What the next 10 years of low-code / no-code could bring

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On my 12th birthday, I received my first computer: an Amiga 500. And at 17, I started my first company, making software that helped photographers serve their clients. As I reflect on my decades of programming, it occurs to me that low-code technology started with tools that allow users to create custom reports and applications with very little coding.

When I first started coding, low code was somewhat analogous to the position AI occupies today: exciting, highly publicized, and poorly understood. In 2014 it was generating exciting news: “Some companies are turning to new ‘low-code’ application platforms that accelerate app delivery by dramatically reducing the amount of manual coding required,” said Forrester.

Now, after nearly a decade of increasing adoption, low-code – and increasingly no-code – tools are becoming mainstream.

The global market for low-code tools has grown nearly 23% in the past year, and according to Gartner, 41% of non-IT employees are building or customizing applications today. Gartner also predicts that by 2024, three-quarters of large enterprises will use at least four low-code tools, and low-code technology is likely to be responsible for more than 65 percent of total application development. Gartner also predicted that by the end of 2025, half of all new low-code customers will be corporate buyers outside the IT organization.

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This explosive growth makes sense. Nowadays, the business world is driven by the idea that every organization must digitally transform their operations to keep pace with rapid market changes. “Fit or die” is a common refrain. Since most organizations do not have the development staff to conduct this digital transformation using only the work of the IT department, help from other business professionals is required. The no-code and low-code tools allow companies to recruit new participants in the digital transformation effort, enabling companies to advance their progress quickly and cost-effectively.

The rise of the corporate technologist

In fact, the low-code options have created a new person in the workplace: the business technologist or business user, also known as the “city developer,” who can usefully participate in the application development process. The tools are becoming easier to use and more intuitive. Users are assisted by excellent training within the tools themselves and a growing library of online resources with pre-built business-focused components such as tutorials, use cases and how-to videos. Business users who cannot write a single line of code in a programming language, such as C ++ or Python, used by professional software developers, are able to independently build most of their useful applications using low-code tools and no-code.

At present, the IT department is still doing the heavy lifting of application development, but as this market evolves, business users will increasingly be able to build end-to-end applications with relatively little intervention from the developers. This change will allow developers to focus on maintaining large-scale strategic projects while monitoring the long tail of applications built by enterprise technologists. Recently, developer responsibilities have shifted towards maintaining core systems, maintaining application development best practices, ensuring standards compliance, data governance and security, and the role of facilitator for creators. newly minted low-code applications in various business departments.

In their next evolution, these tools will be tailored to the specific needs of different business users, with predefined content and components for business users that will enable employees in technical areas to rapidly develop customized applications. For example, a customer service professional might need a customer onboarding application. Being able to build the applications themselves using tools that can be customized for this purpose will allow them to greatly accelerate the onboarding workflow and subsequent integration of new customers.

Low code meets AI

Looking further ahead, artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to be more involved in the equation, enabling software development processes that are more proactively driven and written by other software. This would allow business users to create new applications using text prompts with the assistance of the application development tool. Think of the autocomplete feature in a Google search bar, but for the code. There are already signs of this, as with GitHub Copilot which is based on GPT-3, OpenAI’s large language neural network. These are first generation AI capabilities and will become increasingly sophisticated in the coming years.

While this prospect may cause anxiety among professional developers, the change promises to create new opportunities within IT rather than eliminate old ones. Software developers can become adept at enabling this evolution by learning how to provide the right suggestions to an AI tool to generate the code a code-less application developer will need. The most in-demand developers in the next few years may be those who can write prompts elegantly and efficiently, more so than those who are experts in programming languages.

The evolution towards ever easier to use application building tools is not just an opportunity for developers to build new strengths; it could also be a huge boon to their co-workers and the business goals they serve. Businesses gain agility by using no-code and low-code tools. Agility is the ability to respond quickly to change and is enhanced when business units can customize and maintain their applications to be instantly responsive to that change.

One of the most important questions for any IT project, including those using low-code development, is: who will keep it? A poorly maintained application ties a poor customer experience to a brand, a much more likely outcome when application creation and maintenance are outsourced and when a resource-strapped IT department is solely responsible for everything. the maintenance. These tools are adapting and providing capabilities for business monitoring and low-code app governance.

The next decade of low-code / no-code

While the next decade is likely to lead to an expansion of the role business users have in building and maintaining applications, it’s important to note that the IT team is now, and always will be, the enabler to drive this innovation. Their job is to figure out how to give business users the tools they need to be as productive as possible and the guidance to use them appropriately. This change will come through collaboration, with IT taking care of both facilitation and back-end work that allows business users to better apply their skills and strategies through targeted applications.

The next 10 years of code-free and low-code development are likely to bring about the same change as the last 10, if not more. There has long been a functional and cultural boundary between IT users and business. The rapid advancement of low-code and no-code tools with the help of AI is breaking down all of this and enabling a more collaborative environment. It is possible that in the next few years the boundaries will not only blur, but in some cases begin to fade. This should be a productivity boon and a boost to digital transformation efforts.

And while this kind of rapid change can present challenges for individuals and businesses, these rapidly evolving tools mostly offer good news. With their help, business users can work more effectively and quickly, IT teams can focus on fostering business growth in high-value ways, and businesses can do better as the future quickly approaches.

Juergen Mueller is Chief Technology Officer and a member of the SAP SE Board of Directors.

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