The ability to deliver software fast and by citizen developers is changing the software development world
Low code is eating the world, developers have a choice joining the feast or getting eaten
Low code developer is like YouTube to television or twitter to blog posts. It’s growing fast because you can create solutions without code and deploy to production in days. This type of functionality needed multiple developers and weeks of development, particularly with integrations.
Low code is exploding and leading to a Hyper Growth and taking big bites out of traditional software development. There is the question Will low code software reduce the burden for IT teams or increase it? and some people think it could be the end of developers and code (spoiler alert it won’t) Why Low-Code Development will not be the end of developers or code
A forecast from Gartner Inc says low-code development will grow nearly 23% this year, to $13.8 billion and hit $17 billion in 2022
This article states
“The global low-code development platform market size is projected to grow from USD 13.2 billion in 2020 to USD 45.5 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 28.1% during the forecast period”
First seeing Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4
I was once a C# developer, there was plumbing code to be written before you could write the business logic code. Setting up databases, setting up security roles, create buttons on pages, lots of code that was needed before I could write the business logic.
One day someone showed Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4, which was not great and really a collection of Microsoft products (SQL database, Microsoft Active directory, ISS, Exchange) mashed together with a framework for creating customisations (code and workflows).
What I saw CRM it did much of the plumbing and had GUI tools to create forms, add tables and fields to database. It used Microsoft active directory for security. You could setup the framework of a system quickly and focus on creating the solution to meet business requirements.
As soon as I saw Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4, I stopped being a C# developer and starting working with Microsoft Dynamics.
The Power Platform low code approach could have the same effect Dynamics had on previous software development and grow massively in the next 5 years.
There are other low code development platforms but I will stick to what I know what talk about Microsoft’s Power Platform.
Low code disruption
I’m using Microsoft Power Platform as the example but there are other similar low code platforms.
Low code solutions and Dataverse/Dynamics are services where you pay for licences and consumption. The removes the cost of hosting servers and the need to hire technical experts to maintain the servers. Maintenance includes upgrading, disaster recovery and performance. Developers can focus on creating solutions and Microsoft takes care of the environments.
Power Platform doesn’t need developer to write code. Power Apps use drag-and-drop components to create user interfaces, which work on a browser and mobile device. More people can learn to create solutions using low code platforms and this reduces costs because you don’t need to pay developer wages.
One difficulty in creating software is integrating separate systems together. Microsoft has hundred of connectors which connect two systems together without code. There are over 300 connectors (here is a list) connecting your Power Apps and Power Automates
- Azure DevOps
- Docusign/Adobe Sign
- Power BI
You can create custom connectors, once created they can then be used by the low code developers.
Dynamics 365 and CRM frameworks disrupted Software development by linking common functionality together and allowed sped up development. All companies wanted accounts, contacts, activities and many wanted core sales (leads, opportunities, invoices) or Marketing etc. It simplified security, service and allowed customer to use their existing expenditure with Microsoft products (Office, Active directory, etc)
Dynamics 365 accelerated development but often resulted in larger projects because you needed to justify the licence costs.
Big projects are expensive and have a big upfront cost before you see any return on investment.
Low code gives an almost instant return on the investment of creating the solution.
Empowering the non coders
Low code software allows applications to be made quickly and with some upskilling the customer has the possibility of taking ownership of the low code solutions and creating their own.
Microsoft sells the skills needed as advanced Excel formula skills, learning to create Power Apps and Power Automates can created by a bigger pool of people and don’t need to be developers.
The sale pitch of citizen developers ignores the professionalism of developers is not in their ability to write code but in the steps and approach they bring, which makes maintaining, deploying, testing easier. The quality steps developers do is to minimise complexity and ease maintenance and extension of the applications. Creation can take days or weeks, but maintaining you maintain the solutions for years. The cost of maintenance is brushed under the carpet because it ruins the low code dream.
Low code development is nimble and enables quick creation and deployment of solutions. The return on investment is faster than traditional IT projects and the initial cost is smaller.
The speed Low code applications can be deployed into production means they an instant impact and they are significantly cheaper than the alternatives. The costs for companies who already have Microsoft office makes it a cost effective choice and the costs are licence and consumption based, which means there is little upfront costs.
The move to Power Platform and low code development will create many smaller solutions rather than one large solution. This increases the maintenance overhead, which needs to be maintained and upgraded twice a year. Will low code solution hit problems at scale?, how easy will it be to support hundreds or thousands of small applications?
I can hear the IT support desks already complaining at the thought of this. This part of the puzzle is yet to hit real world realities of support because non developers are busy creating lots of low code applications.
Other articles to read
- Software development is a loser’s game
- How we try to speed up IT projects and why it doesn’t work
- The greatest danger to developers
- Developers need to surf technological change and avoid spending their careers paddling out
article originally appeared on my medium blog – Why low code software development is eating the world