Disruptive & Emerging Technologies

Disruptive & Emerging Technologies

Pulse Flash Read: The low-code lowdown

Is IT agile enough to move with the times? Citizen Developers wielding low-code could help. The average developer’s in-tray is perpetually stuck in the exponential, meaning that all those things business wants IT to do take a lot of time to execute. IT could always hire more developers, but they aren’t cheap, especially when budgets are already squeezed. There’s an alternative out there that not only relieves coders of some of their burden but also leverages the maker skills laying dormant in the business side of the enterprise: low-code. Business employees are often the first to identify what new tools would be useful to increase their output or reduce time wasted, and may also have a keen eye for design. The problem is expressing their ideas when they can’t speak the language of code. What if business employees could build apps without having to translate their ideas to the coders over in IT? With low-code (or no-code, more on that later), building apps, internal/external websites and landing pages can be as simple as one-click and drag-and-drop. Just as apps and personal computers enabled users to bypass the Command Line Interface that only coders can navigate and instead use Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), low-code is bringing GUIs full circle to development processes. GUIs enable business employees to become ‘citizen developers’ (a coinage that seems a little off mark given they’re employees within the same organization, but anyway) making RAD, or Rapid App Development, an in-house process. This doesn’t mean that developers will just disappear. A developer team will (probably?) always be needed for centralized, higher-level IT infrastructure oversight for all that RAD stuff the citizen developers are creating. In fact, half of the low-code marketing is directed at developers: there’s low-code for all those mundane, time-consuming tasks that drive developers nuts, freeing them up their focus for the exciting stuff instead. Developers can let business come up with the basics of new apps, the blueprints, and then step in to add the flourishes that make a truly excellent app. They might even rediscover what sleep feels like. Trend forecasters like Gartner are predicting a rapid rise in low-code deployment, with most low-code vendors quoting Gartner’s claim that by 2024, 65% off all app development will be driven by low-code. This isn’t surprising when you think about the hitherto hidden productive power low-code can unlock from outside the IT scope. It means potentially utilizing the creative experimentation of every non-IT employee, providing lightspeed ideation-to-deployment pipelines. Someone needs a landing page? Boom, Customer Experience taken care of by an employee who knows what UI is needed. Data taking too long to move between apps? DONE, delivered by the person writing the reports, working exactly as they need it to. This is especially useful for startups and SMEs that can’t afford the top-tier developer and data scientists they’d otherwise need for deployment. Any employee can identify a process that needs automating and just… make it. Who are some of the players in the low-code/no-code sphere?
Zapier, loved by freelancers and small teams, provides intra-app automation for streamlining productivity. Mendix has landed in the upper-right ‘leaders’ part of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for three years running, alongside, for example, OutSystems. Betty Blocks, touted as a ‘visionary’ in that same Magic Quadrant, leads more with a ‘no-code’ angle (but, given that both low-code and no-code have scope to inject code as required, it’s not clear that these are truly separate categories). Lansa, however, certainly isn’t no-code, offering a single low-code language to relieve headaches for IT and developers looking to leverage more current personnel power and app unity through integrations and deployment. All these vendors can also be described as an aPaaS - application Platform-as-a-Service, offering much in the way of security, integrations and quality control. And because why not throw in an extra acronym?

What are the low-code/no-code offerings you’ve worked with? Or is low-code just a fad and you’re sick of hearing about it?

Top Answer : and Oren Ariel would love your thoughts!

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Are low-code/no-code solutions just a ticking time bomb for future CIOs?

Top Answer : All this low code stuff that's trying to make it easy for you—two years from now the mess that that's going to leave is going to get every CIO just going, "How the hell do I fix this?"

Do you attend webinars anymore?

Top Answer : I sign up for a lot more than I attend, to be honest.

Who has been your favorite non-tech keynote or featured speaker? Is anyone actually drawn in by a famous musical act or comedian?

Top Answer : A few comments: Adam Grant gives an incredible talk about workplace dynamics (e.g. give/take).  Will.I.Am is an incredibly intelligent musician and has a lot to offer in terms of business insights.   Of course my all time favorite (and sadly probably the most expensive to retain) is Jim Collins (good to great, great by choice)

Thinking about the architecture of applications, we've seen for a while now that monolithic applications have been unbundling into microservices. What is the future of microservice architecture?

Top Answer : The term microservice is another misused (or misrepresented ) term in Industry. While the concept of Microservice was conceptualized in Netflix, you have to understand that Enterprises run a lot more services than any of these product companies do. If you start breaking the services into micro services, you will get more services to manage.!The monitoring, recovery of these services becomes more difficult as the number of services grow. The unbundling of monolithic services need not necessarily require you to break your service architecture into micro services, you can also apply domain driven design for services, that will help you build a more flexible architecture without having to support many micro services.

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As a large enterprise, why do you engage with startups and how do you choose the right ones?

Top Answer : It's not a secret that engaging with startups and emerging technologies is crucial for every business. It's no longer about being good enough, it's about being the best and taking advantage of new products and innovations comes with the territory. My primary motivation to engage with startups is to deliver business value at Flex. My secondary motivation is to learn from people smarter than me (the entrepreneurs I meet) about the latest technologies, products, and solutions being created to shape the future of enterprises.

Our business priorities are very clear and we work as a team to figure out which technologies (and then companies) will help us drive our goals. This top-down approach is methodical - we have a budget and a structured approach on how to work with vendors (big or small) to select the right one. The bottom-up approach is equally important, and requires a team that is passionate about technology to make it work. One example for us is that, as a team, we spend a few hours every Friday morning learning about new technologies, products, and innovations that may be helpful for us. We then come together as a team and share our learnings. If one or more products stand out, we dig deeper and explore how we can leverage it at Flex.

Regardless of top-down or bottom-up, seeing a meaningful ROI is generally important to us. That doesn't always hold true, but these are rare exceptions, not the rule.
Startups we engage with have a few things in common:
  • We get to know the team before we get to know the product because we're betting on the people and the vision as much as the product. How strong is their technology, sales, and executive team?
  • Is the product easy to use and does it have an adoption strategy in place?
  • And finally, in return for us coming in as an early customer, are they willing to have us shape their product and roadmap to fit our needs?
With thousands of startups, it can be daunting to figure out the right ones to engage with, but a few channels have been helpful to curate the best — my peer network (we exchange emails on a weekly basis), curated online IT communities that go beyond what traditional analysts provide, and working with select VCs like a16z, Lightspeed, and others.

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What is your "IT Mindset"?

Top Answer : All in favor of new vendors but the goal is absolutely less vendors overall. On board one new one, consolidated off of at least 3 others. Less is more as long as you have a methodical way to look a new options and trim lower value options

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