Recently, there has been a lot of debate surrounding application development methodologies. Should companies be adopting new, low-code methods that enable citizen developers or stick to the tested agile methods they have been using? The two methods really aren't mutually exclusive, and in fact, can work together in a coherent way.
Sometimes, I worry the conversation around PaaS is sending the wrong message. Even I am a little guilty of saying things that might give the impression that there is a battle over application development between the camps of High-Productivity and High-Control. On one side, the High-Productivity advocates favor low-code approaches that enable average workers to create their own applications. On the other side, supporters of High-Control would rather work in agile environments where they can finely tune their finished apps. Stuck in the middle are the business leaders who simply want to create the best product possible, at the lowest cost. You shouldn’t have to choose sides in what could be an unwinnable war.
Luckily, you have options. According to Vanson Bourne, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) has proven to be an effective mediator when this same conflict came up in a broad range of industries. In fact, with the right strategy, it’s hard to see how the two camps can be in conflict with each other at all. So, this week, I wanted to clear the air about the so-called low-code/agile conflict. But first, let’s look at the two sides so we can figure out how the “conflict” got dreamt up in the first place.
In this corner, we have the IT guys, the programmers and the development professionals. Those who advocate for an agile methodology get excited by the cloud because it makes their job easier. A lot of them started riding the wave early, drawn by the promise of a simple, customizable storage solution for their code libraries that can be accessed from anywhere.
Fans of agile methods are concerned with delivering the best product, and to do that, they need to access their code on a granular level. The idea of a visual programming environment is worrisome for those who think pre-made code might water down their applications, and talk of “citizen-developers” who code without any prior knowledge can sound downright threatening. For most programmers, adding layers to the development process in the name of “productivity” is just adding unnecessary complexity. They simply want to enjoy the convenience of the cloud while maintaining the fine-level control they need to deliver a great product.
In this corner, we have the execs, the business professionals, and company leaders. Those who advocate for a low-code ideology are likely to be new to the cloud, excited by the organizational-leveling opportunities it offers. As the technology matures, it is becoming apparent that everyone, everywhere can take advantage of the cloud—and a lot of organizations are paying attention.
Fans of low-code methods are concerned with the bottom line. Unfortunately, many of the interfaces we use to access the cloud today are arcane to the uninitiated. Therefore, there is a huge demand for easier to use platforms. Many of those who are meeting that demand are implementing rapid application development environments into their platforms. These low-code environments let even the most technologically-impaired employees take full advantage of the cloud for their daily tasks. For the decision makers, the idea of a system that lets everyone in the organization build their own apps on demand is like walking into the sunlight after spending a lifetime in a cave. Unfortunately, a lot of those easy-access features mask the options that the low-code camp demands. Of course, business leaders want to deliver a great product, but the advantages of a more efficient organization may prove too big to ignore.
Ironically, the High-Control guys were arguing for better productivity all along. The problem is just that while their productivity requires a very high level of control for the high level of work they do, that level of control creates a barrier for those who only need to understand the system at a very high-level. What is really needed is an interface that lets laymen reap the benefits of the cloud while keeping the nitty-gritty stuff close at hand for the traditional developers and IT departments who are accustomed to that.
PaaS offerings are in the ideal position to provide this environment to the market. In fact, many, like Progress® Pacific™, have already begun to offer rapid application development services while remaining open to customization. In fact, Pacific gives users the ability to control exactly where and how they deploy the platform—on a public, private, or hybrid cloud. With the right platform, the entire struggle between the ideologies of low-code, High-Productivity and agile, High-Control becomes a non-issue. With PaaS, you can have both!
As the senior director of product marketing and strategy for the Progress solutions and audience marketing team, Paul Nashawaty keeps his eyes peeled on what enterprises are doing about big data as it relates to digital transformation. Paul is responsible for applying practical business methodologies using technological solutions to drive success in organizations.
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