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Citizen Code: The Promise of Low-Code and No-Code Platforms

There’s a lot of buzz lately around platforms designed to make building, designing, and launching applications easier and more accessible for people with little or no expertise in coding. These low-code and no-code platforms are being heralded as a way for professional developers to deliver apps with less constraints and with a quicker turnaround time. They are also lauded as a way to enable the so-called “citizen developer”—business and other non-technical users with deep domain knowledge but limited technical skill who are able to create applications to suit their needs.

In their new research, Key Criteria for Evaluating Low-Code/No-Code Solutions, GigaOm analysts Michael Delzer and Jon Collins examine the vendors in this space. Collins says the buzz around low-code and no-code tools is warranted, but in many use cases, a collaboration between citizen developers and professional developers is appropriate when using them.

“A best practice is for citizen developers to work collaboratively with engineers, such that resulting applications are robust and secure, and then managed and operated according to standard IT governance,” he says.

That’s because, as Collins points out, low-code is still code. These platforms, he says, should be regarded as a form of outsourcing, in which vendors offer third-party capabilities that enterprises can use and build upon. As such, low-code applications can suffer the same challenges as traditional applications.

“They can be poorly defined or clunky in use, they can enable data access to the wrong people, they can proliferate and sprawl, and they can create operational headaches if they are not managed,” Collins warns. “The answer is to treat low-code applications as applications, such that they can be properly defined, tested, secured, and managed.”

But with the right guardrails in place, there is a lot of potential for innovation with these platforms. As this market matures, both Delzer and Collins predict more enterprises will seek to reduce time and cost spent internally developing applications by using a no-code or low-code solution, and the market will evolve broadly.

“We’re seeing low code as a capability across many types of platform, for example data management, service management, RPA, and workforce automation can all have a low-code element,” says Collins. “We’d expect this use to broaden, becoming a feature to enable faster customization of application and service platforms, particularly with SaaS apps. Meanwhile, low-code platforms will go deeper, offering more powerful features—like machine learning—out of the box.”