over that because technically, I'm named after the river in Egypt. So people kind of debate how you pronounce that, but I pronounce it Nile. Most people pronounce it Nile. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, I know we in the U.S. are not not well regarded for our sophistication and our words. So I appreciate that. Well, maybe you could jump in for us and really define for us. Tell us maybe the difference between low-code and no-code for the audience who's listening and really trying to understand the space. Can you describe that? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, totally. So I'll start with low-code, which is probably the easier one. So low-code is still very much coding, very much used by developers, but typically lets you speed up the things that you do a lot but take a lot of time, you know, think how many engineers it would take to build a log in interface or forgotten password feature, low-code is really a bit abstract in a way that these things that you do again and again or let you build things once so that you can free up your developers. No-code, on other hand, for me, is a real paradigm shift. So no-code is traditionally an ecosystem of tools and platforms that allow you to create reusable software without actually writing any code. You're still essentially coding under the hood, but you're doing it completely by a drag-and-drop, visual interface. You're connecting things together, you're using different tools to connect services. 

Where I think no-code is really, really interesting is given the name, you know, no-code, people use that to refer to building an app or a website. But really, what no-code is doing for me, it's taking something that used to be done by professionals, software engineers in this case, and it's making it easy and accessible. Actually that a lot of tools which make, say for example podcasting easier, you know, they make it easier to record, to edit to Macs. They make things better and way easier. They make graphic design easier. I can settle all these things to fall under the umbrella of no-code. For me, no-code has taken complicated software related tasks on the computer and making that essentially accessible to the 99 percent. 

Chris Byers:
So tell us a little bit about how you got really you found the no-code, low-code space and how you got interested in it. 

Nile Frater:
Actually, I'm originally a coder. I've been coding probably since I was 8 or 9 years old, something like that. And I first got my start because I was really interested in hacking and making a claim to fame, for example, was hacking all the computers in Moscow and almost getting expelled. But as I kind of grew up a little bit and started to learn more about actual software and less about hacking tools, I really began to get an interest in product and market and this kind of thing. And I quickly found that for me, coding was becoming a bit of a chore. You know, I was really, really interested in the end product of the app that I may code, but I really hated the process. I hated sitting their two nights in a row, wondering why my software wouldn't work, and then finally find that I'm missing code and I'm missing a quotation or something like that. And any programmers or anyone who has tried that before, you were really familiar with that experience.

So around the time, you know, 2014, something like that, I discovered tools like Webflow, discovered tools like tree lighting, etc. and I found that these tools would essentially let me either, you know, write code faster or do the bits I wasn't good at. Just because you can code doesn't necessarily mean you are good at design interfaces or making that kind of thing work. And what no-code tools are really good at is not only simply take a recording, but also they tend to help you do things like design, like make a backend work quickly or, you know, even taking away having to worry about infrastructure in the first place. And so what I quickly found is I really care about building products and no-code essentially abstracted away everything that stood between me and the product to get into customers hands. 

Chris Byers:
Well tell us what's going on in this space. What are you seeing happen?

Nile Frater: So the size of the space, kind of over the last couple of years. I mean, the growth has just been incredible. I've been in what I would call the no-code space since probably around 2014. I think my first real taste of it was when Webflow launched and I started playing with that back in the early days. And, you know, most people would kind of say the no-code concept has been around for a very, very long time. And you maybe remember a tool called Adobe Dreamweaver, kind of allowed you to build websites with a bit of a drag and drop interface, with some code involved. But really since kind of 2017, 2018 onwards, the space has grown and more tools have started to come in and the real kind of concept of no-code started to evolve.

You know, back in 2014, 2015, you really needed to know how to code if you wanted to stitch together the three or four tools that existed, whereas today you pretty much have new companies come out every single day. I mean, if you look at producthunt.com and scroll down, there was a no-code company that launched yesterday that had the top spot. There is literally no-code companies launching every single day with new capabilities and new integrations with tools and new use cases you couldn't use before. And you know, a lot of people sort of refer to no-code as having a real kind of 80-20 problem, where you can accomplish 80% of what you want without code. But to really get that last 20 percent, at some point, you've got to get a developer. And in some ways I agree with that. But what I find is literally every week, every month, new tools are coming out. And that 80-20 is becoming 90-10, you know, 95-5 and so on, so forth. 

Chris Byers:
You actually mentioned a little bit of this, which is this idea that the tools that are out there now are getting people closer and closer to really producing what they're looking for. So what do you think the future is? What do you think the next few years are going to look like? 

Nile Frater:
So I think part of it is really just building on what we've got today. I mean, so many things have come out, you know, in the last year, like Andola or Parabola. And for people who don't know, Andola makes mobile apps, Parabola, essentially can let you drag and drop data signs or otherwise do things you would usually do in Excel. So that's probably a bit unfair but we'll stick with that. You know, these kind of tools are just coming out, people are just starting discussions on what's actually possible with them. And I think importantly kind of where the space is starting to go is as more and more of these tools come out, they're starting to integrate with each other, you know, Bubble,  for example, which is probably the best known app builder out there. They just integrated with Airtable, which is kind of the best known sort of database, a spreadsheet, that kind of thing. But as more and more of these integrations come out, the things that you're able to do, the functionally to create, the services you're able to connect, every single time one of those connections becomes possible. 

There's literally exponential growth in terms of what you can build with no-code and what you can kind of achieve. So, you know, I think that's a really, really exciting just growth that we're just waiting to see there. And I think on top of that as well, people's work will evolve in terms of their understanding. You know, when you learn to code you, as I sort of touched on earlier, you learn concepts like how to connect APIs, how logic works, how to do an if statement where if one thing happens you do something else, all these kind of fundamental blocks that let you build software and a lot of people who are committed to no-code don't necessarily understand that yet. They're just dragging and dropping their own affairs, figuring out how something works but actually over time as they start to play with these tools and you start to learn more about coding concepts and apply them visually, the things that these people are going to be able to achieve, the things that are going to be able to turn into templates, tutorials, and guides, and share with other people. That's going to be immense. And I think you're going to start to see the same increase you've seen over the last 10 years in terms of what tech could do in 2010 vs. 2020. You're going to see that in the no-code space as well, and more and more is going to become possible. 

Chris Byers:
Well, I'm curious as I think about our own product. One of the things I will tell people is, you know, it can be used by absolutely anybody in any company, anywhere. But there is a huge problem. And that really is it coming to mind when you have a problem. So if you have a problem and we happen to intersect you at the right time, that's gonna work out great. But I'm curious what you're learning as you're trying to introduce no code into kind of an organization, because I feel like that's got to be one of the most challenging places to get people to stop and say, oh, I'm not going to do the normal things I do when I want to solve a problem, like call IT or do it in Excel. I'm going to try to advance this a little bit. How are you learning what's working there? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. And I think the biggest problem in both, you know, internally and within the enterprise, but also on the no-code side itself, the biggest problem is it's almost too good to be true. You know, people have kind of spent the last 10 years watching stuff with the social networks you know. Kind of starting to come to some sort of majority with Silicon Valley and the way people work there and the things people do. And so when you kind of turn to say, well, actually you can build all this complicated software yourself, and it's not just the, you know, 14 year old wiz kids at Harvard. People tend to need a lot of convincing to understand that. And, you know, the way we've been approaching it, certainly in Lloyd's is, you know, starting off small, showing people no code, showing people what it can actually do, and then sort of that it's less about the software and more about the mentality. 

So there's this kind of concept of systems thinking, and systems thinking to me, and there's probably a systems thinker who's going to listen to this and think I'm really vilifying them here. But, you know, systems thinking to me is essentially taking the way a programmer thinks, that real logic, object-system based approach and applying that to business problems. Systems thinking essentially is the concept of, you know, looking at process as a whole, you know, looking at your job or your department or the work that you do and thinking about it from step one all the way through it to step 10, whatever it may be. Thinking, you know, how does work come into the system? How does it flow through? 

How is it outputted and then based off the back of that, trying to make some adjustments to your process and that kind of thing. And I think the best thing you can do in terms of adopting no-code or adopting a tool like Formstack is to first teach people to think like this, to think in terms of process and how you fix up process or how you improve that process. And then for me, Formstack, no-code, this kind of thing, that's just giving them the tools to do what they can already imagine. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of teaching people how to think about process. I know for me, you know, my general nature is you know I see a problem. I just kind of dive into the mess and I don't really know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to solve it. And then I start to tinker around with processes. And then eventually I can kind of pull back out, zoom back out and say, all right, I think I can see how can a process come together? How do you teach that? How do you get people really thinking that way? 

Nile Frater:
I think it's definitely a tricky problem and it's one that I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out. For me, it's very much about speaking to someone about the kind of work they do, have them describe what they're up to, who they speak to on a daily basis, and just sort of mapping that out. And then the thing I start to do is really just challenge the assumptions and sort of peel away things. OK. So why do use that? Why do you have to speak to, you know, Barbara in account? Why does it take as long as this? And it's really about pulling someone out of the work that they do every day to almost sort of, you know, eagle eye from above. 

Okay, let's look at it together. Let's figure out why you do every sort of step. And I think when you'd improving a process or when you are trying to do systems thinking about software, the most important thing you can do is cut out things you don't need. You know, there's no point in going in looking at a process that someone doesn't say, okay, we're going to replace that with software, we're going to give you a software tool to do it. If you don't first look and say, well, do you have to be doing this, actually can we cut 50% out or can we make it easier. 

And I think it's just really about making it feel relevant to someone. You don't want to kind of come in and talk about systems thinking, that's just the concept. You want to just look at what's the work that you do today? How can you do it? If we actually look at and examine it, what other bits can you peck out or what are the parts that, you know, you don't have to do that you could pass off to someone else. And I think it's really just, you know, there's a real growth there that if you start small with a little bit of work you build up from there. And hopefully people start to take an understanding what you're doing, understand the techniques and get it from there and, you know, eventually apply it themselves. 

Chris Byers:
One of the things you are talking about is this idea of reimagining work. Because as you give people tools and really the mindset to redo processes, even observe that there are broken processes or slow processes, you're really helping them advance the way that they do their work, saving time, which is ultimately saving money. How do you think this is going to impact workers around the world going forward? 

Nile Frater:
There's this concept called Crossing the Chasm. It was a book by Geoffrey Moore. And the idea is that when a new piece of technology comes out, there are early adopters and then over time, you know, the more conservative people pick it up and adopt that. And I think if you zoom out and look at that from the business world, then that is a pretty obvious thing to say but start ups, small companies, individual entrepreneurs. These people pick up technology fast and then over time it is adopted by enterprise. You know the interesting thing for me and I tend to think about it as if you go back, you know, say a century ago or maybe to the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds, even as recently as sort of the 50s or 70s, if you wanted to create a big business, if you wanted to make one of these tech companies something the size of Google or Facebook, then you needed to own a factory. And that was going to cost you millions or whatever it may have adjusted to back in the day.

But then if you go back to just the year 2000, actually all you need is a laptop. You know, your laptop becomes your factory. And if you go back to, you know, even as recent as 2015, you know, OK. You had your laptop. But you needed to spend, you know, months and months learning to code, needed to spend a lot of money on servers and all that infrastructure that would let you run a business. And actually if you zoom forward to now literally all you need is a laptop. You can take anyone in this day and age who is familiar with something like Microsoft Office, you know, anyone who's got the skills to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and have them use a no-code tool to get to the point where actually they can create software. And so that's really, really powerful for small businesses. Right. Your average Joe can now come online, come to a website, like nocode.tech or YouTube or something like that. Watch a few tutorials, learn how to use these tools. And within a few days, they can have their own business up and running. 

And I think as the enterprise starts to adopt that, then quickly, you're going to go away from this concept of the business and IT, where you have one group of people who are completely nontechnical, have nothing to do the tech. They simply make requests and they get something back. And you have this other group of people in IT who, you know, are the guardian angels of technology, who hold the keys and all the software, who know everything there is to know. And actually, you know, both of those premises are wrong. There are people in IT who know nothing about business or people in the business who know nothing about IT and can you know, the two shall never meet.

No-code is all about bridging that gap and no-code is essentially allowing more and more people in the business to prototype things, to better communicate their ideas, to eventually start to, for example, replace some of the processes I might use in areas like finance and accounting and HR. And on the IT side there are projects which a no-code tool could complete in a day, which IT are currently spending, you know, hundreds of thousands on. And that's where I think the really big impact is going to be over the next two, three years as people start to really get over that small software bump. I'm not saying no-code is ready to take on the big time yet. You know, you're not going to build the next Google with no-code necessarily. Not the next Facebook, but you might start it there. And I think when you look within the enterprise, that are a lot of little projects, a lot of things here and there. There are so many people in there with so many ideas, so many ideas that just don't ever see the light of day because enterprise is too big. 

Chris Byers:
So, you know, I will tend to tell people, if you can learn some of just the advanced formulas in Excel, you can get a lot accomplished that, you know. Otherwise you're going to think I've got to go use a developer or an engineer to get this done. And yet it's actually built for the non-technical user. You need to learn a little bit of what's the nomenclature, what are the words. But if you can do that, you can solve some pretty interesting problems and pretty fast, you can speed up efforts. I'm curious how you're seeing no-code really do this exact same thing for people and maybe some examples of where you've seen no code be successful. 

Nile Frater:
I think the Excel analogy is spot on. You know, we've seen a lot of people adopt no-code who traditionally, you know, mocked up items in macros or Excel or that kind of thing. And one of the interesting places where I've seen it used in that manor, as you know, often in enterpirse, a lot of people who've been responding to COVID-19 and, you know, that kind of thing as it's happened across the world, really, and disrupted operations and disrupted places like call centers and this kind of thing. You know, we've seen a lot of people trying to use no-code to bridge some of the gaps with the technology that they have working from home and that kind of thing. 

A really good example, a really simple one. But from a call center, typically a few are working in an operational environment and you want to make sure that callers have been answered in time and that kind of thing. You know, you usually have a bunch of agents. They are taking calls. They all have a cell next to the computer, it brings the next call in call. They can put people in queue or they can take a break if they need to go to the bathroom, etc. The way that you attend to it and monitor productivity in the environment is you have a manager and they look up from their computer monitor and they look around and they see everyone then they see who looks busy and see who doesn't, see who's chatting etc. And the minute you go to remote working from home, that kind of becomes impossible.

You know, you might have status codes coming from the cellphone software, etc. But for the vast majority of industries where people are traditionally managed by other people in a very sort of oversight kind of way. It's kind of maybe different from say how a lawyer or a doctor works, it becomes really difficult to monitor productivity. And so one of the things that we've seen is just people building tools for this kind of use case. We've seen someone build a tool that let people write down what kind of calls they were getting and how long they were spending on them, where they were, where they were sort of taking place to go do this thing or the other thing, these kind of tools. I mean, I think this specific example probably took about a day to build. I think this was using Retool, which is kind of one the more popular internal tool builders. And that was literally just a day's work and probably saw a 5% productivity gain. 

And when you look at the kind of dropoffs people are seeing, especially in the enterprise world, as a result of COVID-19, you know, that kind of thing is massive. And previously, that would have been let's go talk to a software vendor. Or let's bring in some, you know, five hundred thousand pound piece of software to do it. Or it would've been an Excel macro, difficult to use, difficult to have multiple people editing it at the same time. Someone's got to put it all together. You take 400 agents' Excel spreadsheets and figure out who would spend what where.

And, you know, the minute you start talking about that, you quickly see how some of the solutions that are available today, as amazing as they are, they get convoluted, they get expensive, they get really tricky to run. That's a really good example of something that no-code just takes away because, you know, you kind of imagine if you took everybody within your organization who knows how to do Excel macros and you give them the ability to build software. What kind of difference is that going to make for your business, in a month? In a year? 

Chris Byers:
I think you're right. I think just giving people who already have energy and as you know, there are mindsets that already exist out there of people who they can envision the process and how it's supposed to go. They may just not have spent the time to learn how to code. And so you're really just bridging that gap and kind of is this beautiful thing. I'm curious, how have you been able to see no code actually impact some of your company goals at Lloyd's? 

Nile Frater:
Probably the biggest advantage it brings to us is when we look at internal systems and internal software. You know, Lloyds is a company of somewhere around 65,000 people and the hometown that I grew up in, which is a place called Kilmarnock in Scotland, good luck translating that one, that's 44,000 people. So you quickly kind of look at a company that size and say that is huge. That is really gigantic. And the level of sort of internal processes and hierarchies and little groups here and there, they've got a little bit of knowledge but don't know about this other group, that kind of thing. You know, just the sheer size or complexity that emerges in a system as big as that, be it at Lloyds, be it any other organization, it really is just immense. 

And where we're really seeing the benefit is not trying to come in and say, okay, how can we replace this big system with no-code or how can we deliver something to a customer with no-code, but actually just first of all, looking at the individual person on the ground and saying, let's just give this person the skills that they need. Let's make it really easy for them to build something. Let's make sure we've got some guardrails in place that mean that people are not going to build some software that's got some bug in that a coder would have spotted instantly.

You know, let's keep it safe, but let's just empower the person on the ground, because that's kind of what the technology is about. You know, the thing that kind of gets bandied around in the no-code space is no-code is all about democratizing access to building software. And it can be really tempting in an organization to come in at a high level and look down and say, you know, okay, we see these five projects, they try to apply no-code to them and that may save us money or make them feel faster. But actually, I think the really interesting thing is when you do a bottom up, you just give people the tools. You give people the environment, you give them the guardrails. But you say to them, okay, now you've got us power. How can you use it to save us money? How can you use it to help improve our processes, to make things go faster? And we are absolutely at the early stages of that in Lloyds Banking Group. 

Chris Byers:
Earlier, you mentioned some great sets of tools, Bubble, Parabola, Airtable. There's all kinds of varieties of ways, really you can tackle this. I'm curious, are there some use cases that you think if someone's listening right now and you knew they were thinking about a few use cases that come to your mind, what are those that you think about no-code fast because this may be the way you get the problem solved faster?

Nile Frater:
First of all, if you want to create a job board, I mean, there are literally about 100 million tutorials out there. And doing that is kind of the hello to no-code. So if you're creating a job board at any other kind of less than or direct to the site, that's absolutely the way to do it. But I think the scope of no-code is really, really big now. You know, the majority of people are either building a mobile app or a website. And there's a lot of people who would build a marketplace, which is something like Airbnb or Ebay, where you have kind of consumers who want to, you know, rent an apartment or buy a product, and then you have sellers who want to rent that apartment or sell a product. And no-code is becoming really, really good at those kind of things. And I think the marketplace is a good example of a business that's really, really complex, because there are you know, those buyers, those sellers, transactions, et cetera. But now, there are no-code platforms which can let you build this, which make it really, really simple, and just take away all the complexity of the business logic. 

Chris Byers:
As you think about really helping people. You know, as people get into no-code, as they start to use it in their everyday life, what do you think are some of the things where it actually can go maybe off the rails a little bit and you need to help bring it in? And kind of keep some guardrails? Are you seeing places where that's happening? 

Nile Frater:
So I think, you know, the thing about no-code is much as you're dragging and dropping, you are in some ways still coding, you know, you still have to think about the little bugs or the little quirks or behaviors that emerge. When you're programming, one of the things people often say to developers is to make an estimate, and then that estimate may as well be, you know, plus or minus one hundred percent of the time. Developer says it's going to be two weeks, then it might be four. And the reason for that is when you actually really, really start to get into something, you start thinking about all of the edge cases and all of the things that could go wrong or make not good on. 

You know, for example, you know, let's say you're building a login system. You start writing the part that lets you plan your full name or let your user put in a full name. But then you start to think, well, I actually need to think about how long am I going to let that name be? If I let that not be too long, then I'm going to be, you know, crowding out someone who, for example, does not have a typical Western name. Am I going to be missing certain characters from, you know, say Celtic or a language like that. And you start to get into all these little, you know, what ifs. And that's where the real impact the program. And that's why it takes so long and why it's so complicated.

The problem with no-code is it doesn't take that away, but what you are doing is giving these tools to people who haven't necessarily had that experience before because they haven't programed, you don't necessarily know that you're going to bump into these pitfalls. And so, you know, that can be a real danger. And then you get some other things which are sort of well known, for example, security concerns or things like that, again, a lot of coders know but people from the no-code space are just not familiar with yet.

I’ll give you an example. Let's say you forget your password on a website and you go to the forgotten password and sometimes it will say, you know, give an email address and you put your email address in. And then one of two things happens. It pops up like most websites do and says if an email address with that account exists. Then we will send you an email. You can reset your password or we'll see that email address was correct, but the password is wrong or some sort of flavor of that. And the problem with that second option is essentially it can tell a hacker or an attacker that that email address does have an account here. And so if I let's say, for example, you are one of most people who, you know, reuse the same password for everything. And I know your password. I don't know what accounts you've got, I've got your typical email address set up, I can just go start trying it on Facebook and go start trying, you know, all these different places. It's called user intimidation. And it's as one of these little security quirks that most people don't know about, you wouldn't think about. But actually, you know, whether using code or no-code, your system still vulnerable to that kind of attack. 

Chris Byers:
Yeah, it sounds like there are just some new and interesting ways that people have to, you know, just start to think about things in terms of security. So that's a great example. You know, as someone who is listening right now, they might feel a bit overwhelmed, or a bit excited about the opportunities that you've talked about. But really, they're not sure where to start. What do you suggest as a first step to using no-code solutions? 

Nile Frater:
Well, the obvious first step I've got to recommend is my own website. If you go to nocode.tech/learn we've packed in over 500 lessons on using a bunch of different tools, building mobile apps, building web apps, etc. But, you know, more conceptually, I really have to say that the best thing to do is start small, you know, build a small bit of software. Don't necessarily jump in to, you know, your dream project.

For instance,a marketplace for cars where you're going to have to, you know, look up license plates or check for car makes and models or this kind of thing, you know, keep it simple. What's a simple thing you can start with? Why don't you build the website for your idea or, you know, once you've built a website for your idea, why don't you try connecting that to your service? Let's say you've got your website for your car marketplace. You've got to sign up button that connects you to a newsletter and you can email people.

For me, it's really about doing it step by step. And one of the stacks, a stack is essentially a collection of different tools you might use to achieve a kind of a no-code project about something. But one of the most popular ones out there is called the WAMZ stack. That's actually what it's called. It stands for Webflow, Airtable, Memberstack, and Zapier. And Webflow lets you build website. Airtable kind of acts as a database with a kind of Excel like interface. Memberstack allows you to have login and log out features, you know, users essentially on any website. And Zapier lets you connect to tons of different services, and I believe Formstack may well be one of them.

But that's a really, really, really good way actually of going through the different levels, you know, so build your website with Webflow. And then get a Webflow form sending data through to Airtable, then use Memberstack to build a login. Then use Zapier to do whatever, like send data to different places, maybe link it to go straight for payments or PayPal or something like that. But that stack is a really, really good way to build no-code software and one of my go-tos. But actually it's also a really nice incremental way to learn how to do it. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of grabbing really a few great tools, products and helping people kind of think about, you know, if you'll learn this framework, you're going to be way ahead in terms of being able to start coding effectively. And so I love that. Love that idea. As we begin to wrap up, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, what's the number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 

Nile Frater:
So the concept I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I can't profess to being an expert and it's quite difficult, but I've been thinking about high leverage actions. When I'm thinking of doing a task, what is the highest leverage possible where I could do that task? Let's see. I've got a business and I'm over the support team. And currently every day I check all the customer support emails. And if they are, you know, basic inquiries, like, can I get a refund? Then I ping that one onto my customer support team. And if they are, you know, more complex inquiries like do you make this wardrobe in mahogany or walnut or something, then I handle that myself because I'm the business owner and I know it from my head etc.

The high leverage is all about, instead of answering that email, I should use my answer to that email to create a standard operating procedure, you know, a document or a process I write down so that the next time that question comes up, I can just hand it off to the customer support person. And so it might mean that that task takes, you know, an hour instead of five minutes. But that just happens once. And instead of that being a task I do five minutes every day, it's now one task I do once and never again. And so high leverage is all about thinking what is the best way that I can spend my time? How can I approach a task to mean that my business is going to grow or that I can spend my time in other areas, but otherwise just not thinking of this task again. 

Chris Byers:
All right. And what is your kind of go to productivity tip for others? 

Nile Frater:
Well, that's a difficult one. So I probably have tried tons of different productivity tips, tons of different productivity tools. And the one that just keeps coming back to me, you know, everyone talks about kind of idea of a flow state. And you know that you get into the mood, you can get things done. And for me, the best way to achieve that, is every day I make a to do list.

It starts off with really, really simple stuff I have to do every day, like get up, work out, shower, and I'll literally put shower on my to do list as if I'm going to forget that. I'll put lunch on there. You know, all these little basics. I'll put tidy up, put this away, you know these tiny little things that take two seconds. But what it means is I'm quickly accumulating these little tasks and not really getting this feeling of productivity and I might have, you know, five boxes or five items stacked like, you know, take my lunch out of the fridge or shower or work out. But not such stupid things that are really, really small. Like, you know, put my shoes on, but very quickly, you know, I've done the basics that set me up for a good day, like working out, etc. I've got a lot more to do, less the stuff that started to get touched down. And it really, really gives me energy. And kind of a feeling  of forward momentum as I start to look at my day and start tackling, you know, the really important business tasks of the day. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, how will you be reimagining your own work moving forward? 

Nile Frater:
So for me, the thing I've really tried to do is think about number one, for everything that I do, how can it turn into a piece of software or an automation or something that runs in the background? Someone, I can't remember who it was, but someone once said, you know, a data center is kind of like a little army of robots who just do whatever you want them to do. So everything I'm doing every day, I'm trying to think, how can I get a robot to do that tomorrow? How can I get a robot to do that the next day? Or how can I build a little bit of software? A little bit of something that can run in the background that's going to make this easier. And the more and more I do that, it really, really shapes how I start to do things. How I implement features, how I implement, marketing concepts or market strategies and everything I try to do now is automated so that it runs again and again. It can go on in the background. I don't have to worry about it. And I can keep thinking about the new things. The next thing I'm going to do tomorrow. 

Chris Byers:
Well, as we wrap up this episode featuring Nile Frater, there are a couple takeaways that I have heard from this conversation. The first is he provided a great definition for us of low-code versus no-code. And low-code really is about enabling people who probably have a little bit of technical skill really just to speed up getting the work done. And no code is really about enabling people in that more drag and drop way to get some pretty complicated processes built in software and get processes kind of moving quickly.

The other one was this idea that we really need to step back and think about what is the highest leverage we can get in this moment. I love that idea. Leverage is this idea that the boulder is too big for us to move by ourselves. But if we can get the lever, we might actually be able to move it.

And I love that idea and how no-code tools can really help make that happen. And maybe one other one is just this idea to look around your organization at things that you run on Excel or Google Sheets and ask the question, is this something we can get going and some sort of no-code tool or solution?


Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I am Chris Byers of Formstack. This episode, we're focused on an area that many of us are starting to explore. And it's the low-code, no-code space. Nile Frater is on the show today to really teach us a little bit more about the no-code space, how it's evolving, how it's enabling teams across organizations to do really better work. Nile is the Head of Engineering Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group. He's also the managing director at ConcreteCapital and owner of NoCode.tech. Nile, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Nile Frater:
Glad to be here. Thank you very much. 

Chris Byers: Now, I've got a, you know, terrible American accent that, you know, I'm sure I did not pronounce your name right. So tell the world how you're really supposed to say it. 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's pronounced a Nile. There's a lot of debate over that because technically, I'm named after the river in Egypt. So people kind of debate how you pronounce that, but I pronounce it Nile. Most people pronounce it Nile. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, I know we in the U.S. are not not well regarded for our sophistication and our words. So I appreciate that. Well, maybe you could jump in for us and really define for us. Tell us maybe the difference between low-code and no-code for the audience who's listening and really trying to understand the space. Can you describe that? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, totally. So I'll start with low-code, which is probably the easier one. So low-code is still very much coding, very much used by developers, but typically lets you speed up the things that you do a lot but take a lot of time, you know, think how many engineers it would take to build a log in interface or forgotten password feature, low-code is really a bit abstract in a way that these things that you do again and again or let you build things once so that you can free up your developers. No-code, on other hand, for me, is a real paradigm shift. So no-code is traditionally an ecosystem of tools and platforms that allow you to create reusable software without actually writing any code. You're still essentially coding under the hood, but you're doing it completely by a drag-and-drop, visual interface. You're connecting things together, you're using different tools to connect services. 

Where I think no-code is really, really interesting is given the name, you know, no-code, people use that to refer to building an app or a website. But really, what no-code is doing for me, it's taking something that used to be done by professionals, software engineers in this case, and it's making it easy and accessible. Actually that a lot of tools which make, say for example podcasting easier, you know, they make it easier to record, to edit to Macs. They make things better and way easier. They make graphic design easier. I can settle all these things to fall under the umbrella of no-code. For me, no-code has taken complicated software related tasks on the computer and making that essentially accessible to the 99 percent. 

Chris Byers:
So tell us a little bit about how you got really you found the no-code, low-code space and how you got interested in it. 

Nile Frater:
Actually, I'm originally a coder. I've been coding probably since I was 8 or 9 years old, something like that. And I first got my start because I was really interested in hacking and making a claim to fame, for example, was hacking all the computers in Moscow and almost getting expelled. But as I kind of grew up a little bit and started to learn more about actual software and less about hacking tools, I really began to get an interest in product and market and this kind of thing. And I quickly found that for me, coding was becoming a bit of a chore. You know, I was really, really interested in the end product of the app that I may code, but I really hated the process. I hated sitting their two nights in a row, wondering why my software wouldn't work, and then finally find that I'm missing code and I'm missing a quotation or something like that. And any programmers or anyone who has tried that before, you were really familiar with that experience.

So around the time, you know, 2014, something like that, I discovered tools like Webflow, discovered tools like tree lighting, etc. and I found that these tools would essentially let me either, you know, write code faster or do the bits I wasn't good at. Just because you can code doesn't necessarily mean you are good at design interfaces or making that kind of thing work. And what no-code tools are really good at is not only simply take a recording, but also they tend to help you do things like design, like make a backend work quickly or, you know, even taking away having to worry about infrastructure in the first place. And so what I quickly found is I really care about building products and no-code essentially abstracted away everything that stood between me and the product to get into customers hands. 

Chris Byers:
Well tell us what's going on in this space. What are you seeing happen?

Nile Frater: So the size of the space, kind of over the last couple of years. I mean, the growth has just been incredible. I've been in what I would call the no-code space since probably around 2014. I think my first real taste of it was when Webflow launched and I started playing with that back in the early days. And, you know, most people would kind of say the no-code concept has been around for a very, very long time. And you maybe remember a tool called Adobe Dreamweaver, kind of allowed you to build websites with a bit of a drag and drop interface, with some code involved. But really since kind of 2017, 2018 onwards, the space has grown and more tools have started to come in and the real kind of concept of no-code started to evolve.

You know, back in 2014, 2015, you really needed to know how to code if you wanted to stitch together the three or four tools that existed, whereas today you pretty much have new companies come out every single day. I mean, if you look at producthunt.com and scroll down, there was a no-code company that launched yesterday that had the top spot. There is literally no-code companies launching every single day with new capabilities and new integrations with tools and new use cases you couldn't use before. And you know, a lot of people sort of refer to no-code as having a real kind of 80-20 problem, where you can accomplish 80% of what you want without code. But to really get that last 20 percent, at some point, you've got to get a developer. And in some ways I agree with that. But what I find is literally every week, every month, new tools are coming out. And that 80-20 is becoming 90-10, you know, 95-5 and so on, so forth. 

Chris Byers:
You actually mentioned a little bit of this, which is this idea that the tools that are out there now are getting people closer and closer to really producing what they're looking for. So what do you think the future is? What do you think the next few years are going to look like? 

Nile Frater:
So I think part of it is really just building on what we've got today. I mean, so many things have come out, you know, in the last year, like Andola or Parabola. And for people who don't know, Andola makes mobile apps, Parabola, essentially can let you drag and drop data signs or otherwise do things you would usually do in Excel. So that's probably a bit unfair but we'll stick with that. You know, these kind of tools are just coming out, people are just starting discussions on what's actually possible with them. And I think importantly kind of where the space is starting to go is as more and more of these tools come out, they're starting to integrate with each other, you know, Bubble,  for example, which is probably the best known app builder out there. They just integrated with Airtable, which is kind of the best known sort of database, a spreadsheet, that kind of thing. But as more and more of these integrations come out, the things that you're able to do, the functionally to create, the services you're able to connect, every single time one of those connections becomes possible. 

There's literally exponential growth in terms of what you can build with no-code and what you can kind of achieve. So, you know, I think that's a really, really exciting just growth that we're just waiting to see there. And I think on top of that as well, people's work will evolve in terms of their understanding. You know, when you learn to code you, as I sort of touched on earlier, you learn concepts like how to connect APIs, how logic works, how to do an if statement where if one thing happens you do something else, all these kind of fundamental blocks that let you build software and a lot of people who are committed to no-code don't necessarily understand that yet. They're just dragging and dropping their own affairs, figuring out how something works but actually over time as they start to play with these tools and you start to learn more about coding concepts and apply them visually, the things that these people are going to be able to achieve, the things that are going to be able to turn into templates, tutorials, and guides, and share with other people. That's going to be immense. And I think you're going to start to see the same increase you've seen over the last 10 years in terms of what tech could do in 2010 vs. 2020. You're going to see that in the no-code space as well, and more and more is going to become possible. 

Chris Byers:
Well, I'm curious as I think about our own product. One of the things I will tell people is, you know, it can be used by absolutely anybody in any company, anywhere. But there is a huge problem. And that really is it coming to mind when you have a problem. So if you have a problem and we happen to intersect you at the right time, that's gonna work out great. But I'm curious what you're learning as you're trying to introduce no code into kind of an organization, because I feel like that's got to be one of the most challenging places to get people to stop and say, oh, I'm not going to do the normal things I do when I want to solve a problem, like call IT or do it in Excel. I'm going to try to advance this a little bit. How are you learning what's working there? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. And I think the biggest problem in both, you know, internally and within the enterprise, but also on the no-code side itself, the biggest problem is it's almost too good to be true. You know, people have kind of spent the last 10 years watching stuff with the social networks you know. Kind of starting to come to some sort of majority with Silicon Valley and the way people work there and the things people do. And so when you kind of turn to say, well, actually you can build all this complicated software yourself, and it's not just the, you know, 14 year old wiz kids at Harvard. People tend to need a lot of convincing to understand that. And, you know, the way we've been approaching it, certainly in Lloyd's is, you know, starting off small, showing people no code, showing people what it can actually do, and then sort of that it's less about the software and more about the mentality. 

So there's this kind of concept of systems thinking, and systems thinking to me, and there's probably a systems thinker who's going to listen to this and think I'm really vilifying them here. But, you know, systems thinking to me is essentially taking the way a programmer thinks, that real logic, object-system based approach and applying that to business problems. Systems thinking essentially is the concept of, you know, looking at process as a whole, you know, looking at your job or your department or the work that you do and thinking about it from step one all the way through it to step 10, whatever it may be. Thinking, you know, how does work come into the system? How does it flow through? 

How is it outputted and then based off the back of that, trying to make some adjustments to your process and that kind of thing. And I think the best thing you can do in terms of adopting no-code or adopting a tool like Formstack is to first teach people to think like this, to think in terms of process and how you fix up process or how you improve that process. And then for me, Formstack, no-code, this kind of thing, that's just giving them the tools to do what they can already imagine. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of teaching people how to think about process. I know for me, you know, my general nature is you know I see a problem. I just kind of dive into the mess and I don't really know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to solve it. And then I start to tinker around with processes. And then eventually I can kind of pull back out, zoom back out and say, all right, I think I can see how can a process come together? How do you teach that? How do you get people really thinking that way? 

Nile Frater:
I think it's definitely a tricky problem and it's one that I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out. For me, it's very much about speaking to someone about the kind of work they do, have them describe what they're up to, who they speak to on a daily basis, and just sort of mapping that out. And then the thing I start to do is really just challenge the assumptions and sort of peel away things. OK. So why do use that? Why do you have to speak to, you know, Barbara in account? Why does it take as long as this? And it's really about pulling someone out of the work that they do every day to almost sort of, you know, eagle eye from above. 

Okay, let's look at it together. Let's figure out why you do every sort of step. And I think when you'd improving a process or when you are trying to do systems thinking about software, the most important thing you can do is cut out things you don't need. You know, there's no point in going in looking at a process that someone doesn't say, okay, we're going to replace that with software, we're going to give you a software tool to do it. If you don't first look and say, well, do you have to be doing this, actually can we cut 50% out or can we make it easier. 

And I think it's just really about making it feel relevant to someone. You don't want to kind of come in and talk about systems thinking, that's just the concept. You want to just look at what's the work that you do today? How can you do it? If we actually look at and examine it, what other bits can you peck out or what are the parts that, you know, you don't have to do that you could pass off to someone else. And I think it's really just, you know, there's a real growth there that if you start small with a little bit of work you build up from there. And hopefully people start to take an understanding what you're doing, understand the techniques and get it from there and, you know, eventually apply it themselves. 

Chris Byers:
One of the things you are talking about is this idea of reimagining work. Because as you give people tools and really the mindset to redo processes, even observe that there are broken processes or slow processes, you're really helping them advance the way that they do their work, saving time, which is ultimately saving money. How do you think this is going to impact workers around the world going forward? 

Nile Frater:
There's this concept called Crossing the Chasm. It was a book by Geoffrey Moore. And the idea is that when a new piece of technology comes out, there are early adopters and then over time, you know, the more conservative people pick it up and adopt that. And I think if you zoom out and look at that from the business world, then that is a pretty obvious thing to say but start ups, small companies, individual entrepreneurs. These people pick up technology fast and then over time it is adopted by enterprise. You know the interesting thing for me and I tend to think about it as if you go back, you know, say a century ago or maybe to the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds, even as recently as sort of the 50s or 70s, if you wanted to create a big business, if you wanted to make one of these tech companies something the size of Google or Facebook, then you needed to own a factory. And that was going to cost you millions or whatever it may have adjusted to back in the day.

But then if you go back to just the year 2000, actually all you need is a laptop. You know, your laptop becomes your factory. And if you go back to, you know, even as recent as 2015, you know, OK. You had your laptop. But you needed to spend, you know, months and months learning to code, needed to spend a lot of money on servers and all that infrastructure that would let you run a business. And actually if you zoom forward to now literally all you need is a laptop. You can take anyone in this day and age who is familiar with something like Microsoft Office, you know, anyone who's got the skills to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and have them use a no-code tool to get to the point where actually they can create software. And so that's really, really powerful for small businesses. Right. Your average Joe can now come online, come to a website, like nocode.tech or YouTube or something like that. Watch a few tutorials, learn how to use these tools. And within a few days, they can have their own business up and running. 

And I think as the enterprise starts to adopt that, then quickly, you're going to go away from this concept of the business and IT, where you have one group of people who are completely nontechnical, have nothing to do the tech. They simply make requests and they get something back. And you have this other group of people in IT who, you know, are the guardian angels of technology, who hold the keys and all the software, who know everything there is to know. And actually, you know, both of those premises are wrong. There are people in IT who know nothing about business or people in the business who know nothing about IT and can you know, the two shall never meet.

No-code is all about bridging that gap and no-code is essentially allowing more and more people in the business to prototype things, to better communicate their ideas, to eventually start to, for example, replace some of the processes I might use in areas like finance and accounting and HR. And on the IT side there are projects which a no-code tool could complete in a day, which IT are currently spending, you know, hundreds of thousands on. And that's where I think the really big impact is going to be over the next two, three years as people start to really get over that small software bump. I'm not saying no-code is ready to take on the big time yet. You know, you're not going to build the next Google with no-code necessarily. Not the next Facebook, but you might start it there. And I think when you look within the enterprise, that are a lot of little projects, a lot of things here and there. There are so many people in there with so many ideas, so many ideas that just don't ever see the light of day because enterprise is too big. 

Chris Byers:
So, you know, I will tend to tell people, if you can learn some of just the advanced formulas in Excel, you can get a lot accomplished that, you know. Otherwise you're going to think I've got to go use a developer or an engineer to get this done. And yet it's actually built for the non-technical user. You need to learn a little bit of what's the nomenclature, what are the words. But if you can do that, you can solve some pretty interesting problems and pretty fast, you can speed up efforts. I'm curious how you're seeing no-code really do this exact same thing for people and maybe some examples of where you've seen no code be successful. 

Nile Frater:
I think the Excel analogy is spot on. You know, we've seen a lot of people adopt no-code who traditionally, you know, mocked up items in macros or Excel or that kind of thing. And one of the interesting places where I've seen it used in that manor, as you know, often in enterpirse, a lot of people who've been responding to COVID-19 and, you know, that kind of thing as it's happened across the world, really, and disrupted operations and disrupted places like call centers and this kind of thing. You know, we've seen a lot of people trying to use no-code to bridge some of the gaps with the technology that they have working from home and that kind of thing. 

A really good example, a really simple one. But from a call center, typically a few are working in an operational environment and you want to make sure that callers have been answered in time and that kind of thing. You know, you usually have a bunch of agents. They are taking calls. They all have a cell next to the computer, it brings the next call in call. They can put people in queue or they can take a break if they need to go to the bathroom, etc. The way that you attend to it and monitor productivity in the environment is you have a manager and they look up from their computer monitor and they look around and they see everyone then they see who looks busy and see who doesn't, see who's chatting etc. And the minute you go to remote working from home, that kind of becomes impossible.

You know, you might have status codes coming from the cellphone software, etc. But for the vast majority of industries where people are traditionally managed by other people in a very sort of oversight kind of way. It's kind of maybe different from say how a lawyer or a doctor works, it becomes really difficult to monitor productivity. And so one of the things that we've seen is just people building tools for this kind of use case. We've seen someone build a tool that let people write down what kind of calls they were getting and how long they were spending on them, where they were, where they were sort of taking place to go do this thing or the other thing, these kind of tools. I mean, I think this specific example probably took about a day to build. I think this was using Retool, which is kind of one the more popular internal tool builders. And that was literally just a day's work and probably saw a 5% productivity gain. 

And when you look at the kind of dropoffs people are seeing, especially in the enterprise world, as a result of COVID-19, you know, that kind of thing is massive. And previously, that would have been let's go talk to a software vendor. Or let's bring in some, you know, five hundred thousand pound piece of software to do it. Or it would've been an Excel macro, difficult to use, difficult to have multiple people editing it at the same time. Someone's got to put it all together. You take 400 agents' Excel spreadsheets and figure out who would spend what where.

And, you know, the minute you start talking about that, you quickly see how some of the solutions that are available today, as amazing as they are, they get convoluted, they get expensive, they get really tricky to run. That's a really good example of something that no-code just takes away because, you know, you kind of imagine if you took everybody within your organization who knows how to do Excel macros and you give them the ability to build software. What kind of difference is that going to make for your business, in a month? In a year? 

Chris Byers:
I think you're right. I think just giving people who already have energy and as you know, there are mindsets that already exist out there of people who they can envision the process and how it's supposed to go. They may just not have spent the time to learn how to code. And so you're really just bridging that gap and kind of is this beautiful thing. I'm curious, how have you been able to see no code actually impact some of your company goals at Lloyd's? 

Nile Frater:
Probably the biggest advantage it brings to us is when we look at internal systems and internal software. You know, Lloyds is a company of somewhere around 65,000 people and the hometown that I grew up in, which is a place called Kilmarnock in Scotland, good luck translating that one, that's 44,000 people. So you quickly kind of look at a company that size and say that is huge. That is really gigantic. And the level of sort of internal processes and hierarchies and little groups here and there, they've got a little bit of knowledge but don't know about this other group, that kind of thing. You know, just the sheer size or complexity that emerges in a system as big as that, be it at Lloyds, be it any other organization, it really is just immense. 

And where we're really seeing the benefit is not trying to come in and say, okay, how can we replace this big system with no-code or how can we deliver something to a customer with no-code, but actually just first of all, looking at the individual person on the ground and saying, let's just give this person the skills that they need. Let's make it really easy for them to build something. Let's make sure we've got some guardrails in place that mean that people are not going to build some software that's got some bug in that a coder would have spotted instantly.

You know, let's keep it safe, but let's just empower the person on the ground, because that's kind of what the technology is about. You know, the thing that kind of gets bandied around in the no-code space is no-code is all about democratizing access to building software. And it can be really tempting in an organization to come in at a high level and look down and say, you know, okay, we see these five projects, they try to apply no-code to them and that may save us money or make them feel faster. But actually, I think the really interesting thing is when you do a bottom up, you just give people the tools. You give people the environment, you give them the guardrails. But you say to them, okay, now you've got us power. How can you use it to save us money? How can you use it to help improve our processes, to make things go faster? And we are absolutely at the early stages of that in Lloyds Banking Group. 

Chris Byers:
Earlier, you mentioned some great sets of tools, Bubble, Parabola, Airtable. There's all kinds of varieties of ways, really you can tackle this. I'm curious, are there some use cases that you think if someone's listening right now and you knew they were thinking about a few use cases that come to your mind, what are those that you think about no-code fast because this may be the way you get the problem solved faster?

Nile Frater:
First of all, if you want to create a job board, I mean, there are literally about 100 million tutorials out there. And doing that is kind of the hello to no-code. So if you're creating a job board at any other kind of less than or direct to the site, that's absolutely the way to do it. But I think the scope of no-code is really, really big now. You know, the majority of people are either building a mobile app or a website. And there's a lot of people who would build a marketplace, which is something like Airbnb or Ebay, where you have kind of consumers who want to, you know, rent an apartment or buy a product, and then you have sellers who want to rent that apartment or sell a product. And no-code is becoming really, really good at those kind of things. And I think the marketplace is a good example of a business that's really, really complex, because there are you know, those buyers, those sellers, transactions, et cetera. But now, there are no-code platforms which can let you build this, which make it really, really simple, and just take away all the complexity of the business logic. 

Chris Byers:
As you think about really helping people. You know, as people get into no-code, as they start to use it in their everyday life, what do you think are some of the things where it actually can go maybe off the rails a little bit and you need to help bring it in? And kind of keep some guardrails? Are you seeing places where that's happening? 

Nile Frater:
So I think, you know, the thing about no-code is much as you're dragging and dropping, you are in some ways still coding, you know, you still have to think about the little bugs or the little quirks or behaviors that emerge. When you're programming, one of the things people often say to developers is to make an estimate, and then that estimate may as well be, you know, plus or minus one hundred percent of the time. Developer says it's going to be two weeks, then it might be four. And the reason for that is when you actually really, really start to get into something, you start thinking about all of the edge cases and all of the things that could go wrong or make not good on. 

You know, for example, you know, let's say you're building a login system. You start writing the part that lets you plan your full name or let your user put in a full name. But then you start to think, well, I actually need to think about how long am I going to let that name be? If I let that not be too long, then I'm going to be, you know, crowding out someone who, for example, does not have a typical Western name. Am I going to be missing certain characters from, you know, say Celtic or a language like that. And you start to get into all these little, you know, what ifs. And that's where the real impact the program. And that's why it takes so long and why it's so complicated.

The problem with no-code is it doesn't take that away, but what you are doing is giving these tools to people who haven't necessarily had that experience before because they haven't programed, you don't necessarily know that you're going to bump into these pitfalls. And so, you know, that can be a real danger. And then you get some other things which are sort of well known, for example, security concerns or things like that, again, a lot of coders know but people from the no-code space are just not familiar with yet.

I’ll give you an example. Let's say you forget your password on a website and you go to the forgotten password and sometimes it will say, you know, give an email address and you put your email address in. And then one of two things happens. It pops up like most websites do and says if an email address with that account exists. Then we will send you an email. You can reset your password or we'll see that email address was correct, but the password is wrong or some sort of flavor of that. And the problem with that second option is essentially it can tell a hacker or an attacker that that email address does have an account here. And so if I let's say, for example, you are one of most people who, you know, reuse the same password for everything. And I know your password. I don't know what accounts you've got, I've got your typical email address set up, I can just go start trying it on Facebook and go start trying, you know, all these different places. It's called user intimidation. And it's as one of these little security quirks that most people don't know about, you wouldn't think about. But actually, you know, whether using code or no-code, your system still vulnerable to that kind of attack. 

Chris Byers:
Yeah, it sounds like there are just some new and interesting ways that people have to, you know, just start to think about things in terms of security. So that's a great example. You know, as someone who is listening right now, they might feel a bit overwhelmed, or a bit excited about the opportunities that you've talked about. But really, they're not sure where to start. What do you suggest as a first step to using no-code solutions? 

Nile Frater:
Well, the obvious first step I've got to recommend is my own website. If you go to nocode.tech/learn we've packed in over 500 lessons on using a bunch of different tools, building mobile apps, building web apps, etc. But, you know, more conceptually, I really have to say that the best thing to do is start small, you know, build a small bit of software. Don't necessarily jump in to, you know, your dream project.

For instance,a marketplace for cars where you're going to have to, you know, look up license plates or check for car makes and models or this kind of thing, you know, keep it simple. What's a simple thing you can start with? Why don't you build the website for your idea or, you know, once you've built a website for your idea, why don't you try connecting that to your service? Let's say you've got your website for your car marketplace. You've got to sign up button that connects you to a newsletter and you can email people.

For me, it's really about doing it step by step. And one of the stacks, a stack is essentially a collection of different tools you might use to achieve a kind of a no-code project about something. But one of the most popular ones out there is called the WAMZ stack. That's actually what it's called. It stands for Webflow, Airtable, Memberstack, and Zapier. And Webflow lets you build website. Airtable kind of acts as a database with a kind of Excel like interface. Memberstack allows you to have login and log out features, you know, users essentially on any website. And Zapier lets you connect to tons of different services, and I believe Formstack may well be one of them.

But that's a really, really, really good way actually of going through the different levels, you know, so build your website with Webflow. And then get a Webflow form sending data through to Airtable, then use Memberstack to build a login. Then use Zapier to do whatever, like send data to different places, maybe link it to go straight for payments or PayPal or something like that. But that stack is a really, really good way to build no-code software and one of my go-tos. But actually it's also a really nice incremental way to learn how to do it. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of grabbing really a few great tools, products and helping people kind of think about, you know, if you'll learn this framework, you're going to be way ahead in terms of being able to start coding effectively. And so I love that. Love that idea. As we begin to wrap up, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, what's the number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 

Nile Frater:
So the concept I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I can't profess to being an expert and it's quite difficult, but I've been thinking about high leverage actions. When I'm thinking of doing a task, what is the highest leverage possible where I could do that task? Let's see. I've got a business and I'm over the support team. And currently every day I check all the customer support emails. And if they are, you know, basic inquiries, like, can I get a refund? Then I ping that one onto my customer support team. And if they are, you know, more complex inquiries like do you make this wardrobe in mahogany or walnut or something, then I handle that myself because I'm the business owner and I know it from my head etc.

The high leverage is all about, instead of answering that email, I should use my answer to that email to create a standard operating procedure, you know, a document or a process I write down so that the next time that question comes up, I can just hand it off to the customer support person. And so it might mean that that task takes, you know, an hour instead of five minutes. But that just happens once. And instead of that being a task I do five minutes every day, it's now one task I do once and never again. And so high leverage is all about thinking what is the best way that I can spend my time? How can I approach a task to mean that my business is going to grow or that I can spend my time in other areas, but otherwise just not thinking of this task again. 

Chris Byers:
All right. And what is your kind of go to productivity tip for others? 

Nile Frater:
Well, that's a difficult one. So I probably have tried tons of different productivity tips, tons of different productivity tools. And the one that just keeps coming back to me, you know, everyone talks about kind of idea of a flow state. And you know that you get into the mood, you can get things done. And for me, the best way to achieve that, is every day I make a to do list.

It starts off with really, really simple stuff I have to do every day, like get up, work out, shower, and I'll literally put shower on my to do list as if I'm going to forget that. I'll put lunch on there. You know, all these little basics. I'll put tidy up, put this away, you know these tiny little things that take two seconds. But what it means is I'm quickly accumulating these little tasks and not really getting this feeling of productivity and I might have, you know, five boxes or five items stacked like, you know, take my lunch out of the fridge or shower or work out. But not such stupid things that are really, really small. Like, you know, put my shoes on, but very quickly, you know, I've done the basics that set me up for a good day, like working out, etc. I've got a lot more to do, less the stuff that started to get touched down. And it really, really gives me energy. And kind of a feeling  of forward momentum as I start to look at my day and start tackling, you know, the really important business tasks of the day. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, how will you be reimagining your own work moving forward? 

Nile Frater:
So for me, the thing I've really tried to do is think about number one, for everything that I do, how can it turn into a piece of software or an automation or something that runs in the background? Someone, I can't remember who it was, but someone once said, you know, a data center is kind of like a little army of robots who just do whatever you want them to do. So everything I'm doing every day, I'm trying to think, how can I get a robot to do that tomorrow? How can I get a robot to do that the next day? Or how can I build a little bit of software? A little bit of something that can run in the background that's going to make this easier. And the more and more I do that, it really, really shapes how I start to do things. How I implement features, how I implement, marketing concepts or market strategies and everything I try to do now is automated so that it runs again and again. It can go on in the background. I don't have to worry about it. And I can keep thinking about the new things. The next thing I'm going to do tomorrow. 

Chris Byers:
Well, as we wrap up this episode featuring Nile Frater, there are a couple takeaways that I have heard from this conversation. The first is he provided a great definition for us of low-code versus no-code. And low-code really is about enabling people who probably have a little bit of technical skill really just to speed up getting the work done. And no code is really about enabling people in that more drag and drop way to get some pretty complicated processes built in software and get processes kind of moving quickly.

The other one was this idea that we really need to step back and think about what is the highest leverage we can get in this moment. I love that idea. Leverage is this idea that the boulder is too big for us to move by ourselves. But if we can get the lever, we might actually be able to move it.

And I love that idea and how no-code tools can really help make that happen. And maybe one other one is just this idea to look around your organization at things that you run on Excel or Google Sheets and ask the question, is this something we can get going and some sort of no-code tool or solution?


Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I am Chris Byers of Formstack. This episode, we're focused on an area that many of us are starting to explore. And it's the low-code, no-code space. Nile Frater is on the show today to really teach us a little bit more about the no-code space, how it's evolving, how it's enabling teams across organizations to do really better work. Nile is the Head of Engineering Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group. He's also the managing director at ConcreteCapital and owner of NoCode.tech. Nile, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Nile Frater:
Glad to be here. Thank you very much. 

Chris Byers: Now, I've got a, you know, terrible American accent that, you know, I'm sure I did not pronounce your name right. So tell the world how you're really supposed to say it. 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's pronounced a Nile. There's a lot of debate over that because technically, I'm named after the river in Egypt. So people kind of debate how you pronounce that, but I pronounce it Nile. Most people pronounce it Nile. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, I know we in the U.S. are not not well regarded for our sophistication and our words. So I appreciate that. Well, maybe you could jump in for us and really define for us. Tell us maybe the difference between low-code and no-code for the audience who's listening and really trying to understand the space. Can you describe that? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, totally. So I'll start with low-code, which is probably the easier one. So low-code is still very much coding, very much used by developers, but typically lets you speed up the things that you do a lot but take a lot of time, you know, think how many engineers it would take to build a log in interface or forgotten password feature, low-code is really a bit abstract in a way that these things that you do again and again or let you build things once so that you can free up your developers. No-code, on other hand, for me, is a real paradigm shift. So no-code is traditionally an ecosystem of tools and platforms that allow you to create reusable software without actually writing any code. You're still essentially coding under the hood, but you're doing it completely by a drag-and-drop, visual interface. You're connecting things together, you're using different tools to connect services. 

Where I think no-code is really, really interesting is given the name, you know, no-code, people use that to refer to building an app or a website. But really, what no-code is doing for me, it's taking something that used to be done by professionals, software engineers in this case, and it's making it easy and accessible. Actually that a lot of tools which make, say for example podcasting easier, you know, they make it easier to record, to edit to Macs. They make things better and way easier. They make graphic design easier. I can settle all these things to fall under the umbrella of no-code. For me, no-code has taken complicated software related tasks on the computer and making that essentially accessible to the 99 percent. 

Chris Byers:
So tell us a little bit about how you got really you found the no-code, low-code space and how you got interested in it. 

Nile Frater:
Actually, I'm originally a coder. I've been coding probably since I was 8 or 9 years old, something like that. And I first got my start because I was really interested in hacking and making a claim to fame, for example, was hacking all the computers in Moscow and almost getting expelled. But as I kind of grew up a little bit and started to learn more about actual software and less about hacking tools, I really began to get an interest in product and market and this kind of thing. And I quickly found that for me, coding was becoming a bit of a chore. You know, I was really, really interested in the end product of the app that I may code, but I really hated the process. I hated sitting their two nights in a row, wondering why my software wouldn't work, and then finally find that I'm missing code and I'm missing a quotation or something like that. And any programmers or anyone who has tried that before, you were really familiar with that experience.

So around the time, you know, 2014, something like that, I discovered tools like Webflow, discovered tools like tree lighting, etc. and I found that these tools would essentially let me either, you know, write code faster or do the bits I wasn't good at. Just because you can code doesn't necessarily mean you are good at design interfaces or making that kind of thing work. And what no-code tools are really good at is not only simply take a recording, but also they tend to help you do things like design, like make a backend work quickly or, you know, even taking away having to worry about infrastructure in the first place. And so what I quickly found is I really care about building products and no-code essentially abstracted away everything that stood between me and the product to get into customers hands. 

Chris Byers:
Well tell us what's going on in this space. What are you seeing happen?

Nile Frater: So the size of the space, kind of over the last couple of years. I mean, the growth has just been incredible. I've been in what I would call the no-code space since probably around 2014. I think my first real taste of it was when Webflow launched and I started playing with that back in the early days. And, you know, most people would kind of say the no-code concept has been around for a very, very long time. And you maybe remember a tool called Adobe Dreamweaver, kind of allowed you to build websites with a bit of a drag and drop interface, with some code involved. But really since kind of 2017, 2018 onwards, the space has grown and more tools have started to come in and the real kind of concept of no-code started to evolve.

You know, back in 2014, 2015, you really needed to know how to code if you wanted to stitch together the three or four tools that existed, whereas today you pretty much have new companies come out every single day. I mean, if you look at producthunt.com and scroll down, there was a no-code company that launched yesterday that had the top spot. There is literally no-code companies launching every single day with new capabilities and new integrations with tools and new use cases you couldn't use before. And you know, a lot of people sort of refer to no-code as having a real kind of 80-20 problem, where you can accomplish 80% of what you want without code. But to really get that last 20 percent, at some point, you've got to get a developer. And in some ways I agree with that. But what I find is literally every week, every month, new tools are coming out. And that 80-20 is becoming 90-10, you know, 95-5 and so on, so forth. 

Chris Byers:
You actually mentioned a little bit of this, which is this idea that the tools that are out there now are getting people closer and closer to really producing what they're looking for. So what do you think the future is? What do you think the next few years are going to look like? 

Nile Frater:
So I think part of it is really just building on what we've got today. I mean, so many things have come out, you know, in the last year, like Andola or Parabola. And for people who don't know, Andola makes mobile apps, Parabola, essentially can let you drag and drop data signs or otherwise do things you would usually do in Excel. So that's probably a bit unfair but we'll stick with that. You know, these kind of tools are just coming out, people are just starting discussions on what's actually possible with them. And I think importantly kind of where the space is starting to go is as more and more of these tools come out, they're starting to integrate with each other, you know, Bubble,  for example, which is probably the best known app builder out there. They just integrated with Airtable, which is kind of the best known sort of database, a spreadsheet, that kind of thing. But as more and more of these integrations come out, the things that you're able to do, the functionally to create, the services you're able to connect, every single time one of those connections becomes possible. 

There's literally exponential growth in terms of what you can build with no-code and what you can kind of achieve. So, you know, I think that's a really, really exciting just growth that we're just waiting to see there. And I think on top of that as well, people's work will evolve in terms of their understanding. You know, when you learn to code you, as I sort of touched on earlier, you learn concepts like how to connect APIs, how logic works, how to do an if statement where if one thing happens you do something else, all these kind of fundamental blocks that let you build software and a lot of people who are committed to no-code don't necessarily understand that yet. They're just dragging and dropping their own affairs, figuring out how something works but actually over time as they start to play with these tools and you start to learn more about coding concepts and apply them visually, the things that these people are going to be able to achieve, the things that are going to be able to turn into templates, tutorials, and guides, and share with other people. That's going to be immense. And I think you're going to start to see the same increase you've seen over the last 10 years in terms of what tech could do in 2010 vs. 2020. You're going to see that in the no-code space as well, and more and more is going to become possible. 

Chris Byers:
Well, I'm curious as I think about our own product. One of the things I will tell people is, you know, it can be used by absolutely anybody in any company, anywhere. But there is a huge problem. And that really is it coming to mind when you have a problem. So if you have a problem and we happen to intersect you at the right time, that's gonna work out great. But I'm curious what you're learning as you're trying to introduce no code into kind of an organization, because I feel like that's got to be one of the most challenging places to get people to stop and say, oh, I'm not going to do the normal things I do when I want to solve a problem, like call IT or do it in Excel. I'm going to try to advance this a little bit. How are you learning what's working there? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. And I think the biggest problem in both, you know, internally and within the enterprise, but also on the no-code side itself, the biggest problem is it's almost too good to be true. You know, people have kind of spent the last 10 years watching stuff with the social networks you know. Kind of starting to come to some sort of majority with Silicon Valley and the way people work there and the things people do. And so when you kind of turn to say, well, actually you can build all this complicated software yourself, and it's not just the, you know, 14 year old wiz kids at Harvard. People tend to need a lot of convincing to understand that. And, you know, the way we've been approaching it, certainly in Lloyd's is, you know, starting off small, showing people no code, showing people what it can actually do, and then sort of that it's less about the software and more about the mentality. 

So there's this kind of concept of systems thinking, and systems thinking to me, and there's probably a systems thinker who's going to listen to this and think I'm really vilifying them here. But, you know, systems thinking to me is essentially taking the way a programmer thinks, that real logic, object-system based approach and applying that to business problems. Systems thinking essentially is the concept of, you know, looking at process as a whole, you know, looking at your job or your department or the work that you do and thinking about it from step one all the way through it to step 10, whatever it may be. Thinking, you know, how does work come into the system? How does it flow through? 

How is it outputted and then based off the back of that, trying to make some adjustments to your process and that kind of thing. And I think the best thing you can do in terms of adopting no-code or adopting a tool like Formstack is to first teach people to think like this, to think in terms of process and how you fix up process or how you improve that process. And then for me, Formstack, no-code, this kind of thing, that's just giving them the tools to do what they can already imagine. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of teaching people how to think about process. I know for me, you know, my general nature is you know I see a problem. I just kind of dive into the mess and I don't really know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to solve it. And then I start to tinker around with processes. And then eventually I can kind of pull back out, zoom back out and say, all right, I think I can see how can a process come together? How do you teach that? How do you get people really thinking that way? 

Nile Frater:
I think it's definitely a tricky problem and it's one that I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out. For me, it's very much about speaking to someone about the kind of work they do, have them describe what they're up to, who they speak to on a daily basis, and just sort of mapping that out. And then the thing I start to do is really just challenge the assumptions and sort of peel away things. OK. So why do use that? Why do you have to speak to, you know, Barbara in account? Why does it take as long as this? And it's really about pulling someone out of the work that they do every day to almost sort of, you know, eagle eye from above. 

Okay, let's look at it together. Let's figure out why you do every sort of step. And I think when you'd improving a process or when you are trying to do systems thinking about software, the most important thing you can do is cut out things you don't need. You know, there's no point in going in looking at a process that someone doesn't say, okay, we're going to replace that with software, we're going to give you a software tool to do it. If you don't first look and say, well, do you have to be doing this, actually can we cut 50% out or can we make it easier. 

And I think it's just really about making it feel relevant to someone. You don't want to kind of come in and talk about systems thinking, that's just the concept. You want to just look at what's the work that you do today? How can you do it? If we actually look at and examine it, what other bits can you peck out or what are the parts that, you know, you don't have to do that you could pass off to someone else. And I think it's really just, you know, there's a real growth there that if you start small with a little bit of work you build up from there. And hopefully people start to take an understanding what you're doing, understand the techniques and get it from there and, you know, eventually apply it themselves. 

Chris Byers:
One of the things you are talking about is this idea of reimagining work. Because as you give people tools and really the mindset to redo processes, even observe that there are broken processes or slow processes, you're really helping them advance the way that they do their work, saving time, which is ultimately saving money. How do you think this is going to impact workers around the world going forward? 

Nile Frater:
There's this concept called Crossing the Chasm. It was a book by Geoffrey Moore. And the idea is that when a new piece of technology comes out, there are early adopters and then over time, you know, the more conservative people pick it up and adopt that. And I think if you zoom out and look at that from the business world, then that is a pretty obvious thing to say but start ups, small companies, individual entrepreneurs. These people pick up technology fast and then over time it is adopted by enterprise. You know the interesting thing for me and I tend to think about it as if you go back, you know, say a century ago or maybe to the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds, even as recently as sort of the 50s or 70s, if you wanted to create a big business, if you wanted to make one of these tech companies something the size of Google or Facebook, then you needed to own a factory. And that was going to cost you millions or whatever it may have adjusted to back in the day.

But then if you go back to just the year 2000, actually all you need is a laptop. You know, your laptop becomes your factory. And if you go back to, you know, even as recent as 2015, you know, OK. You had your laptop. But you needed to spend, you know, months and months learning to code, needed to spend a lot of money on servers and all that infrastructure that would let you run a business. And actually if you zoom forward to now literally all you need is a laptop. You can take anyone in this day and age who is familiar with something like Microsoft Office, you know, anyone who's got the skills to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and have them use a no-code tool to get to the point where actually they can create software. And so that's really, really powerful for small businesses. Right. Your average Joe can now come online, come to a website, like nocode.tech or YouTube or something like that. Watch a few tutorials, learn how to use these tools. And within a few days, they can have their own business up and running. 

And I think as the enterprise starts to adopt that, then quickly, you're going to go away from this concept of the business and IT, where you have one group of people who are completely nontechnical, have nothing to do the tech. They simply make requests and they get something back. And you have this other group of people in IT who, you know, are the guardian angels of technology, who hold the keys and all the software, who know everything there is to know. And actually, you know, both of those premises are wrong. There are people in IT who know nothing about business or people in the business who know nothing about IT and can you know, the two shall never meet.

No-code is all about bridging that gap and no-code is essentially allowing more and more people in the business to prototype things, to better communicate their ideas, to eventually start to, for example, replace some of the processes I might use in areas like finance and accounting and HR. And on the IT side there are projects which a no-code tool could complete in a day, which IT are currently spending, you know, hundreds of thousands on. And that's where I think the really big impact is going to be over the next two, three years as people start to really get over that small software bump. I'm not saying no-code is ready to take on the big time yet. You know, you're not going to build the next Google with no-code necessarily. Not the next Facebook, but you might start it there. And I think when you look within the enterprise, that are a lot of little projects, a lot of things here and there. There are so many people in there with so many ideas, so many ideas that just don't ever see the light of day because enterprise is too big. 

Chris Byers:
So, you know, I will tend to tell people, if you can learn some of just the advanced formulas in Excel, you can get a lot accomplished that, you know. Otherwise you're going to think I've got to go use a developer or an engineer to get this done. And yet it's actually built for the non-technical user. You need to learn a little bit of what's the nomenclature, what are the words. But if you can do that, you can solve some pretty interesting problems and pretty fast, you can speed up efforts. I'm curious how you're seeing no-code really do this exact same thing for people and maybe some examples of where you've seen no code be successful. 

Nile Frater:
I think the Excel analogy is spot on. You know, we've seen a lot of people adopt no-code who traditionally, you know, mocked up items in macros or Excel or that kind of thing. And one of the interesting places where I've seen it used in that manor, as you know, often in enterpirse, a lot of people who've been responding to COVID-19 and, you know, that kind of thing as it's happened across the world, really, and disrupted operations and disrupted places like call centers and this kind of thing. You know, we've seen a lot of people trying to use no-code to bridge some of the gaps with the technology that they have working from home and that kind of thing. 

A really good example, a really simple one. But from a call center, typically a few are working in an operational environment and you want to make sure that callers have been answered in time and that kind of thing. You know, you usually have a bunch of agents. They are taking calls. They all have a cell next to the computer, it brings the next call in call. They can put people in queue or they can take a break if they need to go to the bathroom, etc. The way that you attend to it and monitor productivity in the environment is you have a manager and they look up from their computer monitor and they look around and they see everyone then they see who looks busy and see who doesn't, see who's chatting etc. And the minute you go to remote working from home, that kind of becomes impossible.

You know, you might have status codes coming from the cellphone software, etc. But for the vast majority of industries where people are traditionally managed by other people in a very sort of oversight kind of way. It's kind of maybe different from say how a lawyer or a doctor works, it becomes really difficult to monitor productivity. And so one of the things that we've seen is just people building tools for this kind of use case. We've seen someone build a tool that let people write down what kind of calls they were getting and how long they were spending on them, where they were, where they were sort of taking place to go do this thing or the other thing, these kind of tools. I mean, I think this specific example probably took about a day to build. I think this was using Retool, which is kind of one the more popular internal tool builders. And that was literally just a day's work and probably saw a 5% productivity gain. 

And when you look at the kind of dropoffs people are seeing, especially in the enterprise world, as a result of COVID-19, you know, that kind of thing is massive. And previously, that would have been let's go talk to a software vendor. Or let's bring in some, you know, five hundred thousand pound piece of software to do it. Or it would've been an Excel macro, difficult to use, difficult to have multiple people editing it at the same time. Someone's got to put it all together. You take 400 agents' Excel spreadsheets and figure out who would spend what where.

And, you know, the minute you start talking about that, you quickly see how some of the solutions that are available today, as amazing as they are, they get convoluted, they get expensive, they get really tricky to run. That's a really good example of something that no-code just takes away because, you know, you kind of imagine if you took everybody within your organization who knows how to do Excel macros and you give them the ability to build software. What kind of difference is that going to make for your business, in a month? In a year? 

Chris Byers:
I think you're right. I think just giving people who already have energy and as you know, there are mindsets that already exist out there of people who they can envision the process and how it's supposed to go. They may just not have spent the time to learn how to code. And so you're really just bridging that gap and kind of is this beautiful thing. I'm curious, how have you been able to see no code actually impact some of your company goals at Lloyd's? 

Nile Frater:
Probably the biggest advantage it brings to us is when we look at internal systems and internal software. You know, Lloyds is a company of somewhere around 65,000 people and the hometown that I grew up in, which is a place called Kilmarnock in Scotland, good luck translating that one, that's 44,000 people. So you quickly kind of look at a company that size and say that is huge. That is really gigantic. And the level of sort of internal processes and hierarchies and little groups here and there, they've got a little bit of knowledge but don't know about this other group, that kind of thing. You know, just the sheer size or complexity that emerges in a system as big as that, be it at Lloyds, be it any other organization, it really is just immense. 

And where we're really seeing the benefit is not trying to come in and say, okay, how can we replace this big system with no-code or how can we deliver something to a customer with no-code, but actually just first of all, looking at the individual person on the ground and saying, let's just give this person the skills that they need. Let's make it really easy for them to build something. Let's make sure we've got some guardrails in place that mean that people are not going to build some software that's got some bug in that a coder would have spotted instantly.

You know, let's keep it safe, but let's just empower the person on the ground, because that's kind of what the technology is about. You know, the thing that kind of gets bandied around in the no-code space is no-code is all about democratizing access to building software. And it can be really tempting in an organization to come in at a high level and look down and say, you know, okay, we see these five projects, they try to apply no-code to them and that may save us money or make them feel faster. But actually, I think the really interesting thing is when you do a bottom up, you just give people the tools. You give people the environment, you give them the guardrails. But you say to them, okay, now you've got us power. How can you use it to save us money? How can you use it to help improve our processes, to make things go faster? And we are absolutely at the early stages of that in Lloyds Banking Group. 

Chris Byers:
Earlier, you mentioned some great sets of tools, Bubble, Parabola, Airtable. There's all kinds of varieties of ways, really you can tackle this. I'm curious, are there some use cases that you think if someone's listening right now and you knew they were thinking about a few use cases that come to your mind, what are those that you think about no-code fast because this may be the way you get the problem solved faster?

Nile Frater:
First of all, if you want to create a job board, I mean, there are literally about 100 million tutorials out there. And doing that is kind of the hello to no-code. So if you're creating a job board at any other kind of less than or direct to the site, that's absolutely the way to do it. But I think the scope of no-code is really, really big now. You know, the majority of people are either building a mobile app or a website. And there's a lot of people who would build a marketplace, which is something like Airbnb or Ebay, where you have kind of consumers who want to, you know, rent an apartment or buy a product, and then you have sellers who want to rent that apartment or sell a product. And no-code is becoming really, really good at those kind of things. And I think the marketplace is a good example of a business that's really, really complex, because there are you know, those buyers, those sellers, transactions, et cetera. But now, there are no-code platforms which can let you build this, which make it really, really simple, and just take away all the complexity of the business logic. 

Chris Byers:
As you think about really helping people. You know, as people get into no-code, as they start to use it in their everyday life, what do you think are some of the things where it actually can go maybe off the rails a little bit and you need to help bring it in? And kind of keep some guardrails? Are you seeing places where that's happening? 

Nile Frater:
So I think, you know, the thing about no-code is much as you're dragging and dropping, you are in some ways still coding, you know, you still have to think about the little bugs or the little quirks or behaviors that emerge. When you're programming, one of the things people often say to developers is to make an estimate, and then that estimate may as well be, you know, plus or minus one hundred percent of the time. Developer says it's going to be two weeks, then it might be four. And the reason for that is when you actually really, really start to get into something, you start thinking about all of the edge cases and all of the things that could go wrong or make not good on. 

You know, for example, you know, let's say you're building a login system. You start writing the part that lets you plan your full name or let your user put in a full name. But then you start to think, well, I actually need to think about how long am I going to let that name be? If I let that not be too long, then I'm going to be, you know, crowding out someone who, for example, does not have a typical Western name. Am I going to be missing certain characters from, you know, say Celtic or a language like that. And you start to get into all these little, you know, what ifs. And that's where the real impact the program. And that's why it takes so long and why it's so complicated.

The problem with no-code is it doesn't take that away, but what you are doing is giving these tools to people who haven't necessarily had that experience before because they haven't programed, you don't necessarily know that you're going to bump into these pitfalls. And so, you know, that can be a real danger. And then you get some other things which are sort of well known, for example, security concerns or things like that, again, a lot of coders know but people from the no-code space are just not familiar with yet.

I’ll give you an example. Let's say you forget your password on a website and you go to the forgotten password and sometimes it will say, you know, give an email address and you put your email address in. And then one of two things happens. It pops up like most websites do and says if an email address with that account exists. Then we will send you an email. You can reset your password or we'll see that email address was correct, but the password is wrong or some sort of flavor of that. And the problem with that second option is essentially it can tell a hacker or an attacker that that email address does have an account here. And so if I let's say, for example, you are one of most people who, you know, reuse the same password for everything. And I know your password. I don't know what accounts you've got, I've got your typical email address set up, I can just go start trying it on Facebook and go start trying, you know, all these different places. It's called user intimidation. And it's as one of these little security quirks that most people don't know about, you wouldn't think about. But actually, you know, whether using code or no-code, your system still vulnerable to that kind of attack. 

Chris Byers:
Yeah, it sounds like there are just some new and interesting ways that people have to, you know, just start to think about things in terms of security. So that's a great example. You know, as someone who is listening right now, they might feel a bit overwhelmed, or a bit excited about the opportunities that you've talked about. But really, they're not sure where to start. What do you suggest as a first step to using no-code solutions? 

Nile Frater:
Well, the obvious first step I've got to recommend is my own website. If you go to nocode.tech/learn we've packed in over 500 lessons on using a bunch of different tools, building mobile apps, building web apps, etc. But, you know, more conceptually, I really have to say that the best thing to do is start small, you know, build a small bit of software. Don't necessarily jump in to, you know, your dream project.

For instance,a marketplace for cars where you're going to have to, you know, look up license plates or check for car makes and models or this kind of thing, you know, keep it simple. What's a simple thing you can start with? Why don't you build the website for your idea or, you know, once you've built a website for your idea, why don't you try connecting that to your service? Let's say you've got your website for your car marketplace. You've got to sign up button that connects you to a newsletter and you can email people.

For me, it's really about doing it step by step. And one of the stacks, a stack is essentially a collection of different tools you might use to achieve a kind of a no-code project about something. But one of the most popular ones out there is called the WAMZ stack. That's actually what it's called. It stands for Webflow, Airtable, Memberstack, and Zapier. And Webflow lets you build website. Airtable kind of acts as a database with a kind of Excel like interface. Memberstack allows you to have login and log out features, you know, users essentially on any website. And Zapier lets you connect to tons of different services, and I believe Formstack may well be one of them.

But that's a really, really, really good way actually of going through the different levels, you know, so build your website with Webflow. And then get a Webflow form sending data through to Airtable, then use Memberstack to build a login. Then use Zapier to do whatever, like send data to different places, maybe link it to go straight for payments or PayPal or something like that. But that stack is a really, really good way to build no-code software and one of my go-tos. But actually it's also a really nice incremental way to learn how to do it. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of grabbing really a few great tools, products and helping people kind of think about, you know, if you'll learn this framework, you're going to be way ahead in terms of being able to start coding effectively. And so I love that. Love that idea. As we begin to wrap up, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, what's the number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 

Nile Frater:
So the concept I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I can't profess to being an expert and it's quite difficult, but I've been thinking about high leverage actions. When I'm thinking of doing a task, what is the highest leverage possible where I could do that task? Let's see. I've got a business and I'm over the support team. And currently every day I check all the customer support emails. And if they are, you know, basic inquiries, like, can I get a refund? Then I ping that one onto my customer support team. And if they are, you know, more complex inquiries like do you make this wardrobe in mahogany or walnut or something, then I handle that myself because I'm the business owner and I know it from my head etc.

The high leverage is all about, instead of answering that email, I should use my answer to that email to create a standard operating procedure, you know, a document or a process I write down so that the next time that question comes up, I can just hand it off to the customer support person. And so it might mean that that task takes, you know, an hour instead of five minutes. But that just happens once. And instead of that being a task I do five minutes every day, it's now one task I do once and never again. And so high leverage is all about thinking what is the best way that I can spend my time? How can I approach a task to mean that my business is going to grow or that I can spend my time in other areas, but otherwise just not thinking of this task again. 

Chris Byers:
All right. And what is your kind of go to productivity tip for others? 

Nile Frater:
Well, that's a difficult one. So I probably have tried tons of different productivity tips, tons of different productivity tools. And the one that just keeps coming back to me, you know, everyone talks about kind of idea of a flow state. And you know that you get into the mood, you can get things done. And for me, the best way to achieve that, is every day I make a to do list.

It starts off with really, really simple stuff I have to do every day, like get up, work out, shower, and I'll literally put shower on my to do list as if I'm going to forget that. I'll put lunch on there. You know, all these little basics. I'll put tidy up, put this away, you know these tiny little things that take two seconds. But what it means is I'm quickly accumulating these little tasks and not really getting this feeling of productivity and I might have, you know, five boxes or five items stacked like, you know, take my lunch out of the fridge or shower or work out. But not such stupid things that are really, really small. Like, you know, put my shoes on, but very quickly, you know, I've done the basics that set me up for a good day, like working out, etc. I've got a lot more to do, less the stuff that started to get touched down. And it really, really gives me energy. And kind of a feeling  of forward momentum as I start to look at my day and start tackling, you know, the really important business tasks of the day. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, how will you be reimagining your own work moving forward? 

Nile Frater:
So for me, the thing I've really tried to do is think about number one, for everything that I do, how can it turn into a piece of software or an automation or something that runs in the background? Someone, I can't remember who it was, but someone once said, you know, a data center is kind of like a little army of robots who just do whatever you want them to do. So everything I'm doing every day, I'm trying to think, how can I get a robot to do that tomorrow? How can I get a robot to do that the next day? Or how can I build a little bit of software? A little bit of something that can run in the background that's going to make this easier. And the more and more I do that, it really, really shapes how I start to do things. How I implement features, how I implement, marketing concepts or market strategies and everything I try to do now is automated so that it runs again and again. It can go on in the background. I don't have to worry about it. And I can keep thinking about the new things. The next thing I'm going to do tomorrow. 

Chris Byers:
Well, as we wrap up this episode featuring Nile Frater, there are a couple takeaways that I have heard from this conversation. The first is he provided a great definition for us of low-code versus no-code. And low-code really is about enabling people who probably have a little bit of technical skill really just to speed up getting the work done. And no code is really about enabling people in that more drag and drop way to get some pretty complicated processes built in software and get processes kind of moving quickly.

The other one was this idea that we really need to step back and think about what is the highest leverage we can get in this moment. I love that idea. Leverage is this idea that the boulder is too big for us to move by ourselves. But if we can get the lever, we might actually be able to move it.

And I love that idea and how no-code tools can really help make that happen. And maybe one other one is just this idea to look around your organization at things that you run on Excel or Google Sheets and ask the question, is this something we can get going and some sort of no-code tool or solution?


Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I am Chris Byers of Formstack. This episode, we're focused on an area that many of us are starting to explore. And it's the low-code, no-code space. Nile Frater is on the show today to really teach us a little bit more about the no-code space, how it's evolving, how it's enabling teams across organizations to do really better work. Nile is the Head of Engineering Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group. He's also the managing director at ConcreteCapital and owner of NoCode.tech. Nile, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Nile Frater:
Glad to be here. Thank you very much. 

Chris Byers: Now, I've got a, you know, terrible American accent that, you know, I'm sure I did not pronounce your name right. So tell the world how you're really supposed to say it. 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's pronounced a Nile. There's a lot of debate over that because technically, I'm named after the river in Egypt. So people kind of debate how you pronounce that, but I pronounce it Nile. Most people pronounce it Nile. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, I know we in the U.S. are not not well regarded for our sophistication and our words. So I appreciate that. Well, maybe you could jump in for us and really define for us. Tell us maybe the difference between low-code and no-code for the audience who's listening and really trying to understand the space. Can you describe that? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, totally. So I'll start with low-code, which is probably the easier one. So low-code is still very much coding, very much used by developers, but typically lets you speed up the things that you do a lot but take a lot of time, you know, think how many engineers it would take to build a log in interface or forgotten password feature, low-code is really a bit abstract in a way that these things that you do again and again or let you build things once so that you can free up your developers. No-code, on other hand, for me, is a real paradigm shift. So no-code is traditionally an ecosystem of tools and platforms that allow you to create reusable software without actually writing any code. You're still essentially coding under the hood, but you're doing it completely by a drag-and-drop, visual interface. You're connecting things together, you're using different tools to connect services. 

Where I think no-code is really, really interesting is given the name, you know, no-code, people use that to refer to building an app or a website. But really, what no-code is doing for me, it's taking something that used to be done by professionals, software engineers in this case, and it's making it easy and accessible. Actually that a lot of tools which make, say for example podcasting easier, you know, they make it easier to record, to edit to Macs. They make things better and way easier. They make graphic design easier. I can settle all these things to fall under the umbrella of no-code. For me, no-code has taken complicated software related tasks on the computer and making that essentially accessible to the 99 percent. 

Chris Byers:
So tell us a little bit about how you got really you found the no-code, low-code space and how you got interested in it. 

Nile Frater:
Actually, I'm originally a coder. I've been coding probably since I was 8 or 9 years old, something like that. And I first got my start because I was really interested in hacking and making a claim to fame, for example, was hacking all the computers in Moscow and almost getting expelled. But as I kind of grew up a little bit and started to learn more about actual software and less about hacking tools, I really began to get an interest in product and market and this kind of thing. And I quickly found that for me, coding was becoming a bit of a chore. You know, I was really, really interested in the end product of the app that I may code, but I really hated the process. I hated sitting their two nights in a row, wondering why my software wouldn't work, and then finally find that I'm missing code and I'm missing a quotation or something like that. And any programmers or anyone who has tried that before, you were really familiar with that experience.

So around the time, you know, 2014, something like that, I discovered tools like Webflow, discovered tools like tree lighting, etc. and I found that these tools would essentially let me either, you know, write code faster or do the bits I wasn't good at. Just because you can code doesn't necessarily mean you are good at design interfaces or making that kind of thing work. And what no-code tools are really good at is not only simply take a recording, but also they tend to help you do things like design, like make a backend work quickly or, you know, even taking away having to worry about infrastructure in the first place. And so what I quickly found is I really care about building products and no-code essentially abstracted away everything that stood between me and the product to get into customers hands. 

Chris Byers:
Well tell us what's going on in this space. What are you seeing happen?

Nile Frater: So the size of the space, kind of over the last couple of years. I mean, the growth has just been incredible. I've been in what I would call the no-code space since probably around 2014. I think my first real taste of it was when Webflow launched and I started playing with that back in the early days. And, you know, most people would kind of say the no-code concept has been around for a very, very long time. And you maybe remember a tool called Adobe Dreamweaver, kind of allowed you to build websites with a bit of a drag and drop interface, with some code involved. But really since kind of 2017, 2018 onwards, the space has grown and more tools have started to come in and the real kind of concept of no-code started to evolve.

You know, back in 2014, 2015, you really needed to know how to code if you wanted to stitch together the three or four tools that existed, whereas today you pretty much have new companies come out every single day. I mean, if you look at producthunt.com and scroll down, there was a no-code company that launched yesterday that had the top spot. There is literally no-code companies launching every single day with new capabilities and new integrations with tools and new use cases you couldn't use before. And you know, a lot of people sort of refer to no-code as having a real kind of 80-20 problem, where you can accomplish 80% of what you want without code. But to really get that last 20 percent, at some point, you've got to get a developer. And in some ways I agree with that. But what I find is literally every week, every month, new tools are coming out. And that 80-20 is becoming 90-10, you know, 95-5 and so on, so forth. 

Chris Byers:
You actually mentioned a little bit of this, which is this idea that the tools that are out there now are getting people closer and closer to really producing what they're looking for. So what do you think the future is? What do you think the next few years are going to look like? 

Nile Frater:
So I think part of it is really just building on what we've got today. I mean, so many things have come out, you know, in the last year, like Andola or Parabola. And for people who don't know, Andola makes mobile apps, Parabola, essentially can let you drag and drop data signs or otherwise do things you would usually do in Excel. So that's probably a bit unfair but we'll stick with that. You know, these kind of tools are just coming out, people are just starting discussions on what's actually possible with them. And I think importantly kind of where the space is starting to go is as more and more of these tools come out, they're starting to integrate with each other, you know, Bubble,  for example, which is probably the best known app builder out there. They just integrated with Airtable, which is kind of the best known sort of database, a spreadsheet, that kind of thing. But as more and more of these integrations come out, the things that you're able to do, the functionally to create, the services you're able to connect, every single time one of those connections becomes possible. 

There's literally exponential growth in terms of what you can build with no-code and what you can kind of achieve. So, you know, I think that's a really, really exciting just growth that we're just waiting to see there. And I think on top of that as well, people's work will evolve in terms of their understanding. You know, when you learn to code you, as I sort of touched on earlier, you learn concepts like how to connect APIs, how logic works, how to do an if statement where if one thing happens you do something else, all these kind of fundamental blocks that let you build software and a lot of people who are committed to no-code don't necessarily understand that yet. They're just dragging and dropping their own affairs, figuring out how something works but actually over time as they start to play with these tools and you start to learn more about coding concepts and apply them visually, the things that these people are going to be able to achieve, the things that are going to be able to turn into templates, tutorials, and guides, and share with other people. That's going to be immense. And I think you're going to start to see the same increase you've seen over the last 10 years in terms of what tech could do in 2010 vs. 2020. You're going to see that in the no-code space as well, and more and more is going to become possible. 

Chris Byers:
Well, I'm curious as I think about our own product. One of the things I will tell people is, you know, it can be used by absolutely anybody in any company, anywhere. But there is a huge problem. And that really is it coming to mind when you have a problem. So if you have a problem and we happen to intersect you at the right time, that's gonna work out great. But I'm curious what you're learning as you're trying to introduce no code into kind of an organization, because I feel like that's got to be one of the most challenging places to get people to stop and say, oh, I'm not going to do the normal things I do when I want to solve a problem, like call IT or do it in Excel. I'm going to try to advance this a little bit. How are you learning what's working there? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. And I think the biggest problem in both, you know, internally and within the enterprise, but also on the no-code side itself, the biggest problem is it's almost too good to be true. You know, people have kind of spent the last 10 years watching stuff with the social networks you know. Kind of starting to come to some sort of majority with Silicon Valley and the way people work there and the things people do. And so when you kind of turn to say, well, actually you can build all this complicated software yourself, and it's not just the, you know, 14 year old wiz kids at Harvard. People tend to need a lot of convincing to understand that. And, you know, the way we've been approaching it, certainly in Lloyd's is, you know, starting off small, showing people no code, showing people what it can actually do, and then sort of that it's less about the software and more about the mentality. 

So there's this kind of concept of systems thinking, and systems thinking to me, and there's probably a systems thinker who's going to listen to this and think I'm really vilifying them here. But, you know, systems thinking to me is essentially taking the way a programmer thinks, that real logic, object-system based approach and applying that to business problems. Systems thinking essentially is the concept of, you know, looking at process as a whole, you know, looking at your job or your department or the work that you do and thinking about it from step one all the way through it to step 10, whatever it may be. Thinking, you know, how does work come into the system? How does it flow through? 

How is it outputted and then based off the back of that, trying to make some adjustments to your process and that kind of thing. And I think the best thing you can do in terms of adopting no-code or adopting a tool like Formstack is to first teach people to think like this, to think in terms of process and how you fix up process or how you improve that process. And then for me, Formstack, no-code, this kind of thing, that's just giving them the tools to do what they can already imagine. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of teaching people how to think about process. I know for me, you know, my general nature is you know I see a problem. I just kind of dive into the mess and I don't really know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to solve it. And then I start to tinker around with processes. And then eventually I can kind of pull back out, zoom back out and say, all right, I think I can see how can a process come together? How do you teach that? How do you get people really thinking that way? 

Nile Frater:
I think it's definitely a tricky problem and it's one that I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out. For me, it's very much about speaking to someone about the kind of work they do, have them describe what they're up to, who they speak to on a daily basis, and just sort of mapping that out. And then the thing I start to do is really just challenge the assumptions and sort of peel away things. OK. So why do use that? Why do you have to speak to, you know, Barbara in account? Why does it take as long as this? And it's really about pulling someone out of the work that they do every day to almost sort of, you know, eagle eye from above. 

Okay, let's look at it together. Let's figure out why you do every sort of step. And I think when you'd improving a process or when you are trying to do systems thinking about software, the most important thing you can do is cut out things you don't need. You know, there's no point in going in looking at a process that someone doesn't say, okay, we're going to replace that with software, we're going to give you a software tool to do it. If you don't first look and say, well, do you have to be doing this, actually can we cut 50% out or can we make it easier. 

And I think it's just really about making it feel relevant to someone. You don't want to kind of come in and talk about systems thinking, that's just the concept. You want to just look at what's the work that you do today? How can you do it? If we actually look at and examine it, what other bits can you peck out or what are the parts that, you know, you don't have to do that you could pass off to someone else. And I think it's really just, you know, there's a real growth there that if you start small with a little bit of work you build up from there. And hopefully people start to take an understanding what you're doing, understand the techniques and get it from there and, you know, eventually apply it themselves. 

Chris Byers:
One of the things you are talking about is this idea of reimagining work. Because as you give people tools and really the mindset to redo processes, even observe that there are broken processes or slow processes, you're really helping them advance the way that they do their work, saving time, which is ultimately saving money. How do you think this is going to impact workers around the world going forward? 

Nile Frater:
There's this concept called Crossing the Chasm. It was a book by Geoffrey Moore. And the idea is that when a new piece of technology comes out, there are early adopters and then over time, you know, the more conservative people pick it up and adopt that. And I think if you zoom out and look at that from the business world, then that is a pretty obvious thing to say but start ups, small companies, individual entrepreneurs. These people pick up technology fast and then over time it is adopted by enterprise. You know the interesting thing for me and I tend to think about it as if you go back, you know, say a century ago or maybe to the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds, even as recently as sort of the 50s or 70s, if you wanted to create a big business, if you wanted to make one of these tech companies something the size of Google or Facebook, then you needed to own a factory. And that was going to cost you millions or whatever it may have adjusted to back in the day.

But then if you go back to just the year 2000, actually all you need is a laptop. You know, your laptop becomes your factory. And if you go back to, you know, even as recent as 2015, you know, OK. You had your laptop. But you needed to spend, you know, months and months learning to code, needed to spend a lot of money on servers and all that infrastructure that would let you run a business. And actually if you zoom forward to now literally all you need is a laptop. You can take anyone in this day and age who is familiar with something like Microsoft Office, you know, anyone who's got the skills to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and have them use a no-code tool to get to the point where actually they can create software. And so that's really, really powerful for small businesses. Right. Your average Joe can now come online, come to a website, like nocode.tech or YouTube or something like that. Watch a few tutorials, learn how to use these tools. And within a few days, they can have their own business up and running. 

And I think as the enterprise starts to adopt that, then quickly, you're going to go away from this concept of the business and IT, where you have one group of people who are completely nontechnical, have nothing to do the tech. They simply make requests and they get something back. And you have this other group of people in IT who, you know, are the guardian angels of technology, who hold the keys and all the software, who know everything there is to know. And actually, you know, both of those premises are wrong. There are people in IT who know nothing about business or people in the business who know nothing about IT and can you know, the two shall never meet.

No-code is all about bridging that gap and no-code is essentially allowing more and more people in the business to prototype things, to better communicate their ideas, to eventually start to, for example, replace some of the processes I might use in areas like finance and accounting and HR. And on the IT side there are projects which a no-code tool could complete in a day, which IT are currently spending, you know, hundreds of thousands on. And that's where I think the really big impact is going to be over the next two, three years as people start to really get over that small software bump. I'm not saying no-code is ready to take on the big time yet. You know, you're not going to build the next Google with no-code necessarily. Not the next Facebook, but you might start it there. And I think when you look within the enterprise, that are a lot of little projects, a lot of things here and there. There are so many people in there with so many ideas, so many ideas that just don't ever see the light of day because enterprise is too big. 

Chris Byers:
So, you know, I will tend to tell people, if you can learn some of just the advanced formulas in Excel, you can get a lot accomplished that, you know. Otherwise you're going to think I've got to go use a developer or an engineer to get this done. And yet it's actually built for the non-technical user. You need to learn a little bit of what's the nomenclature, what are the words. But if you can do that, you can solve some pretty interesting problems and pretty fast, you can speed up efforts. I'm curious how you're seeing no-code really do this exact same thing for people and maybe some examples of where you've seen no code be successful. 

Nile Frater:
I think the Excel analogy is spot on. You know, we've seen a lot of people adopt no-code who traditionally, you know, mocked up items in macros or Excel or that kind of thing. And one of the interesting places where I've seen it used in that manor, as you know, often in enterpirse, a lot of people who've been responding to COVID-19 and, you know, that kind of thing as it's happened across the world, really, and disrupted operations and disrupted places like call centers and this kind of thing. You know, we've seen a lot of people trying to use no-code to bridge some of the gaps with the technology that they have working from home and that kind of thing. 

A really good example, a really simple one. But from a call center, typically a few are working in an operational environment and you want to make sure that callers have been answered in time and that kind of thing. You know, you usually have a bunch of agents. They are taking calls. They all have a cell next to the computer, it brings the next call in call. They can put people in queue or they can take a break if they need to go to the bathroom, etc. The way that you attend to it and monitor productivity in the environment is you have a manager and they look up from their computer monitor and they look around and they see everyone then they see who looks busy and see who doesn't, see who's chatting etc. And the minute you go to remote working from home, that kind of becomes impossible.

You know, you might have status codes coming from the cellphone software, etc. But for the vast majority of industries where people are traditionally managed by other people in a very sort of oversight kind of way. It's kind of maybe different from say how a lawyer or a doctor works, it becomes really difficult to monitor productivity. And so one of the things that we've seen is just people building tools for this kind of use case. We've seen someone build a tool that let people write down what kind of calls they were getting and how long they were spending on them, where they were, where they were sort of taking place to go do this thing or the other thing, these kind of tools. I mean, I think this specific example probably took about a day to build. I think this was using Retool, which is kind of one the more popular internal tool builders. And that was literally just a day's work and probably saw a 5% productivity gain. 

And when you look at the kind of dropoffs people are seeing, especially in the enterprise world, as a result of COVID-19, you know, that kind of thing is massive. And previously, that would have been let's go talk to a software vendor. Or let's bring in some, you know, five hundred thousand pound piece of software to do it. Or it would've been an Excel macro, difficult to use, difficult to have multiple people editing it at the same time. Someone's got to put it all together. You take 400 agents' Excel spreadsheets and figure out who would spend what where.

And, you know, the minute you start talking about that, you quickly see how some of the solutions that are available today, as amazing as they are, they get convoluted, they get expensive, they get really tricky to run. That's a really good example of something that no-code just takes away because, you know, you kind of imagine if you took everybody within your organization who knows how to do Excel macros and you give them the ability to build software. What kind of difference is that going to make for your business, in a month? In a year? 

Chris Byers:
I think you're right. I think just giving people who already have energy and as you know, there are mindsets that already exist out there of people who they can envision the process and how it's supposed to go. They may just not have spent the time to learn how to code. And so you're really just bridging that gap and kind of is this beautiful thing. I'm curious, how have you been able to see no code actually impact some of your company goals at Lloyd's? 

Nile Frater:
Probably the biggest advantage it brings to us is when we look at internal systems and internal software. You know, Lloyds is a company of somewhere around 65,000 people and the hometown that I grew up in, which is a place called Kilmarnock in Scotland, good luck translating that one, that's 44,000 people. So you quickly kind of look at a company that size and say that is huge. That is really gigantic. And the level of sort of internal processes and hierarchies and little groups here and there, they've got a little bit of knowledge but don't know about this other group, that kind of thing. You know, just the sheer size or complexity that emerges in a system as big as that, be it at Lloyds, be it any other organization, it really is just immense. 

And where we're really seeing the benefit is not trying to come in and say, okay, how can we replace this big system with no-code or how can we deliver something to a customer with no-code, but actually just first of all, looking at the individual person on the ground and saying, let's just give this person the skills that they need. Let's make it really easy for them to build something. Let's make sure we've got some guardrails in place that mean that people are not going to build some software that's got some bug in that a coder would have spotted instantly.

You know, let's keep it safe, but let's just empower the person on the ground, because that's kind of what the technology is about. You know, the thing that kind of gets bandied around in the no-code space is no-code is all about democratizing access to building software. And it can be really tempting in an organization to come in at a high level and look down and say, you know, okay, we see these five projects, they try to apply no-code to them and that may save us money or make them feel faster. But actually, I think the really interesting thing is when you do a bottom up, you just give people the tools. You give people the environment, you give them the guardrails. But you say to them, okay, now you've got us power. How can you use it to save us money? How can you use it to help improve our processes, to make things go faster? And we are absolutely at the early stages of that in Lloyds Banking Group. 

Chris Byers:
Earlier, you mentioned some great sets of tools, Bubble, Parabola, Airtable. There's all kinds of varieties of ways, really you can tackle this. I'm curious, are there some use cases that you think if someone's listening right now and you knew they were thinking about a few use cases that come to your mind, what are those that you think about no-code fast because this may be the way you get the problem solved faster?

Nile Frater:
First of all, if you want to create a job board, I mean, there are literally about 100 million tutorials out there. And doing that is kind of the hello to no-code. So if you're creating a job board at any other kind of less than or direct to the site, that's absolutely the way to do it. But I think the scope of no-code is really, really big now. You know, the majority of people are either building a mobile app or a website. And there's a lot of people who would build a marketplace, which is something like Airbnb or Ebay, where you have kind of consumers who want to, you know, rent an apartment or buy a product, and then you have sellers who want to rent that apartment or sell a product. And no-code is becoming really, really good at those kind of things. And I think the marketplace is a good example of a business that's really, really complex, because there are you know, those buyers, those sellers, transactions, et cetera. But now, there are no-code platforms which can let you build this, which make it really, really simple, and just take away all the complexity of the business logic. 

Chris Byers:
As you think about really helping people. You know, as people get into no-code, as they start to use it in their everyday life, what do you think are some of the things where it actually can go maybe off the rails a little bit and you need to help bring it in? And kind of keep some guardrails? Are you seeing places where that's happening? 

Nile Frater:
So I think, you know, the thing about no-code is much as you're dragging and dropping, you are in some ways still coding, you know, you still have to think about the little bugs or the little quirks or behaviors that emerge. When you're programming, one of the things people often say to developers is to make an estimate, and then that estimate may as well be, you know, plus or minus one hundred percent of the time. Developer says it's going to be two weeks, then it might be four. And the reason for that is when you actually really, really start to get into something, you start thinking about all of the edge cases and all of the things that could go wrong or make not good on. 

You know, for example, you know, let's say you're building a login system. You start writing the part that lets you plan your full name or let your user put in a full name. But then you start to think, well, I actually need to think about how long am I going to let that name be? If I let that not be too long, then I'm going to be, you know, crowding out someone who, for example, does not have a typical Western name. Am I going to be missing certain characters from, you know, say Celtic or a language like that. And you start to get into all these little, you know, what ifs. And that's where the real impact the program. And that's why it takes so long and why it's so complicated.

The problem with no-code is it doesn't take that away, but what you are doing is giving these tools to people who haven't necessarily had that experience before because they haven't programed, you don't necessarily know that you're going to bump into these pitfalls. And so, you know, that can be a real danger. And then you get some other things which are sort of well known, for example, security concerns or things like that, again, a lot of coders know but people from the no-code space are just not familiar with yet.

I’ll give you an example. Let's say you forget your password on a website and you go to the forgotten password and sometimes it will say, you know, give an email address and you put your email address in. And then one of two things happens. It pops up like most websites do and says if an email address with that account exists. Then we will send you an email. You can reset your password or we'll see that email address was correct, but the password is wrong or some sort of flavor of that. And the problem with that second option is essentially it can tell a hacker or an attacker that that email address does have an account here. And so if I let's say, for example, you are one of most people who, you know, reuse the same password for everything. And I know your password. I don't know what accounts you've got, I've got your typical email address set up, I can just go start trying it on Facebook and go start trying, you know, all these different places. It's called user intimidation. And it's as one of these little security quirks that most people don't know about, you wouldn't think about. But actually, you know, whether using code or no-code, your system still vulnerable to that kind of attack. 

Chris Byers:
Yeah, it sounds like there are just some new and interesting ways that people have to, you know, just start to think about things in terms of security. So that's a great example. You know, as someone who is listening right now, they might feel a bit overwhelmed, or a bit excited about the opportunities that you've talked about. But really, they're not sure where to start. What do you suggest as a first step to using no-code solutions? 

Nile Frater:
Well, the obvious first step I've got to recommend is my own website. If you go to nocode.tech/learn we've packed in over 500 lessons on using a bunch of different tools, building mobile apps, building web apps, etc. But, you know, more conceptually, I really have to say that the best thing to do is start small, you know, build a small bit of software. Don't necessarily jump in to, you know, your dream project.

For instance,a marketplace for cars where you're going to have to, you know, look up license plates or check for car makes and models or this kind of thing, you know, keep it simple. What's a simple thing you can start with? Why don't you build the website for your idea or, you know, once you've built a website for your idea, why don't you try connecting that to your service? Let's say you've got your website for your car marketplace. You've got to sign up button that connects you to a newsletter and you can email people.

For me, it's really about doing it step by step. And one of the stacks, a stack is essentially a collection of different tools you might use to achieve a kind of a no-code project about something. But one of the most popular ones out there is called the WAMZ stack. That's actually what it's called. It stands for Webflow, Airtable, Memberstack, and Zapier. And Webflow lets you build website. Airtable kind of acts as a database with a kind of Excel like interface. Memberstack allows you to have login and log out features, you know, users essentially on any website. And Zapier lets you connect to tons of different services, and I believe Formstack may well be one of them.

But that's a really, really, really good way actually of going through the different levels, you know, so build your website with Webflow. And then get a Webflow form sending data through to Airtable, then use Memberstack to build a login. Then use Zapier to do whatever, like send data to different places, maybe link it to go straight for payments or PayPal or something like that. But that stack is a really, really good way to build no-code software and one of my go-tos. But actually it's also a really nice incremental way to learn how to do it. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of grabbing really a few great tools, products and helping people kind of think about, you know, if you'll learn this framework, you're going to be way ahead in terms of being able to start coding effectively. And so I love that. Love that idea. As we begin to wrap up, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, what's the number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 

Nile Frater:
So the concept I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I can't profess to being an expert and it's quite difficult, but I've been thinking about high leverage actions. When I'm thinking of doing a task, what is the highest leverage possible where I could do that task? Let's see. I've got a business and I'm over the support team. And currently every day I check all the customer support emails. And if they are, you know, basic inquiries, like, can I get a refund? Then I ping that one onto my customer support team. And if they are, you know, more complex inquiries like do you make this wardrobe in mahogany or walnut or something, then I handle that myself because I'm the business owner and I know it from my head etc.

The high leverage is all about, instead of answering that email, I should use my answer to that email to create a standard operating procedure, you know, a document or a process I write down so that the next time that question comes up, I can just hand it off to the customer support person. And so it might mean that that task takes, you know, an hour instead of five minutes. But that just happens once. And instead of that being a task I do five minutes every day, it's now one task I do once and never again. And so high leverage is all about thinking what is the best way that I can spend my time? How can I approach a task to mean that my business is going to grow or that I can spend my time in other areas, but otherwise just not thinking of this task again. 

Chris Byers:
All right. And what is your kind of go to productivity tip for others? 

Nile Frater:
Well, that's a difficult one. So I probably have tried tons of different productivity tips, tons of different productivity tools. And the one that just keeps coming back to me, you know, everyone talks about kind of idea of a flow state. And you know that you get into the mood, you can get things done. And for me, the best way to achieve that, is every day I make a to do list.

It starts off with really, really simple stuff I have to do every day, like get up, work out, shower, and I'll literally put shower on my to do list as if I'm going to forget that. I'll put lunch on there. You know, all these little basics. I'll put tidy up, put this away, you know these tiny little things that take two seconds. But what it means is I'm quickly accumulating these little tasks and not really getting this feeling of productivity and I might have, you know, five boxes or five items stacked like, you know, take my lunch out of the fridge or shower or work out. But not such stupid things that are really, really small. Like, you know, put my shoes on, but very quickly, you know, I've done the basics that set me up for a good day, like working out, etc. I've got a lot more to do, less the stuff that started to get touched down. And it really, really gives me energy. And kind of a feeling  of forward momentum as I start to look at my day and start tackling, you know, the really important business tasks of the day. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, how will you be reimagining your own work moving forward? 

Nile Frater:
So for me, the thing I've really tried to do is think about number one, for everything that I do, how can it turn into a piece of software or an automation or something that runs in the background? Someone, I can't remember who it was, but someone once said, you know, a data center is kind of like a little army of robots who just do whatever you want them to do. So everything I'm doing every day, I'm trying to think, how can I get a robot to do that tomorrow? How can I get a robot to do that the next day? Or how can I build a little bit of software? A little bit of something that can run in the background that's going to make this easier. And the more and more I do that, it really, really shapes how I start to do things. How I implement features, how I implement, marketing concepts or market strategies and everything I try to do now is automated so that it runs again and again. It can go on in the background. I don't have to worry about it. And I can keep thinking about the new things. The next thing I'm going to do tomorrow. 

Chris Byers:
Well, as we wrap up this episode featuring Nile Frater, there are a couple takeaways that I have heard from this conversation. The first is he provided a great definition for us of low-code versus no-code. And low-code really is about enabling people who probably have a little bit of technical skill really just to speed up getting the work done. And no code is really about enabling people in that more drag and drop way to get some pretty complicated processes built in software and get processes kind of moving quickly.

The other one was this idea that we really need to step back and think about what is the highest leverage we can get in this moment. I love that idea. Leverage is this idea that the boulder is too big for us to move by ourselves. But if we can get the lever, we might actually be able to move it.

And I love that idea and how no-code tools can really help make that happen. And maybe one other one is just this idea to look around your organization at things that you run on Excel or Google Sheets and ask the question, is this something we can get going and some sort of no-code tool or solution?


Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I am Chris Byers of Formstack. This episode, we're focused on an area that many of us are starting to explore. And it's the low-code, no-code space. Nile Frater is on the show today to really teach us a little bit more about the no-code space, how it's evolving, how it's enabling teams across organizations to do really better work. Nile is the Head of Engineering Strategy at Lloyds Banking Group. He's also the managing director at ConcreteCapital and owner of NoCode.tech. Nile, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Nile Frater:
Glad to be here. Thank you very much. 

Chris Byers: Now, I've got a, you know, terrible American accent that, you know, I'm sure I did not pronounce your name right. So tell the world how you're really supposed to say it. 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's pronounced a Nile. There's a lot of debate over that because technically, I'm named after the river in Egypt. So people kind of debate how you pronounce that, but I pronounce it Nile. Most people pronounce it Nile. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, I know we in the U.S. are not not well regarded for our sophistication and our words. So I appreciate that. Well, maybe you could jump in for us and really define for us. Tell us maybe the difference between low-code and no-code for the audience who's listening and really trying to understand the space. Can you describe that? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, totally. So I'll start with low-code, which is probably the easier one. So low-code is still very much coding, very much used by developers, but typically lets you speed up the things that you do a lot but take a lot of time, you know, think how many engineers it would take to build a log in interface or forgotten password feature, low-code is really a bit abstract in a way that these things that you do again and again or let you build things once so that you can free up your developers. No-code, on other hand, for me, is a real paradigm shift. So no-code is traditionally an ecosystem of tools and platforms that allow you to create reusable software without actually writing any code. You're still essentially coding under the hood, but you're doing it completely by a drag-and-drop, visual interface. You're connecting things together, you're using different tools to connect services. 

Where I think no-code is really, really interesting is given the name, you know, no-code, people use that to refer to building an app or a website. But really, what no-code is doing for me, it's taking something that used to be done by professionals, software engineers in this case, and it's making it easy and accessible. Actually that a lot of tools which make, say for example podcasting easier, you know, they make it easier to record, to edit to Macs. They make things better and way easier. They make graphic design easier. I can settle all these things to fall under the umbrella of no-code. For me, no-code has taken complicated software related tasks on the computer and making that essentially accessible to the 99 percent. 

Chris Byers:
So tell us a little bit about how you got really you found the no-code, low-code space and how you got interested in it. 

Nile Frater:
Actually, I'm originally a coder. I've been coding probably since I was 8 or 9 years old, something like that. And I first got my start because I was really interested in hacking and making a claim to fame, for example, was hacking all the computers in Moscow and almost getting expelled. But as I kind of grew up a little bit and started to learn more about actual software and less about hacking tools, I really began to get an interest in product and market and this kind of thing. And I quickly found that for me, coding was becoming a bit of a chore. You know, I was really, really interested in the end product of the app that I may code, but I really hated the process. I hated sitting their two nights in a row, wondering why my software wouldn't work, and then finally find that I'm missing code and I'm missing a quotation or something like that. And any programmers or anyone who has tried that before, you were really familiar with that experience.

So around the time, you know, 2014, something like that, I discovered tools like Webflow, discovered tools like tree lighting, etc. and I found that these tools would essentially let me either, you know, write code faster or do the bits I wasn't good at. Just because you can code doesn't necessarily mean you are good at design interfaces or making that kind of thing work. And what no-code tools are really good at is not only simply take a recording, but also they tend to help you do things like design, like make a backend work quickly or, you know, even taking away having to worry about infrastructure in the first place. And so what I quickly found is I really care about building products and no-code essentially abstracted away everything that stood between me and the product to get into customers hands. 

Chris Byers:
Well tell us what's going on in this space. What are you seeing happen?

Nile Frater: So the size of the space, kind of over the last couple of years. I mean, the growth has just been incredible. I've been in what I would call the no-code space since probably around 2014. I think my first real taste of it was when Webflow launched and I started playing with that back in the early days. And, you know, most people would kind of say the no-code concept has been around for a very, very long time. And you maybe remember a tool called Adobe Dreamweaver, kind of allowed you to build websites with a bit of a drag and drop interface, with some code involved. But really since kind of 2017, 2018 onwards, the space has grown and more tools have started to come in and the real kind of concept of no-code started to evolve.

You know, back in 2014, 2015, you really needed to know how to code if you wanted to stitch together the three or four tools that existed, whereas today you pretty much have new companies come out every single day. I mean, if you look at producthunt.com and scroll down, there was a no-code company that launched yesterday that had the top spot. There is literally no-code companies launching every single day with new capabilities and new integrations with tools and new use cases you couldn't use before. And you know, a lot of people sort of refer to no-code as having a real kind of 80-20 problem, where you can accomplish 80% of what you want without code. But to really get that last 20 percent, at some point, you've got to get a developer. And in some ways I agree with that. But what I find is literally every week, every month, new tools are coming out. And that 80-20 is becoming 90-10, you know, 95-5 and so on, so forth. 

Chris Byers:
You actually mentioned a little bit of this, which is this idea that the tools that are out there now are getting people closer and closer to really producing what they're looking for. So what do you think the future is? What do you think the next few years are going to look like? 

Nile Frater:
So I think part of it is really just building on what we've got today. I mean, so many things have come out, you know, in the last year, like Andola or Parabola. And for people who don't know, Andola makes mobile apps, Parabola, essentially can let you drag and drop data signs or otherwise do things you would usually do in Excel. So that's probably a bit unfair but we'll stick with that. You know, these kind of tools are just coming out, people are just starting discussions on what's actually possible with them. And I think importantly kind of where the space is starting to go is as more and more of these tools come out, they're starting to integrate with each other, you know, Bubble,  for example, which is probably the best known app builder out there. They just integrated with Airtable, which is kind of the best known sort of database, a spreadsheet, that kind of thing. But as more and more of these integrations come out, the things that you're able to do, the functionally to create, the services you're able to connect, every single time one of those connections becomes possible. 

There's literally exponential growth in terms of what you can build with no-code and what you can kind of achieve. So, you know, I think that's a really, really exciting just growth that we're just waiting to see there. And I think on top of that as well, people's work will evolve in terms of their understanding. You know, when you learn to code you, as I sort of touched on earlier, you learn concepts like how to connect APIs, how logic works, how to do an if statement where if one thing happens you do something else, all these kind of fundamental blocks that let you build software and a lot of people who are committed to no-code don't necessarily understand that yet. They're just dragging and dropping their own affairs, figuring out how something works but actually over time as they start to play with these tools and you start to learn more about coding concepts and apply them visually, the things that these people are going to be able to achieve, the things that are going to be able to turn into templates, tutorials, and guides, and share with other people. That's going to be immense. And I think you're going to start to see the same increase you've seen over the last 10 years in terms of what tech could do in 2010 vs. 2020. You're going to see that in the no-code space as well, and more and more is going to become possible. 

Chris Byers:
Well, I'm curious as I think about our own product. One of the things I will tell people is, you know, it can be used by absolutely anybody in any company, anywhere. But there is a huge problem. And that really is it coming to mind when you have a problem. So if you have a problem and we happen to intersect you at the right time, that's gonna work out great. But I'm curious what you're learning as you're trying to introduce no code into kind of an organization, because I feel like that's got to be one of the most challenging places to get people to stop and say, oh, I'm not going to do the normal things I do when I want to solve a problem, like call IT or do it in Excel. I'm going to try to advance this a little bit. How are you learning what's working there? 

Nile Frater:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. And I think the biggest problem in both, you know, internally and within the enterprise, but also on the no-code side itself, the biggest problem is it's almost too good to be true. You know, people have kind of spent the last 10 years watching stuff with the social networks you know. Kind of starting to come to some sort of majority with Silicon Valley and the way people work there and the things people do. And so when you kind of turn to say, well, actually you can build all this complicated software yourself, and it's not just the, you know, 14 year old wiz kids at Harvard. People tend to need a lot of convincing to understand that. And, you know, the way we've been approaching it, certainly in Lloyd's is, you know, starting off small, showing people no code, showing people what it can actually do, and then sort of that it's less about the software and more about the mentality. 

So there's this kind of concept of systems thinking, and systems thinking to me, and there's probably a systems thinker who's going to listen to this and think I'm really vilifying them here. But, you know, systems thinking to me is essentially taking the way a programmer thinks, that real logic, object-system based approach and applying that to business problems. Systems thinking essentially is the concept of, you know, looking at process as a whole, you know, looking at your job or your department or the work that you do and thinking about it from step one all the way through it to step 10, whatever it may be. Thinking, you know, how does work come into the system? How does it flow through? 

How is it outputted and then based off the back of that, trying to make some adjustments to your process and that kind of thing. And I think the best thing you can do in terms of adopting no-code or adopting a tool like Formstack is to first teach people to think like this, to think in terms of process and how you fix up process or how you improve that process. And then for me, Formstack, no-code, this kind of thing, that's just giving them the tools to do what they can already imagine. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of teaching people how to think about process. I know for me, you know, my general nature is you know I see a problem. I just kind of dive into the mess and I don't really know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to solve it. And then I start to tinker around with processes. And then eventually I can kind of pull back out, zoom back out and say, all right, I think I can see how can a process come together? How do you teach that? How do you get people really thinking that way? 

Nile Frater:
I think it's definitely a tricky problem and it's one that I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out. For me, it's very much about speaking to someone about the kind of work they do, have them describe what they're up to, who they speak to on a daily basis, and just sort of mapping that out. And then the thing I start to do is really just challenge the assumptions and sort of peel away things. OK. So why do use that? Why do you have to speak to, you know, Barbara in account? Why does it take as long as this? And it's really about pulling someone out of the work that they do every day to almost sort of, you know, eagle eye from above. 

Okay, let's look at it together. Let's figure out why you do every sort of step. And I think when you'd improving a process or when you are trying to do systems thinking about software, the most important thing you can do is cut out things you don't need. You know, there's no point in going in looking at a process that someone doesn't say, okay, we're going to replace that with software, we're going to give you a software tool to do it. If you don't first look and say, well, do you have to be doing this, actually can we cut 50% out or can we make it easier. 

And I think it's just really about making it feel relevant to someone. You don't want to kind of come in and talk about systems thinking, that's just the concept. You want to just look at what's the work that you do today? How can you do it? If we actually look at and examine it, what other bits can you peck out or what are the parts that, you know, you don't have to do that you could pass off to someone else. And I think it's really just, you know, there's a real growth there that if you start small with a little bit of work you build up from there. And hopefully people start to take an understanding what you're doing, understand the techniques and get it from there and, you know, eventually apply it themselves. 

Chris Byers:
One of the things you are talking about is this idea of reimagining work. Because as you give people tools and really the mindset to redo processes, even observe that there are broken processes or slow processes, you're really helping them advance the way that they do their work, saving time, which is ultimately saving money. How do you think this is going to impact workers around the world going forward? 

Nile Frater:
There's this concept called Crossing the Chasm. It was a book by Geoffrey Moore. And the idea is that when a new piece of technology comes out, there are early adopters and then over time, you know, the more conservative people pick it up and adopt that. And I think if you zoom out and look at that from the business world, then that is a pretty obvious thing to say but start ups, small companies, individual entrepreneurs. These people pick up technology fast and then over time it is adopted by enterprise. You know the interesting thing for me and I tend to think about it as if you go back, you know, say a century ago or maybe to the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds, even as recently as sort of the 50s or 70s, if you wanted to create a big business, if you wanted to make one of these tech companies something the size of Google or Facebook, then you needed to own a factory. And that was going to cost you millions or whatever it may have adjusted to back in the day.

But then if you go back to just the year 2000, actually all you need is a laptop. You know, your laptop becomes your factory. And if you go back to, you know, even as recent as 2015, you know, OK. You had your laptop. But you needed to spend, you know, months and months learning to code, needed to spend a lot of money on servers and all that infrastructure that would let you run a business. And actually if you zoom forward to now literally all you need is a laptop. You can take anyone in this day and age who is familiar with something like Microsoft Office, you know, anyone who's got the skills to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and have them use a no-code tool to get to the point where actually they can create software. And so that's really, really powerful for small businesses. Right. Your average Joe can now come online, come to a website, like nocode.tech or YouTube or something like that. Watch a few tutorials, learn how to use these tools. And within a few days, they can have their own business up and running. 

And I think as the enterprise starts to adopt that, then quickly, you're going to go away from this concept of the business and IT, where you have one group of people who are completely nontechnical, have nothing to do the tech. They simply make requests and they get something back. And you have this other group of people in IT who, you know, are the guardian angels of technology, who hold the keys and all the software, who know everything there is to know. And actually, you know, both of those premises are wrong. There are people in IT who know nothing about business or people in the business who know nothing about IT and can you know, the two shall never meet.

No-code is all about bridging that gap and no-code is essentially allowing more and more people in the business to prototype things, to better communicate their ideas, to eventually start to, for example, replace some of the processes I might use in areas like finance and accounting and HR. And on the IT side there are projects which a no-code tool could complete in a day, which IT are currently spending, you know, hundreds of thousands on. And that's where I think the really big impact is going to be over the next two, three years as people start to really get over that small software bump. I'm not saying no-code is ready to take on the big time yet. You know, you're not going to build the next Google with no-code necessarily. Not the next Facebook, but you might start it there. And I think when you look within the enterprise, that are a lot of little projects, a lot of things here and there. There are so many people in there with so many ideas, so many ideas that just don't ever see the light of day because enterprise is too big. 

Chris Byers:
So, you know, I will tend to tell people, if you can learn some of just the advanced formulas in Excel, you can get a lot accomplished that, you know. Otherwise you're going to think I've got to go use a developer or an engineer to get this done. And yet it's actually built for the non-technical user. You need to learn a little bit of what's the nomenclature, what are the words. But if you can do that, you can solve some pretty interesting problems and pretty fast, you can speed up efforts. I'm curious how you're seeing no-code really do this exact same thing for people and maybe some examples of where you've seen no code be successful. 

Nile Frater:
I think the Excel analogy is spot on. You know, we've seen a lot of people adopt no-code who traditionally, you know, mocked up items in macros or Excel or that kind of thing. And one of the interesting places where I've seen it used in that manor, as you know, often in enterpirse, a lot of people who've been responding to COVID-19 and, you know, that kind of thing as it's happened across the world, really, and disrupted operations and disrupted places like call centers and this kind of thing. You know, we've seen a lot of people trying to use no-code to bridge some of the gaps with the technology that they have working from home and that kind of thing. 

A really good example, a really simple one. But from a call center, typically a few are working in an operational environment and you want to make sure that callers have been answered in time and that kind of thing. You know, you usually have a bunch of agents. They are taking calls. They all have a cell next to the computer, it brings the next call in call. They can put people in queue or they can take a break if they need to go to the bathroom, etc. The way that you attend to it and monitor productivity in the environment is you have a manager and they look up from their computer monitor and they look around and they see everyone then they see who looks busy and see who doesn't, see who's chatting etc. And the minute you go to remote working from home, that kind of becomes impossible.

You know, you might have status codes coming from the cellphone software, etc. But for the vast majority of industries where people are traditionally managed by other people in a very sort of oversight kind of way. It's kind of maybe different from say how a lawyer or a doctor works, it becomes really difficult to monitor productivity. And so one of the things that we've seen is just people building tools for this kind of use case. We've seen someone build a tool that let people write down what kind of calls they were getting and how long they were spending on them, where they were, where they were sort of taking place to go do this thing or the other thing, these kind of tools. I mean, I think this specific example probably took about a day to build. I think this was using Retool, which is kind of one the more popular internal tool builders. And that was literally just a day's work and probably saw a 5% productivity gain. 

And when you look at the kind of dropoffs people are seeing, especially in the enterprise world, as a result of COVID-19, you know, that kind of thing is massive. And previously, that would have been let's go talk to a software vendor. Or let's bring in some, you know, five hundred thousand pound piece of software to do it. Or it would've been an Excel macro, difficult to use, difficult to have multiple people editing it at the same time. Someone's got to put it all together. You take 400 agents' Excel spreadsheets and figure out who would spend what where.

And, you know, the minute you start talking about that, you quickly see how some of the solutions that are available today, as amazing as they are, they get convoluted, they get expensive, they get really tricky to run. That's a really good example of something that no-code just takes away because, you know, you kind of imagine if you took everybody within your organization who knows how to do Excel macros and you give them the ability to build software. What kind of difference is that going to make for your business, in a month? In a year? 

Chris Byers:
I think you're right. I think just giving people who already have energy and as you know, there are mindsets that already exist out there of people who they can envision the process and how it's supposed to go. They may just not have spent the time to learn how to code. And so you're really just bridging that gap and kind of is this beautiful thing. I'm curious, how have you been able to see no code actually impact some of your company goals at Lloyd's? 

Nile Frater:
Probably the biggest advantage it brings to us is when we look at internal systems and internal software. You know, Lloyds is a company of somewhere around 65,000 people and the hometown that I grew up in, which is a place called Kilmarnock in Scotland, good luck translating that one, that's 44,000 people. So you quickly kind of look at a company that size and say that is huge. That is really gigantic. And the level of sort of internal processes and hierarchies and little groups here and there, they've got a little bit of knowledge but don't know about this other group, that kind of thing. You know, just the sheer size or complexity that emerges in a system as big as that, be it at Lloyds, be it any other organization, it really is just immense. 

And where we're really seeing the benefit is not trying to come in and say, okay, how can we replace this big system with no-code or how can we deliver something to a customer with no-code, but actually just first of all, looking at the individual person on the ground and saying, let's just give this person the skills that they need. Let's make it really easy for them to build something. Let's make sure we've got some guardrails in place that mean that people are not going to build some software that's got some bug in that a coder would have spotted instantly.

You know, let's keep it safe, but let's just empower the person on the ground, because that's kind of what the technology is about. You know, the thing that kind of gets bandied around in the no-code space is no-code is all about democratizing access to building software. And it can be really tempting in an organization to come in at a high level and look down and say, you know, okay, we see these five projects, they try to apply no-code to them and that may save us money or make them feel faster. But actually, I think the really interesting thing is when you do a bottom up, you just give people the tools. You give people the environment, you give them the guardrails. But you say to them, okay, now you've got us power. How can you use it to save us money? How can you use it to help improve our processes, to make things go faster? And we are absolutely at the early stages of that in Lloyds Banking Group. 

Chris Byers:
Earlier, you mentioned some great sets of tools, Bubble, Parabola, Airtable. There's all kinds of varieties of ways, really you can tackle this. I'm curious, are there some use cases that you think if someone's listening right now and you knew they were thinking about a few use cases that come to your mind, what are those that you think about no-code fast because this may be the way you get the problem solved faster?

Nile Frater:
First of all, if you want to create a job board, I mean, there are literally about 100 million tutorials out there. And doing that is kind of the hello to no-code. So if you're creating a job board at any other kind of less than or direct to the site, that's absolutely the way to do it. But I think the scope of no-code is really, really big now. You know, the majority of people are either building a mobile app or a website. And there's a lot of people who would build a marketplace, which is something like Airbnb or Ebay, where you have kind of consumers who want to, you know, rent an apartment or buy a product, and then you have sellers who want to rent that apartment or sell a product. And no-code is becoming really, really good at those kind of things. And I think the marketplace is a good example of a business that's really, really complex, because there are you know, those buyers, those sellers, transactions, et cetera. But now, there are no-code platforms which can let you build this, which make it really, really simple, and just take away all the complexity of the business logic. 

Chris Byers:
As you think about really helping people. You know, as people get into no-code, as they start to use it in their everyday life, what do you think are some of the things where it actually can go maybe off the rails a little bit and you need to help bring it in? And kind of keep some guardrails? Are you seeing places where that's happening? 

Nile Frater:
So I think, you know, the thing about no-code is much as you're dragging and dropping, you are in some ways still coding, you know, you still have to think about the little bugs or the little quirks or behaviors that emerge. When you're programming, one of the things people often say to developers is to make an estimate, and then that estimate may as well be, you know, plus or minus one hundred percent of the time. Developer says it's going to be two weeks, then it might be four. And the reason for that is when you actually really, really start to get into something, you start thinking about all of the edge cases and all of the things that could go wrong or make not good on. 

You know, for example, you know, let's say you're building a login system. You start writing the part that lets you plan your full name or let your user put in a full name. But then you start to think, well, I actually need to think about how long am I going to let that name be? If I let that not be too long, then I'm going to be, you know, crowding out someone who, for example, does not have a typical Western name. Am I going to be missing certain characters from, you know, say Celtic or a language like that. And you start to get into all these little, you know, what ifs. And that's where the real impact the program. And that's why it takes so long and why it's so complicated.

The problem with no-code is it doesn't take that away, but what you are doing is giving these tools to people who haven't necessarily had that experience before because they haven't programed, you don't necessarily know that you're going to bump into these pitfalls. And so, you know, that can be a real danger. And then you get some other things which are sort of well known, for example, security concerns or things like that, again, a lot of coders know but people from the no-code space are just not familiar with yet.

I’ll give you an example. Let's say you forget your password on a website and you go to the forgotten password and sometimes it will say, you know, give an email address and you put your email address in. And then one of two things happens. It pops up like most websites do and says if an email address with that account exists. Then we will send you an email. You can reset your password or we'll see that email address was correct, but the password is wrong or some sort of flavor of that. And the problem with that second option is essentially it can tell a hacker or an attacker that that email address does have an account here. And so if I let's say, for example, you are one of most people who, you know, reuse the same password for everything. And I know your password. I don't know what accounts you've got, I've got your typical email address set up, I can just go start trying it on Facebook and go start trying, you know, all these different places. It's called user intimidation. And it's as one of these little security quirks that most people don't know about, you wouldn't think about. But actually, you know, whether using code or no-code, your system still vulnerable to that kind of attack. 

Chris Byers:
Yeah, it sounds like there are just some new and interesting ways that people have to, you know, just start to think about things in terms of security. So that's a great example. You know, as someone who is listening right now, they might feel a bit overwhelmed, or a bit excited about the opportunities that you've talked about. But really, they're not sure where to start. What do you suggest as a first step to using no-code solutions? 

Nile Frater:
Well, the obvious first step I've got to recommend is my own website. If you go to nocode.tech/learn we've packed in over 500 lessons on using a bunch of different tools, building mobile apps, building web apps, etc. But, you know, more conceptually, I really have to say that the best thing to do is start small, you know, build a small bit of software. Don't necessarily jump in to, you know, your dream project.

For instance,a marketplace for cars where you're going to have to, you know, look up license plates or check for car makes and models or this kind of thing, you know, keep it simple. What's a simple thing you can start with? Why don't you build the website for your idea or, you know, once you've built a website for your idea, why don't you try connecting that to your service? Let's say you've got your website for your car marketplace. You've got to sign up button that connects you to a newsletter and you can email people.

For me, it's really about doing it step by step. And one of the stacks, a stack is essentially a collection of different tools you might use to achieve a kind of a no-code project about something. But one of the most popular ones out there is called the WAMZ stack. That's actually what it's called. It stands for Webflow, Airtable, Memberstack, and Zapier. And Webflow lets you build website. Airtable kind of acts as a database with a kind of Excel like interface. Memberstack allows you to have login and log out features, you know, users essentially on any website. And Zapier lets you connect to tons of different services, and I believe Formstack may well be one of them.

But that's a really, really, really good way actually of going through the different levels, you know, so build your website with Webflow. And then get a Webflow form sending data through to Airtable, then use Memberstack to build a login. Then use Zapier to do whatever, like send data to different places, maybe link it to go straight for payments or PayPal or something like that. But that stack is a really, really good way to build no-code software and one of my go-tos. But actually it's also a really nice incremental way to learn how to do it. 

Chris Byers:
I love that idea of grabbing really a few great tools, products and helping people kind of think about, you know, if you'll learn this framework, you're going to be way ahead in terms of being able to start coding effectively. And so I love that. Love that idea. As we begin to wrap up, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, what's the number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 

Nile Frater:
So the concept I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I can't profess to being an expert and it's quite difficult, but I've been thinking about high leverage actions. When I'm thinking of doing a task, what is the highest leverage possible where I could do that task? Let's see. I've got a business and I'm over the support team. And currently every day I check all the customer support emails. And if they are, you know, basic inquiries, like, can I get a refund? Then I ping that one onto my customer support team. And if they are, you know, more complex inquiries like do you make this wardrobe in mahogany or walnut or something, then I handle that myself because I'm the business owner and I know it from my head etc.

The high leverage is all about, instead of answering that email, I should use my answer to that email to create a standard operating procedure, you know, a document or a process I write down so that the next time that question comes up, I can just hand it off to the customer support person. And so it might mean that that task takes, you know, an hour instead of five minutes. But that just happens once. And instead of that being a task I do five minutes every day, it's now one task I do once and never again. And so high leverage is all about thinking what is the best way that I can spend my time? How can I approach a task to mean that my business is going to grow or that I can spend my time in other areas, but otherwise just not thinking of this task again. 

Chris Byers:
All right. And what is your kind of go to productivity tip for others? 

Nile Frater:
Well, that's a difficult one. So I probably have tried tons of different productivity tips, tons of different productivity tools. And the one that just keeps coming back to me, you know, everyone talks about kind of idea of a flow state. And you know that you get into the mood, you can get things done. And for me, the best way to achieve that, is every day I make a to do list.

It starts off with really, really simple stuff I have to do every day, like get up, work out, shower, and I'll literally put shower on my to do list as if I'm going to forget that. I'll put lunch on there. You know, all these little basics. I'll put tidy up, put this away, you know these tiny little things that take two seconds. But what it means is I'm quickly accumulating these little tasks and not really getting this feeling of productivity and I might have, you know, five boxes or five items stacked like, you know, take my lunch out of the fridge or shower or work out. But not such stupid things that are really, really small. Like, you know, put my shoes on, but very quickly, you know, I've done the basics that set me up for a good day, like working out, etc. I've got a lot more to do, less the stuff that started to get touched down. And it really, really gives me energy. And kind of a feeling  of forward momentum as I start to look at my day and start tackling, you know, the really important business tasks of the day. 

Chris Byers:
All right. Well, how will you be reimagining your own work moving forward? 

Nile Frater:
So for me, the thing I've really tried to do is think about number one, for everything that I do, how can it turn into a piece of software or an automation or something that runs in the background? Someone, I can't remember who it was, but someone once said, you know, a data center is kind of like a little army of robots who just do whatever you want them to do. So everything I'm doing every day, I'm trying to think, how can I get a robot to do that tomorrow? How can I get a robot to do that the next day? Or how can I build a little bit of software? A little bit of something that can run in the background that's going to make this easier. And the more and more I do that, it really, really shapes how I start to do things. How I implement features, how I implement, marketing concepts or market strategies and everything I try to do now is automated so that it runs again and again. It can go on in the background. I don't have to worry about it. And I can keep thinking about the new things. The next thing I'm going to do tomorrow. 

Chris Byers:
Well, as we wrap up this episode featuring Nile Frater, there are a couple takeaways that I have heard from this conversation. The first is he provided a great definition for us of low-code versus no-code. And low-code really is about enabling people who probably have a little bit of technical skill really just to speed up getting the work done. And no code is really about enabling people in that more drag and drop way to get some pretty complicated processes built in software and get processes kind of moving quickly.

The other one was this idea that we really need to step back and think about what is the highest leverage we can get in this moment. I love that idea. Leverage is this idea that the boulder is too big for us to move by ourselves. But if we can get the lever, we might actually be able to move it.

And I love that idea and how no-code tools can really help make that happen. And maybe one other one is just this idea to look around your organization at things that you run on Excel or Google Sheets and ask the question, is this something we can get going and some sort of no-code tool or solution?


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