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No-code/low-code development tools gain favor among CIOs

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Once seen as a threat by IT, no-code/low-code tools are helping to reduce project backlogs and free up developers to work on other assignments.

As recently as year ago, no-code/low-code application development tools were a threat, seen as a way for line-of-business departments to build applications without IT's help -- or knowledge.

Things have changed quickly. Today, CIOs view NCLC as a way to offload low-risk projects from developers' overloaded backlogs. In this podcast, Dave Landa, COO of Kintone, a San Francisco-based maker of no-code/low-code development tools, discusses this shift in attitude.

"We have seen IT departments at the enterprise level looking at no-code/low-code as a platform to support their continued relevance in the organization, to combat some of the 'shadow IT' that might be going on," Landa says.

Modern NCLC app development tools take into account data security considerations, include two-factor authentication, provide data-at-rest encryption and support Active Directory, according to Landa. "It's a way to bring IT and line-of-business [departments] together," he says. In other words, with no-code/low-code development tools, IT can now take on more of an advisory role instead of an adversarial one.

As new no-code/low-code development tools are used openly with the blessing of a forward-thinking CIO, departments can not only develop and deploy on their own schedules and budgets, but build tailored functionality without needing to drag IT into the process. Doing so frees up developers to concentrate on projects they are likely to find more challenging and desirable. It is also good for CIOs who wish to be perceived as cooperative facilitators and who often face pressure to get a growing backlog of projects done quickly.

Are no-code and low-code different?

With "no code/low code" seemingly uttered as a single word, especially from the user perspective, vendors regard them as different, Landa says. It's a comparison of high-productivity platforms versus high-control platforms.

"We consider [Kintone] a high-productivity platform, which means more no-code capabilities. We have deeper prebuilt services that noncoders can configure and deploy." Like other tools in the segment, Kintone also provides an open API for deeper customizations.

With NCLC tools, IT can now take on more of an advisory role instead of an adversarial one.

Other vendors, Landa says, choose to start with a low-code, high-control model, which is more friendly to developers. These products do not enable the so-called citizen developer to the same degree. The tools are analogous in concept to Lego blocks, supporting the snapping together of predefined functions to build finished applications.

Using this method, Landa says a major Fortune 500 government contractor that was managing defense contracts on a collection of disparate systems built a series of integrated, low-code applications that provide audit control, procurement, record keeping and document storage. "The scope and the scale blew me away," Landa says.

Opportunity for developers

Developers on the IT payroll should look at no-code/low-code as an opportunity, rather than as a threat to their jobs, Landa says. In many cases, the apps that are being built at the departmental level are simple enough and would likely leave an experienced developer bored.

But complex apps typically require a level of customization that only a professional developer can provide. The result, Landa says, it that developers end up with work that keeps them interested and challenged and less likely to look for job opportunities elsewhere.

"All of these tools have an open API to enable deeper design and functionality customization," Landa says, along with the ability to use JavaScript and other integration tools. "At the end of the day, we see a lot of implementation requiring those skills."

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To what extent does your CIO support the use of no-code/low-code tools?
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Different organizations have different levels of support for building applications in-house and the more innovative CIOs have been utilizing the so called "citizen developer" (non coders in the line of business, perhaps a business analyst type) to either run with and admin an application built by IT, or build the application themselves and let IT add the last few touches for governance.
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To be honest , I bet they haven't even heard the term. Some of the IT departments I have worked in are small and do not embrace today's technology offerings. They still remain old school and unless it's broke or effect the bottom line, nothing changes.
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I would argue that strong leaders empower their employees to solve problems (because they can't know everything and aren't always closest to the solution), whether in business or IT, and it's up to the employee to inform these leaders where they're hemorrhaging (death by a thousand paper cuts -- siloed point applications, broken processes, need for automation, etc.) After a while, even the less critical applications add up to huge cost savings and in fact effect the bottom line. Not having enough resources in IT is yet another reason leaders should embrace the idea of citizen development. Somehow these low code platform vendors are selling, but probably only to those who listen and can affect change.
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