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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SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
8/24/2015 | 10:45:20 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
@Somedude8: I have been using the Zoho environment for quite some time now, frankly because I didn't want to develop web apps by hand, i.e. I thought wasting time on simple projects is really unnecessary, and that is why I sought Zoho's help and you should know that it is not completely useless. 
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
8/24/2015 | 10:44:04 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
Exactly! I am often the first to question the ROI of having simple things programmed from scratch when there are OTS tools available that fit the bill. I suspect that that most non-IT departments still have the scars from IT smacking their fingers with rulers for so many years at the mere mention of doing something without their blessing, so relish the 'freedom' they mostly have these days. A middle ground like you describe is exactly what I believe needs to happen for the most effective results to be achieved.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
8/24/2015 | 10:43:10 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
@Curt: I don't think IT has anything to do with thinking itself to be an "integrated system" because it is not. Support and side development is all what I manage to picturize when thinking about IT. Core computing and core development cannot be classified into IT, IT as we know is Information Technology but in real life IT means backup and support. Having worked in an IT firm for 2 years I have learn't the use of many tools and how to solve problems with these tools at your disposal. 
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
8/24/2015 | 10:40:06 AM
Re: Programmer's Perspective
@Somedude8, I think your experience is why IT needs to be involved, even if IT staff isn't doing the "front line" app development. If you were involved in the selection of tools and "consulted" on program design, it might well maximize the effect of your time while allowing the business unit the control (and speed) they're looking for.

I hear from more and more executives that enterprise IT needs to think of itself as an internal system integrator rather than the only team allowed to touch application development. Picking the right tools and developing the right process for using them are steps that (it seems to me) IT should work on if they want to retain both influence and sanity.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
8/24/2015 | 10:31:21 AM
Re: Shadow IT
@Gigi3, thanks so much for your comment. 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. It seems like that might crop up a bit more frequently in the scientific and engineering fields, but I'll admit that I could be wrong on this!
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
8/24/2015 | 10:24:35 AM
Programmer's Perspective
As a programmer, freelance for the last few years, I have mixed feelings and experiences regarding build-the-application-without-a-programmer applications.

When directly exposed to them, its usually because their programmer-less program has reached some sort of capability or practicality ceiling, and now they need a programmer to 'extend' what they have 'built'. In theory, this can be done with some of these DIY applications, but in practice have never seen one that didn't require a complete rebuild. Its not a total loss though if lessons were learned about the business rules needed. But usually, its a disaster by the time I get called in.

The indirect exposure I get to them is almost always hearing about things that were built with zero input from IT. Sometimes these applications come to light because they are melting a server, or have been hacked, etc.

I guess I have an off center persepctive, as I don't usually get exposed to these applications until something goes pretty badly wrong. But that is part of the problem, the complete shutting out of IT in IT related matters.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
8/24/2015 | 1:56:22 AM
Shadow IT
Kurtis, that's for leading an insight to such programming model. I think Canvas is almost similar to Kepler work flow; where building blocks can be drag and connect to form a programming model. We are using Kepler workflow models for engineering and scientific application developments.
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