How 2020 impacted the no-code / low-code industry

-A look back at the 2020 myths and our upcoming 2021 predictions

At the start of 2020, no one could have predicted the events of the year. My 2020 no-code/low-code predictions may have been overshadowed by the pandemic, but I’d like to take a quick look back at last year’s myths to see what actually happened.

Here are the 2020 myths and their outcomes:

  1. Low-code will reach a tipping point of growth within organizations.
    Last year, I said this myth was false and I was right; it’s definitely not at a tipping point now. Low-code and no-code are still on growth paths. Even with the spike in the work-from-home movement of 2020, it still hasn’t reached its peak and now many are predicting that 2021 will be the “year of low-code.”
  2. Low-code will be the center of excellence and gain prominence within organizations.
    I said this prediction depended on several factors. What we’ve seen at TrackVia is that companies are most successful in using low-code platforms when they set up a “practice” or “center of excellence” within their organization around low-code. Looking back at the year, we saw a rise in citizen developer programs due to the pandemic and many companies had incredible success turning manual processes into apps. I believe that as more low-code and no-code platforms are implemented, more of these “centers of excellence” will appear.
  3. The term “developers” will come to a crossroads.
    I have to admit that this was a bit of trolling on my part. Developers will always be developers. Business users who create no-code/ low-code apps are not developers. However, there is a very real citizen developer movement happening right now, which is hard to ignore. The term “developers” isn’t at a crossroads per se, but there is a shift in mindset around who can build and deploy apps, and because of no-code/low-code platforms, it can be anyone.
  4. Integrations will continue to explode in growth.
    Last year, I agreed with this and it definitely happened in 2020. Apps almost always need to integrate with some other system. Many of the apps built with TrackVia have automated integrations, others are using old-school sneaker net. I don’t see this subsiding anytime soon and integrations will certainly continue to grow in 2021.
  5. Data governance in the world of integrations will cause more headaches.
    Last year, I didn’t see this happening, as no app lives on an island. And over the course of the year, the immediacy of needing to find solutions fast in the pandemic is what caused headaches for businesses. On the plus side, it has prepared them for better governance in 2021. In 2020, businesses and IT departments realized they needed to implement new integrations to make their business work in the new work-from-home environment, bringing better data governance to the forefront of discussions.

So now that we’ve looked back on 2020, let’s take a look at my 2021 no-code/low-code predictions.

2021 no/ low-code platform predictions:

  1. COVID & remote work has upended everything (and no code is coming to the rescue).
    In a weird way, the immediate switch to work from home could not have come at a better time, and I say that from a purely technical perspective. With so many core business-critical systems now running in the cloud, it doesn’t really matter where we all work. The hard part comes in figuring out how to automate and share information in this new realm, causing businesses to reconfigure some of our most fundamental processes to accommodate remote work. Before the pandemic, we had the luxury to pop by someone’s desk to check in on the status of a request. We could gently nudge a co-worker to get the file, send the update, or finish the analysis. Sure, we can still do it through our internal chat channels, but it’s not the same. With remote work, even the smallest requests need structure to track, report, and “nudge” when the request isn’t getting done in a timely manner. The good news is that no-code systems like TrackVia can make it easy to get status updates and get everyone on the same page whether or not they’re in the same zip code.
  2. The term “citizen developer” and “business engineer” should become synonymous.
    We’ve long been touting the power of “citizen developers.” Citizen developers are the people who know your internal processes, and they know how to connect the dots between your internal systems. They know what data needs to be moved from one place to the next as a workflow/order/manufacturing process occurs when it needs to get there, and who needs to be notified when it does. The biggest hurdle is that they just don’t know how to code. These are also the people who aren’t afraid of technology and aren’t afraid to learn new things. We love the name “citizen developer” because, as the name suggests, they are great at developing solutions. The problem is that these attributes also describe “business engineers.” A growing number of companies have open positions for business engineers, which are essentially the same people as citizen developers but with a different name. As businesses seek to hire more of these tech-savvy business people, I hope to see more instances where businesses combine these terms in their job descriptions in order to broaden their talent pool.
  3. Data privacy will take center stage.
    GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA oh my! We continue to see more acronyms emerge as we realize the sheer number of protections needed to manage our personal data and keep it safe. When I think about the amount of information I’ve shared on paper forms over the years, I find it terrifying. Will we outlaw paper forms in 2021? That may be drastic, but we aren’t far away. Paper is to process as sugar is to my diet. It’s easy for the short-term quick fix, but terrible for long-term results.Paper forms aren’t the only issue as many business leaders have opted to implement solutions on their own. Many companies will realize they need better governance with their programs and will be looking for ways to eliminate shadow IT. As businesses strive to make sure employees can get their work done and meet the needs of the organization, IT leaders will have a place at the business table to educate on data protection and play a key role as a strategic partner guiding how to best tackle workflows.
  4. Speed to solution still wins.
    One thing that we’re seeing from no/low-code providers is an explosion in feature sets and capabilities. This is great, except when it gets in the way of understanding the system and getting started quickly. If I have to spend a bunch of time learning how to use a low-code system, the delays can be as long as coding the solution from scratch, which defeats the purpose of low-code in the first place.Complexity is a polarizing principle. On one hand, complexity allows you to support more varied use cases, but on the other hand, it requires more time for education and understanding. I mention this because no/low-code are not immune to the pitfalls of complexity, as the variability of stories we support grows over time, we still need to focus on keeping the systems simple enough to not overwhelm our citizen developer users, while supporting their journey into building applications that solve more varied use cases.

IT Losing Confidence of the BusinessThe year 2020 threw us quite the curveball, yet businesses were able to find creative solutions to keep work moving despite the dramatic changes across every industry. No one could have predicted the sudden rise in no/low-code solutions as businesses quickly adapted to accommodate remote work, especially since there’s often a significant process tug-of-war between IT and operations leaders. In fact, operations executives report they’d lost confidence in IT’s ability to solve business problems. In a recent survey of over 200 operations executives, most leaders report significant challenges of working with IT. To learn more about these challenges, read the full survey.

As no/low-code technology continues to pick up speed, I’m excited to see what the future holds, especially for the many problem solvers who rose up and found better solutions during the pandemic. These citizen developers, business engineers, and IT leaders deserve recognition for their ingenuity, and I look forward to seeing where 2021 takes them.