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Is the rise of low code a threat to programmer jobs?

by Veronica Kirtsun.

Low code empowers non-technical teams to build digital products.

It is no surprise then that businesses increasingly turn to low-code platforms, while some programmers may see the development of this technology as a threat to their careers.

Gartner forecasts low code to increase its share in application development activity to 65%, with three-quarters of large enterprises running on multiple low-code development tools by 2024.

In this article, we look at how far companies can go with low code and how this will impact the role of coders in the long term.

What low code is and how it changes business landscape

The low-code concept implies the replacement of writing lines of code and syntax by visual modeling. This automates repetitive time-consuming tasks associated with the development of a standard infrastructure and non-unique features of an application from scratch, allowing you to concentrate your effort on the implementation of your core idea.

How low code works

A typical low-code platform is a set of tools that you can use via a simple drag-and-drop interface. You can learn using such a platform via tutorials, guides and vendor documentation, but also by playing with them yourself. It will take much less time before you can build an app yourself than if you were to learn coding.

An individual who develops software with low code is referred to as a citizen developer.

Low-code platforms

Some popular low-code platforms include Salesforce, Shopify, Google App Maker, Microsoft Power Apps, Zoho, OutSystems, Mendix, and IBM Automation Platform.

Financial impact

For small and midsize businesses, low code reduces labor and management costs of developers. Larger companies and organizations, on the other hand, leverage this technology to boost their in-house engineering resources for better results without increasing personnel or accumulating legacy technology debt.

With low code, it took Schneider Electric just 20 months to roll out 60 apps, most of which went live within the first 10 weeks.

A European construction company, Royal BAM Group, adopted low code for the digital transformation of their Dutch unit, Infra. According to BAM Infra’s unit manager, this allowed the company to find cost-saving efficiencies in projects, win more tenders, and deliver much faster than before.

Implementation cost

Most low-code platforms are SaaS, which means you pay a subscription fee. Prices vary from $25 per month to more than $5,000 depending on the number of your users, the applications you run, and the features you introduce.

Limitations of low code

Although generally beneficial to businesses, low-code applications have weaknesses you should be aware of.

Technical limitations

  • Customization

If you want advanced flexibility with your app as to what features you can add and what patterns you can establish, you will have to go beyond the capabilities of low code.

  • Integration

Low-code platforms provide rich integration opportunities. But as your app develops further and new third-party tools emerge, you will need someone who can get to the code level of the application and ensure its integrity.

  • API

Low code is not meant for creating complex and scalable singular products from the ground up. You cannot use it to develop an API, which is at the core of such applications.

Luckily, you can solve most customization and integration issues with the help of a developer, which could however be costly (but would not be possible at all with no-code platforms). As for API, this is what makes low-code platforms what they are: easy-to-use for non-technical professionals.

Operational concerns

  • Reliability and security

When you have your application created on the third-party platform, you do not own the code. If your low-code vendor decides to make changes or fails to secure the codebase, there is not much you can do about it. However, leading providers like IBM, Microsoft and Google probably have enough engineering resources to provide top-level security.

  • Dependency

Once you have chosen a low-code platform, you are tied to it. If your priorities and needs change, migrating an application to another platform might be a difficult (and expensive) task.

Financial challenges

Some companies that have adopted low code report over 200% ROI and a payback period of just over half a year. Behind these numbers, there is a very opaque pricing model.

In 2019, a report by the analytics firm Forrester — who first coined the term “low code” — did not give top points to any of the most popular low-code vendors’ approach to pricing. The researchers found that prospects needed to call a platform’s sales representative to get a sense of which pricing model would be suitable for them.

Prospects preferred to do their own research before calling a vendor, but they were unable to do so, probably due to the vagueness of information on vendors’ websites.

Another important pricing issue is that many platforms will charge you per user. If your app runs on freemium as a revenue generation model, it will be hard to make ends meet.

The sure way to waste time and money in adopting low code is by trial and error. Therefore, businesses often partner with experts and companies that have relevant experience to ensure a positive ROI from introducing low-code solutions into their workflow.

Role of developers in systems running on low code

Speaking of developers’ roles in a low-code environment, it is important to understand how low code is different from no-code.

Citizen developers and normal programmers using the same low-code platform operate at different levels.

Citizen developers have limited capabilities as visual modelling is the only instrument available to them. Programmers can make all the same actions plus dive deeper to the code level, where they can make advanced adjustments that require engineering skills.

With no-code, everyone is a citizen developer, regardless of their coding background. As a result, no-code applications provide a very limited functionality.

If you are an engineer, low code frees you from repetitive mundane tasks, allowing you time to work on more creative, meaningful improvements. In this sense, low-code tools do not reduce the value of your expertise. On the contrary, they raise the bar, taking development to a new level where solid coding skills are essential.

Yes, this should nudge medium-skilled programmers to consider whether they want to upgrade their skills, become experts in multiple low-code platforms, or evolve into niche citizen developers by training for a particular industry.

For organizations, it means that your development team can get much more done in much less time. Your engineers will get to the most essential work right away instead of getting bogged in an uninspiring drudgery.

Wrapping it up

As you can see from this short inquiry,

  • low code is changing programmer jobs rather than washing them away;
  •  highly skilled developers can do much more with low code, concentrating on the most important and challenging parts;
  • medium-skilled programmers should either level up, switch their expert focus to using multiple low-code application platforms, or acquire specific expertise in a business niche of their liking to secure their career;
  • businesses need developers as consultants to work out a cost-effective approach to low code.

If you are a company looking to improve your workflow with a low-code platform, consult Intetics Inc. We will help you select the right software and streamline the implementation process.

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