Long reads

Low-code - what are the implications for developers

Harbinder Kang

Harbinder Kang

Global Head of Developer Operations, Finastra

Modern application development is a complex business, requiring multiple language support, knowledge of tools to build, test and deploy applications, understanding of client experience, data handling, security skills and the ability to provide experiences on multiple channels including web, mobile and desktop.

In addition, developers are adapting to enable rapid app building by utilising agile methodologies in parallel to adopting a DevOps mindset and culture for delivery. Financial services institutions are increasingly adopting an iterative approach to providing apps and updates to the business, where regular small-scale updates/improvements are made to systems and customer user interfaces with minimal disruption to their consumers.

Such changes in approach have ushered in the era of low-code app development. The key characteristic of low-code platforms is that they reduce the amount of traditional hand-coding involved in building a new business application, which means it can be delivered more quickly and collaboratively.

Low-code brings development into a single platform that requires minimum set-up and can be accessed on a SaaS basis. Barriers to entry are low and environments are quick to set up.

From builder to designer

So how does low-code change the role of the developer in building applications and change the nature of creativity, moving from being the bricklaying builder to orchestrator/designer? Is it possible for business analysts to build apps directly using the low-code tools and how will the role of developers change?

Perhaps the most important element to understand about low-code development is that a balance still needs to be struck between stability and throughput. Too much emphasis on the former means that organisations find it difficult to improve the service they offer customers and are in danger of losing out to the competition. Too much emphasis on the latter could introduce risks to the viability of new apps: a governance model is still required in a low-code environment.

And the new approach doesn't just cover the design of a new app, but provides best practice for delivering it from sandbox through testing and user feedback to roll-out.

Low-code provides developers, who are increasingly tasked with managing the whole lifecycle of app delivery, with a single platform to do so – rather than having to juggle multiple tools and platforms to deliver value.

Empowered to succeed

Overall, it means it's an exciting time to be a programmer in these days of significant change. Developers are more empowered to deliver apps that make a real difference to customers and to the commercial success of their businesses. They can act quickly to deliver value from the kernel of an idea into the customer's hands, rather than being boxed into solely focusing on technical tasks and coding.

Developers are also in a great position to spot opportunities to apply technology to business problems. Recognising that innovation can come from anywhere, a growing number of organisations are setting up innovation teams or labs to harness this thinking, putting developers at the centre of the commercial solution building process.

It means developers can move away from assuming everything needs to be built from the ground up to working as designers who can tap into the capabilities of powerful coding platforms, machine learning and cognitive analysis.

The onus is now on developers to be proactive and pick up on the opportunities that are presented by the new low-code, platform environment. It means working on understanding how to use the new toolsets and platforms that are available, outside of day to day 'business as usual' work.

Point, click and build

Debate has long raged about whether automation will eventually remove the need for developers altogether, with business analysts able to point and click at data sets to build their own reports and apps.

In our view, while low-code certainly enables closer collaboration and teamwork, app development is about much more than design. Developers are increasingly tasked with managing the whole process of taking an app from conception to design, through testing to delivery and roll-out, which implies the need for an understanding of an overarching governance model and architecture to ensure all apps meet security standards and other non-functional requirements such as performance.

So, until the entire app development process – including developing for security, performance, user testing and compliance – is fully autonomous, developers will continue to be in high demand. However, businesses will increasingly seek out those developers who are able to actively collaborate with the business as well as third parties. 

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