Ensig writes as follows…
The need for automation tools has become clearer this decade, with a seemingly constant flow of stories about the number of businesses turning to software and the number of skilled developers, moving in opposite directions.
While there is a greater understanding of the value of low-code and no-code applications, the distinction between them isn’t always clear — and this carries over into how we as an industry describe them. Even in the introduction to this series the two terms are often used as one, as he asks the question of where do we draw the line between the two disciplines or is there no hard and fast border?
I believe there is… and not all automation is created equal. While low-code and no-code platforms may offer some similar core advantages over manual software development and testing, to differentiate the two it is important to remember the primary motivations for these platforms existing in the first place; to empower those who can’t code to meaningfully contribute to the automation effort, as well as free up the dwindling skilled developers’ time to focus on higher-value tasks.
Low-code tools, as the name suggests, still require users to do some level of coding.
They can be a powerful asset for professional developers to quickly build applications and then focus their efforts on more unique and fulfilling work, that ultimately drives more value. But while they create some efficiencies versus manual processes, they are not the perfect solution for all use cases
With 64% of companies experiencing a shortage of software engineers, finding people with the capabilities to operate even low-code platforms is exceptionally challenging.
There’s a skills gap in the market between the need for professional developers and their availability in the workforce. But when it comes to automation, upskilling people to become developers is not a solution – there is plenty of untapped expertise in the market.
It’s mismatching code-dependant tools with the non-technical users that’s the problem.
Yes, it’s no-code
No-code tools – on the other hand – are inherently designed to target non-technical users.
These are individuals who will understand the various business functions within their organisation but possess little or no coding experience. The benefit here is that everyday business users and subject matter experts can use no-code platforms to quickly and easily build, test and implement software applications into their business.
No-code is often thought of as creating more tactical applications that have simple functions. That may have been a fair assumption in the past, but the technology underpinning some of these tools today has advanced significantly and many no-code tools are equally at home in more advanced digital transformation use cases, or in arenas like financial services where regulatory diligence is paramount.
The key point is that no-code helps non-technical professionals to self-service different technical use cases without putting a burden on engineers or developers, whereas low-code does not. Not only does this help to accelerate innovation and digital transformation strategies, unlocking significant productivity gains – it also ensures teams can undertake more fulfilling work, resulting in increased employee satisfaction and retention. This mirrors learnings widely recognised by the financial services sector. Writing in the FT, US Banking Editor Joshua Franklin commented that for banks, “Automation efforts are a recognition that more money is not sufficient to ensure the industry can still attract top talent.”
I think as an industry we often think of low-code and no-code applications freeing up developers within an organisation, rather than as part of the industry-wide talent pool. While they do serve this purpose, we need to do a better job at recognising each problem as unique and recommending the right solution for each use case instead of applying a generic, catch-all approach.
There will always be a need for developers as there will always be a need for bespoke, high-code applications. But, crucially, by being more specific with how we define low-code and no-code and identifying which method is best suited to each problem we’re trying to solve, we can give businesses the ability to ensure their applications are of the highest quality, minimising the risk of damaging outages while accelerating business growth.