Ramblings on No Code and the Permanent Revolution

Since leaving Borealis I’ve spent time some time getting to know “no code.” Low Code Application Platforms (LCAPs), or “low” or “no code,” “No Code,” seem to have broken through. The promise is that non-programmers can point-and-click their way through building mobile/web Apps and deploy them straight to Google Play, the App Store, or a corporate app store. Last November Gartner assumed that “by 2024, three-quarters of large enterprises will be using at least four low-code development tools for both IT application development and citizen development initiatives” and “low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity.” Stuff is happening (waves hands).

There is Nothing New Under The Sun

We’ve been promised programming for non-programmers since electronic computers were invented. Just Google “4GL” or read the history of PowerBuilder. That said, as with most technologies a big enough difference in degree generates a difference in kind. So what’s different now is:

  1. Cloud and continuous deployment

It’s now “normal” to have a developer deploy live code to production with a click. Ten years ago you’d still expect to have a sysadmin setup physical machines, flow code through a staging environment, whatever. Now, some 22 year old makes a commit, it runs through automated testing, and minutes later the code is live in multiple data centres for some or all end users. Magic.

2. Every company is digital first

Companies now, primarily interact with customers through digital channels. Banks, of course, still have branches, and retailers still have physical stores, but these are really just meatspace user interfaces that sit on top of software. Software ate the world. So anyone who works in a large organization who has some customer responsibility is now responsible for software, regardless of their stated job description.

3. The data is sitting there

Thanks to cloud, and some mind-numbing-but-vital data fabric building many “citizen developers” can now read-and-write important data in more or less real-time. If you layer in human-in-the-loop stuff like Figure 8, would-be developers are one click away from any bit of data that they could possibly need to build an app.

4. Thinner IT organizations with an ever-growing dependence on outsourcing

She who can get the most done, in the least amount of time, and claim the most credit will win. Low-Code lets you move fast as it takes the availability of specialized, highly-skilled specialized technical labour off the critical path.

Oh you’ll still need specialized labour — people with a formal computing background who can untangle spaghetti code and keep user data out of unit 61398 but low-code lets you, as a middling business leader, move fast and break things (cringe). The time to proof value can be way shorter than with traditional programming — and in many cases you can throw dozens of 22 year olds from $consultingFirm to show traction and secure your bonus. Then you can get a proper budget in the next annual cycle, hire specialists, and build your empire.

If you’re a BigCo manager you don’t need approval or budget to start a low-code project; you just need access to whichever LCAP(s) your IT and security people have approved. You can cobble things together with existing staff, get a bit of traction (or at least make a sexy demo) and then marshal resources for a real launch. It’s Lean Startup for Enterprise (TM).

The point is, there are technical (cloud, digital first) and business (agility in the face of rigidity) factors that make Low-Code possible, and logical. It holds at least some promise of moving companies into a state of glorious Permanent (Digital) Revolution.

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