The Emergence of Low Code and No Code Programming
One of the biggest disruptive trends of this young decade you probably haven’t heard about is the shift toward the use of “no-code” and “low-code” software development platforms to create or enhance automated, online processes.
For a long time, we’ve relied on computer programming engineers to do all the behind-the-scenes work that enable our apps and software. Pages upon pages of code from these incredibly talented people result in powerful, user-friendly programs for the rest of us.
Now it seems that even software development is becoming mainstream and democratized. Advances in these no-code and low-code development platforms enable users, with very little training and instruction, to work with graphic interfaces and essentially point, click, drag, and drop elements of code into their software to provide the specific functionality they need – typically to improve the end users’ digital experience or to provide data-driven insights for the organization.
“No-code” reflects the fact that some of the resulting applications are simply a collection of the pre-designed blocks of programming. “Low-code” means that the final software not only includes the obtained coding but some additional, original software as well. The industry norm is to tie the two terms together and refer to “low-code,” so that’s what we’ll do here too.
It’s no wonder that some refer to low-code development platforms the “Lego® style” of building an application. The technical term is “abstraction.” Need a credit card purchase feature? Here it is. How about a customer relationship management element? Here are seven to choose from that meet your needs. For many tasks, software “developing” can now also be described as software “assembly.”
Who Uses Low-Code Platforms?
Low-code development platforms are widely touted as tools that enable the average person – the industry likes to call them “citizen developers” – with no specialized coding skills to grab these algorithms and use them to augment a vital piece of software.
Granted, not everyone can intuitively manage this, but people who are good with Excel, or have a knack for problem-solving or system design, will most likely be able to relate to and work well with a no-code development platform.
There’s a significant advantage to having a company’s subject matter expert – say in sales, product development, or R&D – also be the person that taps into the appropriate low-code development platform to improve the online functions they’re accountable for. These people know the nuances of their world and the minutiae of their work processes far better than a third-party computer program developer.
At the same time, though, professional developers are also turning to low-code platforms to obtain the mundane portions of the major applications they’re developing so they can focus on the more innovative elements of their software. Low-code algorithms can relieve them of a significant amount of manual work, improve their productivity, cut down on development times, and reduce development costs. This is especially true as low-code platforms continue to advance and offer ever-more powerful solutions.
Low-code platforms are not new. Like many pre-COVID trends, their use and availability were progressing at their own speed. They were gradually gaining users and acceptance – both by professional developers and citizen developers.
COVID’s work-from-home imperative significantly accelerated the utilization and the number of low-code platforms, though. Companies and teams suddenly needed new ways to perform work processes that had traditionally relied on groups working elbow-to-elbow. Office-based functions now had to be done online. Certain customer interaction processes suddenly needed online solutions as well.
The algorithms for many of these online processes were not terribly complex and were readily available on the low-code development platforms.
The Downsides of Low-Code Development
Citizen developers may be smart people, but they’re not programmers. Some low-code solutions work well in low-volume situations, but they may not scale well when activity or the number of users ratchets up. And without proper governance systems in place, newly empowered programmers might unwittingly introduce exploitable security risks, data biases, and even incorrect solutions.
Organizations can’t rely on low-code development for everything. If they don’t understand its limitations and legitimate uses at a given point in time, they can get themselves and their organizations in trouble very quickly.
Future Trends Related to Low-Code Use
Tech-savvy business process managers have gotten a taste of low-code-enabled in-house programming. They like the efficiencies and cost-savings. Low-code is here to stay. It’s a verb, one of the surest signs that it has truly caught on!
Moving forward, companies will encourage their people to engage in these platforms in order to tap into ways to improve productivity and streamline their systems. One observer predicts that in just two years, more than 50% of medium and large organizations will use low-code development as a “strategic application platform.”
Companies will not only oversee their staff members’ use of low-code platforms but train the average user on how to access these tools. This skill development may ultimately be part of standard onboarding or business school training.