Saturday, February 27, 2021

Low Code: CIOs Talk Challenges and Potential

In my discussions with CIOs about the future of work and digital transformation, one technology has repeatedly come up: low code development.

Given this, it was more than time to dig into the CIO’s point of view on low code development. Why is it so important? And what holes need fixing to propel it forward through the trough of disillusionment?

Low Code’s Biggest Potential Impact

CIO viewpoints honestly differed. For example, CIO Milos Topic suggests “it is still early in experimentation in our environment, but it is mostly useful in automating and provisioning repetitive processes and modules. But it is essential to stress that low code doesn’t mean hands off.”

Meanwhile, CIO David Seidl says “the adoption is big because of the ability to make more responsive changes. The trade-off is interesting. The open question is: can you remove one of the cost layers (maintaining code) and trade it for business logic and platform maintenance? And how do you minimize platform maintenance and could cloud services help. The big question is: do we consider business logic code? It can be just as complex to build and debug complex business logic in a drag and drop as traditional code. So, you win on the UI/layout/integration components, but core code remains an open question.”

However, CIO Deb Gildersleeve suggests that low code gives business users without technical coding expertise the tools to solve their problems. It takes the burden outside of IT but can be provided with guardrails for security governance.”

Former CIO Tim Crawford agrees and says, “low code has the biggest opportunity for those non-technical users that can leverage data in a low code way to provide insights and solve business problems.”

Former CIO Isaac Sacolick suggests that organizations have much greater demand these days to build and modernize applications, integrations, and data science. Python, Java, .Net, JS are heavyweights when CIO need cloud-native options for digital transformation and remote working apps.” He goes onto say, “do you want to deliver more/better/faster technology? Empower millennials? Address diversity gaps? Become more data-driven? I’m not saying professional developers will disappear. Code does have advantages, but CIO need more than DIY solutions or pure SaaS.”

Higher Education CIO Paige Francis says, “my instinct says in higher education the impact might be the biggest in engagement – student, alumni, and community. The ability to rapidly develop apps to attract interaction could be a game-changer in today’s COVID 19 environment.”

How Big Will Visual Development Grow?

Is Gartner correct in suggesting visual development approaches in 2024 will account for 65% of enterprise application development?

CIOs again differ. Both Topic and Francis suggest it is far too optimistic for many industries. Topic says, “when I think about unique customizations in higher education, I don’t see it being that widespread in next 3-4 years.”

But Francis hedges her bet by saying, “I would never underestimate technology pace.” Forces, however, that may hold back adoption according to Francis and Gildersleeve include:

1) Technology maturity.

2) A business as usual complexity preference.

3) Internal pushback by developers.

4) Traditional IT.

5) Fear of security.

6) The inaccurate perception that visual development is more of a toy than a tool.

Meanwhile, Sacolick says that “it will grow to an even higher percentage, but it will likely take a bit longer to do so. Maybe, it will be 75% by 2026. And there’s still COBOL out there to be overcome.”

Analyst Dion Hinchcliffe suggest that there are 3 forces that he believes with propel forward adoption: 1) the ability to select low code platforms that align with a company’s enterprise architecture; 2) the adoption of a new architecture that is cloud native or microservices oriented; and 3) the organic utilization of a low code tool within existing portfolio. These will get you to move and find how low code supports business goals.”

How do CIOs Drive Success for Low Code Development?

For Francis, she recommends to CIOs: “a former developer, embrace it all. Get ahead of it by creating a community and teach best practice but empower creative use. Guardrails are easy if you implement them up front. They are impossible and clunky if they are an afterthought, reactive.”

At the same time, former CIO Tim McBreen suggests, “CIOs make sure there is governance and technical debt program in place to manage it closely.”

Topic stress the need for “infosec, data governance, audit, clarity, and classification and structural ownership.” Crawford says, “that’s right. There will be a need over time for the full code stack. However, low code democratizes access for a broader group of users.”

For this reason, Seidl suggests “you need citizen developers to meet standards and not create issues, especially when they have data access.” Adding on, Gildersleeve suggests “a center of excellence model is important because it gives citizen developers the tools and guardrails they need to be successful, and it helps CIOs sleep better at night knowing everyone can solve their problems securely.”

Finally, Aditya Ramachandran, CDO, Dell Tech Supply Chain, suggested that “frankly, I don’t see a choice here. Citizens will develop. The question is, do CIOs make sure said development is safe and secure, or will it be a rogue nation?”

Does Low Code Eliminate the Need to Customize Monolithic Applications?

Former CIO Dave Kieffer says that “cloud ERP can’t be customized, but they can be extended. CRM’s can provide full platforms. Extension, not customization, should be the goal no matter the platform.”

However, Sacolick suggests when “CIO can seamlessly, integrate data and workflow with ERP and CRM, then customization will be less needed. It can become an architecture decision that provides a lot more business flexibility. Low Code and No Code apps, integrations are one approach.” Deb Gildersleeve agrees and says, “a lot of these legacy systems can’t be customized, and for those that can be, most organizations don’t want to spend the time, money and resources needed to customize them. That’s where low code can come in to complement these systems and work within your existing tech stack.”

Francis, meanwhile, suggests, “there will likely always be need for an amount of high coding. Sacolick says, “I call highcoding, DIYCoding. But the real challenge is getting app developers on board with using low code /no code where it makes sense. Many really love coding, and some lose sight that their role is to provide solutions and innovations.”

How Important is Ease of Application Integration to Propelling the Use of Low Code Development?

Sacolick says, that “nobody wants a low code no code silos.” Francis agrees and suggests that “ease of application integration should be the highest level of importance in every tech conversation for at least the next five years. So it is hella important.”

Gildersleeve concludes by saying that low code is not meant to be the end all be all of technology needed, but rather something that can integrate with other tools and applications to let you gain better insights from said tools.”

Parting Remarks

Low code development is surely remaking how applications are developed and extended. Over time, this author believes that two markets will develop around low code development. One market will be about creating a easier means to create customer applications; the other will be about creating integrated experiences that bridge across applications to improve employee, customer, and supplier experience.

Regardless, low code cannot be about creating another island. And it has the opportunity to rethink how applications are customized and modernized. To learn more, please join a Webinar on Low Code put on by Datamation on December 4th. In addition to myself, the panel will include analyst Dion Hinchcliffe and former CIO and author, Isaac Sacolick. Here is the link to register.

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