How No-Code Will Transform DevOps

In the years that low- and no-code development tools have been available, the movement has been slow to gather pace. Until recently, the vast majority of app and workflow development has remained firmly in the hands of professional coders.

That is about to change—and fast. Gartner forecasts that the global low-code development technologies market is on track to reach $13.8 billion in 2021, an increase of nearly 23% over 2020. Other research suggests that 20% of all workers use no-code tools today, including 56% of coders. And 71% of those who use no-code tools within IT adopted them within the last year.

No-code development is reaching a tipping point, and this trickle of adoption has turned into a torrent, driving more and more business demand daily.

Drivers for the No-Code Movement

The reason for this acceleration is simple: Digital transformation requires speed. If businesses are to digitize the full universe of processes across all departments, then they need tools that can be adopted quickly and with little ramp-up time.

No-code tools are an ideal solution to this problem, and not just for a short-term fix. If the investment is seen solely as a short-term fix to immediate problems, it’s very likely that a company’s digital transformation efforts will continue to die on the vine. Digital transformation is not a “one-and-done” process; it’s only the start of a new business strategy based on continual innovation, where new apps and tools are built and rebuilt, time and again, to keep up with changing market dynamics and customer/employee requirements.

The long-term trend of digital transformation has been accelerated by two shorter-term trends. First, obviously, is the COVID-19 pandemic. The social distancing measures used to control the virus meant that businesses had to create new apps and workflows (in hours or days) if they were to survive. No-code tools played an important role in helping businesses adapt at a breakneck pace, and gave them a taste of just what’s possible with intuitive app and workflow development.

Second, a shortage of skilled developers. The population of 24 million global developers accounts for just 1% of the overall workforce, leaving businesses short-handed and looking for ways of empowering non-coders to take control of app development for themselves. As well as plugging skills gaps, no-code also meets demand from employees for more autonomy and more control over their operations, projects and workflows.

Unlocking Innovation

The net result of these drivers is that no-code is now a bona fide movement, and technology companies large and small are taking advantage of market innovations to transform what it means to build websites, software applications, workflows and mobile apps.

The impact on enterprises will be profound. As Accenture highlighted in its 2021 Technology Vision, no-code is part of the broader democratization of IT, where the ability to create technology solutions to address business challenges is extended to everyone in the organization. This trend will unleash a wave of “grassroots innovation” that will help companies reinvent themselves in the years ahead. Those that fail to take this opportunity now may struggle to keep up with more inventive and agile competitors later.

What No-Code Means for Developers

For developers, this trend will undoubtedly lead to many questions. What is the role of the professionally trained coder in a no-code world? Will DevOps become extinct as “citizen developers” take over? Far from causing detrimental effects, no-code and low-code will likely prove to be hugely beneficial overall. Here are four key reasons why:

Reduced workload/stress. With no-code-based roles, organizations are able to expand their technical capabilities without needing to hire more developers or coders. What’s more, by spreading basic app and workload development tasks across the organization, developers’ time is freed up. For teams that are already understaffed and under pressure, this can make a huge difference in the workplace experience and enable developers to spend more time focused on delivering high-quality software.

A more strategic role in the enterprise. With tactical software development carried out within business units, developers can spend more of their time focused on the ‘next big thing,’ whether that’s mixed reality, quantum computing or AI. Developers and the wider IT team can act as “futurologists”, assessing new tools for the best fit within the business and guiding purchasing decisions to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Accelerated innovation. For more complex software development that requires coding expertise, developers can leverage the speed of no-code to spin up proofs-of-concept and test them before investing time and resources on full-scale development. In fact, research suggests that many developers are already taking this approach, with 38% stating that they use no-code for prototyping a new product.

New roles and opportunities. No-code will have a deep and broad impact on the enterprise, changing how work is done and creating new roles in the process. Many of these roles will provide new career paths and opportunities for developers, such as no-code consulting (helping businesses find the optimum no-code framework and tools for their needs) and roles that revolve around optimizing processes, building solutions and discovering ways to easily automate and streamline the day-to-day work within their organizations.

DevOps teams, long the drivers of digital transformation, are now finally feeling the effects of those efforts. A new world of work is emerging where everyone is a technologist; using intuitive tools to rapidly build solutions to their business needs as they arise. This approach will free developers from their traditional role as gatekeepers of innovation, allowing them to focus on strategic technology decisions and channeling their specialist skills to areas where they will make the most impact.

The rise of no-code is good news for everyone. It accelerates digital transformation and unlocks the innovation potential of all employees. And it’s great for developers, too; making their work more interesting, less stressful and with new career paths and opportunities for development. No-code can provide a growth driver to all enterprises, and arm early adopters with a significant competitive advantage.

Chris Byers

Chris Byers is CEO of Formstack, a workplace productivity platform helping companies digitize what matters, automate workflows, and fix processes. Launched in 2006, Formstack is trusted by more than 27,000 organizations worldwide—including Cleveland Clinic, NHL, Netflix, Twitter, and Butler University—to quickly and easily build custom forms, create documents, and collect eSignatures. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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