The Steady Growth Of The Low Code Movement
December 14, 2022 Timothy Prickett Morgan
With IT talent in short supply and expensive as too much demand chases too little supply – a hard concept to get your brains around with over 42 million software developers working around the world creating and maintaining software that has an economic value in excess of $1 trillion a year – it is no surprise that some are looking to low code tools to help automate some aspects of their business.
Low code is not just happening in the datacenters of small and medium businesses writing new applications to take on new problems and add new functionality to systems. But this part of the low code market – known as the low code application platform, or LCAP, is but a small portion of this nascent yet fast-growing market, according to research by Gartner. Here is how the market researcher breaks it all down, and forecasts revenue out to 2024:
Frankly, this is not a lot of money to be made by the providers of low code tools, even if you add in adjacent areas that comprise another two-thirds or so of the market. What we wonder about is the economic value of all of the applications that will be created by such low code tools, what potential third-party software or homegrown software the applications created by low code tools will be displaced by these applications, and how maintainable and auditable such code will be when it exists outside of the formal IT department.
Gartner is predicting that by 2026 application developers working outside of the formal IT department will account for 80 percent of the user base for these tools, up from 60 percent in 2021. This implies that the use of such tools by non-IT personnel and individuals working solo is growing faster than the use of these tools inside of the IT department.
But again, we have no sense of the impact such tools will make on the entire code base. It seems highly unlikely that core applications will ever be created with such tools, but certainly functionality to provide features above and beyond such core applications certainly could be created in this fashion. Call us old school, but we like code that an actual programmer creates with known tools wielded by professionals. But like spreadsheets and low-end databases that proliferated outside of the formal IT departments starting in the late 1980s as PCs became cheaper and more powerful, there is never putting these genies back into their bottles. People are trying to solve problems, and they will find a way.
We just wish some days that it had all been Smalltalk, with its native object oriented programming and a very similar low-code approach to creating widgets that could grow into applications. Imagine the vast GitHub of SmallTalk widgets we could have all had access to, and how we could have plugged these all together to create any manner of applications running at any kind of scale. The IT industry made the wrong choices in some ways.
The good news is that RPG is still around. But we can even envision something we might call RPGtalk, which could have taken the best of what became Java and free-form RPG and made it into something truly modular and object oriented, as well as easy to use and ubiquitous.