What if all workers wrote software, not just the geek elite?

Citizen developers are rapidly becoming the vanguard of corporate digitisation

1/28/2022 8:19:00 PM

Professional developers might poke fun at the technician’s DIY app. But the trend it exemplifies is no joke

Citizen developers are rapidly becoming the vanguard of corporate digitisation

LCused to be chiefly about making pro devs more efficient. Now it is also about pulling more humans into creating applications, says Adam Seligman ofIn addition,is fast becoming the secret sauce in modern software development, notably in machine learning, says Arnal Dayaratna of

AI’s machine-learning services, wants SageMaker Canvas to empower regular business analysts—from marketing or finance, say—to deploy machine learning. That could increase the number ofSome scepticism is warranted. Just because non-programmers are able to build an application with

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products at Salesforce. Last year Amazon Web Services ( AWS ), the online giant’s cloud-computing arm, introduced Amazon SageMaker Canvas, a set of tools that lets people deploy machine-learning models without writing code. It also offers Honeycode, a no-code app builder, in beta version. LC / NC used to be chiefly about making pro devs more efficient. Now it is also about pulling more humans into creating applications, says Adam Seligman of AWS . In terms of impact, he says, the latest wave “will race higher up the beach”. For one thing, firms in a hurry to digitise appreciate that when line-of-business people design software, it speeds things up. “A field worker making something for other field workers is hugely valuable as the feedback loop is faster,” says Adam Barr, a former Microsoft pro dev and author of “The Problem with Software: Why Smart Engineers Write Bad Code”. As digital natives enter the workforce they are also demanding automation of repetitive or manual data-entry tasks, often on pain of walking out. In addition, / NC is fast becoming the secret sauce in modern software development, notably in machine learning, says Arnal Dayaratna of IDC . The mastery of Python or Java required for this type of artificial-intelligence ( AI ) software is daunting even for pro devs. Bratin Saha, who oversees AWS ’s machine-learning services, wants SageMaker Canvas to empower regular business analysts—from marketing or finance, say—to deploy machine learning. That could increase the number of AI specialists available to businesses by an order of magnitude, he predicts. Some scepticism is warranted. Just because non-programmers are able to build an application with LC / NC tools does not mean it will be any good, says Mr Wasserman, just as bug-ridden spreadsheets yield faulty results. They could also become a headache for corporate IT departments if citizen developers collect customer data that are worthless or, worse, that violate privacy. Especially with no code, businesses can find that the functionality they need does not yet exist. No-code platforms make the first 90% of delivering a useful application easy, and the last 5% often impossible, says Tim Bray, a pro dev formerly of AWS . And many pro devs remain resistant. Although they turn to LC / NC to simplify some tasks, plenty of pros see it as the programming cousin of pin-it-on neckties, in the words of one commentator. Some worry that specialising in LC