Low-code Development: How Low Should We Go?

Low-code Development

(The original article was posted on LinkedIn Pulse.) We are taught in life to set the bar high. But in the rush to accelerate digital transformation, is there a risk that we are aiming too low with our aspirations for next-generation software development?

For all the talk of Shadow IT and Citizen Developers, IT pros can be “less a part of the problem” and “more a part of the solution” if we balance the bi-modal objectives of stability with agility. Yes, we need to unshackle ourselves from past development methods which have emphasised stability over agility…but let’s be careful not to over-correct, as swerving around rarely ends up getting you anywhere faster. In the right hands, low-code tools give IT Pros quick and compelling ‘wins’ in terms of speed of delivery and auto-generating the slick UX that end-users demand.

But how far up or down the organisation should we attempt to spread this goodness, before the law of unintended consequences kicks in?

I recently read an eye-catching low-code case study, albeit from an unnamed customer [hmmn]. Apparently, the company’s CEO and CFO had cranked out a new app between themselves over the proverbial breakfast table. This sounds amazing – but is such a feat amazingly good or amazingly dangerous? Wherein lies the jeopardy I hear you say? Well, how about we invent a twist on the classic ‘…which means that…’ test; much beloved by salespeople to turn features into benefit statements. We’ll call ours the ‘…and now what…’ test.

Imagine this company suffers from a data breach and the forensic investigator uncovers a security vulnerability in the C-Suite citizen developed app – an app that the IT Pro’s may not even know exists! Who is responsible? Did we just inadvertently encourage the head of compliance (aka the CFO) to commit hara-kiri? At the very least he/she may die of shame.

Had the perpetrator applied our ‘…and now what…?’ test they may have realised that trusting the low-code tool vendor’s claim of “don’t worry, we have a secure private cloud platform” was being naive. Of course, the company’s IT Pros were best equipped to validate the security of the platform and to conduct best-of-breed procedures like running regular penetration tests with the white-hats. But they didn’t know that this new app existed, did they? Life would be so much easier if we just all worked in tandem.

The hoopla around Shadow IT and Citizen Development reminds me of when I first started out in the IT business; selling new-fangled Desktop Publishing solutions with Apple. My customers ranged from graphic designers to professional colour repo houses to the Marketing folks at large corporates.

Back then a state-of-the-art $10,000 Mac system could replace a $100,000 Crossfield workstation and produce indistinguishable results in the hands of a trained professional. On the other hand…the amateurs in the Marketing Dept. were churning out grotesque newsletters, brochures, foils and the like with all the flair of a deranged octopus – you know the crap…excessive use of fonts, no white space, horrible colour combos and cartoonish clip art. It’s no surprise that most of those newsletters never made it past issue #2!

This sanguine experience was my first exposure to the adage “just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.”

Fortunately, there are low-code Rapid Application Development tools – like our own Visual LANSA – which are designed to address the bi-modal objectives of stability with agility, but there are many other tools which are simply not enterprise-grade by design or pedigree. Rather than fostering further division between the Business and IT Pros with flammable expressions like Shadow IT, we advocate bringing everyone together and having them collaborate on our low-code platform using visual prototyping and runtime simulation. A proof-of-concept that only took two days to build will evolve seamlessly into an enterprise solution that will stand the test of time – and keep the CFO out of jail!

Low-code tools are neither inherently good, bad or cosmic magic – as always any such tool is only as good as the craftsperson wielding it.

So please don’t end up in limbo because you rushed to implement your digital transformation agenda only to find that you got caught in someone else’s hype cycle. Trough of Disillusionment anyone?

For webinars on the topics discussed in this blog, visit https://www.lansa.com/resources/recordings.htm.

To read a customer success story, visit: https://www.lansa.com/casestudies/duro-last.htm.

Martin Fincham

Author: Martin Fincham

Martin is LANSA's CEO and as such is ultimately responsible for field operations in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Martin joined LANSA in 2005 having spent the previous 15 years working within the enterprise software market in EMEA and the Americas. Martin is a frequent speaker and published authority on trends in enterprise application development, modernization and integration.

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