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WEBCON 2022 Predictions: The year of low-code and development shakeups

vmblog predictions 2022 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2022.  Read them in this 14th annual series exclusive.

The year of low-code and development shakeups

By Mike Fitzmaurice, VP of North America and Chief Evangelist at WEBCON

Over the last several years, the already-substantial shortage of developers has gotten worse. With demand for applications greater than the supply of skilled workers to create them, development teams have been struggling to keep up. There's a lot at stake here, because those applications are part of the critical path toward what's usually called digital transformation. While digital transformation is really a change to an organization's culture, technology is needed to facilitate that change, and it can't be done without the necessary talent. A whopping 86% of IT decision-makers say the biggest digital transformation challenge is too few software developers.

To overcome these challenges, organizations have tried changing application platforms (usually toward low-code offerings), changing application development methods (usually some form of agile approach), and changing the application builders (usually allowing non-professionals to create applications, something often called citizen development). While these efforts have certainly had an impact of sorts, none of these initiatives has proven to be a magic bullet; all have clashed with a set of cold, hard realities. The pandemic of the past two years has only exacerbated things.

In 2022, I predict we will see a recurring pattern of reality checks. Many low-code projects will fail; it won't be because advances in easier platforms are bad, but because too many organizations expected too much from them. Enterprises will question citizen development as a sustainable solution for a variety of reasons. A number of companies will realize that they cannot create the conditions needed to make agile methodologies work.

Despite this, I remain hopeful. Reality checks are good. Wise organizations can use them to refactor and adapt/innovate/overcome. Combining that wisdom with luck can lead to turning away from the search for an "Easy Button" and pivoting towards curating a set of tools and knowing which one should be used by which people to address which kind of task.

I strongly suspect that 2022 will, as a result, see the following happen with great frequency:

The majority of low-code projects will fail.

While low-code tools are often heralded for freeing employees from having to code like a developer, far too many organizations try to use these platforms in ways they were never intended. In 2022, businesses will begin to see failure after failure for their low-code projects due to business users lacking an understanding of what applications require and focusing too much on the building of applications rather than actually delivering them. As it turns out, low-code platforms still need one to think like a developer.

Citizen development will face a reckoning.

Citizen development has been attempted for a decade now, and the industry is going to realize that delegating solution-building to power users has limits. The applications being produced are often (but certainly not always) too fragile to be shared beyond a few users. Often, when they succeed, the amateur developer soon becomes a professional developer and changes careers. Even when useful applications are built, issues like security, auditing, metrics, licensing, deployment, change management, consistency with other applications, and documentation are ignored. When it works, citizen development can be beautiful, but companies will realize this is so rare that they can't depend on regularly occurring happy accidents.

Low-code adoption will surge - but among professional developers, not business users.

Demand for applications has skyrocketed and the supply of professionals remains low.  Experiments with having power users build business applications are yielding fragile solutions with limited scope, but that isn't necessarily the fault of the tools. Since you can't add pro developers and you can't add amateur developers, and you already believe in new methods, the only thing left is to adopt higher-productivity tools. Some low-code tool and platform vendors are stepping up to have their wares meet enterprise requirements for security, scaling, continuity, auditing, monitoring, deployment, and change management. They'll get adopted if they get noticed.

Waterfall will continue to refuse to die.

While commercial development efforts will continue to shift toward any of several methodologies based on continuous improvement, companies engaging with outside consultants will continue to demand fixed-price, fixed-term, one-and-done projects. This factor alone is going to keep waterfall on life support for the foreseeable future. I'm not proud to be saying this, but I'm not wrong, either.

RPA will get a reality check.

IT will realize robotic process automation is really robotic task automation and if they don't use it in concert with Digital Business Process Management, they'll only speed up the wrong activities, and won't really achieve anything resembling digital transformation. Automating applications at their user interface tiers has real limitations, and while it has several benefits (especially during the early prototyping stage of an application's life cycle), it's not the sort of thing one can make the centerpiece of an application strategy. It's valuable - very valuable - when used as one of several tools that make up an enterprise solution.

In conclusion, 2021 has been an interesting year as enterprises have scrambled to react to the long-lasting implications of the pandemic. The hope is that 2022 is a year of taking a few moments to consider what we've learned during the last two years. Everything we've tried has been put through an endless series of stress tests and it has the potential to make strong companies even stronger as a result.



Mike Fitzmaurice 

Mike Fitzmaurice, WEBCON's Chief Evangelist and VP - North America, has more than 25 years of product, consulting, evangelism, engineering, and IT management expertise in workflow/business process automation, citizen development, and low-code/no-code solution platforms & strategies. His decade at Microsoft included birthing technical product management and developer evangelism for SharePoint products and technologies.

Published Tuesday, January 04, 2022 7:33 AM by David Marshall
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