The Future of No-code
“The future of coding is no coding at all,” – said Chris Wanstrath, GitHub Co-Founder. According to various predictions, around 450 million new applications will be deployed within the foreseeable future. The overall gross rate of the software developer population, however, is only 4%; indeed, this is not enough to deliver all those apps.
To envision what the future looks like for no-code, we invited Phil Simon, an award-winning author, keynote speaker, and adviser, who helps organizations communicate, collaborate, and use technology better. Tune in to the new episode of the No-Code Playbook podcast and find out how the world of no-code will evolve and how citizen development will grow into the business world.
JASON MILLER: Welcome to Creatio’s No-Code Playbook podcast, where we discuss insights, tips, success stories, and how to leverage the no-code approach to transform business and deliver applications of any complexity. I'm your host Jason Miller, Head of Pre-Sales for Creatio in the Americas. And I'm joined today by the author of the new book "Low-code/No-code," Phil Simon. Phil, welcome.
PHIL SIMON: Jason, thank you for having me.
JASON MILLER: I appreciate you joining us today. And it's timely that we're talking, obviously. We've recently launched the "No-Code Playbook," but with your now thirteenth-author book "Low-code/No-code," you talk a lot about the power of low-code, no-code, and citizen development. I think it's interesting because of the world we feel, and I think you feel going in this direction. So, can you talk to us a little bit about what you think of the world of citizen development and how it's growing in the business world?
PHIL SIMON: It's nothing short of a revolution, Jason. It's one of the reasons I like that you worked quickly and hard to get the book out so soon. As I did the research for the book, I realized that even though citizen development as a term only made inroads, it was in 2014 or 2015, I cited the Forrester report in the book. Whether you've been a business technologist or something else, it's been around for a long time. And I can remember back in the day using Microsoft access to create single-person applications that didn't scale across an organization or other than, say, Microsoft access talking to Outlook or Excel or Microsoft talking to Microsoft. Fast forward 25 years, and now these tools are, to use a 50-cent word, interoperable and extensible so that I can stitch together something with a Zapior or Workato. That's not stopping any time soon, as I describe in Chapter 1. There's this dearth of IT talent. And as more companies try to get people into the office, I came across a study from some professor a few months ago at the University of Chicago, a full 100% of IT folks can do their jobs remotely. So that trend is going to kind of butt heads with people's desire to refrain from their lives, as I discussed in my previous book. To make a long story short, we've always had a shortage of IT folks Covid-19 created or intensified the need for business applications before we worked remotely or in a hybrid fashion with not necessarily needing an app to track who's in the office today, do we have enough desks, as a company as reduced the real estate footprint. And, yeah, you can let the Head of Marketing hire a 3d party independent software vendor to build an app. But as I wrote in my first book a million years ago, new systems and applications typically don't do so well, so something has to give, and fortunately, the no-code/low-code tools such as Creatio have absolutely exploded. So, in the new book, I attempt to create a vendor-agnostic piece that explains where we are, how we got here, and where we're going. And like you, I think the future of low-code/no-code is pretty damn bright.
JASON MILLER: Yeah, I find it interesting. I want to call out a couple of things. In Chapter 5 of your book, you talk about how the mix of developers is changing. And you cited a Gartner report that said even as soon as 2023, nearly 80% of applications will be developed using no-code creators or citizen developers. What were some of your thoughts when you came across this Gartner report?
PHIL SIMON: I cited Gartner, Forrester, PwC, KPMG, and McKinsey. Microsoft has its own future of work institute, Slack future form, which is underneath Salesforce. So that was more than just one report. But, yeah, that one was particularly interesting in the fact of anything. It may be understating the matter. Microsoft did some research, and according to them, of the next 450 million business apps, so 80% would be of this no-code/low-code variety. So, I made sure that I didn't lean too much on one vendor. Because one vendor or research outfit, or think tank could be wrong. But all the signals were pointing to the fact that this was exploding Gartner predicts that I think this year, the total low-code/no-code market will be about 15 billion dollars. Even though that has been compared to ERP, security, or cloud computing. Einstein said that the most powerful law in the universe is exponential growth. So, things are growing fast, and it will be 50, 80, or 100 billion dollars. So, there's no doubt in my mind that as the tools become more powerful, and companies attempt to roll out new technologies. Mean the low-code/no-code tools solve, in many cases, a longstanding business problem, as you know, this IT business divide. If I had a nickel for every time I worked on a project, in which case the IT people thought X and the business folks thought, “why,” I'd be buying both of us a nice lunch. So the fact that you can have these citizen developers who know marketing payroll, finance, sales, operations, whatever, a lot better than folks and don't have the time or the desire to write out these detailed requirements that are going to take 3 to 6 months to get deployed, when you can build an app, as I write in the book, in a few hours or a few days depending on the complexity. If you know what you're doing, I fail to see how even though we can talk about some of the downsides of low-code/no-code development, I fail to see how the general trend is not incredibly up into the right hockey stick like if you will.
JASON MILLER: And that brings up a couple of interesting topics. So, in the No-Code Playbook that Katherine and Burley authored, they talk about how to assess some of that complexity and build fusion teams so that max of IT professional developers, as well as citizen developers, to help achieve, call the best outcome possible. And you also called it out in Chapter 5 of your book, which was the virtuous lifecycle or the continuing cycle of no-code development. When it comes to why folks are choosing IT, can you talk to us about when you see this virtual lifecycle of constant improvement and constant games done through low-code/no-code? What were some things you thought about when you put this together?
PHIL SIMON: I've spent a long time as a consultant helping companies implement and build different systems and capacities, vendor assessments, or valuations that type of thing. And I've seen many skeptical CIOs who were maybe pushing 60, and their retirement was 5 years away, and basically ain't broke but don't fix it. I don't want to risk my retirement, stock options, security bonus, or whatever. So, to the tent that there is citizen development taking place in some cases because of shadow IT whether people know it or not. They might say, well, I'm not keen on that type of thing because we've been doing it for 2 months and it's been successful. So, you may see this sort of ground-up movement towards it as opposed to a top-down. So, it's happening whether people realize it or not. I think that as I did the research, I discovered that more CIOs were saying, okay, look, if you're not going to call us, you're going to work with these approved vendors, and you're going to support and train people, and not open support tickets because we don't have the bet with to address the apps that we currently have, then, hey, go with god. Again, it was just another data point that there would be organizations, and I covered this in chapter 8, then adopt different philosophies. My friend works at a text start-up here in Arizona, where I live, and we had a discussion over lunch when I was formulating the book about how it's exclusively a Microsoft shop; they want to avoid dealing with any vendors. And they know that if Microsoft is laid on a particular feature, a particular app like, for example, some app loop which is a knockoff, or some of these other Google docs on steroids type tools. They're fine with that. But another organization might say, no, we will adopt, bless, or sanction 3 to 4 tools. And some companies basically do whatever you want – it’s anarchy. And other companies, like, no, you can't use anything; we’re going to lock it down for whatever reason. So, you know, the idea that there was one approach to no-code/low-code is very much in keeping. And it's interesting knowing a decent amount about your Playbook. I do think that we agree 90% of the time, but it was such a vast area and moving so quickly that there's no way for the book to cover everything. So, while I don't advance a proper maturity model, break down teams, or detail how you should have two citizen developers for everyone proper developer. Other books, I'm sure because we're just getting started, will address those types of things, and I can't wait to read them.
JASON MILLER: It's interesting. You bring up a couple of points. The idea that some folks say that one no-code/low-code platform or one vendor should be used for everything. I was talking recently with Philip Lakin, another no-code evangelist out there, and his take is a little bit – that there is no single right tool for everything. And I think that that is all so partially true. I believe that there are two significant factors. Number one is that regardless of whether you adopt the single application suite approach or, in your book, you talk about it as an application set or a suite. Do you take that approach or a broader one, as Philip talks about? I think there are important things that people need to think about here, always worried about. One is governance and structure. And two is ensuring that whatever technology you're approaching, it has a certain set of tools that can enable the users to achieve outcomes. Do you agree with that? What are your thoughts?
PHIL SIMON: There's a lot to impact there. I intentionally avoided governance and any depth because of this inherent tension. I’m saying we have to govern it; there has to be some centralized body that's overlooking things. And that fundamentally conflicts with this notion of democratized app development. And one of the significant benefits of citizen development is that you can let people kind of do what they do without going through all the channels, PMOs, and all that, and they can do what they want to do. With respect to the tools, I tried really hard to present this in a vendor-agnostic way. In fact, the most challenging chapter that I wrote was 4 – this overview of the landscape. And there's this long disclaimer about how I break things into seven buckets. But it's tough to do because any given tool isn't like Excel you use for manipulating certain types of data, but if it gets to a certain point, you need access. You need a sequel server if it gets to a more significant issue. But if it's a Word doc, what are you doing in PowerPoint? You wouldn't write a book on PowerPoint, although some people actually do to organize their thoughts. So, it's for some folks to get around this notion, no pun intended, of an app that does a single thing because they evolve. It’s funny because I just wrote a post on my site based on the notion in late November announced that it had added generative AI capability so you can do slash blog post-low-code tools, and it will effectively use its engine to spit out a passable blog post, or to-do list, or something like that. Where do you put that in the contemporary framework? So, I call that post something like the ameba effect. These tools evolve over time, and I understand why a company might say, look, we're good with these particular tools; we don't have to chase the shiny new thing because we have it on good authority that Google, SAP, or Oracle, or Salesforce is working on this stuff. And ultimately, I'd argue that the citizen developer benefits because you're forcing the competition up their game. This isn't 1994, when it was Windows or if you want to pack – you can, but you probably can't use 90% of the apps you need. So, it is confusing. There are many choices; hopefully, chapter 4 of the book helps provide this gestalt.
JASON MILLER: Yeah, and I will admittedly say I had exactly the same initial reaction as I was reading through that going – no, no, no, that's not the way it is. And then after I got a little further, like, okay, well, I see that perspective. So, it's very interesting because we talk about your book "Low-code/No-code," and I talk about the “No-Code Playbook” all the time. And even talking with other no-code evangelists that are out, it's obvious that we all see the evolution similarly, which is that we're still somewhere probably on that. Many different technologies are out there, but we're all continuing to adopt new technology, features, and capabilities. Some are pinpoint solutions that are solving maybe an r p a type of item, AI path, or something like that, or there are BPM solutions out there that have become a little less of a priority, especially with the pandemic. Folks are more focused on how I can get things out faster. They're still focused on automation, but how can I get things out faster? How can I accelerate that application development lifecycle? And you talk about that, and there's a great graphic in the book. We all see this the same way: no-code/low-code space will continue to evolve, and we're going to continue to bring new players into this world, whether it's part of the fusion team or part of the backend-enabling business. There may be more of a shift left; we may get the citizen developers and no-code creators even further into the development lifecycle of these no-code tools to help enable the business pieces even faster. And with just about two minutes left before we wrap, can you give me some of your thoughts? There's a great quote, and you've got it all over the cover of your book, that “the future of coding is no coding at all.” Give your thoughts on how this world of no-code and low-code will continue to evolve over the next couple of years.
PHIL SIMON: I love that quote so much that it not only does it adorn the front page of my website but also on the hardcover edition of the book. I put it in the 60-point font, but I went even bigger, and it takes up the entire back. As I said before, the future is incredibly bright. We're going to see consolidation. I intentionally didn't put in one of those charts’ figures about the universe, the vendors, and each one because it would have been outdated long before we went to print. You'll see companies, especially if someone got valued at a certain number and now, they're facing a down-round, but they can acquire either the code, the user-based, or whatever the data on the cheap. So, it's silly for me to think that hundreds or thousands of these vendors will be around. And that's just the nature of technology – now, there are probably 3 to 4 cloud service providers taking care of 80% of the market. I don't know if we'll ever see that level of concentration. But one of the points I make in the book is that if you're evaluating until you want to make sure that, again, no one can predict the future. But if you go to the Facebook page or the YouTube channel, you see basically no one's on. It is those two tools going to be around for a while. And there is vendor lock-in, irrespective of which tool you're doing. In fact, I make the point in the book that if you're evaluating a new tool, one of the first things you have to do before you get to the deep end is export the data out. Yeah, you’ll have to rebuild the app – there’s no magic convert app button from platform A to platform B. But I think it's a bright one and I believe there’s a wide tent. So, there is plenty of room for many books. And if you're starting a company, I wouldn't think you would just read one book about entrepreneurship; you probably want to read a bunch. So, I don't look at other books as a competition. I'm really curious to see other people's takes. Because it's fine that you disagree in part with chapter 4, but I think that a rational discussion about an interesting topic is a good thing to have reasonable people can disagree.
JASON MILLER: Yeah, and like I said when I first read, it was like, oh, no, no, no... And then I started to go further and deeper into that chapter, and it was like, okay, yeah, I get that. The point that many no-code evangelists like myself and yourself, and Philip Lakin, are talking about is the fact that it's still evolving, it's still emerging, and companies are still working on adding more features trying to get as close as they can to some of the business function. So that they can be successful and help enable some of these companies and the various business applications they're trying to do. Phil, thank you for your time today. Looking forward to having you on our podcast again very shortly. For those of you who have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. I also highly recommend it, and I posted a review of this book on Amazon. Check out both books – Phil’s “Low-code/No-code” and “The No-Code Playbook” – available on Amazon. I encourage you to go check them out, download a copy, and get yours today.
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