The Lowdown on Low-Code

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The citizen developer trend that gained steam in 2020 shows no signs of slowing down.

As IT leaders seek new ways to gain a competitive advantage through digital automation, it makes sense to empower non-IT employees to create applications that solve their day-to-day challenges. By giving people access to an IT-approved, low-code platform, you free up your pro developers to focus on more complex projects that require a high level of expertise. For most organizations, low-code is the only way IT can keep up with the ever-growing demand for enterprise apps.

Still, doubts remain.

Can a truly non-technical employee develop a decent app using a low-code platform? Will the results meet enterprise requirements? How much support will IT have to provide? Will this take away or relieve IT resources? Let’s examine some of the myths around low-code.

Myth #1: Low-code apps can’t compete with enterprise-grade applications.

A low-code app is a specific app with a specific purpose created to improve individual or team productivity by bridging the gap between systems or automating small processes. But can it function in an enterprise?

The answer is yes. It is still an enterprise app, developed according to the same IT best practices—but it is not designed to scale. When the scope is smaller, you avoid the overhead that comes with a full-scale enterprise-grade, including requirements gathering and other complexities.

A great low-code platform provides drag-and-drop interfaces and pre-designed templates to help ensure consistency with IT best practices. This makes it easier for citizen developers to create consistently great apps. Because they are both the requestor and the builder, they know the issues to solve for and have the knowledge to create the workflows. They just need the right tools and guidance.

Myth #2: A citizen development program will burden my overtaxed IT development team.

With the rapid demand for digitization and business app requests, there simply aren’t enough developers to go around. That’s why the most important impact of citizen development is freeing up time for pro developers.

Using self-serve, low-code tools with automated testing and approval capabilities, citizen developers can submit and create simple apps with IT oversight. This not only reduces app backlogs, but also relieves IT burnout and the exodus of overworked developers.

ServiceNow IT has a goal to have citizen developers creating 65% of apps by December 2022. This will allow our pro coders to focus on writing code for enterprise-wide apps that require a high level of expertise.

Myth #3: We’ll have to manage application sprawl.

Apps that automate workflows are essential to any business. But the real impact isn’t in the quantity of apps you have, as much as how they are created and managed. This is where IT oversight comes in with a set of best practices.

Smart IT shops use the engagement layer of a low-code platform to manage sprawl. This engagement layer provides a single, comprehensive intake process to avoid the creation of duplicate apps. And by establishing clear policies that dictate when apps should revert to IT ownership because of size or scope, IT remains in control. 

Myth #4: Citizen development apps create security risks.

Security is vital in any development environment. As with all development projects, IT should mitigate security risks by having the right technical guardrails and practices in place.

Code scans — a feature of most low-code platforms — enforce predefined security standards. As a rule, it is prohibited to copy sensitive data into developer environments, period. Fortunately, at ServiceNow, we also have one data model running on one platform; there are no data transfers to worry about. This provides an extra layer of security. 

Myth #5:  Citizen development creates shadow IT.

With a strong governance and collaboration model at the core of your citizen developer program, you can mitigate risk and shadow IT from the get go. After all, when you give people the opportunity to build their own apps in collaboration with IT, there’s no need for them to seek outside solutions.

You can also thwart shadow IT by offering app creation resources guided by IT best practices. Then make it easy and fun by adding certifications and badges for citizen developers that celebrate their app accomplishments. Empower them to solve one issue, then challenge them to tackle another.

Citizen development isn’t just a fad

Remote work and the digital transformation movement have triggered a race for automation across many industries. By empowering as many internal resources as possible to create apps that automate workflows, you support your company’s transformation efforts. You can also remove many of the daily frustrations that employees experience.

Citizen development programs are here to stay. It’s time to dispel the myths in your organization about citizen development and share how it can accelerate your corporate journey. So, knowing what you know now, what’s stopping you from jumping on the low-code bandwagon? 

Explore the new world of work. Visit servicenow.com

This article originally appeared on Forbes BrandVoice.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.