Why mobile app development is a community with room for everybody

In the beginning, mobile app construction often started with end users sketching interfaces, data flow diagrams and designs – showing a picture to a highly trained, highly skilled developer – and saying “build it.” After a lengthy process of planning, hand coding, testing, prototyping and production, the app was ready – months, even a year later.

Fast forward to today’s zero-code development, in which apps are built from menus of already-built features, then deployed through the App Store, Google Play or the cloud in hours or days.

Some see a transition to zero-code as a leap from emphasis on IT to field app development. It’s all about going forward, with no retreat, but that begs a question: can zero-code completely replace open- and low-code?

The answer is an easy one: no, because mobile app development is not only driven by end users, but also by technical evolution of capabilities exploited by developers: new devices, new operating systems, better sensors, more accurate location data, accelerometers, gyroscopes and other tools to make data collection easier and more accurate, and its products more plentiful for decision makers.

Also, mobile app development has to be guided by an organization’s best practices, such as security protocols, proprietary processes and sensitive workflow and data relationships. That has become a greater point of emphasis as creating mobile apps has gotten easier with zero code.

All of those capabilities require professional developers to adapt them to an organisation’s needs, at every step - integrating new technology into existing andupgraded systems. Technical evolution means a development process that has no end, and which is under constant pressure from a field force growing in savvy and capability.

It also means constant vigilance by IT departments.

That, by the way, is not new. IT has driven technical change since the department came into existence to cope with the era of the computer. But change has been largely a reaction to external forces and shouldered entirely by IT. What can be new to IT is an approach that enables internal customers to help themselves.

Gartner predicts market demand for mobile apps will grow five times faster than IT’s ability to meet that demand. Already, backlogs that once were three months long are stretching to a year and more. In January, mobile app developer topped CNN’s list of best jobs for 2017. Part of the reason for that listing was rapidly advancing pay for hard-to-find skills.

Zero-code platforms, such as TerraGo Magic, have stepped in to help low-code professional mobile app developers tackle the IT backlog – ostensibly from two different directions: with a more software-savvy field force, and an app development force to build tools that require the work for which the professional is educated and trained.

The adage goes that you can give a hungry man a fish or better yet you can teach him how to fish. The analogy easily extends to app development.  With a zero-code platform, the developers (well, it’s not zero code for them) can make new features widely available to citizen developers (zero code for these folks).  By harnessing the power of the zero-code mantra of “write-once, use-many,” it is possible to extend it to the masses of end users. Those professionals build the app “the right way” to meet their design, security and architectural standards.

In doing their jobs, though, the developers need to acknowledge and understand zero-code capability and work it into the process of developing or adding on new technology and organizational needs to mobile apps.

Zero-code platform developers need to understand the professionals’ jobs by adding plug-in capability to their systems to accommodate the professional developers’ capabilities and mission. Zero-code companies have marketed their products by claiming IT departments don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they believe a new mobile app feature is needed. The zero-code advocates are correct, but marrying the efforts of zero-code and low-code (or hand coding) acknowledges that sometimes those wheels need new tires.

A factor in the growth of zero-code platforms is that entry into mobile app development can be a quick, top-down trip for third parties taking advantage of published apps. To this point, entry into mobility capability in data collection has been bottom-up, beginning with the end user’s “picture” and following the path of traditional development or at its most rapid, low-code processes.

The power is in the community of both. Low-code tools may make developers thirty percent more productive.  And that’s amazing. But it doesn’t solve the enterprise challenge of needing 500% more development resources.  Zero-code means developers build self-describing components that end users can use to build apps.  This is the holy grail, and this isn’t a developer productivity tool.  It’s an enterprise productivity strategy.  And it’s only made possible by creating a zero-code community for both end users and developers.

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