Low-code, no-code or visual-based coding is getting more attention these days. Amazon Web Services (AWS) in June launched a beta of Honeycode. Google in January snapped up low-code outfit AppSheet and killed off AppMaker for Workspace, formerly G Suite, also beefing up Google Cloud with the Business Application Platform in September. Salesforce has its Lightning platform, while Oracle has Application Express (APEX), and there are more offerings from Appian, Zoho, ServiceNow and others vying for a slice of businesses' undergoing digital transformation. The promise of low- and no-code platforms is that business users can create mobile and web apps by pulling data from spreadsheets or databases to help their colleagues access data where and when they need it – in a browser or a mobile device – almost without requiring professional developers.
Will 2022 be the year the year citizen developers finally take the reigns leading application development across their respective lines of business? It looks likely, thanks to emerging low-code, no-code and serverless solutions. And, importantly, there will also be another "citizen" in the mix -- professional developers themselves, rapidly accelerating their abilities to plan, assemble and maintain increasingly complex enterprise systems. Non-developers and developers alike are increasingly seeing greater sophistication in the applications they can build with low or no-code approaches. For example, one of the announcements coming out of AWS' recent re:Invent conference was an enhanced platform offering, Amazon SageMaker Canvas, designed to make AI development accessible to the masses through a visual, no code capability that enables business analysts to build machine learning models and generate accurate predictions without writing code or requiring machine learning expertise. Many other vendors are tacking toward offerings requiring little or no coding knowledge, with much of the backend integration and logic hidden in the background, powered by automation and AI.
Many engage in ethically questionable practices around payment (boot camps aren't cheap) and job placement. Picking a good boot camp may be as difficult as choosing an undergraduate college. To some extent, the weaknesses of boot camps and traditional colleges can be helped through apprenticeships and internships. However, even that requires care: many companies use the language of the "agile" and CI/CD, but have only renamed their old, ineffective processes. How can interns be placed in positions where they can learn modern programming practices, when the companies in which they're placed don't understand those practices? That's a critical problem, because we expect that trained programmers will, in effect, be responsible for bringing these practices to the low-code programmers.
In the recent 20 years, the types of devices and technologies available to companies have soared. Subsequently, IT teams are done overseeing homogeneous stacks, yet different, complex environments. Also, as those environments have developed, so too has IT. The speed of the digital transformation previously fostered by the growth of the public cloud, demands definitely more services and applications at a speed a lot quicker than developers can write and code. These services should be versatile, scalable and secure and improve effectiveness and lessen reliance simply on developers.
Is IT possible without IT? In recent times, there has been a flurry of activity around platform offerings targeted at users with little or development experience -- so-called "citizen developers" -- as well as still serving the needs of professional developers hard-pressed to deliver apps in extremely tight timeframes. This new generation of low-code and no-code platforms are designed to make it relatively easy for people to design, build, and launch applications quickly, without having to worry about the nuances of underlying operating systems or scalability requirements. Also: 'Weird new things are happening in software,' says Stanford AI professor Chris Re Built on extended cloud-based Platform-as-a-service environments and low- and no-code platforms typically employ visual programming interfaces to solve business problems faster and more completely than could be accomplished with traditional software development. In the process, the productivity of professional developers will be enhanced as they are freed up to worry about more strategic infrastructure concerns affecting their enterprises.