The 2020s are unfolding as the most digitally intensive time ever, but there's a catch. There aren't enough skilled developers and engineers to build things. Whether you're a budding entrepreneur with no IT support or heading up the division of a global 500 organization with IT staffing challenges, much of your information technology infrastructure going forward may be built on low-code or no-code platforms.
"I've done over $1 million in income in two years as an entrepreneur -- and I didn't write a single line of code," writes former tech executive-turned-entrepreneurial-advocate Justin Welsh in a recent tweet. He cites low-code/no-code tools that have helped him along the way, including Gumroad for digital products, Canva for graphic design, Outseta for CRM, payments, subscriptions, email automation, and gated content in SaaS-based launches, AirTable for business organization, Loom for video presentations, and Zapier for technology integration.
The larger corporate sector is also sitting up and taking notice. Goldman Sachs is purchasing a $90-million stake in WSO2, which has offerings intended to ease the deployment of API and service-oriented solutions. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the investment banking giant was looking at WSO2's capabilities to address looming developer skills shortages "by letting salespeople, accountants, and other business-line workers make their own apps."
The Covid crisis "has accelerated enterprise digital transformation by years and more employees are contributing to software development and delivery," said WSO2 founder and CEO Sanjiva Weerawarana in a related post. "To offer new digital products and services, companies now need solutions that democratize the adoption of API management, integration, and [customer identity and access management] technologies. We see demand for more robust low-code approaches to not only improve employee productivity but also create trusted, engaging customer experiences."
Other leaders in the low-code/no-code space also see their platforms as paving the way to a future where there simply aren't enough professional developers to handle the coming workloads. "Many organizations are face challenges with scarce IT resources and a lack of funding," says Linda Ding, senior director at Laserfiche. "The pandemic brought about new business needs that required immediate solutions."
Low-code and no-code have "already been hailed as the second digital transformation and it's easy to see why," says Iain Scholnick, CEO of Braidio. "The pandemic disrupted almost every industry, healthcare especially hard and the industry had to adapt quickly, using no-code to develop applications for healthcare tech in weeks to quickly meet demand. From automating simple tasks to building entire applications or prototyping a new idea, no-code tools offer companies the fastest and cheapest way to scale their digital transformation across their entire business."
The most impactful applications that are being built outside of IT's domain "are the ones that manage interactive processes with external customers," Ding relates. "These are the innovations we saw over the past year, when accelerated needs led to faster business application deployment. These applications require huge quantities of data submission and collection, which need to be tied into workflow logic and real-time or daily reporting and aggregation of data."
Over time, as the low-code, no-code approach becomes more pervasive, "IT can be more strategic, focusing on cybersecurity, scalability, and infrastructure performance versus developing one-off or niche applications for various business users, which is time- and resource-intensive," says Ding.
The rise of low-code and no-code means, ironically, also means extending the lives for existing applications. "Providing more efficient access to existing back-end applications will effectively extend the useful life of existing applications," says Scholnick. It will be industries that aren't tech-heavy that will benefit the most from low-code/no-code, he adds. "Companies need to make an effort to solve the digital skills gap in their workforce and the easiest way to do this will be to become low-code, no-code literate."