By Matt Nigh on Jan 11
The next four years will remake software development.
Low-code is taking over large companies.
The market for low-code platforms was $4.3 billion in 2017. It is predicted to grow to more than $27 billion by 2022.
Large companies are moving to low-code to reduce cost and increase speed.
“By 2024, three-quarters of large enterprises will be using at least four low-code development tools for both IT application development and citizen development initiatives.” — Gartner
What is low-code development?
The simplest definition is a visual approach to software development.
Low-code platforms got their start in 2011, and are maturing fast.
But is low-code impacting the startup ecosystem the same way?
Short answer: no.
How startups should use low-code today
- Showing traction: Non-technical founders will be able to create simple concept applications to illustrate initial traction. This can act as an alpha to get early adopters excited as well.
- Pivoting quickly: The ability to make drastic shifts as you are proving out your business model is essential. Startups and new products experience massive swings during the ideation phase.
What needs to be improved
Low-code platforms are drastically improving — but they need to see improvements in functionality, lock-in, pricing, and product communities.
Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning: Low-code leverages AI currently by assisting users with suggestions, Google AI capabilities, and chatbots. These technologies are essential to building consumer-grade software.
Increased functionality and depth: Low code platforms today are primarily meant for internal use. They have not matured to the point to easily create a good looking consumer-facing application that can scale and be developed over the years. This is beginning to change.
Platform lock-in: One of the biggest risks of using a low-code platform is being locked into a solution. If you want to leave the platform you often have to completely redevelop your application. Improved ability to migrate data and assets will help lessen the risk of adoption
Pricing transparency: Many platforms require speaking to a salesperson for signup or pricing. There is no clear way to predict in the long-run the true cost of these platforms. Pricing will continue to act as a blocker until companies can clearly understand predicted costs over time.
Product communities: More and larger communities are needed to support these platforms. Users have questions and a solid community is needed for meaningful development. Mendix, for example, has an App store with pre-built addons with over 120,000 community members.
Security: Between data concerns, shadow development, lack of auditing there is a lot to solve. Inexperienced users can easily create a solution that is insecure — and expose user data or worse.
Simplicity to use: In time, the skills to create one of these applications will be similar to excel skills today. Professionals will be able to rapidly illustrate ideas and tools to help solve their own issues. Excel was created in 1985 and the low-code industry itself was created around 2011.
Challenges it can create today
- Technical debt: Are you sure you have access and the ability to export the data you need? Is anyone else trained on the specific platform this person used? What needs to be fixed in order to change or adapt to the software? Going too fast can have consequences you need to fix.
- Functionality: They are incredibly limited in what they can do, and costly to scale to any meaningful degree. Trying to achieve anything complex in them will result in frustration.
- Potential data and security concerns: You can’t filter stupid or inexperienced. Low-code applications can be created with vulnerabilities.
What happens next?
The market will continue to mature. Companies uncomfortable with the above concerns should check back in over the next year.
“By 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity.”
Today’s platforms require a level of technical skill equal to a junior developer or more. These platforms must simplify development in order to expand their market.
The more skill these platforms need to use — the more value they lose.
As platforms simplify, I predict two large shifts over the next few years:
- Citizen developers: The average person will be able to create relatively simple software products. Empowering the average person to build tools to solve problems, and monetize their ideas.
- Idea labs and accelerators: Low-code platforms will drive down the cost to build and test ideas. A few groups are likely to predict this trend and create a lab or accelerator that focuses on low-code platform development.
There is a lot of content out there.
I appreciate you reading mine. I write about software development and my experience running companies.