In a world with high stress deadlines and high maintenance bosses, the promise of low-code development tools sound great: With a few clicks, non-coders can stand up a simple app in a snap.\nThat\u2019s the sales pitch from a wide range of vendors that have latched on to the \u201clow code\u201d buzzword. The marketplace is filling up with a large number of tools that can juggle all the bits with a minimum amount of babysitting. It\u2019s more possible than ever to produce quality software without acres of cubicles and multiple warring factions of know-it-all developers.\n[ Beware the 14 reasons why software projects fail and the leadership practices that could sink your software project. | Get the latest CIO insights direct, with our CIO Daily newsletter. ]\nPromises, though, are easy to make and harder to keep. Many savvy CIOs have heard the promises before and seen them fail at times. The history of computers is pretty much a history of programmers adding more layers of code to fix the rough edges of the previous layer. The first software compiler was considered a low-code alternative to writing machine code. Heck, machine code was a low-code alternative to rewiring the connections between the tubes. New tools have been promoted as a low-code enhancement to whatever came before.\nThe good news is that when viewed from a high altitude, the progression of tools has been wildly positive. We really can do much more with much less work. The news from the trenches, though, is often more confusing. Often a big improvement comes with the responsibility to manage it. Sometimes it can be almost as much work to master a tool and find the best way to configure it as it can be to build something from scratch.\nUnderstanding and managing this tension is the biggest challenge for companies considering low-code options. Will the obvious advantages they offer be worth the costs that might be waiting a few months down the road? Deciding how much to embrace the current round of promises requires a careful balancing of these seven reasons to embrace low-code tools and seven reasons to avoid them.\nPro: Speed\nLow-code vendors have one goal in mind: helping everyone create new software quickly. With a few clicks, users can create a page with a form. String a few forms and views together, and you\u2019ve got an app. The click, compile and test loop is often fast enough that some agile users can develop apps in real time during the meeting in which the app is being discussed. The good news is that the tools often do exactly what they promise. If your needs hit the sweet spot of what they can deliver, you can be finished in less time than it takes to get a team of real developers to jump on a video call.\nCon: Speed\nSlow down a bit. It\u2019s nice that the tools are fast, but it can be a mistake to rush software development. As coding becomes easier, the real challenge is defining the application and imagining its role in the lives of the customers.\nFocusing too much on speed can lead to disappointment when the work isn\u2019t done in a few minutes. Yes, the team may have clicked together three prototypes in that time, but along the way they ignored ten conceptual roadblocks and dozens of philosophical wrinkles that must be smoothed out. Clicking can get in the way of strategic thinking. The real challenge isn\u2019t creating what you want, it\u2019s knowing what you want in the first place.\nPro: Stability\nCustom software is hard for companies to maintain. Creating the tool is just the beginning of a support process that lasts as long as the software serves the company. Often just keeping the screws tightened and the chrome polished is more work than building the original version.\nLow-code tools amortize the support costs across all the installations. When a new version of the OS comes along or some new data storage regulation passes Congress, low-code tool vendors will implement it for everyone. Adopting a low-code platform is more than joining a club; it\u2019s marrying into a dynasty. It might be a small dynasty, but everyone\u2019s interests are aligned, and this can bring greater stability than if you tried to manage it with your own employees.\nCon: Shared fate\nOffloading support to the company that built the low-code platform can save lots of money and time, but stability isn\u2019t guaranteed. Sure, some well-managed frameworks sail into the future carrying everyone along, but not all businesses are well-managed. Any number of corporate mishaps could scuttle your platform. Maybe the CEO has a midlife crisis and wants to get into gaming. Maybe the CFO played fast and loose with the IRS. Maybe the rock-solid genius who built the platform heads off into the woods in search of enlightenment. Any problem can undermine the stability of your low-code tool. You\u2019re putting your faith in another organization and your only lever of control may be the yearly contract renewal process.\nPro: Empowering\nA good low-code platform doesn\u2019t just help the IT department, it can unleash the creative genius of business line employees, those with big dreams but not enough budget to fund a real development team. Now they can spend a few hours clicking to try out an idea instead of drafting endless spec documents and budget requests.\nCon: Limits\nLow-code features can be miraculous, but they can\u2019t turn a non-coder into a senior-level developer, even if the non-coder can click with just as much clicking talent as the best undergraduate at MIT. Users still need to have a basic feel for how computers work and juggle bits. A spreadsheet master, for instance, should have little trouble using these tools, but someone who shrieks with fear at changing the margins on a word processor won\u2019t magically be able to churn out three apps before lunch. The tools handle many of the chores but they can\u2019t escape the fundamental philosophical limits of computation and the current computing environment.\nPro: Consistency\nThe world runs better because we have evolved some standard solutions. All cars have the gas and brake pedals in pretty much the same location. Refrigerators tend to store the butter in the same location. The great thing about churning out an application with a low-code solution is you\u2019re probably going to build on a widely used collection of user interface widgets. Your code will be relatively standard without even trying because your code will be using the same tools as others.\nCon: Homogeneity\nDoing everything the same way as your competitors may make it easier to hire away staff but it also dooms you to getting lost in the crowd. Some software packages are meant to attract attention and distinguish your enterprise. Doing everything the same as everyone else ensures you\u2019ll be indistinguishable.\nPro: Safety\nLow-code platforms are usually engineered to handle the most common challenges such as safety or data privacy. If there\u2019s a law in Europe or some security nightmare attacking Asian companies, there\u2019s a good chance that the low-code developers have already addressed it. That\u2019s the big advantage of working with a shared framework. They\u2019ve handled the common challenges so you don\u2019t need to worry about them.\nCon: Socialized Costs\nLow-code platforms are shared resources and that brings disadvantages as well. Maybe your application is filled with social media postings that people desperately want to be broadcast far and wide. Yet the platform developers have engineered their tool with rigorous privacy protections for health records. You\u2019ll be paying for these costs \u2014 and maybe even pulling out a bit of hair every time the restrictions get in your way.\nPro: Simplicity\nLow-code tools are designed to be simpler. While you\u2019re worrying about your business, low-code platform developers have been fretting over the best way to build a set of tools that are easy to adopt and extend. That\u2019s their business. It\u2019s dangerous to believe the hype and imagine that it\u2019s all going to be as simple as daydreaming of outrageous fortune, but it\u2019s going to be simpler than getting out the programming books and starting from scratch.\nCon: Confusion\nCan low code be more confusing than writing something from scratch? Yes! It tends to happen when you push the limits of the tool and start bumping into glitches, bugs or inconsistencies. This is only natural, and all software has these issues. The difference is that the low-code tools never wanted to expose this side to you. It\u2019s like they\u2019re selling a car with the hood welded shut.\u00a0 The data structures and algorithms are opaque so you don\u2019t worry your little head. But if suddenly something doesn\u2019t work and the only way to recognize what is going on is to dig into the data structures, well, confusion emerges. Those details aren\u2019t for you \u2014 and sometimes that leaves you more lost than if you did the hard work yourself from the beginning.\nPro: Plays well with others\nAt the core, the decision is one of philosophy. Some companies encourage developing a web of trusted partners who contribute experience and stability. They believe that the company does not live alone, but thrives as part of a network. Embracing a low-code tool kit adds another connection to the network of trust.\nCon: Dependency\nThe opposite approach is to develop in-house expertise because this depth of knowledge pays off. They know that low code may deliver a jolt like three or four cups of espresso, but in the end everyone ends up a bit dazed and out-of-touch with what is going on. Only solid, well-structured code built by a dedicated team builds something of long-term value and that\u2019s why CIOs hire good teams.\nThe lowdown on low code\nSome savvy IT managers will make different choices for different jobs. Casual explorations, pre-alpha prototypes and backend processes that run occasionally are good candidates for low-code tool sets. The team can spin something up quickly and nothing will be lost if it stumbles or even falls.\nBut if the code is going to maintain the core workflows of the company and contribute directly to the bottom line, you\u2019re not likely to want to rely on some brave intern fiddling with a fancy spreadsheet. You\u2019re going to invest in the talent needed to create something trustworthy.