Two business associates working on a low code development platform
Two business associates working on a low code development platform PHOTO: Shutterstock

There is a secret to a successful low-code implementation and it is not at all related to the actual technology involved. Here is it, there must be good governance policies and some internal controls in place when a company decides to undertake such a project. If there aren’t, the situation could descend into chaos very quickly.

That warning is not hyperbole. In fact, Forrester Research Analyst John Rymer, who has been studying the growth and more recently, the divergence of low-code platforms into two distinct groups, tells of an insurance company that deployed low-code tools among its employees — and wound up with 16,000 low-code applications. “That is the classic case of a company that brought in a tool and had no governance, put no restrictions on its use at all,” he said. And those 16,000 apps wound up falling into IT's lap. 

The Risks of Using Low-Code Development Platforms

The irony of the situation was rich in many regards, starting with IT being forced to take on the role of Mr. Fix-It. low code development — at least the version that is becoming popular with the line of business — was born out of business users’ frustration with IT and its controls and limitations. Rymer’s insurance company example illustrates the downside to a movement — low-code use among business users — that is becoming more commonplace among companies that, for one reason or another, are IT constrained. Frustrated by the need for applications but unable to get what they want from traditional software, more and more companies are deciding to let their employees address the situation themselves with a low code platform.

But deploying a low-code tool doesn’t have to turn into the nightmare scenario. A few sensible guidelines are all a company needs to realize the benefits of a low-code platform — and keep employees from running amok with their new tools. “You don’t want users to hang themselves on their own ropes,” says Chris Nicholson,  CEO of Skymind and co-creator of Deeplearning4j, an open-source deep-learning framework.

Implement a Gatekeeper

Someone needs to own these tools to ensure IT doesn't wind up holding the bag and employees don't bite off more than they can chew, according to Jenn Stachnik, an accounting and IT manager at the non profit Verité, who is also the company’s de facto gatekeeper for its low code platform. “We identified a need for someone with an aptitude for technology to be in charge of all these moving parts and to act as coordinator,” she said. Employees go through her for low code projects even if they are proficient in the app themselves.

The reason for that, Stachnik explained is that the system is very interconnected. “Someone who isn’t able to see how all of the pieces fit together might make a change that they need done and not realize how it affects everybody else.”

Communication and Standards

To make this work, communication is highly important, according to Stachnik, not only about the changes that are underway but also during the planning process as well. “Even if sometimes a person doesn’t know exactly what he wants, planning upfront will go a long way in helping the project along.”

Communication — as well as rules and standards — is necessary not only for deciding what apps are going to be created but also about how they will be written. “Obviously, you want to give them a versatile tool and, at the same time, you want them to be working in a shared language because if the code is too expressive — and I can tell you this from personal experience — in the end people won’t be able to understand each other’s work.." says Nicholson.