Special Feature

The road to low-code and no-code development needs strong guardrails

Survey finds widespread adoption of low-code and no-code approaches. However, IT still needs to be a full partner.

Low-code and no-code approaches are now ubiquitous -- just about everyone is doing it or intending to do it. But what happens if large numbers of employees are pumping out their own applications via different platforms and services, dumping it all on operations teams who have to make it work?

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Special Report: Business leader as developer: The rise of no-code and low-code software (free PDF)

This ebook, based on the latest ZDNet / TechRepublic special feature, helps IT leaders understand the consequences of non-developers becoming app builders and how to successfully take advantage of this trend.

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That's the question raised by Tonkean, which released a survey of 500 IT and business operations professionals, finding at least 86% of respondents said their projects at least occasionally get delayed because of a lack of technical resources, and only 24% believed their current toolset satisfies all their needs. While Tonkean, a no-code automation platform provider, has a stake in this survey, the results point to the organizational issues that accompany efforts to extend development powers to end-users. Namely, everyone is coming from with different directions, with different tools and perspectives. 

Overall, 33% of respondents have already invested in no-code/low-code tools, and 45% are actively seeking no-code/low-code tools. Another 16% say they expect to seek these tools within the next 12 months. 

A meager five percent said they don't expect their organization to adopt no-code/low-code tools anytime soon. (I'd love to find out more about this group -- are they highly rigid, hierarchical organizations? Or security fortresses?) 

So, in most cases, people agree no-code and low-code is a good thing for their organizations. However, the survey's authors say they find "a certain degree of ideological separation among IT and operations teams. Non-technical operations teams feel technologically unsupported." They talk about "operational debt" that comes from using too many applications and toolsets for specific functions.  

IT and operations teams seem aligned on the benefits of low-code and no-code -- majorities of both IT (88%) and operations (75%) professionals express optimism that no-code/low-code tools "would empower their operations team to get more work done," the survey's authors report. "The average enterprise reports using around 1,295 separate SaaS apps or services, the vast majority of which don't provide the kind of strategic value needed. Operational debt, meanwhile, contributes to inefficiency, creating obstacles such as bottlenecks and technology gaps."   

Collaboration, then is the key to enabling successful low-code and no-code development, and an important piece of this story is enabling the collaboration that is essential to build, run and share applications, This is particularly acute in today's remote, work-from-anywhere environments, Jennifer Cadence, product marketing manager at Google, writes in a recent post. "Once an app is shared with another person, whether it be a fellow creator or an end user, collaboration becomes something different," she explains. "For a creator-to-creator relationship, it means ensuring the data source in use is designed for manageability, iteration, security, and friction-free access. For an end user-to-creator interaction, the relationship is more complex: app creators typically engage with an application in a development capacity on a desktop while end users typically engage with an application on their mobile devices."

IT managers need to step up and provide guardrails for governance and security, Cadence adds. "When an IT team can set policies and provide oversight for non-technical teams within the organization, employees on the ground can problem solve quickly without creating management and governance liabilities. Enterprises want to empower employees to innovate and move fast-but they cannot afford to play fast-and-loose with data security. Neither no-code technology nor the citizen developers who leverage it are meant to replace traditional development practices within an organization."