With “low code” or “no code”: will we still need IT developers?

A few weeks before the presidential elections in France, several candidates have expressed their desire to further develop learning computer code in school programs. The latter has already been present for several years in many school programs and higher education courses. Many authors and institutions consider that this competence is necessary for any citizen of the information society, whatever their future orientation. Beyond learning a computer language (syntax and semantics), learning the code would be an asset for developing skills in problem solving, logic, creativity or even critical thinking.

Read more:
Why learn to code?

Programming is no longer the only way to develop applications or websites. For a few years, we have been hearing about “no code/low code” tools. What are these tools? Does their rise make learning programming languages ​​obsolete?

What is no-code/low-code?

No code solutions make it possible to create applications, or to automate tasks without using a programming language, or in very small quantities (this is then low code). Three main advantages explain the rise of these solutions. First of all, the creation of applications becomes accessible to everyone, without the need to resort to the work of a developer. This mode of creation considerably reduces the development time, as well as the testing of the applications produced. Finally, the associated cost is drastically reduced compared to traditional development.

Although these solutions only appear to be a few years old, they have actually been around for over 20 years. Website creation tools, such as Dreamweaver and FrontPage, are based on the same principle. We were then talking about “WYSIWYG” tools: what you see is what you get (“you get what you see”). These tools make it possible to create websites without any knowledge of the associated programming languages.

A number of vendors have offered code-free, database-bound application development tools for years. We can cite for example Clarion, or the development suite Windev. Until recently, only tech savvy people used this type of tool. In recent years, the tools have been perfected, becoming accessible to a wider audience.

Existing tools

Applications qualified as no code/low code are now integrated solutions thanks to which novice users can create complete applications. Training in the use of the chosen solution remains necessary, but it does not require significant technical skills.

We can distinguish on the one hand the complete development suites, which are most often paid for, and on the other hand the no code/low code tools dedicated to a single use, but which are most often free.

The Gartner organization provides an overview of the different development platforms, and presents them in the following diagram:

Different development platforms.
Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms

From most common solutions, we can note the presence of well-known publishers, such as Salesforce or Microsoft. The latter offers a Low-Code solution called “Power Apps”, which takes advantage of the wide distribution of the Office 365 suite. These solutions make it possible to create and manage a database, to develop applications linked to this data, and finally to automate actions. For example, it is possible to send electronic messages or to create or sort documents automatically.

Many free or inexpensive solutions exist for specific uses. To store the data in the form of tables, it is possible to use for example Google Sheets. The Airtable Tool makes it possible to structure the data and to store them on the wordpress cloud allows you to create forms and content to put them online. Other tools allow you to automate processes, such as the tool Zapier for example. Finally, the existence of API (Application Programming Interface) guarantees communication between these different tools. It should be noted that some of these tools may be free or very inexpensive at first, but become paid if they are used on a larger scale.

What uses for no code/low code?

The rise of these tools is concomitant with a significant lack of developers, particularly in France. This shortage can be explained both by the lack of attractiveness of the sector compared to other countries, and by mismatch of certain profiles with the needs of companies. The skills implemented in this sector are constantly evolving, and it is difficult for working people to keep their skills up to date. knowledge

The use of no code/low code tools is an alternative allowing companies to develop internal tools quickly and without the need for strong skills. This market grew by 22.6% between 2020 and 2021 and this growth is expected to continue.

The start-ups and small businesses are the first users of these tools. Unable to afford to pay a developer, they can thus develop their own management tools. Other common uses are process automation, website development, and marketing data processing. In larger companies, no code/low code is beginning to take hold for the development of specific business applications. These are often created by end users, who are fully aware of their needs and constraints. However, these developments cannot continue without a link with the company’s IT departments to guarantee their proper integration into the digital environment and the security of the applications developed.

The end of programmers?

Like many other countries, France has included the learning of computer code in school programs since 2016. Understanding computer logic is a necessity, and the use of no code/low code tools requires an understanding of how computer software works. a computer application. But won’t the development of these solutions make the profession of developer less essential? The founder of GitHub (web hosting and software development management service), Chris Wanstrathsaid in 2017: “The future of code is no code at all”.

This statement may seem exaggerated. It is indeed very likely that no code/low code will replace basic development, but there will always be a need for seasoned developers, whether to develop more complex applications or to improve and secure applications developed using these tools.

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With “low code” or “no code”: will we still need IT developers?

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