As part of my ongoing discussion around the future of business software and the rising role of Citizen Developers, this week we’ll explore ‘Zero Code’, the second component of the Citizen Developer Success Model.
So far we’ve been talking about the future of enterprise applications and the role that Citizen Developers are playing in these changes. It’s something that would be impossible to discuss without looking at coding and programming… or more specifically, the lack thereof.
‘Zero Code’ Business Software is the Future
You could make a case for coding being one of the biggest factors that has, until now, inhibited front-line business people (a.k.a. Citizen Developers) from building their own business software applications and bypassing IT or large business software vendors. Traditionally, business software applications couldn’t be built without investing extensive time to learn programming languages and development platforms. As a result, most business people were left to using off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all applications that they bought or had installed by their IT department.
As the world transitioned to cloud-based applications, we saw the SaaS market explode. Although these cloud applications are arguably more accessible to business people, they are still not easy to tailor to your specific company, department or even individual needs. They are still one-size-fits-all, and for the most part, still require people to write or alter code to make any impactful modifications.
In more recent years, we’ve seen a flood of platforms as a service (PaaS) and even application platforms as a service (aPaaS) aimed at helping technical developers build and deploy applications faster and easier. These “low code” solutions automate or streamline much of the mundane coding process, making it easier and faster for professional developers to build and deploy applications. Although easier and faster, you guessed it, these are not solutions that your typical business user could or would use. Coding knowledge is still a requirement.
Advancements in technology and the growing appetite of non-technical Citizen Developers to build their own applications are now leading the next wave of “zero-code” solutions and platforms. These no-code solutions are designed almost exclusively for non-technical business people, allowing them to rapidly build custom Web applications or even mobile apps using clicks and drop-down functions.
This isn’t crazy talk either. We’ve seen this phenomenon before. Consider WordPress. It democratized blog and website development by eliminating the need to know HTML. A more recent example is Zapier. It’s providing a no-code platform that let’s average business people connect SaaS applications with zero API code needed. They do this by hiding all code work behind user-friendly point-and-click interfaces and simple drop-down menus. This is the future.
The potential disruption that these zero-code platforms represent to traditional enterprise applications or SaaS solutions is huge. Consider for a moment that most people within an enterprise are business people, not developers. These zero-code application platforms open the door to business people, enabling them to use their knowledge, creativity and company-specific experience to design, build and deploy business software applications that actually work the way they do. After all, who better to build an application than the person who will be using it every day to do their job?
To sum things up, business users have long had to adjust their business or internal processes to work within the constraints of rigid or generic business software solutions. This will no longer be the case with zero-code application platforms. Instead, business users will design and build their own Web applications or mobile apps to match their unique department or personal needs, and customize them on the fly as things change. And they’ll be able to do it faster and cheaper than buying any generic solution.
Keep tweeting us at @trackvia and let us know what apps you’ve built using zero-code tools and what else you think is in store for business applications. Continue to check back for much more in this series.