This is the second piece in our series about the sunset of Google's App Maker. Click the following link to read our first piece, Google Announces Shutdown of App Maker in 2021.
According to Wikipedia, the term “low code” refers to a method of building software applications in a visual manner, a drag-and-drop approach that only requires supplementing with code for specific actions.
This technique fell out of favor for a while but is very much back in vogue, with an increasing number of data, customer, and content platforms needing to provide low-code capabilities in order to increase adoption and on-going usage of their solutions.
This is where a new entrant enters the buzzword bingo game: the citizen admin.
The Citizen Admin
A citizen admin is a regular worker, someone who is not skilled in software development but typically has a business challenge and a desire to solve it. These folks love to experiment and love to build out new processes that make everyone’s life easier — and they are becoming vitally important to the health of organizations.
They are critically important to daily business operations as well as bringing IT strategies together, but the tools they use to do this are equally important. Citizen developers are faced with an interesting choice to make between low-code application development and no-code development.
No Code vs. Low Code
Despite being very different, these two terms are often blurred together. “No code” allows users to configure tools to achieve their goal, and “low code” does what it says on the tin: it needs some coding. Using the wrong one will put citizen admins in a position where they’re not able to add value or put developers on a platform that doesn’t offer the flexibility they require.
One of the common areas where we see code being used in general in the workplace is in legacy software and custom applications. These custom apps have been built over the years and represent a significant technical debt and challenge to the business.
No-code solutions offer a quick way to turn these aging custom codes into modern, mobile-enabled apps.
Low-code platforms, however, offer much more: a centralized, controlled way of moving away from custom code to a more optimal way of in-house development.
But whichever you choose has to align with the outcomes you’re trying to drive in your organization and the users who will be using them. Being aware of the opportunity to simplify, streamline, and consolidate existing applications and processes using newer technologies that weren’t available 5–10 years ago is also key.
There are a few important first steps in this process:
- Take the time to audit what you currently have.
- Gather feedback from end-users.
- Develop success criteria for your day-forward strategy.
I’ve always been a strong advocate for involving end-users in these steps since their adoption is critical and their participation allows them to have buy-in from the first steps. It becomes even more important if you’re pushing the no-code route since they will be your citizen admins moving forward.
Once you’ve cataloged your existing applications, processes, and outcomes you can start to determine key pillars that will help you choose the right platform(s) for your business.
Key factors in choosing the right no/low-code application platform:
- Understand the complexity of the current solutions, and determine if the application can be simplified with modern tools. This isn’t a race. You’re not required to lift and shift your old tech to new tech, so take your time with this step.
- Determine any audit, compliance, security, and permissions that are important to the application. Being in a regulated industry can quickly help shorten your list of potential platforms to move to.
- Where do your potential administrators sit within your organization? In IT? Or are they citizen admins? Does your company have a strong team of developers at its disposal?
- What levels of data complexity are required? Is there a need to integrate with other systems and databases?
- What levels of content management will be required? Do you have a lot of processes that are file dependent?
- What type of user experience are you looking for (integrated, standalone, mobile-first, etc.)? Does your team have UI/UX developers on staff?
- How important is it for your app development solution to be seamlessly integrated with your productivity platform as a service (G Suite or O365)?
Now is the right time to be very intentional about modernizing your apps, taking the time and the opportunity to simplify and enhance. Newer tech can provide more agility and doesn’t require as much technical debt to create something powerful, so use it.
These types of decisions will get you ahead of the curve and avoid constant cycles of re-evaluating your tech to make sure you didn’t outgrow it. Instead, you will be making decisions that enable a more agile pace, allowing you to stay current with technology trends because you aligned with vendors that are delivering new features and functions at a modern pace.
Ultimately, you will be putting your organization in a much stronger position to succeed in the future.