As the demand for digital transformation surges, the shortage of qualified professionals is ushering in an era of the citizen developer, where no-code platforms are bridging the gap
In recent years, the digital landscape has witnessed a transformative shift with the emergence of no-code platforms. These platforms empower individuals, regardless of their technical expertise, to create applications, automate processes, and even develop machine learning models. As the demand for digital transformation surges, the shortage of qualified professionals remains a challenge. Enter the era of the citizen developer, where no-code platforms are bridging the gap.
The fact that little to no coding experience is required to build applications that may be used to resolve business issues underlines the value of the technology for organisations worldwide. Unsurprisingly, the global low-code platform market is forecast to amount to approximately 65 billion U.S. dollars by 2027 per Statista. By 2025, 70% of apps will employ low-code no-code technology, compared to fewer than 25% in 2020, according to Gartner.
The No-Code Revolution
Jason Allen, president of Incarnate Games, made headlines in 2022 when he won the top prize for emerging digital artists at the Colorado State Fair. His artwork, “Théâtre d’Opéra Spatial,” was not crafted by hand but generated using an AI tool named Midjourney. This incident sparked debates in renowned publications like the Atlantic and the New York Times. Critics voiced concerns about the implications of generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, DALL-E, and Bard, which enable even novices to produce high-quality digital content.
However, the potential of these tools extends beyond the realm of art. IT professionals are recognising the power of generative AI in fostering a new breed of programmers: the citizen developers. These individuals, without a coding background, can now collaborate with AI tools to develop applications, a task that once demanded advanced programming skills.
The Corporate Shift to No-Code
Recent data reveals a growing trend among major corporations integrating no-code solutions:
- AT&T: With a strong emphasis on citizen development, AT&T has launched over 3,000 bots into production, saving millions of manual effort minutes annually. Their “AI Democratization Forum” educates employees about AI capabilities, with a weekly participation of around 200 employees.
- PwC: Their “digital accelerators” program aims to equip 65,000 employees with AI skills. The initiative has already produced significant inter-departmental collaboration and technological advancements.
- ING: The Amsterdam-based bank is exploring citizen data-science capabilities to overcome the scarcity of professional data-science talent in several countries. They’re focusing on providing citizen developers with the necessary technical expertise and identifying feasible use cases with automated ML.
Impressive productivity gains
McKinsey’s latest empirical research finds generative AI–based tools1 delivering impressive speed gains for many common developer tasks. Documenting code functionality for maintainability (which considers how easily code can be improved) can be completed in half the time, writing new code in nearly half the time, and optimising existing code (called code refactoring) in nearly two-thirds the time. With the right upskilling and enterprise enablers, these speed gains can be translated into an increase in productivity that outperforms past advances in engineering productivity, driven by both new tooling and processes.
Challenges and Concerns
While the benefits of no-code platforms are evident, they come with their set of challenges. There’s the looming question of governance and the potential for “gray IT” to spread across enterprises. Without proper controls, the widespread adoption of citizen development could lead to organisational chaos. Moreover, the reliance on citizen-developed systems could pose risks if these systems are known only to a few or if their developers leave the company.
The Future of No-Code Development
The digital transformation journey for most organisations is inevitable. As no-code platforms evolve and become more sophisticated, they might become the primary drivers of this transformation. With governance being a current challenge, the future might see an automated approach to managing and overseeing these platforms.
The no-code movement signifies a new era where ideas can swiftly transition into actions. As more companies recognise and harness the potential of these platforms, the boundaries of innovation will continue to expand.
Nevertheless, like any tool, gaining a comprehensive understanding of its capabilities is integral to genuinely reaping its benefits. Low-code/no-code tools themselves rely on APIs, which means they must be coded and maintained by expert programmers and cannot handle complex programming or customisation.
Era of Augmented Coding
Using these tools did not sacrifice quality for speed when the developer and tool collaborated. Code quality in relation to bugs, maintainability, and readability (which is important for reusability) was marginally better in AI-assisted code. However, participant feedback indicates that developers actively iterated with the tools to achieve that quality, signalling that the technology is best used to augment developers rather than replace them.
Ultimately, to maintain code quality, developers need to understand the attributes that make up quality code and prompt the tool for the right outputs.
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