The Computer Weekly Developer Network learns about low-code and no-code (LC/NC) technologies in a series of reviews designed to uncover some of the nuances and specifics of this approach to software application development.
By looking at the core mechanics of the apps, suites, platforms, and services in this space, we seek to understand not only how apps are built this way, but also…what form, function, and state these apps exist…and what the implications are for enterprise software built this way, once it exists in live production environments.
Jepsen writes the following…
I’ve worked in the IT industry for many years and sometimes it’s hard not to get a little tired of the hype around the latest trends. Low-code/no-code is one of those trends where hype can distract from the true value of this approach to application development.
First of all, we’ve been here before with different initiatives to make app development easier; i can remember the microsoft oslo 2007 project. There may one day be a world where minimal, if not coding is required, but frankly, if you have to generate any layer of business logic, you need to code.
Second, I would be surprised if many companies with sensitive company information would allow their employees unrestricted access to such tools. There is no way for us to do that in Unit4. The vast majority of low-code tools are cloud-based services that are run by multiple different providers, so if that doesn’t set off red flags for your Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), I’d be very surprised. .
Third, what many of these tools seem to offer is a user interface layer on top of your existing applications, which doesn’t give you access to the core data of these systems. That doesn’t just mean you need people with coding skills to maintain these key systems: if you want the low-code UI to interoperate with your core data, you need to know how to do the business logic.
Why is low code important?
Now that I’ve voiced those concerns, I’ll say there is value in low code.
At Unit4, we have spent the last few years building a microservices architecture to support our ERP platform, because we understand the agility it can bring to our clients who want to respond quickly to their customers and market opportunities. However, they are our tools and we offer an extension kit that adheres to certain standards and policies so that any new functionality added to our core environment will interoperate seamlessly and efficiently. So I definitely understand the value that low code can offer.
There is a very real and practical driver for the adoption of low-code and that is the huge shortage of skilled IT workers. Logically, if low-code models allow you to automate elements of application development while saving time and resources, there is a clear cost-benefit argument for it. That said, I don’t see low code meeting a specific technical demand or providing technical benefits, but rather that it’s solving a very real human problem.
To be disciplined
If you want low code to work, you should follow the same best practices that are expected of any form of application development. It requires adherence to a disciplined process and good governance. That means being strict about how the tools interact with your existing environment. Yes, they need access to back-end data systems, but they shouldn’t have unrestricted access for obvious security reasons.
If you are concerned that low code promotes application proliferation, you need to be disciplined about who can create an instance and have the correct access/level controls. Applications must be properly built and managed using specific standards and must follow an approval and quality control process.
From a governance perspective, you should also ensure that your low-code developers don’t spin up instances that lead to data being stored locally; In addition to increasing storage costs, it could cause data protection issues depending on the market in question.
A kingdom far, far away
As a Dane, I am well versed in fairy tales. I wouldn’t say no code development is one, but anyone telling you about the potential of such approaches could easily be describing a realm far, far away.
In my opinion, the reason stories like Hansel and Gretel worked so well is because they were also pretty scary. Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone adopting a low-code/no-code strategy should be afraid, but they should approach it with their eyes wide open.
Ultimately, don’t believe the hype: low code is just like any other coding.
You will still need a knowledge of coding if you are going to implement it correctly and it will require discipline and good governance if you are going to implement it correctly. Your IT teams and those chosen from across the business to implement such application development models will need to be trained so that they understand what is expected of them and the code they deploy. It won’t be a panacea for all your app development needs, but it could help solve the very real problem of skills shortages.
all about christmas
Claus Jepsen is a techie who has been fascinated by the microcomputer revolution ever since he received a Tandy TRS Model 1 at the age of 14. Since then, Claus has spent the last several decades developing and designing software solutions, most recently at Unit4, where he is the chief architect leading the ERP vendor’s approach to enabling the postmodern enterprise. At Unit4, Claus is building super-scalable cloud-based solutions and bringing innovative technologies like AI, chatbots, and predictive analytics to ERP. Claus strongly believes that having access to vast amounts of data allows us to build better, non-intrusive, pervasive solutions to enhance our experiences, freeing us from tedious tasks, and allowing us to focus on what we, as individuals, truly love to do.
Unit4 is on Twitter @Unit4global.