From VB6 to modern low-code platforms for citizen developer
Many years ago I encountered a highly appreciated software engineer. He used to develop customized software applications to address unique requirements. What was intriguing about this person is that he was a self-though programmer and he was doing the software development more as a hobby using probably the only programming environment he knew: VB6.
Back in those days I was very found about Borland Delphi (more about this in a future article) so I took all the opportunity to criticize VB6 for its shortcomings: modest components and a very limited programming language.
However over the years, I start to get a lot of appreciation for entry level languages and environments that easy the entry into computer science to a lot of hard-working and passionate people. My friend from the beginning of this article is not an isolated case:
- Look around in your organization and you’ll mostly surely find a software developed a passionate colleague in order to improve a process or automate some boring task;
- Read the stories behind some of the most successful hi-tech companies and you’ll see that many times these were started by some guy with an ingenious idea and a “good-enough” baggage of technical skills;
- … and finally take a look at Arduino. See how an easy to use API and development environment allowed countless of hobbies to tinker with projects that were until then reserved to only professionals.
With the exception of Arduino (developer fairly in the recent years), the majority of development environments from big software houses are not targeting anymore beginners or non-formal developers.
Microsoft surely has plenty of trainings, documentation and free-tools for the hobbyist developers… but none of these tools have the same appeal to non-formal developers. To develop a web application takes nowadays serious knowledge, commitment and work.
Low-code / hpaPaaS platforms
Where there is a void there is an opportunity for somebody to fill it. In the recent years a lot of small type organizations have come to address the need for easy to use tools for quickly developing modern applications (e.g. web applications or mobile applications).
New terms have been coined to refer to these platforms:
- Forrester names them: low-code platforms
- Gartner names them: High-productivity aPaaS (hpaPaaS) platforms
What characterize these platforms are ease of use and speed of delivery of applications without knowledge of all the modern web application development technologies.
This article tries to be impartial and doesn’t promote any of the new platforms. However you can quickly discover the top players by doing quick Google research.
Who is the target of all these low-code platforms? The new term is the: citizen developer (also a Forrester term). Citizen developers are those developers within organizations that make things better with custom apps … but who do not have typically a technical background. They are tech explorers without formal computer science education.
If they are paired with a low-code platform, the citizen developers within organizations will immediately reduce inefficient tasks, reduce data entry and almost always increate team productivity.
Only time will tell now if the new wave of low-code / hpaPaaS platforms will find the same place in these people hearts as VB did once.