Writing by Peter Hilton

No-code automation’s non-violent revolution

The enterprise IT transformation that you might not notice - 05 August 2020 #NoCode

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The tyranny of traditional text-based coding will gradually lose ground to visual no-code automation. This starts with unsophisticated business applications for editing and publishing information, submitting and approving requests, tracking an issue or a project, and everything else that replaces what a smaller or earlier version of the company used spreadsheets for.

Gradual erosion happens each time someone automates one of these activities using a visual tool, instead of hiring someone else to write code. Part of the erosion of coding problems occurs when more people discover a problem that you don’t need to write code to solve. To let people submit requests, for example, you can start with Google Forms for the simple examples but also progress to more sophisticated software for more complex scenarios.

Coding problem erosion also happens when a product like Google Forms first appears, popularising a software category dedicated to making a specific problem easier to solve. What happens next follows a predictable pattern.

First they ignore you

People who write code on enterprise IT projects don’t generally talk about no-code automation, which usually doesn’t target what they implement. Google Forms doesn’t (at the time of writing) help automatically handle requests, it just collects the data without processing it. But how many developers pay attention to the latest products that do more than that?

In practice, people involved in traditional automation - not only the programmers - have no reason to pay attention to alternative approaches, just as a carpenter who makes wooden chairs might ignore developments in 3D-printed furniture.

Then they laugh at you

Occasionally, people write about why they think that no-code automation ‘will never work’, which looks at least a little like ridicule.

They probably wouldn’t bother if their business model didn’t depend on their customers not adopting no-code automation.

Then they fight you

We haven’t seen any serious attacks on no-code automation yet. In the near future, large numbers of failed Robotic Process Automation (RPA) implementations may provide easy targets. Large RPA implementation budgets certainly attract attention.

No-one needs to ‘fight back’, though, what ever that might mean. Instead, people will continue to discover where and how to get more value from no-code solutions.

Ironically, in an attempt to defend itself from heretical alternatives, traditional programming communities may close ranks, and thereby exacerbate the gatekeeping that no-code automation (partly) exists to solve, by creating something accessible to a wider audience.

Then you win

No-code automation will find its place, the market will consolidate around one or more new product categories, and product prices will fall. Microsoft Power Automate’s existence guarantees it.

No-code automation won’t replace anything, but will establish more choice, and take a piece of existing software markets. And no-code automation will have won when software developers know which code they shouldn’t write, so they can work on more interesting problems instead.