Five Signs You Should Be a Low-Code Developer

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By Johan den Haan

The demand for custom software has never been higher. There is an app for managing nearly every aspect of our lives, personally and professionally, and the enterprise is particularly hungry for more. Yet CIOs are painfully aware that the demand far exceeds their current ability to deliver. A recent CIO.com poll of more than 500 IT chiefs found that application development is among the top skill set shortages anticipated in 2015. Because of this, there is an urgent need for a new breed of “low-code developer” who isn’t a coder by trade, but can build apps quickly—before business opportunities pass.

So what are the defining traits of low-code developers? Not traditional programming experience. In fact, as industry analyst firm Forrester Research notes, low-code developers, or rapid developers as they’re also known, “prefer not to code; coding takes too long. They value graphical, automated tools for creating applications … [and] want to deliver major applications in weeks—days if possible.”

To harness the power of these tools, low-code developers must have one leg in IT and the other in the business. This means they have some technical skills but also possess domain knowledge and are good communicators. Moreover, they prioritize solving business problems over technical details. And they’re creative self-starters interested in tackling new projects. In practice, low-code developers come from a wide range of backgrounds—maybe even yours.

Does the low-code developer role sound exciting and appealing to you? Here are five signs that you’re a low-code developer and just don’t know it yet:

You Studied Computer Science but Aren’t Interested in Being a ‘Coder’

You understand how software works and the core principles of software development but you don’t particularly enjoy coding. You’re not interested in learning five to 10 existing coding languages—let alone every trendy language that comes along. Instead of worrying about missing a comma somewhere, you’d rather focus on building great solutions to business problems.

Your Current Role Sits Somewhere Between IT and the Business

You’ve got a technically savvy mind and a sound understanding of logic, but you also have business process/domain expertise, and the ability to articulate and define requirements. You’re a business analyst or systems analyst looking to make the next jump in your career—from gathering requirements to bringing them to life.

You’ve Tinkered With Excel, Access or Lotus Notes

You’ve tried to solve a problem using the tools available to you. Perhaps some of these ad hoc solutions were adopted by your department or company, while others never saw the light of day. Either way, you have a proclivity toward using technology to solve problems and with the right tools, you can make a dramatic impact.

You’re Customer Focused and Open to Feedback—Lots of It

You enjoy working with people and always focus on what the “customer” needs—external or internal. You’re satisfied only when they are, and rather than work in isolation, you’re eager to listen to, and collaborate closely with, your customers to deliver what they need.

You Don’t Accept the Status Quo

You’re open, curious and persistent. You believe there’s always a better way and you’re willing to go out and find it. You’re constantly looking for better, faster ways to deliver results and add value to your company.

If some or most of these traits resonate with your approach to work, then you’ve got what it takes to be a low-code developer. In this role, you’d understand that software development is about reaching the business goal and helping end users. You’d want to talk to users, understand their requirements and work closely with them in short, iterative cycles. Most of all, you’d advocate for the business value of IT and find great job satisfaction from making your customers and end users happy.

Johan den Haan is the CTO at Mendix, where he leads the company’s overall technical strategy and research & product development teams. Johan is a speaker and blogger on a range of topics, including PaaS, model-driven development, scrum, cloud computing and software engineering.

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6 Responses to “Five Signs You Should Be a Low-Code Developer”

    • Thomas Whitehead, Jr.

      Sounds like my cup of tea, but where does one learn to work with this type of coding? I have been in IT for several years and basically have become a jack of all trades and master of none and I would like to acquire some sort of special skills?

  1. OnTheDL

    I enjoyed this article as someone with 20 or so years of IT experience in the corporate realm who has filled and/or performed a variety of roles over those years.

    I do believe the above to be a trend that has been in place for some time and will continue to grow. I know a number of Business Analysts that either have some level of coding skills or would certainly like to ‘dip their toes in the water’ if you will. I do also see an ever increasing number of BA roles that ask for, if not require some coding skills, particularly SQL if not ‘some’ .Net or similar skill in their arsenal (at least in my area geographically – Southeast). This can be good or bad, as sometimes I wonder if these job requirements are truly a matter of a company simply trying to save a few bucks by not hiring another developer and having a BA (or other role) fill in as needed – a hybrid developer/BA/BSA if you will. That is also not to say, this requirement is not a genuine in some instances either. This may also simply be a product of the ever increasing ‘scope/requirement’ creep we all see on these ever lengthy job descriptions that are increasingly the norm these days – “Wanted: IT Superman. Clark Kent Pay” .

    With that said, there is no denying the more skills and tools you have at you disposal the more valuable you should be to an organization (at least in theory, your mileage may vary).

    Interestingly enough though, is the fact that while I enjoyed the article and the idea of a ‘low code/rapid developer” as some one with both a dynamic skill set and who would appreciate the variety associated with such a position (not to mention the poll of 500 “IT Chiefs” mentioned above, who said they could use some) – Where does one find this mythical role? Try typing “low code” or “rapid development” into the ‘ol Dice search box and see what comes back….Nada!

    Peace,
    -DL.

    • Hi DL,

      You’re right – there aren’t (yet) many job openings/titles explicitly for low-code/rapid developers. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist in corporate IT departments. They typically have other titles (BAs, systems analysts, business engineers, etc.) and transition into more of a development role aided by the right tools.

      With analysts like Forrester putting a lot of weight behind rapid developer in particular, I think it’ll start to reach the enterprise IT vernacular shortly.

      Disclosure: I work with the author at Mendix.

  2. This resonated with me so heavily that words can’t do it justice. For years, I have told colleagues where I work that it’s not the coding of prototypes in my user centered design role that I love, but rather solving business problems, and that I only view coding prototypes as a tool to achieve business goals.

    For quite some time now, my LinkedIn profile has read “People ask what motivates you, what drives you, what gets you up every day, what stirs the pot and gets your blood percolating. For me it is the challenge of solving problems…”

    Everything in this article was me, EVERYTHING.

    I’ve always struggled with straight programming roles. Even CSS, which I really like, tends to bore me eventually as it just feels to me that I could be doing more good at a high level, a strategic level if you will, than figuring out how to write a clever style block to set the animation on a page element.

    Thank you for writing this.

    Now, I’ve never hears of the nomenclature “low code developer.” Is that you coining that term, is that what the industry calls them? What roles do low code developers fill on the market?

    • Hi Jason,

      Glad to hear the article resonated with you! People who prioritize solving problems make great low-code developers. You should check it out!

      The term is definitely emerging. The analyst firm Forrester Research calls them Rapid Developers. I tend to like that flavor better – it focuses on the ends versus the means (i.e. solving problems quickly).

      If you’re interested in seeing some real-life rapid developers, check out this blog series: http://www.mendix.com/tag/rapid-developer-profile/. As you’ll see, rapid developers come from a diverse set of backgrounds.