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No-code/low-code project management best practices

Before setting your no-code/low-code product into motion, you must prepare your organization. Expert Zach Flower discusses the importance of collaboration and communication.

No-code/low-code development might sound like the perfect solution to productivity problems at any size organization,...

but it can be a tough pill to swallow for developers who are used to doing things their own way. Going around an established process can introduce a lot of unknowns that will make engineers uncomfortable.

How does a chosen platform deal with security?

What about scalability?

Does it require engineering support, or is it plug-and-play?

The questions are nearly endless, but are crucial when it comes to introducing any new technology into an organization.

Education

Having answers to the questions raised above is strongly recommended before adopting any new technology. Understanding how and why something will benefit your organization is incredibly important. Like all new technologies, it can be easy to fall into the trap of "newer is better."

Unfortunately, this problem is especially large with no-code/low-code development platforms because of their wide-reaching impact. Similarly to how GeoCities turned everybody into a web designer, no-code/low-code development platforms have the ability to turn everyone into software developers. Investing in the education of non-technical staff to understand how to best utilize these tools is important to keeping standards high.

While non-technical staff will have to learn how to use these new platforms, technical staff will have to learn how to work with them. Understanding how these tools will affect the workflows of the engineering staff is critical to getting their buy-in. Engineers want to know how things like security, scalability, version control, and release management are handled, so having that information available is incredibly important.

Collaboration

While no-code/low-code development platforms might seem like a one-size-fits-all productivity-booster, effectively working them into an organization requires the cooperation of all departments. As much as you want to hit the ground running with a new platform, it is important to work with engineering staff to effectively leverage these tools.

Beyond simply working on more features, finding proper ways for engineering and non-engineering staff to work on these features together is the key. While no-code/low-code development platforms can make it easier for non-engineers to build applications and microservices, the engineering staff can augment these tools by providing powerful, efficient add-ons and back-ends to take them to the next level. A simple read/write mobile application can become significantly complex with the cooperation of both teams.

Take API management platforms, for example. While these tools can be used to build effective, scalable public APIs, the true power of them is unlocked when they are used in conjunction with an internal API. These platforms give engineers the ability to focus on building a core product in the best way they see fit, while empowering less technical staff to handle everything from design to documentation and even billing and customer support. By working together, what could be a decent product becomes an excellent one.

Communication

When an engineering team begins work on a new feature, a set of guidelines is followed to ensure that all product changes have been made safely, and to the standard set forth by the organization. No-code/low-code products are no different. Things like quality assurance, version management, and efficiency should all be addressed and managed continuously.

No-code/low-code or not, one of the most important parts of product development is establishing documented, repeatable processes that the whole team can follow. This can be doubly important when working with non-development staff who might have less experience with the product development lifecycle.

Working directly with the product development team will help non-technical staff build effective applications and services in a timely and efficient manner. By communicating with each other, and working within the same established process, new feature and product development can be done without running the risk of duplicating work or solutions.

Delegation

The first step towards an effective no-code/low-code workflow is empowering developers to delegate less-technical feature development to non-engineering staff. By giving developers the tools and ability to identify projects that can be built in a no-code/low-code context, they can learn to focus on core business logic development, while also delegating less-complex processes to willing and able coworkers.

As an example, imagine an engineer who is tasked with building an internal tablet application that can be used to quickly and easily audit inventory across an organization. At a high level, the only components that are required to do this are a simple backend API for sharing data across devices, and the ability to read and write data to that API.

While the API might require some technical knowhow (or not, depending on the implementation), the tablet application can be built with no-code/low-code tools to simply consume this API. This gives said engineer the ability to free up resources, and also gives non-technical stakeholders a say in the design and development of a necessary tool.

Not every problem needs to be solved at the code level, and not every line of code needs to be written. When all of the departments of an organization are communicating and collaborating effectively, ego can be taken out of the mix and the organization as a whole will benefit.

Documentation

Establishing and enforcing best practices early is how successful products get built. In software development, this means having documented continuous integration and delivery workflows, version control contribution guidelines, and source code style guides. While some no-code/low-code development platforms are incredibly strict in how they are to be used, others are much more relaxed, which can introduce inconsistencies and bugs into a previously well-oiled machine.

By defining and documenting how these tools are to be used, you can ensure that product quality is maintained. Rules are an important part of product management, and while style guides and continuous integration might not always be effective guidelines in a no-code/low-code platform, things like naming conventions, deployment procedures, and changelog management can go a long way towards maintaining a healthy application environment.

Conclusion

In the end, effectively managing no-code/low-code and non- no-code/low-code projects comes down to how two wildly-different departments can work together towards a common goal. The product development lifecycle is a much different one than the marketing or business development, so communicating these differences and setting expectations across an organization will ensure that any product -- no matter who builds it -- is up to the proper standards.

Next Steps

Guide to no-code/low-code app development

Why the NCLC tools are here to stay

A guide to buying mobile app tools

This was last published in May 2017

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