Building Apps Without Code: 7 Options For Your Enterprise - InformationWeek

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Data Management // Software Platforms
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8/23/2015
12:06 PM
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Building Apps Without Code: 7 Options For Your Enterprise

Application building no longer means learning to code. Here are seven products and services that can help you develop apps without developing programming skills.
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(Image: geralt via Pixabay)

(Image: geralt via Pixabay)

Whether you call it shadow IT, the democratization of IT, or business units taking responsibility for their own applications, there's no question that employees who aren't on the IT payroll are developing applications for the enterprise.

While business unit employees come to the development table with plenty of user and business process experience, they tend to not have skills in traditional programming languages or application development disciplines. For the IT professional, the question isn't whether this "out of IT" development is going to happen — that train has left the station. Rather, it's how to work with these business unit application developers to make sure the apps they build are functional, secure, and unlikely to bring down the rest of the enterprise IT infrastructure.

These aren't small considerations. When you go to industry gatherings, it's easy to find groups of executives talking about the way that "rogue" applications have opened vulnerabilities in enterprise databases or blown up the capacity planning models for mainframe hardware and software spending. All of that is quite true, and yet quite easily managed if IT acts to get ahead of the curve.

[ Shadow IT got you down? Read Shadow IT: 8 Ways To Cope. ]

One way to get ahead of the development curve is to play an active role in choosing the tools business units use when they're building their own applications. With a hand in tool selection, you can make sure that the applications built conform to company standards of functionality and security. Fortunately for IT managers, there are plenty of options available for building very solid apps. Unfortunately, there are A LOT of options available for building apps. Cutting through the clutter can be a major undertaking.

That's why we've done some of that clutter-cutting for you. We can't make the decision for you, but we can narrow the field a bit. We came up with seven candidates for packages or services that will let a department or workgroup build an application without having to build a talent pool filled with programmers.

Do understand that these aren't the only possible tools that are out there. With time (and no consideration for your willingness to click to new pages) we could easily have made this an article on "The 78 no-code application tools you need to consider." But we like you more than that. So we've narrowed it to seven, secure in the knowledge that we'll be hearing from representatives of the other 71 in the next week or so.

We are curious: Are you using any of these tools in your organization? Or are you using ones that we didn't include? Either way, we'd like to hear from you with your experience of how this class of tool can work in the enterprise. It's clear that application development no longer means learning to write code. The question now is how good the applications (and their work within the IT infrastructure) are going to be. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
8/27/2015 | 12:33:33 PM
two stand out for small business
Both App press and Zoho look like excellent ways for small businesses without much IT presence get into creating apps for their employees and customers. I imagine the others would be more suitible for larger organizations worried about shadow IT as opposed to a neat way to develop something without needing to code.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
8/25/2015 | 11:43:38 PM
Re: Shadow IT
" I'm curious about your experience with Kepler: Do you find you can do everything you need just by dragging and dropping components, or do you have to hand-code specific routines? Most of the examples I found allow you to drag-and-drop for straightforward projects but admit that, for specific, high-demand cases, you would either need to code routines separately or choose another tool."

Curt, most of the functionality can be arranged by drag and drop Kepler blocks. Since our applications are of high performance computing, in certain cases we may do little bit patch coding to get the desired flow or functionality.
bcrosby
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bcrosby,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/25/2015 | 8:22:59 AM
Single Database of Record...needed for any enterprise platform
All


Great dicsussion! The one item that is overlooked when utalizing a "codelss" application development platform is the underlying dataset needed to make the application useful to its consumers. There has to be a common record or truth across the enterprise. Without that there is no way to get around coding to utlize one of the many APIs that are in the marketplace today. After all, what are the users after at the end of the day no matter what the application is doing--data.


The second item is operations of the appliction once it is developed. It is one thing to be able to develop a application with litte to no coding. But where you host it and HOW it is hosted it critical to success of any application.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
8/24/2015 | 1:20:11 PM
Integration
I read the article and comments and come away more confused than ever with the current status quo of IT and business. Now, I work for a manufacturer who is global but small. About $35 million in annual revenue, selling only to other businesses. I'm the only developer here, responsible for ERP system and writing apps the ERP can't do.

But it is all integrated, one version of the Truth! Are bigger businesses really implementing all these standalone apps and databases? Are bigger companies really not working with IT? Or as @saschin says, IT only means infrastructure support to them?

Surely things aren't this bad in the world now? Or are they? I can definitely tell you I'm not in the business of NO. I can't tell you how many apps I wrote that I knew would never work as the business people thought but I did it anyway. Everybody has to learn the hard way sometimes. But business knows that they can come to me to get things done, the idea of bypassing just seems hard to believe.

Now, over my almost 30 years in this, I have seen companies where IT was peceived poorly. The smallest change was 6 months of lead time to user. It was almost criminal how bad some of these IT people were. But I thought they were the exception, not the norm. Wow.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
8/24/2015 | 11:20:20 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
@Somedude8, I appreciate your perspective on all of this. I'm curious: Do you have a sense of what percentage of all the projects the business units attempt end up on your plate for remediation? I just think it would be interesting to get a sense of whether they run into trouble frequently, or if they're generally pretty good at this whole app development thing.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
8/24/2015 | 11:17:38 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
@SachinEE, I've been a fan of Zoho's office productivity suite for a long time but I'll admit that I've never developed applications using their platform. How is it as a development environment? In general, I think it's a cloud service that doesn't get nearly enough attention, so I'm interested in hearing from someone else who has experience with it.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
8/24/2015 | 11:15:09 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
@Somedude8, I'm convinced that at least a part of the cloud's growth can be traced to folks out in the business units who are thrilled to be able to get some computing services without having to deal with an IT department that has become far too comfortable saying "no."

And you're quite right about ITS tools: If you can buy a tool that will do 95% of everything you want for 5% of the cost of custom development, it just makes sense to buy the pre-ackaged solution!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
8/24/2015 | 11:12:21 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
@SachinEE, I think what we're seeing in many shops is an evolution from the days when IT was the only group that did anything to make computer and network systems happen to an era in which IT will be consulting to business units as much as they're making things work.

From an IT perspective this hits both budget and culture -- IT won't get to set the schedule for everything the way they did in the past and will be forced to be much more responsive to business units. I think that it's ultimately a good thing for IT, but the transition is proving to be traumatic in many ways (for everyone concerned).
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
8/24/2015 | 10:59:01 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
I am not saying that using these things is inhernetly a bad thing to do, not at all. They can be quite good. I am saying that by the time such projects get to me, they usually have become a disaster, which is part of the reason it the project is coming my way in the first place. No reason to get a programmer involved int he ones that don't go south. So, my perspective is dramatically skewed because I only see the bad news projects.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
8/24/2015 | 10:48:02 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
@Somedude8: True. Everyone has a smack dab experience in IT, be it a regular management staff or a hardcore developer creating business values through applications. I think these environments actually help you in your dark days when you have to submit something "programmey" and you don't know it, so you seek the help of simple tools such as Canvas.
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