Companies are learning to code without coding

By Jin Chong
4 min read
(Image credit: Pexels/Pixabay)

In today’s highly competitive and dynamic world, companies and public sector organizations cannot afford lengthy software development times, let alone the high cost of implementing their digital transformation, and yet the process of rapid transformation itself still remains imperative. Given this conundrum any company today is faced with a choice.

Suppose you wanted to create an inventory program to push notifications on stock levels to your mobile device. You could either hire a team of developers and spend six months doing a big project—or you could put something workable together in an afternoon using a (relatively cheap) codeless environment. Which would you, as a head of IT, choose?

The fact is that these days the new codeless environments have become powerful enough to do a lot more than inventory management. Various vendors offer suites of codeless developer tools which come with pre-set templates to handle contacts, customer information, document management, expenses, fault reporting, inventory and stocktaking, customer feedback, work scheduling, order forms, photo libraries, private chat, product catalogues, task lists, surveys, building management, project management, sales tracking, and more.

The range of tasks that can be tackled by today’s codeless environments is limited only by the developer’s imagination. Furthermore, the beauty of codeless environments is that are equally geared towards handling front-end and back-end applications. They are just as suited to building apps capable of collecting credit card numbers as they are of satisfying the needs of timesheet collation or project coordination.

Having in-house staff develop software applications and apps based on their intimate knowledge of the job at hand is also much faster than outsourcing. To give one example, pharmaceutical companies in particular tend to restructure as often as once a year and so their accompanying digital transformation processes must be fairly rapid. Other companies, meanwhile, are searching for new markets and new directions and cannot afford the luxury of waiting too long to go digital.

Some 86 per cent of enterprise executives believe they have only two years to integrate digital initiatives before suffering financially or falling behind their competitors, according to a study by the enterprise software firm Progress. At the same time, organizations have to adapt to new technologies such as mobile applications. A 2012 study by Forrester Research concluded that “employees work, collaborate, and make key decisions anywhere on any device” and hence that 48 per cent of employee-facing IT investments are bound to be mobile focused.

2017, the US planning software company Planview found that 49 percent of companies in a survey had seen one or more IT projects fail in the past year, often owing to poor planning. One third of organizations that attempted a digital transformation project in the past two years wound up cancelling it in a worldwide survey undertaken by Fujitsu in 2017. It found that the average cost of a failed project is more than €500,000 (about $568,000).

While many companies or organizations attribute the failure of their digital transforming projects to poor design, unrealistic expectations, or even bad management, there are in fact several main reasons why they fail:

  • Failed software development projects
  • Taking too long to develop the software
  • Corporate restructuring cycles getting shorter
  • Inability to cope with the rate at which the market is progressing

The best way organizations can avoid these pitfalls is to shorten the software development life cycle. They can do this, for instance, by using codeless development tools since these support such trending methodologies as Design Thinking, Fail-fast, and DevOps. In this way organizations can empower every in-house user to build their own apps (indeed, they are probably already doing this with more basic tools like Microsoft Excel). Rather than outsourcing massive software projects to ponderous IT houses, they can also seek to break their IT and mobile requirements into smaller pieces so that it is easier and faster to turn around.

The codeless developmental model offers businesses a platform to develop their own mobile and web apps without the need to code; this means that companies can now produce working web and mobile apps within the space of minutes instead of weeks or months. The fact is that codeless development is the way forward for lots of corporate digital needs—and a big opportunity for companies to provide those solutions.

This creates a new space, often called “DevOps,” an amalgam of the development and operations cycles. Instead of doing one and then moving to the other to test bed new systems and processes, companies can now close the circle and accomplish both simultaneously. Project managers can adopt DevOps methodology to shorten the software development life cycle and use development platforms that provide the opportunity to “Fail fast,” identify shortfalls, and arrive at a quick fix.

We’ve recently launched a codeless system, JET Workflow 2.1, which empowers ordinary users to develop mobile and web applications without training. One of JET’s clients, an Indonesian energy provider based in Jakarta, uses its codeless tools to create a back-end inventory program which feeds through to users’ smart phones, allowing for easy and convenient stocktaking on the fly. Another Singapore business uses JET’s GPS, picture-taking, and time stamp tools to create “proof of visit” notifications for their roving technicians to update their supervisors on service calls. These apps are developed and deploy for production use within minutes and are refined over time as and when needs arises.

But, as already mentioned, today’s codeless environments are also good for front-end applications too. Many codeless developers offer integration with a variety of micro services like SMS gateway service providers, e-vouchers/e-coupons management, online payment gateways, or text-to-voice messaging. With our software, any user could, for example, develop an app to accept credit card payments within just a matter of minutes (versus weeks if this was tasked out to a professional developer).

Faced by overly lengthy delays in undergoing digital transformation of their business, companies in my home market of ASEAN cannot afford to overlook the maturing codeless and low-code space. China, meanwhile, is still lagging: we’ve yet to witness a major codeless product emerge from that market. But this is the usual way of things on the Chinese mainland and, just as Alibaba is arguably overtaking Amazon these days, so China is probably destined to lead the pack in codeless development tools within just a few years.