Amidst the many changes we saw in 2016, one stands out to me as I look forward to 2017 and that’s the rise of low code/no code platforms. These tools are designed to let pretty much anyone — even a 19th C. English Lit. major like myself — create applications, or tweak existing apps, without actually knowing how to program. On the surface, this sounds like an obvious and inexpensive solution to the worldwide software developer shortage. But is it really?
So far, most low code/no code citizen developers are creating apps for internal customers and that solve problems specific to their businesses. This isn’t a bad thing; conceivably it frees up IT to focus on more pressing issues and more than likely citizen devs can bring their ideas to life far more quickly if they can do it themselves.
But “outward facing” apps built by citizen developers are increasing, according to a survey from QuickBase and the tip over point — where there are more commercially released apps than not — may be approaching in 2017, or maybe not. Forrester Research principal analyst Robert Stroud is certainly bullish on citizen developers, but points to a lack of support from cloud platforms like AWS as one barrier to their further use in organizations.
And there are other challenges. Who oversees these citizen devs? If it’s the business side — which might make sense — then there needs to be a way to ensure that all of those IT “rules” regarding compliance, security, etc., are followed. Those aren’t necessarily areas where a product manager is going to focus his/her attention. And while the existing low code/no code platform solutions are robust enough for the jobs they’re doing, they’re not at the point yet of covering everything from idea generation to development, security and ultimately deployment. That, I think, is where the real promise lays.
It will be interesting to see if those one-stop-shop solutions arrive next year.