Agile software development has been around for a while now. Discover how low-code and no-code software development tools are transforming the discipline of agile development.

The challenges of developing software applications

A level of trial and error can be expected for any creative activity but the excessive risks of software authoring are born out in studies both in terms of slow time to market and burgeoning costs.

The article ‘Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think’ by HBR (November 2011) followed a survey of 1,471 IT projects with an average spend of $167m and found:

  • The average overrun was 27%
  • One in six projects studied experienced a cost overrun of over 200%.
  • Almost 70% of black swan projects also overrun their schedules.

Though the pitfalls of software applications development are by now well documented the IT industry has been singularly unable to overcome them.

As globalization increases apace, business models are changing ever more rapidly. It’s has never been more critical for organizations to reliably and affordably produce applications right-first-time.


An unprecedented pace of change in business models is creating a need for more agile IT

For a hundred years management thinking has valued mechanization over creativity…

..but after decades of automation, the core business processes of organizations are pretty slick – that is until markets change and business models need to realign. Then concepts of operational excellence evangelized by management consultants sound hollow.

As the very structure of markets change, smaller, more nimble companies benefitting from closer ties to their customers, and a clearer understanding of their value, are able to steal a march on vendors 100 times their size.

Even global brands aren’t safe – new aggressors can emerge from a different industry altogether to take a big bite out of a market they see as fair game in an open, global market-place (such as retailers venturing into the car insurance market for example).

“Institutionally, the ability to be agile enough is the gut issue in leading an organization today.”  James McNearney – CEO, Boeing

Organizations that could once survive without reviewing business models more than once a decade are now forced to re-assess annually. The new mantra of business excellence is agility—to create an enterprise that can adapt so to always win in its most attractive, addressable markets.


Powering enterprise agility

Key to the drive for agility is the need to empower middle managers people with the energy, skills and curiosity to question why processes work as they do and find new ways to distil customer value. Executive teams now know that a self-reliant decision making leadership culture is essential at all levels of the enterprise. This critical tier of ‘corporals’ demand systems and tools to understand and adapt their assets and resources to fit internal processes to the ever changing business landscape.

This is driving demand for a new tier of applications that harvest data from existing sources to create new applications that response to new situations (sometimes called ‘situational applications’) as they arise and align IT systems to better fit constantly evolving processes.


Releasing Innovation

Disparate silos of data across the enterprise – a known problem that has faced organizations for decades, but how do you fix it?

Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a term that describes the design and use of information services to support business needs; a coherent enterprise-wide method of organizing how computer systems present information to other systems so the data they manage can be accessed more easily without compromising systems performance or security. For business people, the major benefit of organizing information through SOA is the prospect that data held in disparate silos across the enterprise can be re-used to create new applications that produce smarter processes.

To consume Web Services requires applications able to bring data together while fashioning new data structures, web portals and forms-based applications to view, edit and update data.

Demand for these new applications increasingly comes from communities of workers that, while small in number, are essential to process innovation and creativity – things that create competitive advantage in the 21st century business world.

The conceived wisdom of building large lumbering enterprise applications for the majority at the expense of the few, no longer fits the reality of what these critical communities of information workers either need or expect.  The high quality of software people now use in their homes and on their mobile phones has raised the bar of what business users expect. The digital native generation dismisses applications that require a manual or that ask them to live with inhospitable reporting tools.

To meet the demands of this new ‘consumerized’ user community, the only viable solution is to produce applications at a faster pace and at lower risk; getting new applications to market faster, at lower cost. This demand has led to the innovations found in the Agile Codeless methodology.

“Middle managers spend more than a quarter of their time searching for information necessary to their jobs, and when they do find it, it is often wrong.”

Source: AIMS survey on information management, 2007


Delivering as Services Oriented Architecture

Services-Oriented Architecture is a term that describes the design and use of information services to support business needs; a coherent enterprise-wide method of organizing how computer systems present information to other systems so the data they manage can be accessed more easily without compromising systems performance or security.

From Low-Code to No-Code

Challenged with keeping up with the pace of digital innovation, businesses are desperate to remove any barriers that exist between IT and the business— and the biggest one is code. This has led to the shift away from coding skills and tools towards a No-Code approach; where an additional layer of abstraction negates the need to see or use programming code.

Building Apps Without Code

Agile Codeless is a rapid method of designing and deploying situational applications for workgroups and teams. It’s codeless because applications are authored using a No-Code platform that supplies pre-formed building blocks of technology.

The absence of code and script in design workshops is important because it removes the barriers between IT experts and business professionals responsible for scoping applications; probably because they are stakeholders and users of the app to be authored.

The ability to develop applications in near real-time (largely during workshops with users and stakeholders) not only makes applications ‘better-fit’ to the community of users and beneficiaries they’re intended for, but reduces the time, cost and risk of applications developments – all but removing testing, tuning and re-working costs.

Agile Codeless methods and No-Code tools dramatically reduce the skills needed for authoring applications which means that one individual can reasonably discharge the entire lifecycle. The fact that applications are authored ‘faster’ does not remove the need for quality gates or pre-qualification of the use-case, user needs and benefactor outcome expectations.


Final Thoughts

All the signs suggest 2021 with be the year that No-Code platforms come of age. For buyers, there are a plethora of suitable enterprise-grade tools entering the market, and a feeding frenzy by Venture Capitalists to get a ride on what has emerged as a multi-billion dollar market for enterprise Low-Code and No-Code platforms.

What does it mean for your business? If you still rely on coding, DevOps teams and Agile Scrums to deliver your projects, maybe 2021 is the time to see beyond traditional software development tools and methods—and embrace the new codeless era.

Ian Tomlin is a management consultant and writer on the subject of enterprise computing and organizational design.  He serves on the USTECH GLOBAL EMEA Management Team.  Ian has written several books on the subject of digital transformation, cloud computing, social operating systems, codeless applications development, business intelligence, data science, office security, customer data platforms, vendor management systems, Managed Service Provisioning (MSP), customer experience, and organizational design.  He can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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