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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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Community comments

  • Do Citicen developers exist?

    by Javier Paniza,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Citizen developers are like 500 euros bill, they exist but I've never seen them. After working for several years in a no-code platform (called Noobeek) my conclusion was that the users want an application ready to use and that developers love to write code. A final user willing to develop his own application is a rare specimen, though they exist, yes.

    After evaluating several low-code platform, not to use them but looking for inspiration (yes, to copy ideas) I found that they are like the VisualBasic or Delphi of the 90s but very expensive. Creating a UI with drag & drop is not so revolutionary.

    The main problem with the digital transformation is that the code-oriented alternative is very costly, because the code-oriente world nowadays has been designed by developers, and developers are very intelligent people looking for intelectual challenges, and they are bored with simple and fast things. So now to create the most simple application a developer will choose to use "the complete stack": Kubernetes + Docker + Microservices + Klotin + AngularJS + Material Design + Typescript + Gradle + Jenkins + Devops, as a minimum. Working with all these technologies is very interesting and funny but it's very expensive, and turn the no-code a good option. But...

    But if we look for something in between? That is a code-oriented platform where you write the code that solve yourproblem, period. Click on run, to run the application, click on deploy in order your users see your application running. No more.

    I work on that, and I call it a code-oriented low-code platform, here:

    (Sorry for the misleading advertising)

  • Re: Do Citicen developers exist?

    by Eran Stiller,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Thanks for the comment. I agree with your analysis. Most people don't want to write their own software. But in most organizations, some technical-oriented non-developers can create these simple apps. They usually use Excel to get their way now, and if the No-Code/Low-Code tool is simple enough, they can use it.
    Indeed, pro-developers are also expensive because of the tools used. Not every app needs to be a SPA, microservice-backed app, complete with a fully automated CI/CD pipeline.
    The type of tool you suggest was once better known as a Rapid Application Development (RAD) tool, and I also used some of these in the past. I believe the key is making all these new no-code platforms extensible by pro-developers so that you can create simple apps with no-code and extend them by professionals where necessary.

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