Does no code mean no developers?

I subscribe to the No Code Devs List, so every morning I get presented with four or five new no-code platforms that are being built to solve all kinds of problems. There’s Bildr for building web marketplaces, Glide for building a mobile app on a google sheet, Charttt (yes, three t’s!) for building embeddable charts. And that’s just this morning!

Some of these are products that have been built from the ground up to be new, modern no-code solutions, and some of them are products that have just found themselves fitting neatly into the no-code market. There are development shops emerging that specialise in no-code development. That’s right,  you can hire “not-developers” to “not-code” you the system you want. Welcome to the future!

Although not everyone is as enthusiastic about the impending no-code revolution.

Alex Hudson wrote an excellent piece last year about “The No-Code Delusion“:

I think “no code” as an alternative to most mainstream development is a pipe dream. None of the progress over the last 70 years makes me think we’re anywhere close to replacing text-based development (arguably, since the introduction of the web, we’ve gone backwards).

So – are developers jobs at risk here?

Of course not. The reality of modern development is that the objects that we are working with are getting constantly bigger.

In 1974, programming an Altair 8080 required physically flipping 8 switches, one for each bit in a byte:

As programming languages evolved, they started abstracting common functions, like adding a number to a register, printing a string, or adding two numbers into re-usable modules.

And as that process continued, and computers got more powerful, the objects got bigger, and more detailed. With managed frameworks like Java and .NET, all of the difficult stuff was taken care of – and along with the runtime, developers also got thousands of  supporting classes to help you do everything from write to a file, display windows and forms, through to automatically storing objects in a relational database.

The modern end of this is visible over at NPM – here you can find millions of reusable libraries, frameworks and components, free to assemble, re-use and include in any project. Whole companies and products are being built on collections of these packages.

The No-Code revolution, such as it is, is really about taking the large abstractions that developers are using now, and packaging them up in a way that non-developers can use them. And that’s where we leave text based development, in favour of simple configuration options.

If what you need can fit within the limitations of the no code platform you’re working with, then you don’t need a developer. But as soon as you step outside of those – you will.

For xMS, we took the notion of a management system – a system that collects, stores, retrieves and reports on data around common entities.  Those entities relate to each other, and they’re defined by the kinds of metadata they store. Records Management, Case Management, Asset Management, Quality Management – these are all common subtypes of Management System.

Once you’ve built your entities, then you can create, edit and search for them. And you can use our flexible workflow tools to figure out what you want to do with them. We chose actions based on things that we’ve seen management systems do in the past – create documents, route things to people for approval, Update other stuff. Send emails, send entities to external services for extra work, that sort of thing.

We figure these cover a lot of common management systems. But if it doesn’t, then you will need to get a developer in to help you integrate further. And xMS offers a completely accessible REST API to allow developers full access to every object and method.

So yes, we still need developers! But in addition to building and maintaining the no-code tools that help make our lives easier, developers will continue to work with much bigger objects, and spending a whole lot less time creating low level data access and common stuff like authorization, or security, or writing to a database.

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