Or why the CIO and Lines of Business should care about low-code development platforms.
There was a time when application development meant programmers housed in a non-descript room writing code all day long. These days, Hollywood has romanticized the profession with geeks sitting in a basement looking multiple screens and writing software in between playing Final Fantasy Remake or The Outer Worlds.
So let’s romanticize it. Back in 1982, futurist James Martin wrote Application Development Without Programmers in which he postulated a future where computers would write software without the support of human programmers.
It didn’t pick up much at the time because the technologies (like 4GL and visual programming) couldn’t scale, there were no best practices around version control, testing, deployment, documentation, and there was very little automation at the time. There was little in the way of governance – a big “no” for any enterprise even in the 1980s.
The early days of low-code could be traced to rapid application development (RAD) tools used in the 1980s. Meant to replace traditional programming techniques, and focused on quick, iterative development methods prioritising constrained functionality, user experience and overall performance.
Fast forward to 2020. Forrester defines low-code platforms as "products and/or cloud services for application development that employs visual, declarative techniques instead of programming" and forecasts the opportunity to become US$21.2 billion by 2022.
What’s in a name?
What is low-code? Better yet what is it not?
Gartner defines low-code as a visual development approach to programming to create applications for web and mobile with little or no coding experience, largely driving a “self-service” model for business units instead of turning to central IT for a formal project plan.
Drivers of low-code adoption
A Gartner survey lists several benefits to low-code platforms including application productivity benefits, reduced time to market and ability to improve business process automation.
Because low-code is cloud-based, it naturally supports efforts by enterprises to move almost everything to the public cloud. With software skills continuing to be a challenge for many enterprises in Asia, it is suggested that low-code can ease the drought as you don’t need Java or .Net expertise to use low-code platforms.
FutureCIO spoke to Leonard Tan, Singapore country manager for OutSystems on this and several other issues we thought would be of interest to people in this line of work, and also people who oversee software development – whether for in-house use or as a product to be sold externally.
He shared his views on low-code’s contribution to software development, and how organisations can treat.
- Define a low-code development (LCD) – what it is and what it is not
- What is driving interest in LCD?
- Where does LCD sit in an enterprise’s application development strategy?
- Does LCD supplant (replaces) an existing development strategy?
- What is the economic value proposing of LCD?
- In what situations would it make sense to use LCD? (conversely when should we avoid it?)
- How does the CIO sell LCD to the CFO and lines of business – while protecting the enterprise’s compliance and security policies?
- Let’s talk about money. What does it cost for an organisation to get on board the low-code development?
- When do you introduce low code in the development cycle?
Buyer beware! Tan made it clear that at present low-code development platforms are proprietary in nature. This means you cannot port code developed on one platform to another competing platform. There are also security concerns including, and most notable, is lack of visibility (Click here to read the 4 security concerns for low-code and no-code development).
How? When you consider that low-code is associated with independent developers potentially running multiple application development projects, including performing microservices, there is a risk for loss of oversight, when the teams become too many to properly track. Some referred to this trend as Shadow IT.
Not the end of the world
Back in August 2018, John Rymer, vice president, principal analyst, Forrester, postulated that low-code will not make coding obsolete. He is adamant that it is not a magic solution to software problems.
In the PodChat with OutSystems, Tan seems to imply the same.
Shopping for low-code platforms?
FutureIO partnered with OutSystems to organise a roundtable with senior technology leaders in Singapore. The discussion revealed interest for the potential of low-code to reduce time-to-market, improve agility and optimise effort. Click here to read the details of the roundtable discussion.