Eric Newcomer, CTO of WSO2 takes a deeper dive into the low-code technology, and why he thinks the low-code sector is becoming more necessary yet still needs to evolve further to meet the needs of digital businesses.
The thriving low-code market, expected to hit $187B by 2030, brings with it the promise of a world in which business and IT professionals can collaborate with ease. Low-code and no-code tools help accelerate and streamline the work of professional developers while also empowering a broad range of less technical business users to create applications. However, business leaders must understand there are advantages and risks to adoption.
The increasingly necessary transition to low-code can speed innovation, improve productivity, and address the talent shortage, but poorly-planned approaches bring shortcomings as well from hindering workflow to locking away code in a black box, indicating that decision-makers must properly prepare to meet the needs of digital businesses using low-code. As with any new technology, low-code is no more a panacea than the cloud and has to be used appropriately.
Low-Code Development’s Claim to Fame
Companies are grappling with an intensifying developer shortage as the economy heats up, and there is a need for less-skilled developers to be able to jump into application and IT development and help out. An estimate puts the shortage at 1.4 million software developers in 2021 compared to just 400,000 software development graduates this year.
The struggle to find highly-skilled developers means that companies are looking elsewhere to solve the talent shortage. More and more, they are turning to low-code and no-code tools as a way to simplify application development, deploy solutions faster, and increase developer productivity.
On one hand, no-code and low-code tools allow business users to use integration templates and assemble code blocks. On the other hand, skilled developers can take advantage of low-code and pro-code tools to focus on the more complicated parts of the solution. When done correctly, low-code and no-code can help professional developers focus on computing environments suited to innovation, such as microservices, big data, IoT, and DevOps by offloading some of the more routine or repeatable tasks, for example, GUI development or standard integrations.
The Pitfalls of Low-Code and No-Code Development
As low-code goes mainstream, there are some critical concerns that app development teams and managers should understand. Typical approaches to low-code have inherent limitations due to the nature of the abstractions they use and can sometimes inhibit a seamless enterprise application development experience with professional coders and their more sophisticated tools. Professional coders also sometimes reject low code tools, exacerbating existing divisions within the IT department and deepening the traditional divide between business and technology.
Notably, many low-code platforms are not designed for multiple developers to work on the same application or collaborate on different versions. Low-code and no-code tools work by abstracting common tasks, but these abstractions can be limiting if there is a need for a variation of a task, such as adding a call to a custom application to retrieve additional information, which will have to be handled by custom extensions. The risk is that it’s easy to adopt a tool that initially looks good, only to get part-way through a project and find that the abstraction, which made the tool so attractive for simple tasks, has complicated or even prevented necessary additions or customizations. That’s why it’s so important to carefully evaluate tools in the context of what you intend to use them for.
Another issue is that most low-code platforms lock code and intellectual property away and make code susceptible to vulnerabilities that cannot be easily discovered and fixed. Moreover, when there are bugs or cybersecurity issues, it is hard at times to determine where the problem arose due to the abstract nature of some low-code platforms. The same abstractions that simplify development can complicate troubleshooting.
3 Ways To Incorporate Low-Code Tools
Even the most rigorous of professional development tools can benefit from the visual simplifications that low-code can provide, if it’s done correctly. Here are three tips for businesses looking to incorporate low-code and no-code tools into their workplace.
Tip #1: Don’t automatically assume that you can just target low-code tools to business users. Most applications will require some type of IT expertise. Business users may lack the skills to create the more complicated part of a solution or understand how to use low-code platforms to their fullest potential. Therefore, companies need to keep IT professionals involved when working with low-code tools to come in when business users need help.
Tip #2: If possible, have all levels of developers use the same platform to achieve efficiency and make the transition to low-code run smoothly. It’s hard enough to learn to use one low code tool effectively, never mind multiple. Take time to find the one that best fits your needs.
Tip #3: When building out technologies with low-code tools, transitioning applications and data to the cloud can help improve scale and reduce cyber risk. Data stored and applications hosted in the cloud can take advantage of built-in security capabilities to ensure that cybersecurity management and patching are continuously updated.
Following these tips and guidelines when employing low-code tools will help you get the most out of low-code without compromising quality.
Moving Beyond the Hype
To get beyond the hype, CIOs and tech leaders need a strategy that bypasses the fluff to reach the market opportunities of low-code. Companies must figure out the right tool or combinations of tools to successfully execute their broader low-code vision, taking the full IT environment into consideration.
Investing time and resources in developing a culture of transparency, reusability, and training will ensure that both the development team and business users have the proper software and expertise to drive real business impact using these tools. Building this culture will also help encourage collaboration and understanding between these traditional silos to ensure their integrations, services, and APIs work seamlessly together — whether they prefer programming in low-code, no-code, or more advanced source code.