From the dawn of cyber time, the computer world has pivoted around code – and coders.
Way back when, before handheld devices, packaged software, client/server and cloud-based server/client computing models became de rigueur, there were two choices: Hire experts to roll your own code, or contract with expensive third-party specialists to build enterprise-grade software. Either way, the development process was arduous; it took weeks or months for coders to thoroughly understand the requirements, and then months — if not years — to build, test, pilot and then deploy production code.
In those days, coding was a bit of a solitary affair. Sure, it was performed by groups of coders, each hoping their bits and bytes neatly fit into the cohesive whole of a multi-megabyte program. But once IT received the programming order and documented the need, there was little coordination or collaboration between the programmers sitting just outside the basement data center and the business “suits” toiling upstairs in corner offices.
In recent times, Agile methodologies have changed the coding equation and have become hyper-critical in the COVID-19 era. Programmers now engage early and often with business experts through a series of “Scrums” and “Sprints” to rapidly prototype and build industrial-strength software. Yes, the outcomes are often achieved more quickly and result in more fit-for-purpose code. But what if organizations could bridge the expertise gap that divides business guru from coder extraordinaire?
The Democratization of Software Engineering
Now, platforms are emerging that allow developers and non-tech professionals to rapidly create software without writing much more than a stitch of code.
These platforms provide WYSIWYG editors, drag-and-drop components and models for visualizing workflow that accelerate app design and assembly (known as RAD). Some focus on specific business areas, such as accounting; others tackle more grandiose challenges, such as full bodied e-commerce software suites. And in many ways, they represent the future of software development.
Interestingly, it’s not just fairy-dust unicorns that are pushing the no- to low-code RAD agenda. Household names such as IBM and Salesforce.com are on the front lines of the nearly no-code game.
While devotees of less code see their initiatives as a highly effective way of automating, modernizing and simplifying app dev, a more meaningful selling point is its ability to translate ingrained business insights into more purpose-fitting, business-advancing software. In fact, these methodologies could well be the elixir for turning “zombie IT” into a force for good, as more and more functional experts overcome their app dev fears and apply their knowledge in more business-productive ways. As such, low- to no- code RAD could tear asunder long-lingering operational silos that separate those who write code from those who benefit from it.
Of course, if less code is good for business people to glom onto, professional developers won’t be far behind. But they’ll need to get with the program, culturally speaking. Gone will be their ability to hide beyond syntactical nuances and programmatic structures that have long separated coders from the rest of us.
The bottom line: Low- to no-code apps are democratizing how enterprise systems are built, deployed and extended.
This essay originally appeared in “From To: The Future of Your Work: Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask.”
Join us at Programmers’ Week, September 14-18, and hear Ben Pring, VP & Managing Director of the Cognizant Center of The Future of Work, and Andres Angelani, Cognizant Softvision CEO, discuss leadership and the future of work and mastery in the digital world, respectively.
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