By John Wookey
What’s the most popular database in use today? Rather than MySQL or MongoDB, it’s probably an Excel spreadsheet sent around by email. That shouldn’t be surprising. Off-the-shelf products for particular business needs aren’t always available, and internal IT departments often lack the resources to build custom applications (apps).
The result is business users often solve real-world problems with cumbersome and error-prone workarounds, cobbled together from available office productivity tools. Sometimes, they even resort to home-grown tools or, worse still, third-party cloud apps that aren’t authorized by their IT departments—a practice known as shadow IT.
The proliferation of workarounds, home-grown tools, and shadow IT leads to security risks, fragmented resources, and the lack of a proper audit trail for data. These improvised tools also become black holes for productivity and add to an organization’s technical debt, creating more problems than they solve.
Low-code development offers a much-needed practical solution. With low-code app development, end-users are now able to develop their own apps using easily-understood visual tools without programming lines of code.
Low Code Solutions
Forrester describes low code as a platform enabling “rapid delivery of business applications with a minimum of hand-coding and minimal upfront investment in setup, training, and deployment,” in the recently published The Forrester Wave: Low-Code Development Platforms, Q2 2016 report.
One major misconception about low code development, however, is that it is purely an approach for business users to build apps. The recent trend shows that traditional developers within IT departments use low code as an accelerated approach to building apps—collaborating with the business users.
The speed of delivery is a key benefit with low code. According to the Low Code Snapshot Survey from Salesforce Research, conducted in February 2017, 75 percent of IT organizations say that low-code development tools will free up IT to work on complex tasks and that it will increase innovation across the organization.
The Big Question on Governing Low Code Development
The question looming in every IT person’s head reading this is how do you manage and govern low code development?
First of all, when it is truly business user-led development, the low code approach can help eliminate shadow IT, rather than create it. When users resort to unauthorized third-party cloud solutions or improvise with spreadsheets, they operate outside the IT team’s vision, which makes it difficult to identify emerging security or data integration issues. Unifying employee-led app development in a single environment controlled by the IT department makes it possible for the IT department to see and control what employees are developing and how they are deploying it. If a user creates a reporting application that inappropriately ties up corporate resources, the IT department can see it — and help fix it.
Second, in low code, it is easier for IT to have visibility and hold the keys to governance and application lifecycle management processes.
Low code platforms come with configurable security settings, intuitive application lifecycle management (ALM) tools, and usage analytics that IT can easily access with administration privileges. IT can build governance processes for different kinds of apps around access to sensitive data, application performance, security configurations, and scale. Every organization should map out its own set of criteria and appropriate levels for oversight. SW
John Wookey is the EVP of Platform for Salesforce.