NextLink Labs CEO Jordan Saunders discusses No and Low Code platforms and their impact on today's technology landscape


Interviewer (Jonathan Kersting): You are listening to the NextLink Labs Digital Transformation podcast, this is Jonathan Kersting with the Pittsburgh Technology Council and of course Tech Vibe Radio, hanging and having to be in the podcast studio, talking to Jordan Saunders here from NextLink Labs. Jordan, it is way too long since we have been hanging out, we have had like a little gap in our podcast producing going on there, so… I am glad to be hanging out with you again.

Interviewee (Jordan Saunders): Yeah, definitely, it’s been way too long.

Jonathan Kersting: I know you have been moving and moving, you are growing this business of yours and I know, that’s why it is tough to get into the studio sometimes, because you are always meeting with a new client and building new projects and all of a sudden, it becomes like, 2020, I don’t know where the time went… But I am glad we were able to kind of get our schedules to connect, to have more of these conversations, because I was going to blast, talking to you are in the frontlines of all the news that is happening when it comes to, really, the whole term of digital transformation, when it comes to taking businesses and having technology just make them meaner and meaner, more productive companies. And what we will be talking about today, I think it is really interesting, I just started learning about this last year and I should have figured as much, that you would know more about this, but it is the ‘Low and No-Code Platforms’, which I think it is just so cool, because I love the idea of programing, about like dragging and dropping…

Jordan Saunders: Yeah.

Jonathan Kersting: Because I am pretty good at dragging and dropping… So, I feel like I am half way of being like a decent programmer. Before we kick that off, I will like to let folks know a little bit about what is kind of going on with NextLink Labs, obviously it is 2020 and you guys have really built your business around 4 core kind of service areas that always kind of cover what is going on out there. Maybe give us an overview of what NextLink is up to these days.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah. So, the four areas that we really service are; DevOps consulting, Cyber security consulting, Full stack engineering which includes application development and lastly is just Strategic consulting and helping businesses grow and scale.

Jonathan Kersting: Right, so you help people solve some pretty tricky problems sometimes. j Jordan Saunders: Yeah, but it is a lot of fun.

Jonathan Kersting: That’s what it is about, right?

Jordan Saunders: Yeah.

Jonathan Kersting: Before we came on, we were talking about how we have to turn our phones off now before we do this, because our phones are always ringing from all the spam calls and you say you get recruiting calls, because people are trying to grab you left and right, to solve their problems, I just get the spam calls…

Jordan Saunders: Yeah, I am not a fan of the spam calls either…

Jonathan Kersting: No one is running a part-time podcast radio host for anything, I don’t solve too many problems, we just get to talk about them, very cool. So, maybe give our listeners a little bit about, really, what’s the basics of what’s low and no-code, maybe how it is being used in that market place, maybe kind of talk about how we are looking at it now as a new trend. And obviously it is out there in the market place, I mean, it is catching Forester’s attention as far as it being like, definitely an impactful technology solution. So, what is low and no-code for our listeners out there?

Jordan Saunders: Yeah, so I mean low and no-code platforms are just another way to solve business problems, it is another technology tool that companies can start using in their arsenal.

Jonathan Kersting: Okay.

Jordan Saunders: And what they are is they are a visual approach to software development, and basically just the same way all of our programming languages have gotten easier and easier to use over time and as we built languages and top of languages to do things, it used to be in a pretty common, maybe ten years ago to build what’s called like a DSL, a Domain Specific Language, to let business users be able to build with these building blocks, their logic for different processes and stuff. And now, they have actually made it so… you can actually use a visual editor to modify and build a U.I, build processes and build data models, just so either a pretty good business analyst or a maybe more inexperienced software developer is able to do some really powerful things…

Jonathan Kersting: Right, or even take someone who does almost no programming experience, but knowing they have a certain type of blocks within this kind of playground to use, they can actually start building tools pretty quickly to help solve business problems.

Jordan Saunders: Absolutely, and in using these tools, a lot of the things that software companies run into as they mature and scale, but not necessarily are forced to deal with these problems, so things like security, things like automated deployment processes, these are things that we help companies with all the time and in a more traditional development space, but there are things that depending on your low and no-code platform you are using maybe are already built into the product.

Jonathan Kersting: Very cool. It sounds like a lot of fun to see this kind of popping up. And it something that kind of is going on and Foster has some data on this. I mean, give us a little bit about what Foster is saying on this.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah, so according to Forrester Research, they forecast that the total spending in this category is going to hit 21.2 billion by 2022.

Jonathan Kersting: Wow! That’s a lot of money, so obviously, this is a solution that people are deploying.

Jordan Saunders: Yes.

Jonathan Kersting: If that kind of money is being spent.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah. We see it and we use it with some of our clients for different things, and we are getting more and more requests out in the field, for asking about our experience in this area and what our level of comfort is and where we think it is a good fit.

Jonathan Kersting: And it is typically going to be different for every client that is out there. But there will be some general scenarios that a company might be facing, where they might want to start considering using low and no-code.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah. So, I think one of the big… the way I see it, one of the big perks of using the low and no-code platform is, I saw this number somewhere that you can get 80% of the functionality for 20% of the work.

Jonathan Kersting: Really?

Jordan Saunders: I mean, statistics lie, but it still…

Jonathan Kersting: It gives you a direction, it shows you the power of it, it really gets you in that ball park quickly, to have a powerful solution.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah, definitely. So for us, I don’t think at this point the platforms are always a great fit to build a very in-depth enterprise product, but where we see it, and we see it being adapted by companies a lot is, let’s say they have a few applications that they are servicing and they are starting to need some back end processes to help them manage those services…

Jonathan Kersting: Okay.

Jordan Saunders: And they might want to leverage a low or no-code platform to give some sort of dashboard, a console for back office people to use. So, again, with the full custom software solution, you want to be incredibly user and user experience-focused, and you want every last detail to be done, the way you want it done, I think with some of these low and no code platform, while you are able to achieve that, some of the time, things that aren’t maybe external facing, things that are internal facing, back office, end up being a really great fit to start to try out these platforms.

Jonathan Kersting: Definitely makes total sense, because it isn’t exactly perfect, because it is not outward facing for the public to basically start picking or whatever it is, or something isn’t quite right, you see it and you can kind of correct it…

Jordan Saunders: Yeah.

Jonathan Kersting: You know; you can have a kind of audience internally.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah. So, backing up to your original question about like, use cases, so we see it used for those internal consoles and dashboards, we have seen it used as a kind of “low effort to build” CMS, “low effort to build” learning management system, as the backend for different e-commerce stores, things of that nature, let’s say someone runs a small cleaning or other service locally, you can help people purchase a service and actually don’t have to build the backend system for this, you can just use one of these low and no-code platforms.

Jonathan Kersting: That sounds pretty awesome, I can now start to see the reason why Forbes was predicting what they were saying here, because I think this is obviously… it reaches to the masses, so there is a lot more people who can use this, you know, at a lower level and get some impact, than it is like a really brilliant solution that you are going to… that only few people would use.

Jordan Saunders: Absolutely.

Jonathan Kersting: So, tell me how this impacts when it comes to… even if you… just being able to iterate quickly, and being able to build something fast, sometimes you got to build something a few times, right? Or know that it is going to take a few iterations to get to what you finally want, so this pretty helps in that regards as well too, as you can build a lot more quickly, right?

Jordan Saunders: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head and another use case that this is very commonly used for is “Proof of Concept” type work. So, because they are 80% functionality for 20% of the effort, you are able to put something out and rapidly iterate on it, like we mentioned earlier, a lot of these systems do not require you to build out their own deployment systems, they are kind of built into the product. So, you are able to just go through with this low and no-code platform build out kind of a proof of concept to your product and iterate on it from there, and that’s very powerful for companies that are looking to get something in the hands of their users and figure out exactly what the market needs.

Jonathan Kersting: For sure, so, tell me a bit of, who are some of the bigger names out there that are deploying this right now? I think like Salesforce, they got to be using the heck out of this.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah. So, Salesforce and Microsoft are actually like… if you look at the Gartner, Magic Quadrant, they are actually some of the leaders as a low and no-code platform. And these systems are being used, if you look at any of the major low and no-code platforms sites, their marketing sites list, all of the Fortune 100 companies are basically using this, and to some capacity, so go down the list, it is happening.

Jonathan Kersting: So, this is definitely a 2020 movement obviously, but 2022, as Forbes has said, it is going to be 20.2-billion-dollar industry, so… this is something really that I really going to spend some time on and just think about this, and the fact of the matter is, I mean this is now a tool in your arsenal as well too, you got quite the bandolier going on there…

Jordan Saunders: Yeah.

Jonathan Kersting: So, it is one more tool that you have in order to help kind of solve these problems for your customers.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah, and that’s… I think the best way to kind of look at this is, it is just another tool.

Jonathan Kersting: Right.

Jordan Saunders: I mean, we were talking again before we came on air, about how, every couple years a technology will show up and they are like, it is going to solve all your problems, it is going to kill all the incumbents… I am not sure if that’s what low and no-code platforms will be, but I do think they are an important tool in people’s arsenal and it’s important to consider it for software solutions.

Jonathan Kersting: Definitely. I have had so much fun talking to you and learning more about how NextLink does what it does, because a lot of companies, they have a couple key solutions that they just kind of use the heck out of, but you’ve got like I said, this gigantic bandolier of different tools, so based on what the situation requires, it is always a custom solution, it is never the same thing twice, I would have to assume.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah.

Jonathan Kersting: Now, low and no-codes is part of that, so that’s pretty cool.

Jordan Saunders: Exactly. Yeah, we are trying to avoid that square peg round hole scenario… we see it all too often in solutions when we are coming in to fix at companies.

Jonathan Kersting: Love it. Great conversation. Go to and check out how Jordan Saunders is doing all this stuff.

Jordan Saunders: Yeah.

Jonathan Kersting: Too much fun. This is Jonathan Kersting with Pittsburgh Tech Council and Tech Vibe radio with the NextLink Labs digital transformation series.