Guest Column | January 10, 2022

3 Ways To Take Advantage Of Low-Code Development

By Eric Newcomer, WSO2

Three 3 Tips

These days, it isn’t just the service industry facing a labor shortage. With an estimated shortage of 1.4 million software developers in 2021, and only 400,000 software developer graduates this year, enterprises have a desperate need for lower-skilled developers to jump into application and IT development. New paths to innovation are opening up the market for low-code development as companies look for a competitive advantage by introducing new business models and enhancing digital experiences.

Yet, the typical approaches to low-code have inherent limitations and fall short in ensuring seamless enterprise application development. And as professional developers often reject such tools, it can result in exacerbating existing divisions among the IT function. 

The industry needs a technology platform where coders of all skill levels can collaborate in producing integrations, services, APIs, and applications - whether they can program in low-code, no-code, or more advanced pro-code opportunities. Here are three ways that organizations can make low-code work smoothly.

Allow Collaboration Among Developers Of All Skill Levels

Low-code tools help accelerate and streamline the work of professional developers while empowering a broad range of less technical business users to create applications as well. Even the most rigorous of professional development tools can benefit from the visual simplifications that low-code can provide. A key issue is the low-code and pro-code chasm created inside organizations when teams using low-code and those using pro-code work in silos and don’t collaborate or communicate. It can be difficult to ensure that the changes from each developer are merged successfully, creating inconsistencies and potentially allowing for inconsistency in the code. One of the biggest mistakes companies make with their low-code solutions is assuming they can target their tools to the business users. All applications will always require some type of technical expertise, but business users still lack the skillset needed to create more complicated solutions or use low-code platforms to their fullest potential. 

Combining business users with domain knowledge and technical users with a deep understanding of the systems creates a communicative and highly productive development environment. There is no need to have business users using one tool for low-code and developers using another tool for pro code. Ensuring collaboration by having all levels of developers using the same tools and processes simultaneously helps promote efficiency and will make the transition to low-code run more smoothly.

Have A Strategy For Controlling Your Source Code/IP

As low-code goes mainstream, there are some critical concerns that application development teams need to understand as they build their own adoption plans. Organizations should ensure their team’s low-code work doesn’t rely on proprietary systems that either prohibit the underlying code from being moved out or generate convoluted code that is neither readable nor reusable. This makes it very difficult to move the resulting app to a different platform, thereby creating a dangerous risk of vendor lock-in. This can create an environment where a well-liked and used proof-of-concept is beholden to the platform it was created on, meaning you lose your intellectual property, which hinders the development pipeline.

One potential solution is to make a textual representation of the graphical flow available to users as clean, readable code. The long-term benefits of being able to export that code and use it to follow the standard but proven software engineering process are worth the manual investment into building that process and requiring input from teams.

Recognize When Low-Code Tools Aren’t Enough

Low-code and no-code tools work by abstracting common tasks, but these abstractions can be limiting if there is a need for variety, such as calling a custom application to complete a business process. Therefore, the extensibility of the low-code platform is a must. The risk is starting a project with tools that initially look good, getting part-way through it, and then finding out that while simple tasks are easy, teams struggle when it comes to certain additional tasks or customization of a task. Additionally, if there is a bug or cyber issue, it is challenging to determine where the problem arises due to the abstract nature of some low-code platforms. 

When done correctly, low-code and no-code should help professional developers focus on new and different computing environments suited to innovation, such as microservices, Big Data, IoT, DevOps to name a few, by offloading some of the more routine or repeatable tasks. It’s clear that the market opportunity is there, but to get beyond the hype, CIOs and tech leaders need a strategy that bypasses the fluff and to figure out the right strategies and investments to successfully execute their broader automation vision. Organizations must also dedicate time and resources to developing a culture of transparency, reusability, and training so that the development team has the proper tools and expertise to drive real business impact.