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No-Code App Development is Essential for Digital Transformation

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Jennifer Cadence, a product marketing manager at Google, recently published an account of the state of no-code app development.

In her post, published on the Google Cloud blog, Cadence breaks down why no-code platforms have become an essential part of digital transformation. She suggests that speed and agility, productivity and collaboration, and governance and security are the critical factors for these platforms' importance.

  1. Speed & agility: Cadence says that "in a recent survey of app creators using Google Cloud's no-code application platform, AppSheet, some 32% of respondents cited speed of development as one of the greatest benefits to using no-code". Low-code allows people to build applications and process automation without coding, opening up innovation to a broader range of employees.
  2. Productivity & collaboration: Low-code platforms are built from the ground up for collaboration. Cadence divides this into creator-to-creator collaboration and end user-to-creator interaction. For creator-to-creator, it means ensuring the data source in use is designed for manageability, iteration, security, and friction-free access. For end user-to-creator, it means to provide the creators with a development environment that allows them to understand better how their end-users are viewing their app, increasing collaboration between both parties.
  3. Governance & security: Cadence states that "when an IT team can set policies and provide oversight for non-technical teams within the organization, employees on the ground can problem-solve quickly without creating management and governance liabilities." No-code platforms respect IT governance and limitations while allowing creators to innovate without the burden of shadow IT management.

Low-code/no-code platforms provide a development environment used to create application software by non-professional developers, typically referred to as "citizen developers." These platforms have risen in popularity in recent years due to the increasing need for digital transformation tools, accompanied by increasing professional developers' costs. Cadence describes in her post:

Though we typically associate app creation with traditional developers who write code, hundreds of thousands of apps were built this year by non-technical "citizen developer" app creators from around the globe. This democratization occurred because industries such as retail, construction, manufacturing, hospitality, telecom, education, real estate, IT services and more all sought digital transformation through no-code development.

The year 2020 has further accelerated the need for digital transformation across the globe due to quarantine and social distancing limitations worldwide following the spread of COVID-19. Low-code/no-code has also appeared on InfoQ's latest Software Architecture and Design Trends Report, where it emerged in the "Early Adopters" phase. In that report, Charles Humble, InfoQ editor-in-chief, commented on the rise of low-code:

I'm something of a cynic on low-code platforms; I think this is mainly a vendor push and one I've seen before. That said I would expect to see more developers experimenting with low-code platforms — partly fueled by a renewed push from Microsoft for its PowerApps, Flow, Power BI, and Power Platform products. I also found it interesting to see Google acquiring AppSheet. These platforms are becoming big business and I think it is a trend we should be keeping an eye on.

All major cloud vendors have competing offerings in the low-code platform space. Microsoft is developing its Power Platform for several years, Google Cloud acquired AppSheet in February 2020, and AWS launched its platform, Honeycode, in beta in June 2020. Many other low-code platforms from different vendors, such as Appian, Mendix, and OutSystems, are available as well.

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