Low-code and no-code software may soon test the limits of IT’s hand

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There is no way to stop the wave of low-code and no-code activities sweeping through many companies, used by both citizens and professional developers. The capabilities these tools provide continue to expand. It’s just a matter of how deep and broad low-code and no-code development can be in the enterprise, whether it’s still better suited for smaller, less scalable applications, or whether it’s ready for more enterprise reach.

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Gartner, for its part, says that low-code tools will be enterprise-ready within a year (not to mention no code in this case). By then, developers outside of IT departments will account for at least 80% of the user base for low-code tools, up from 60% in 2021, predicts Gartner analyst Mark Driver. The nature of low-code platforms is evolving rapidly, with “hyperautomation functionality” set to show up in low-code tools for years to come, he adds. In addition, there will be tight integration between low-code tools and commercial packaged capabilities.

Thanks to digital initiatives, things keep changing and progressing so fast that overworked and under-budgeted IT departments can’t keep up. “Both IT organizations and third-party service providers are struggling to keep up with the agility and diversity that digital solutions demand,” Driver says. “Low code has emerged over the past five years as a potential tool to both enable business transformation and cost-effectively scale these initiatives over time.”

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Not everyone sees enterprise scale for low-code and no-code solutions on the horizon just yet. These tools are still better suited for smaller-scale initiatives, says Steve Jones, DevOps advocate at Redgate Software. Low and no-code “is a good way to build small things as an initial way to set up smaller apps that focus on one thing,” he says. “For example, someone might want to collect all vacation days in a calendar and display it to make sure not too many people have left at the same time. They might also want to create dashboards to track progress toward some goal.”

Also, professional developers or IT departments still need to keep a close eye on how low-code and no-code solutions are used. “While no-code and low-code can be user-friendly, it’s only as good as its supporting structure,” says Margaret Lee, BMC’s senior vice president and general manager. “For low code to be successful, governance needs to be in place with some oversight from professionals to ensure the best customer experience.”

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In other words, without proper guidance and safeguards up front, IT may need to step in to clean up a mess, while business users can become hopelessly entangled in managing their software. Low-code and no-code are “useful in narrow scopes, for small audiences,” Jones says. “However, IT must be prepared to take over these applications if they become important to the organization and require additional coding or rewriting,” says Jones. “These applications may or may not scale, they also become a distraction for business users. If an analyst is too involved in maintaining their low-code application, they’re not doing as much of their analyst duties. We saw this in the ’90s with VisualBasic, where many commercial users created small applications that they then had to support and maintain.”

Low-code and no-code approaches may see entry into the enterprise when adopted by professional developers themselves. As a rapid deployment tool for IT professionals, “it’s possible to create very complex business processes elegantly and without code,” Lee says. For example, it can be a great way to introduce or improve DevOps practices, eliminating some low-value work and encouraging agility, experimentation, and teamwork. This allows process owners to own their own process, while developers can focus their skills on augmenting out-of-the-box blocks with high-value custom blocks tailored to the needs of the organization.”

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The nature of direct IT involvement in building low-code and no-code applications depends on the complexity of the work. Citizen developers can independently create and care about “fast, focused applications,” says Jones. “These can be built on something like Salesforce, using an API to get data, or a Power Platform app collecting data and storing it in a company database.” IT help is required” if they use internal infrastructure or internally controlled infrastructure, such as a company cloud subscription. They may also require database, network, or other changes to function. They may also require permission to install some kind of tool at the workstations.”

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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