The recent flood of articles discussing the way that Low-Code is changing the landscape of development have 2 key elements:
- Low-Code is now clearly emerging as one of those enormous waves in tech, that will change the way that things are done across business and IT development moving forward. For both tech companies and non-tech companies (because everybody is technology driven).
- In the future, it is really how these tools are used in unison with the company’s “Pro-Code” developers. Which is the real business problem to be riffed on and solved!
What does the new development environment that includes “Citizen Developers” look like? How will they interact with IT Departments and the Pro-Code developers?
Will Low-code replace Pro-code?
Up front we’d like to point out the answer here is something we are sure of. This will in no way reduce the demand or work for Pro-Code developers.
There is compelling economic reasoning for this. As while it is true that all companies want to save costs, we are in an increasing world of digital transformation, where every business is in reality, a tech business.
So the one area where you cannot start with cost saving, is technology. Companies will always be in a technology race to the leading/bleeding edge with their competition. That edge will always require having the best Pro-Code people you can get, as they provide the competitive advantage.
Paradoxically this means if you have that, you also need the best Low-Code resources for two reasons:
- Low-Code enhances the output of your Pro-Code work force, doing vital but repetitive, non-challenging tasks. Speed means less hours, more output, and we all get that.
- These are considerable the other benefits, beyond cost savings. One of which is the morale & job satisfaction of the Dev team. Developers universally report that in their ideal work environments, they want to be working on important and challenging tasks. Where they have the best chance of learning things along the way.
So Low-Code can reduce the time they spend on these less interesting tasks. Because you can’t make the tasks go away. The answer is to use a tool that lets you get more done in less time.
More accuracy and happier teams
The hidden part of all this is the organisation’s abilities to utilise No-Code/Low-Code and adapt to it.
In terms of moral & satisfaction, there is clear evidence that the most onerous of tasks are the organisational ones. Like storing names & levels of permission on an API, in the case of ApiOpenStudio. These often have a high cognitive load because they require high concentration but they are in no way interesting. Low-Code solutions come with User Interfaces and Dashboards and these reduce cognitive load and risk in these tasks by making the tasks simpler and providing ways of validating your entries are correct and making the editing/deleting of changes easy. So there are huge benefits in day-to-day operations.
Learning a new technology and skill can also be fun. As we know, the primary driver for nearly all employees and their job satisfaction are:
- Confidence in the leadership team.
- Implementing Low-Code in a balanced way will demonstrate that the leadership have a forward-thinking mentality.
- The employee is valued.
- Providing training in the new technology and processes will show that the business wants to keep them and invest them.
- Satisfaction with daily tasks.
- The employee will feel more satisfaction through more responsibility and seeing their work being visibly used.
- Learning and growth.
- We all want to grow and extend out knowledge and usefulness, with the additional benefits of making us more desirable to employees.
(InfoSurv Research 2012, What Are the 4 Top Drivers of Employee Satisfaction in 2012?, viewed 17 October 2021, https://www.infosurv.com/what-are-the-4-top-drivers-of-employee-satisfaction-in-2012/):
With the decision to introduce Low-Code platforms, your first issue should be governance and compliance.
Your “Citizen Developers” and Project Managers should start to deepen their communication and feedback loops. Most importantly, non-technical people have to really feel they can come to the experts with the most basic questions, even if it is just to check they are on track. This is all new to them and they are not professionals in this sphere.
Because deep, first-hand knowledge of requirements is another advantage that citizen developers brings to the table. It’s worth noting that their approach will usually be decided on the functionality that they want. The effects on governance or the rest of the architecture are normally the furthest from their minds.
So from a Project Management perspective, clear leadership is needed right at the start in setting out the processes needed on the project. So that features and functionality are plumbed in properly.
There needs to be clear communication between the citizen and Pro-Code developers (usually via the Project Manager), but this can also be direct. This will ensure that any requirements between the two teams are met and no-one is adding useless things to the system, or features that will slow down the system performance.
Once you have initiated a communications format between citizen developers and the development team, then testing and documentation can be mapped out.
A clearly written and easy to access set of documents will be required by both your citizen developers and all levels of the development team.
This will ensure that:
- Onboarding is quick and easy for citizen developers and they can quickly find answers to any questions that they have, without feeling overloaded by technical answers.
- Managers and project management have access to sources of truth that enable them to answer any questions.
- The Pro-Code developers are aware of the Low-Code systems and how they interact with their work.
- Leaders of the development team can easily find a broad overview of the different systems, the interaction between them and the processes that have been implemented to govern them.
Depending on the complexity of the No-Code solutions and their impact on the rest of the technology, it is very likely that extra guard-rails will have to be introduced. This will probably involve QA (quality assurance), the ability to import and export configuration, and the release cycles.
Even if the output of the citizen developers is content (for example: pages in a blog or CMS), there should be systems in place to accomodate proof reading and validating the look and feel on different devices. There are additional complexities here, if the content that the citizen developers create is all in a database and cannot be imported/exported – where will this be tested, how will it be released? Although this issue is usually solved by that specific technology’s community, time should be spent looking at the different solutions proposed to find the best solution for your organisation.
In the case of complex No-Code solutions that interact with the output from the development team, then these need to go through the full QA feedback loop. QA can then validate that the existing functionality is not broken and that the new functionality works as expected and different systems interact as expected.
What is important, is that that the development team should reach out to the management of the Citizen Developers, so that they can have the discussion with them about compliance and governance & how they must comply with the IT departments direction (and vice versa). This is often an issue in companies, where people directly report in their department, and are in effect silo’d from the other departments.
Moving into the era of Low-Code/No-Code enhanced Companies.
The organisations that are going to maximise the benefits of this new wave, should already be initiating broad company-wide conversations. These will range deeply across all levels of the organisation. From the way that Pro-Coder work days and productivity will be enhanced to evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of implementing Low-Code solutions for specific tasks.
This will even permeate as far as hiring & the HR Dept. As you look to harvest the advantages of onboarding people in traditional roles that have these additional skills, or incentives for current employees who wish to acquire No-Code or even Low-Code capability.
This is the conversation of the future for all companies that will succeed in this new era!