Last updated on February 17th, 2021
Low code and no-code software development are creating a lot of chatter in the enterprise. After all, low and no-code software development promise to help enterprises accelerate their software development initiatives. That looks attractive as they face a situation where software eats the world.
That enterprises and IT departments are under pressure to deliver high-quality software, faster is today’s reality. Users are more software-driven than ever, compelling businesses to increase their release pace to meet user needs. The need to develop a Version 2.0 almost simultaneously as the first version of a product is out, is the mandate. Frequent updates and upgrades are the new normal. Organizations thus are looking at ways to make development faster and easier to replicate. It is also becoming important to save developers from the burden of repetitive coding.
The traditional process of software development has quite naturally had to evolve. Today we see a lot of automation to speed up the development process without compromising on quality. However, building an application is a time-intensive process. Planning, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance are time-consuming processes…they also leave no room for error. Low-code and no-code software development promise to address certain parts of this process and help companies accelerate their time-to-market.
Let us consider modern-day business applications to be like intricate architectures. To build an elaborate structure we need hand-coding. We also need skilled people to create such a structure while ensuring that none of the bricks being used to create this structure lead to its collapse. Quite obviously, this takes tact and time. And given the constant pressure to innovate to stay ahead of the curve, this can become overwhelming for the technology team.
What do low-code and no-code promise?
If we make an analogy, we can think of low-code and no-code development platforms as Lego blocks that can be used for application development. They use small components to create large structures. Since these components are small and intuitive it is also easier to make changes without impacting the rest of the solution.
Low-code and no-code platforms promise to take the complexity out of software development by automating manual processes. Low code, for example, employs a visual IDE environment and does not need any hand coding. No–code uses a drag-and-drop method to add application components to the module being developed. Theoretically, business users with minimal or no technical knowledge can build applications using these approaches.
From that perspective, low-code and no-code development promise to make software development more democratized by allowing business users the tools they need and can use to create applications. This also gives the development process more agility since development takes place using pre-built modules. It enables reusability by allowing small parts of one application to be used in another. It helps in implementing change easily as all you need to do here is create the new logic and facilitate immediate change. The reduced need for deploying expensive software developers in specific functions also helps in lowering costs. It is hardly a surprise to see the enterprise professing a new-found love for no-code and low-code software development.
But before we go all gung-ho and proclaim that low-code and no-code development will transform software product development, we need to pause briefly. While these platforms do enable non-technical business users to build full-fledged, enterprise-grade applications that are powerful, not all applications are meant for low-code and no-code development.
Low-code development is good for those applications that need to be built for an express purpose. It is good for building standalone mobile and web apps that may or may not require sophisticated integrations.
But no code development can be implemented only for specific use cases and can be leveraged for those applications that do not need interfaces with third-party systems. Reporting and tracking applications, for example, lend themselves well to no-code development. However, given the limitations of no-code development, it should be used only for front-end use cases.
The impact of low-code and no-code on software development
Low code and no-code platforms have been built with one express purpose –agility. It is hard to ignore the appeal of these platforms as it gives anyone in the organization, irrespective of their technical dexterity, the capability to build applications. However, the challenge with low-code and no-code is that while it helps organizations create an army of citizen developers, IT departments have to inevitably get involved in the last mile and complete the integrations with existing systems. At such a point, low-code or no-code could easily translate to “we need more code, and that too fast, please”. It also opens up the shadow IT Pandora’s box and can lead to security, compliance, and integration issues and, ultimately, poor apps.
Having said that, we also have to allow these platforms to mature more. I feel low-code and no-code have the potential to positively impact software development. But I do not see these replacing hand-coding. Their role will be more for assistance, especially as we see development methodologies such as DevOps becoming mainstream. Since DevOps is designed to make the development process more agile, low-code and no-code could help in creating the almost perfect application development utopia.
It is hard for an organization today to have a complete vision of the future direction of a business owing to the climate of constant change. This increases the need for agility, speed, and flexibility. The capability to fail fast is valuable. Low-code and no-code come into play here as amplifiers of the potential to innovate by capitalizing on human potential. In the right situations, they can remove some of the barriers that impede development.