By Tony Higgins
Technology changes at a blistering pace. Research by IDC shows that more than 750 million cloud-native applications will be created globally by 2025. Artificial intelligence is already giving way to the prospect of artificial general intelligence – the ability of a machine to understand any intellectual task that a human can. And consumers no longer expect a digital-first experience. They demand it.
To meet this unprecedented rate of change and rising market demands, it is perhaps fitting that yet another major leap forward in software development – low-code/no-code software development – is finally enabling the highly touted citizen development approach to become a reality.
Citizen development originally was purported to be the promised land for non-technical business users, allowing even individuals with limited software development experience to build web and mobile applications intuitively and quickly while minimizing the dependence on technical development teams to build the same software from scratch.
Unfortunately, software development proved to be more difficult than envisioned and the citizen development approach never really took off … until now. With the introduction of low-code/no-code development, the doors of software development are finally being unlocked, enabling anyone to build custom apps regardless of their technical experience or literacy.
Both low-code and no-code platforms allow applications to be built and delivered using an easy drag-and-drop interface without having to dig into code to get it up and running. The only major difference between the two, in fact, is that low-code – as its name implies – may still require some minimal coding, demanding a nominal amount of literacy with computer programming languages to build a web or mobile application.
The economic impact of low-code/no-code application development platforms is already being felt in the marketplace. According to Acumen Research and Consulting, the low-code/no-code market currently is valued at more than $16 billion. That figure is projected to grow to an astounding $159 billion by 2030, driven primarily by organizations desperately trying to achieve digital transformation. And because digital transformation appears to be a perennial business objective for nearly all enterprises, the future of low-code/no-code would appear to be unlimited.
With that in mind, organizations considering implementation of either the more technical low-code application development platform or a no-code platform to completely democratize application delivery and enable citizen development should be aware of both the benefits and liabilities these options present.
The benefits of low-code/no-code
On the positive side, both low-code and no-code platforms can reduce costs substantially. Rather than investing in highly skilled, in-house technical resources or outsourcing application development, organizations using low-code/no-code platforms can cut costs by leveraging the knowledge and experience of both their technical and non-technical employees to build web and mobile applications.
Low-code/no-code platforms can also accelerate product delivery. Instead of multiple sprints needed to design and deliver an app, business users can create applications in a significantly shorter timeframe. Even low-code platforms requiring some coding can be built much faster, accelerating app delivery and increasing productivity. Because this approach streamlines design and delivery, organizations now have the ability to build more apps which, in turn, allows them to offer digital-first experiences to their customers with speed and precision.
Equally important is the agility provided by low-code/no-code. Because software development is a continuous cycle, apps need to be constantly updated, maintained, and enhanced. Low-code/no-code application development platforms accelerate this process, enabling organizations to be more agile instead of becoming overburdened with maintenance issues and improvement bottlenecks.
Finally, low-code/no-code platforms address the talent gaps that currently exist in the market. Talent acquisition for highly skilled resources is incredibly competitive in the IT world. By enabling the average business user to deliver products in a very demanding market where a digital-first experience is king, organizations no longer need to worry about having to attract and then retain the right technical talent. In theory, anyone now has the technical talent to handle that work.
The limits of low-code/no-code
While low-code/no-code application development clearly provides a number of compelling benefits, it is not without its limitations. Considering low-code application development alone, organizations need to be aware of drawbacks, including the fact that some computer programming and coding knowledge is still needed to fully leverage these platforms, thereby maintaining a dependency on technical skills.
Beyond that, security may be a concern without robust coding and could become a vulnerability. And while organizations will benefit from the speed of app delivery, costs will not be drastically reduced because technically skilled resources are still required.
No-code application development presents similar limitations. Security, for example, could be an issue without proper oversight. While traditional software developers prioritize security and it is very much a foundation of product delivery, it may only represent an afterthought for the citizen developer.
Similarly, user experience is a core principle in software development. There are professionals and developers entirely dedicated to optimizing how an end-user interacts with a web or mobile app. For the citizen developer using a no-code platform, though, the user experience may not be approached with the same level of consideration and diligence.
Finally, because apps in no-code development are built using a drag-and-drop canvas, there are limitations to full customization. As a result, it is one of the primary reasons organizations may opt for a low-code application development platform, enabling them to better maintain flexibility.
Despite these limitations, there is an argument to be made that opening the gates to citizen developers for accelerated application delivery trumps any drawbacks. With digital transformation remaining a line item on every organization’s list of annual business objectives, low-code/no-code application development platforms enable companies to meet consumer demands by accelerating modernization through web and mobile app delivery. Given the astounding growth the low-code/no-code market is already experiencing, most organizations apparently agree.
About the author
Tony Higgins is the Chief Product Officer at Blueprint Software Systems and is responsible for the vision and evolution of Blueprint’s platform, a powerful solution that helps large enterprises understand their RPA estates and automatically migrate them to intelligent automation platforms quickly and efficiently. Tony has a broad base of software delivery skills and experience ranging from start-ups to global enterprises and is passionate about building technology that helps organizations optimize their automation practice.