Why developers should care about no-code tools
Developers aren’t who no-code tools are specifically designed for, but we’re seeing more developers advocate for their use within companies. We talked with John Carione of Quick Base about the benefits of no-code tools, shadow IT and more.
JAXenter: Developers have been hearing about low-code and no-code tools for a while now. Can you elaborate on each, and what they might be used for?
John Carione: Absolutely. We find the tools and market segments get conflated a lot, but they’re actually very different tools that require (on average) a different application builder skill set. Low-code tools generally make it easier for more technical professional developers to assemble applications more quickly from components. Whereas anyone can use no-code tools to develop the solutions they need for their department without writing any code. So, a developer could use a low-code tool to replace an ERP application instead of coding entirely from scratch and then publishing it in a Devops environment.
One example that brings this distinction to the surface is one of our customers in the cruise ship industry. They use Quick Base to understand how new food service and bar promotions are performing in real time on the ship rather than waiting for all the information collected from disparate spreadsheets. The marketing operations team back at corporate can then decide whether or not to continue or even expand that promotion in real time for the next voyage, rather than waiting weeks to decide. Without any coding whatsoever, they are able to build apps to their exact specifications to accelerate refinements in their business model and drive revenue and improved customer experience.
For developers and DevOps professionals looking to be as efficient and high impact as possible, no-code tools are increasingly providing the remedy they’ve been looking for.
The target demographic for no-code tools are employees who don’t know how to code but have a clear understanding of the business goals and how technology can help them do their jobs better and more productively. Historically, these business users have simply filed IT tickets requesting developers to build apps to meet their needs. The problem, of course, is that IT doesn’t have the time or resources to fulfill all these requests in a timely manner. No-code tools empower these employees to have a seat at the table and become a more active participant in daily problem-solving. This frees up IT to focus on more strategic, multi-year initiatives like modernizing ERP systems.
JAXenter: So it sounds like developers wouldn’t necessarily use a no-code tool. Why might a developer advocate for no-code tools within the organization?
John Carione: That’s a great question. You’re right, developers aren’t who no-code tools are specifically designed for, but we’re seeing more developers advocate for their use within companies, even in the IT department in some cases. At just about every organization, developer time is a precious resource — there are too many projects to realistically commit to, and internal requests tend not to be priorities. When IT and business leaders empower these employees to build technology and apps on their own, IT staff are freed from the stream of relatively minor asks by marketing, finance and other departments.
In one study, companies using no-code tools reported a 65 percent decrease in IT requests, which is meaningful when you consider many teams have upwards of 1-2 year backlogs. In some cases, decentralization is happening as well, and new roles designated as Line of Business IT are recruiting folks that have a hybrid skill set. Those who understand the business requirements deeply, but also have enough technical knowledge to build more powerful apps in Quick Base. These modern-day IT professionals also gravitate towards Quick Base because they enjoy the work, but don’t have a formal computer science background.
Is coding going away? Of course not, and no-code tools aren’t here to eliminate IT departments either. In fact, no-code tools are incredibly effective at helping build a partnership between IT and the business, because the business is by default a more active participant in the application and problem-solving process. For developers and DevOps professionals looking to be as efficient and high impact as possible, no-code tools are increasingly providing the remedy they’ve been looking for.
JAXenter: Are you finding IT leaders embracing no code? Couldn’t this be thought of as Shadow IT?
John Carione: That’s definitely something we bump into, but we’re finding our conversations with IT leaders around shadow IT are starting to shift from “how do we prevent it?” to “how do we partner and manage it more effectively?” The connotations of the term Shadow IT come from the notion that IT isn’t at all aware the tool is in use. Today, modern no-code tools offer IT organizations enough control and governance to effectively track the apps being built and the connections to other systems such that security and data integrity concerns are being mitigated. In many cases, IT departments will issue guidance for workers who want to use no-code tools, so security and compliance policies are adhered to. Most leaders understand why people are bringing outside technologies into their company — today’s employees are great at identifying ways to improve their jobs and IT doesn’t have the bandwidth to build all the apps to address their needs. Of course, this is a major hindrance in an era when digital transformation is a top priority for most, if not all, CIOs.
Something has to shift. Many of the innovative IT leaders we work with are starting to understand there’s an opportunity for them to accept and champion the movement by empowering people closest to the problem to solve it — bringing shadow IT into the light if you will. Others have noted that effectively implementing no-code tools actually becomes the proactive antidote for shadow IT concerns. The key to success is to get IT involved so they know teams are using the right tools with the level of governance based on the risk profile of the data and applications.
JAXenter: What does it look like in practice? Can you share an example?
John Carione: Our customer Ceva is a great example of when IT successfully embraces no-code. It is a veterinary pharmaceutical company with 4,000 employees in 42 countries. The former CIO Francois Tricot had the ambitious goal of delivering enterprise IT in a consumer environment. In order to execute on that goal, he took the lead in pushing no-code development within the organization and getting IT on board.
Today, modern no-code tools offer IT organizations enough control and governance to effectively track the apps being built and the connections to other systems such that security and data integrity concerns are being mitigated.
Francois built out a team to create no-code apps using Quick Base. This “Quick Apps” team is able to deliver software to outside teams that need them in days to weeks, dramatically speeding up delivery, which at the time had been measured in months. Hundreds of apps now live in an online store, where every employee can take advantage and access these solutions. In the six years since employing no- code, Ceva has managed to decrease overall IT spending by 30 percent and eliminated app request backlogs. The team has developed more than 300 apps, which are used by over half of the company. By embracing employee empowerment (and what some would consider shadow IT), Francois successfully championed digital transformation within his company. They are faster and better for it, so we think that’s a perfect example of what can happen when IT embraces no-code tools.
JAXenter: What haven’t I asked you?
John Carione: The only thing I’d add is the larger cultural shifts we’re seeing in the workplace, which play a role in all of this. Millennials are now the largest demographic represented in the workforce. These employees are entrepreneurial and tech-savvy. They’re clamoring for organizations that see them and empower them in this way, but we also see no-code champions of all ages in all industries.
The 2017 State of Business Apps report emphasized the importance of employee empowerment to keep workers happy and drive innovation throughout the business. Today’s employees are hungry to create something. They want to spot problems and know they have the support of their organization to develop solutions to solve them. So why are so many organizations stopping them?