Developers should welcome low-code tools

Posted on Thursday, November 09, 2017 by Mike Fitzmaurice

Will the proliferation of low-code tools on the market end up driving app developers into obsolescence? Or should developers welcome these resources and the ďcitizen developersĒ who use them?

One part of that answer is clear: Low-code tools wonít be putting developers out of a job; on the contrary, they have the potential to help developers do better work. But that requires IT organizations to take a strategic approach to adopting these tools and fostering a collaborative relationship with citizen developers.

Low-code job fears are unfounded


The notion of low-code tools posing a direct threat to developer jobs arose with a 2009 Gartner projection that within five years, ďcitizen developersĒ would create at least one-quarter of new business apps. Gartnerís analysis defined a citizen developer as someone working outside of IT organizations to create apps that businesses would use.

As the prospect of citizen developers displacing established professionals gained momentum, developers began to view the emerging line of low-code tools as the means by which citizen development could pose a direct threat to their jobs. In the years since, many professional development teams have looked toward the citizen development and low-code trend with fear for their own positions.

That anxiety is misplaced.  

While itís true that low-code tools and the people who use them pose a threat, that threat isnít to jobs, itís to business models. In other words, itís not developers who have to worry - itís companies that function only as coding shops.

Realizing the benefits of low-code tools


Far from being a threat to the employable tasks of conceptualizing, coding and deploying enterprise apps, low-code platforms - and citizen developers - can play a key role in augmenting these processes. By automating low-level coding functions, low-code tools can enable developers to channel more energy toward building the analytical skills that will allow them to meaningfully evolve in their roles.

But that requires a considered plan. Here are some strategic steps development teams can take to maximize low-code tools and citizen development:


- Build a culture of collaboration between IT and line of business employees: Within enterprises, citizen development often arises as a quiet revolt: Line-of-business employees see their IT department as inaccessible and ineffective and take on development themselves.

When citizen development originates this way, it often leads to bad work that creates additional messes for the development team. Company development teams can preempt these consequences by working to foster an internal company culture that encourages citizen development in tandem with existing IT efforts.

- Coach - donít patrol - citizen developers: As part of the mindset shift to a culture that values citizen development, IT teams need to move away from the idea that they have to stringently patrol non-IT developers. Instead, they should work to equip non-IT workers with the tools to successfully develop without disrupting company workflows or creating IT burdens. That means defining a consistent template for citizen workflows and training citizen developers to adhere to this process.

- Look for opportunities in low-code tools: Itís not just citizen developers who benefit from low-code tools; thereís significant potential for professional developers as well. By seeking out helpful and relevant low-code platforms, developer professionals can proactively tackle their backlogs (and who doesnít have a backlog?).

As the low-code market moves toward a $15 billion market value by 2020, professional development teams canít afford to ignore citizen development and the tools that enable it. Instead of resisting the trend, developers should strategically harness it. That does require embracing disruption - but if thereís any community of workers thatís primed to work with disruptive technology, itís developers.

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