How 'low code' can drive innovation

The new kid on the developer block, 'low code' enables wider innovation in business

The explosion of mobile usage, increasing user expectations and competitive pressures means that many organisations have dozens of mobile application projects on the go at any one time, across all departments – not just IT.

These same organisations are also sitting on years of evolved technology and lots of existing desktop apps. Developers are already stretched thin supporting these more traditional apps and can find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place trying to keep all parts of the business happy.

Like it or not, organisations are already implementing solutions without the blessing from IT and the development team. We are seeing this taking place across a number of departments, from marketing, sales and operations to HR and finance, as a means to develop better customer engagement and streamline operations.

Today’s developer plays a critical role in delivering a 21st century digital business experience to customers and employees. However, keeping track with the different business units that are now developing their own low-code apps means that developers have less time to focus on creating new and cutting edge innovation for their business.

Clay Richardson, an analyst at Forrester Research, defines a low-code platform as one that enables fast application development and deployment, within a matter of days or weeks instead of months or years and minimum use of hand coding.

Naturally, this mounting emergence of low or no-code app development software is raising concerns amongst some developers about how to manage the growing role of non-developers in software creation and driving digital business transformation. Developers end up dealing with the consequences of decisions they had nothing to do with. This can be a nightmare for coders who may then have to step in.

In addition, with this change we are seeing a shift in expectations around the role of developers from gatekeeper to enabler, similar to the transformation that swept through IT departments a few years ago. There is a growing belief that application development increasingly belongs to everyone. This has become especially clear with the growth of millennials in the workforce, who are tech-savvy, collaborative and expect to have a say in the technology they use and how they use it, whether it be smartphones, tablets or other devices.

All of this poses great challenges however, rather than be afraid of low code/ no code app development, consider it as simply one more tool in an organisation’s arsenal for competitive advantage, because such tools enable organisations to leverage non-developer resources, when their developers are too busy. Critically, such app development platforms need to be open and complimentary to other systems within the organisation. This requires full collaboration and support between IT, developers and the business.

Our truly digital centric customers are really embracing low code / no code because they understand that if implemented in the correct manner it does actually give their developers control whilst simultaneously freeing up their time to work on business-critical assignments. The additional business benefit is improved productivity at a lesser cost and an empowered workforce.

The key is to equip non-developers with tools that empower them, while simultaneously generating results that enable developers to tackle the more interesting, more challenging problems. This is what we call the code-first approach.

This means giving non-developers no-code solutions that in actual fact generate high-quality code and only add in non-developer features once there is a best practice developer experience. Then it becomes easy should the development teams need to step in or when they inherit non-developer projects.

This tactic enables the no-code solutions to achieve competitive advantage and stay one step ahead. Organisations who adopt this approach can continue to build the apps they need, when they need them, and making use of resources they already have.

Getting more people involved inevitably leads to innovations and progress, as well as higher levels of engagement among employees as there is more ownership across the business and less frustration with waiting on projects to complete.

More importantly for bottom-line success, it can also eliminate the excessive time and cost that can be associated with software development and hand coding. Low-code application development platforms are designed to support rapid-app creation, with minimal traditional coding.

Making the most of this wider-department solution means that your employee’s previously untapped creativity and customer knowledge is front of mind at the point of development, and the innovative outcome is a win for business.

Craig Law is managing director and regional VP — Australia & New Zealand at Progress.

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