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Why we don’t ALL need to write code to build apps

(Image credit: Image Credit: Syda Productions / Shutterstock)

Common thinking says that in the modern technology-dependent world, it must be good to code. That may be so, but do business teams and even software developers really need to write code to build applications?

Not any more they don’t. So-called ‘no-code’ development platforms are now becoming highly sophisticated and very much in vogue. They are enabling people who need an application to build one themselves; no coding required. Business teams that know what they want can go ‘DIY,’ and aspiring IT professionals can focus on building their skills in defining user requirements and application design, without spending months learning to code.

The democratisation of software development represents the next logical step in tech’s relatively short history. After all, why should ‘programming’ only be reserved for a select few? At the forefront of this latest revolution in IT we find two main drivers: the no-code platform and the citizen developer.

A new era in application development

The no-code and low-code way of developing is gaining popularity in the tech scene and beyond. A survey by global research firm Forrester revealed that 23 per cent of global developers already used low-code platforms in 2018, and another 22 per cent planned to do so within the next year. Why are businesses massively investing in no-code and low-code solutions? Because these platforms have the potential to turn many more of their employees into full-fledged developers.

What’s a no-code platform?

No-code platforms enable application development with no manual programming required. Instead of coding, these platforms use visual modelling where users can drag-and-drop components into logical sequences to create functional and even complex applications. Removing the need for manual programming from the production process solves two major issues. Firstly, that coding by hand is extremely time-extensive and complex and secondly that there is a serious shortage of qualified developers to meet the current demand for new software.

Depending on the platform, developing with no-code can make application development as much as 16 times faster than coding.

Citizen development: Empowerment is key

Next to their speed, the ease of use of no-code platforms makes room for a new kind of developer: the citizen developer. These are tech-savvy business people who understand the potential of software and customised applications to innovate their business or make their work more efficient. Instead of queuing in front of the IT department and waiting months for their requests to be met (or hearing a flat-out ‘No can do’), they want to be able to start working on fully-functioning applications themselves.

A no-code platform provides these citizen developers with a building environment that is centrally governed and supported by IT. This way, business users can literally go nuts with their application ideas without the risk of jeopardising the overall IT architecture. Their creations can range from simple solutions (such as an application that automatically registers data that otherwise had to be inserted manually into Excel sheets) to intricate IT structures (such as replacing a few standalone software programs by one super order management system to rule them all). Depending on the skill level of the citizen developer, the possibilities are endless.

Citizen development is about empowering entire workforces to work towards the best solutions, with the ultimate goal of better aligning business and IT. It’s a drive towards constant innovation. 

Will IT lose their jobs?

The rise of the citizen developer doesn’t mean that ‘traditional’ IT professionals should fear losing their jobs. On the contrary, no-code and citizen development are meant to put the excitement back in IT. Essential programming knowledge will still be a major prerequisite in the new age, as IT needs to guarantee that proper governance, support and security are in place for the citizen developers. Still, IT gets more time to focus on the more complex (read: fun) projects.

You see, the life of a contemporary programmer is not as romantic as you might think. Much time is spent on fixing bugs and updating existing programs. Adopting a no-code strategy can relieve the IT professional of these hassles so they can focus on what they really love to do: solving problems and making great software in the process. Because isn’t that what programming should be all about?

Where we’re going, we don’t need code

In the new age, you don’t necessarily have to be an IT professional anymore to build your own applications. From one-off solutions to extremely complex enterprise grade applications, no-code is proving to be a widely adopted method in organisations’ IT strategies, as it allows more hands to build software.

And it’s about time no-code came along, as software development is increasingly becoming everyone’s business — whether or not your company is in the tech industry. The need for software is explosive, between internal applications that support the smooth functioning of the business and customer-facing applications in an increasingly competitive market where the customer experience is constantly evolving. The organisations who don’t keep up with digitisation are the ones who will likely fall behind. 

So how do you stay alive? You turn everyone (or at least a larger part of your organisation) into a software developer. By having more people participate in the software development process, you reduce the backlog of your existing IT team while also empowering your business users. Instead of being fully reliant on IT, empowered users of a no-code platform — the citizen developers — can speed up innovation by kickstarting applications themselves. All they need is a bright idea and the right platform.

Chris Obdam, CEO, Betty Blocks