No tech background and no coding skills? No problem. A group of tools known as low-code/no-code platforms are enabling so-called "citizen developers" to create apps -- no coding required.
At a time when software developers are in short supply, the idea of turning business people in-to coders has obvious appeal. And according to a recently released Forrester Research report, 42 different companies today offer low- or no-code platforms that allow nearly anyone to painlessly create an app using simple GUI or drag and drop interfaces. The Forrester report stresses that a desire to have developers with "nontraditional backgrounds" and an equal interest in making these platforms accessible for "general purpose use" are driving this young but fast-growing low-code/no-code market.
One of those companies, QuickBase, a spin off from Intuit that was recently acquired by a private equity firm, was founded to help customers expand the functionality of Intuit's accounting tools. But now QuickBase is focused largely on helping citizen developers create apps that make their business lives better, said Karen Devine, vice president of marketing at QuickBase. "Business problems -- like making things more efficient and productive -- are so low in the IT queue," she said. "There is just not enough developer budget available to them. We want people without coding backgrounds to be able to solve their own problems."
In fact, QuickBase did a survey of its users and found only 8% had any kind of coding background, while 70% said developing applications is "part of their day job," Devine said. That's the disconnect QuickBase, and other companies, are trying to hone in on with low-code/no-code offerings. "We make it easy for them to use technology to think creatively," Devine explained.
Nichole Browningdeployment manager, Dominion Dealer Solutions
Nichole Browning is the deployment manager at Dominion Dealer Solutions in Norfolk, Va., a company that provides technology and marketing services to auto dealerships around the country. She's a QuickBase user (with no programming background) and is quick to point out both the irony and the benefits. "It's a Catch-22," she explained. "We are a technology company and we have lots of programmers writing code." But Dominion and its customers sometimes need solutions quickly. And on several memorable occasions, when upward of $1 million was at risk, it was QuickBase to the rescue, Browning said. She was able to use the platform to resolve a crisis involving 700 customers literally overnight. "Of course if our developers had time, they could have come up with solutions. But we didn't have time, and if we'd waited for the developers, we'd be out $1 million."
Demand for the QuickBase platform is coming largely from the business side, but IT departments "are increasingly showing up looking for a way to a low-code/no-code platform," Devine said. When the business side is using it, she described the typical IT reaction to the idea as "neutral to positive." This isn't a one-to-one developer replacement, "but this is a creative workaround to the developer shortage," she said. And in the midterm, she also sees this as a tool that will encourage cooperation and perhaps even eventually plant the seeds for a DevOps transformation. "This is getting people on the business side working on (software) and understanding how the development process works."
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