The no-code/low-code space has been expanding rapidly in the past few years. As we learned from our last survey of investors active in the space earlier this month, the technology democratizes access to modern software development, but there are still some kinks to iron out. Mass adoption is still held up, however: many organizations prefer to build from scratch, and complete end-to-end solutions are still nowhere to be found.
To get a more in-depth look at the technical aspects of the space, we decided to talk to some of the technologists ushering in the no-code/low-code revolution.
To start off, it appears that no-code/low-code tools hasn’t had much impact on the number of people working in IT. Deb Gildersleeve, CIO of Quickbase, said the propagation of no-code/low-code will help IT focus on more demanding tasks.
“We believe that IT needs to spend more time thinking about how technology impacts people. Tools that eliminate menial and time-consuming tasks help save time and energy to focus on bigger picture issues that make people’s lives easier,” she said.
No-code/low-code incurs technical debt to a degree, an aspect that has become a major talking point. David Hsu, founder and CEO of Retool, feels that it’s less a case of eliminating technical debt at present and more about choosing where the debt would be an acceptable consequence.
“What can be done is deciding which technical debt is worth the flexibility low-code confers, and which technical debt does not reach that threshold. For example, giving non-technical builders the ability to design and define their own interfaces feels very worth it from where we’re standing,” he said. “On the other hand, we find that letting non-technical developers manage integrations, data flow, business logic, and CRON jobs — without some level of technical oversight or guardrails — is not worth the technical debt.”
For this survey, we spoke to executives about their favorite no-code/low-code tools, the different impacts these development suites have had on the IT job market, and how to ensure minimal technical debt, among other things.
We spoke to:
- Patrick Jean, CTO, OutSystems
- Deb Gildersleeve, CIO, Quickbase
- Zoe Clelland, vice-president product and experience, Nintex
- Bruno Vieira Costa, founder and CEO, Abstra
- David Hsu, founder and CEO, Retool
- Trisha Kothari, co-founder and CEO, Unit21
Patrick Jean, CTO, OutSystems
How much of the work that you manage is done via no-code/low-code at present? In 2031, will developers still be required to learn how to code?
As CTO of a low-code platform that pioneered this category 20 years ago, everything I do relates to low-code and how the tool can help business leaders and developers build the serious applications they require. In fact, we build as much of our own stack as possible using our low-code platform – for our UI tools we have a few base, high-code components, and a large part of the remaining OutSystems UI platform is built in low-code.
Looking ahead, there will always be a need for developers with expertise in high-code. Instead of thinking about these tools eradicating the need to learn how to code, they should be thought of as a way to remove the burden of long-term, undifferentiated maintenance work present in application development. Low-code application development platforms will handle this undifferentiated work and developers will not have to worry about that.
What are your favorite no-code/low-code tools?
There are an abundance of no-code/low-code tools available that fit a range of developer needs. Many tools in this category solve for a narrow set of problems and often run into roadblocks when they need to scale or evolve over time.
In my experience, what businesses need is a platform that combines agility, performance and scale that results in high-quality and secure applications. One that encompasses both high expressiveness and high productivity of developers and provides full elite CI/CD capabilities.
As long as you have software, there will always be a need for people that are capable of engineering software from the ground up. Deb Gildersleeve, CIO, Quickbase
Companies should seek out enterprise-grade low-code tools that allow them to build critical apps that solve serious business challenges while optimizing security, compliance, and scale, and removing issues like legacy code and integrations.
Is the rise of no-code/low-code impacting the number of people working in IT?
No-code/low-code tools do not impact the number of people working in IT. Instead, they optimize the role of IT, helping to modernize legacy systems, eradicate technical debt, and enable them to build applications at a rapid pace.
It helps IT professionals empower their own teams to build the applications they need rather than rely on off-the-shelf options, and allows teams and developers to focus on more meaningful, creative work rather than maintaining outdated back-end systems or doing menial tasks.
One differentiator for no-code/low-code tools is whether they can embody the CI/CD process with appropriate governance and compliance, ensuring that companies separate privileged access to different production and non-production environments.
As more businesses adopt low-code platforms, we’re going to see IT departments grow in importance as they add greater value through custom applications with much greater speed and agility. This area is rapidly growing and aids in closing the massive gap in development talent we’re facing.
Which other services do you think could be offered along with no-code/low-code to make it a more attractive package for app development?
One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is the need to build serious apps that can quickly scale to hundreds of thousands and even millions of users. The problem for many developers is, doing that requires developing apps to run in the cloud at internet-scale, using best practices of modern cloud architectures and technologies, which can be incredibly complex and expensive.