Ask Me Anything

Why low-code isn't working for developers and how that can change, with Asanka Abeysinghe

Digital Transformation

August 19, 2021
·
4
min read
An image of Asanka Abeysinghe, Chief Technology Evangelist at WSO2.

Asanka Abeysinghe of WSO2 discusses how to bridge the low-code/pro-code chasm.

This AMA was edited for brevity.


Asanka Abeysinghe is Chief Technology Evangelist at WSO2. You can read more of Asanka's thoughts on his blog, Architect to Architect.

What opportunities can low-code offer developers?

Low-code provides a way to optimize productivity for developers. I think the fundamental issue we are facing today is a lack of both developers and skill developers. Whomever we can recruit and retain, we need to find ways to make them more productive. 


The problem is that current low-code platforms are built for semi-technical users, or “citizen developers.” We’re trying to make low-code interesting for professional developers, because there are interesting tasks involved in development but also boring tasks, like accessing a database or data mapping. So we’re looking at how we can offload some of those repetitive, less interesting tasks onto low-code. 


How do you think low-code could benefit developers? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

“The fundamental issue [...] is a lack of both developers and skill developers. Whomever we can recruit and retain, we need to find ways to make them more productive.”

Why doesn’t low-code appeal to professional developers?

Low-code is unappealing to professional developers because of the problems with low-code platforms. The key problem is the user experience is not fitting for a pro-code/professional developer. They like to use an integrated development environment (IDE) for coding, but because low-code interfaces are built for the citizen developers it doesn't work properly. 


The second issue is that low-code is one way—you can generate code from the graphical interface but you can't edit the source code. If you change the source code, the graphic will not generate. And most low-code doesn't fit into the software development life cycle. For example, software developers use version control and they do testing and debugging when there's a problem, but these low-code platforms don't support it.


Also, most low-code platforms are not integrated with other systems. In today's world, you need to integrate with many things like Salesforce, HubSpot and even Google workspaces, but integration capabilities are limited in low-code. The last problem is vendor lock-in. Once you generate a code from low-code, you can't remove it. It has to run within that particular platform. We’re working on trying to find a solution by creating textual and graphical parity where the picture is the code and the code is the picture. 


Why do you think low-code is unappealing to professional developers? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

“[Developers] like to use an integrated development environment (IDE) for coding, but because low-code interfaces are built for the citizen developers it doesn't work properly.”

What’s the main cause of the low-code/pro-code chasm?

Low-code and pro-code teams are working in separate silos. You can't connect them. If we did have a way to connect, then they could work as one team: Low-code developers can build certain things and then pro-code developers can improve them or take them to the next level. As long as they are working on the same code base, it would be more productive. With these modern agile teams, you can engage more and more business users and get their input on these projects as well.


I believe the software industry is like the movie industry, because both are creative and try to provide a better experience for the end user. Developers are visual: We spend a lot of time in front of a whiteboard. We draw stuff and that's how we communicate. So why can't developers use the same drawing method when they’re coding? Low-code platforms need to include the concept of proper drawing using notations that developers are familiar with so they can draw and edit at the same time. If we find a platform to support that work, then we can bridge the low-code/pro-code chasm that organizations are experiencing. 


What do you think is the biggest cause of the low-code/pro-code gap? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.


“Developers are visual: [...] We draw stuff and that's how we communicate. So why can't developers use the same drawing method when they’re coding?”

In your experience, how do the most successful organizations overcome the low-code/pro-code chasm? 

There's no proper solution. For most organizations, these two teams are working independently. Some smart organizations are using application programming interfaces (APIs) as a way for these teams to communicate, but it is not that successful. If you've talked to developers, they’ll tell you about the frustration. 


Most of the time low-code platforms are picked by leadership and the developers are asked to use them, it’s not their choice. Then the developers end up spending a lot of time on tasks. For example, one development team told me they had to click something and then wait for a certain amount of time. The efficiency is really low, as everybody is now discovering. That's why as a company we are trying to build a platform for our customers first and then make it a commodity and community after that.


Has your organization bridged the gap between low-code and pro-code? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.


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