In the years since the term was coined by market research firm Forrester Research, low-code platforms have done nothing else but accelerate their growth. The concept wasn’t entirely new by the time it got a proper name in 2014. Its origins can be traced back to the 90s and early 2000s, though proper market development started around 2011 and it has been during the last decade that the practice has gained both recognition and popularity without signs of stopping.
Low-code is the name given a to a certain type of doing software development that introduces more user-friendly methods like model-driven design and automation; but specially visual programming, not unlike common graphic interfaces. The more streamed, simpler approach opens the door to less code-savvy workers who can often do tasks with just basic knowledge on programming. More importantly for companies, it also means that they can accelerate processes and even reduce costs. These reasons were the ones to drive the practice forward in the first places.
A common example of low-code platforms is the use of drag and drop interfaces, an action that’s become practically inherent to any consumer interface, from mobile to desktop. In some cases, low-code initiatives can even become known as no-code platforms when they further reduce the need of coding knowledge on the developer’s part. This individuals are known as “citizen developers:” power users who are capable of using no-code tools. They’re full-time workers whose tasks don’t necessarily include software development, but they’re able to contribute by way of low-code or no-code systems.
Not what you might think
Even as it earns recognition, low-code/no-code platforms are still a relatively young concept, so there are still many misconceptions about them. On their official company blog, Business Application Developer Coactive dismantles what they identify as “The 7 myhts of low-code/no-code platforms.” Some are already being dismantled as of now—but others not so much.
The first one is simple enough: low-code platforms are not just for citizen developers. As Coactive writes, they have “benefits to IT and development teams because the technology enables skilled developers to build enterprise-grade, mission-critical applications rapidly and affordably.”
The idea that there’s no programming needed is also absurd. “Low-code platforms need coders. Not to say applications can’t be built with little to no coding, but there’s room for change. Customization and integrations need the expertise of developers.” This also ties to the idea that low-code doesn’t work for complex application—it’s simply not true as the practice is scalable for any particular needs. And that kills another myth: that low-code isn’t flexible, which is almost exactly the opposite of what low-code is supposed to be.
On the collaboration topic, the company argues: “With traditional software development, engineers and developers take an idea and then go quietly into their cubicle to write lines and lines of code to build the solution. With low-code/no-code application, it’s not only exciting for the person with the idea to be part of the development, but people throughout the department, or even the entire business, can have a hand in designing the look, feel and structure of the application.”
Lastly, the idea that they are not secure can be disputed. It all really depends on what you do with it. As Coactive explains, there standards and requirements set up to ensure compliance and in best-case scenarios, citizen developers don’t even have to worry about security, the platform already has the covered.
No stopping it
According to VP analyst at Gartner Jason Wong, “We are seeing more interest from the client base around low-code and we are seeing success in a variety of large, international companies to small companies.” The reason is simple, and it’s called digital transformation. As SD Times contributor Lisa Morgan writes, the move to digital is putting more and more pressure on companies which are desperate to remain competitive. This in turn leads to an increasing need for faster development processes. Enter low-code and no-code platforms.
According to VP and principal analyst at Forrester, Rob Koplowitz, the most common basic complaint among companies right now is their inability to build applications fast enough. By the time they’ve done it, “specs have changed.” The best-case scenario then is for low-code platforms to enable citizen developers that can assist professional ones.
Forrester estimates that the market value for low-code development platforms will reach $15.5 billion by 2020.
“When it comes to low-code tools, I think organizations are proceeding with healthy caution,” said Wong. The practice is recent, but the benefits are there, and it might be just the perfect tool small-to-medium corporations need to level the ground with more technically-skilled competitors.