Remember back to that first time you saw Star Wars. The physical excitement of sitting there when the story text began scrolling up, and the music rumbled? If you were lucky enough to see the 70s original at the theater, I’m sure you’ll agree it was unlike anything you’d ever seen before. Five years later, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner hit the reset button on cinematography again, dazzling us with its gorgeously dystopian peek at a possible future, forcing us to consider the relationship between ourselves and the machines we create.
Science fiction has fed our imaginations for decades with thought-provoking ideas and what-ifs. Mostly, the lessons have been future looking, but there are some very present takeaways in some of the most popular sci-fi movies that are applicable for developers.
Takeaway 1: Help is All Around. You Just Have to Ask
The movie Hackers was less a techno-thriller than it was a cultural phenom, but that doesn’t steal from its greatness. The plot: Semi-reformed hacker Dade (aka, Zero-Cool) is pulled into another hacker’s troubles. Soon, Dade finds himself falling back into old habits to help out his new friend. With the aid of several others, they save a fellow hacker from jail and put another one behind bars. It takes a team, each member holding a specific set of skills, to accomplish their goal.
Not unlike the relationship between citizen developers and professional developers.
Professional IT teams are hitting walls when it comes to developing mobile and multichannel apps. OutSystems research shows organizations are spending roughly $500,000 just to develop 1-3 apps. Money aside, 44 percent of companies reported a knowledge gap in the skills needed to start mobile app development.
As professional developers grow in their careers, they naturally gravitate, or their company promotes them, to projects that are more suited to their experience. The resulting vacancy leaves a skills gap that has to be filled somehow and from somewhere. Finding any developers with the right set of skills is getting tougher, making it a perfect opportunity for citizen developers with a little help from a low-code development solution like OutSystems.
Takeaway 2: Repetition Is Bad Unless You Learn From It
In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise’s character is drenched in alien goo right before he dies and has to relive the same day again and again. We never get a sense of how many days he relives, but by the end of the movie, he’s done it so many times that can predict every second of the day. Armed with that knowledge and a plane-load of luck, he and his friends save the day.
Much of mobile and web application development today involves repetition. One example is building one app and then customizing it for different regions. There are also minimal functional requirements that are basically the same from one app to the next, such as web chat components, touch events, and basic UI development. All of these are standard fare for any mobile application, but they take time to build if you are doing it one-off. Imagine the time you could save by not having to do these tasks at all?
OutSystems is built for rapid application development. That means rather than slowly hand-coding everything, much of the day-to-day work of app development is constructed using visual containers. Need a Web Block? Drag it from the Elements Tree onto the screen and voila! It’s there. Want to create a customer support front-end that you can customize and reuse? No problem! You can have a working site in minutes.
These are the kinds of applications citizen developers can manage. Because it is far less complicated than traditional development, visual developers can be creative and push their previous limits, all within the confines of proven code and the safety of continuous error checking.
Takeaway 3: What’s the Point of a Program, If You Can’t Share It?
With at least six award-winning actors in its cast, Sneakers was, if nothing else, an A-list celebrity movie worth watching just for the acting. And given that it predates the iconic Hackers by three years, the questions it tackled were pretty impressive. If you haven’t seen it, and you should, a mathematician creates a software-based algorithm that can break any code. Our team of protagonists is blackmailed into stealing the Black Box the program resides on, and in doing so, faces the moral question of whether anyone at all—good or bad—should have access to the power granted by the program.
Organizations are facing similar questions; not in terms of morality, but in terms of business value. What value are current systems providing and can those systems be improved so that they are providing a valuable service that either saves money or makes money? Most are finding that legacy systems can bring better value through information sharing (i.e., data).
Digital transformation efforts can seem like a monumental task. How do you maintain business processes, while also reinventing them? It’s the bimodal conundrum, which currently has vocal champions on both sides.
The beauty of low-code rapid application delivery is that it gives citizen and professional developers alike the same powerful design, testing, and deployment capabilities traditionally obtained only through months of development by teams of programmers.
This means you can deliver better, more responsive applications faster, something that 51 percent of our polled IT professionals ranked as their #1 reason for using a low-code platform.
Takeaway 4: Even Smart Applications Need Oversight
No sci-fi list would be complete without mentioning Terminator. Besides The Matrix, it portends the most horrifying worst-case scenario for humanity should our software ever reach beyond itself. AI and intelligent devices are increasing the amount of information collected on a scale that’s almost unimaginable. All of that data needs structure, and governance, to make it both useful and safe.
Despite the late Dr. Hawking’s prediction about AI, it is still a growing field with a great deal of runway left.
Similarly, the low-code field is still maturing and, like AI, many early predictions about it have been unfounded. The idea that low-code will lead to hordes of untrained marketing pros suddenly developing enterprise applications or the prediction that experienced developers will find themselves out of a job have not borne out.
As OutSystems and analyst firms like Gartner, Forrester, and Ovum, continue to educate the market on the benefits of low-code, it becomes abundantly clear that visual development, leading to rapid application development (RAD), is a win-win for everyone.
Just as agile methods brought order and maturity to an industry that was not even a thing a few decades ago, low-code delivery will help usher in a new model for enterprise, mobile, and web application development. Rather than IT being distinctly siloed by skillset, DevOps and the rise of the citizen developer will naturally bubble up experience and leadership to tackle complicated projects and provide oversight and governance over the whole of IT. Citizen developers will reinforce IT efforts, and in many cases, own parts of the software development lifecycle as their roles evolve and their skill sets expand into areas that interest them and where their talents lie.
Takeaway 5: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Mix It Up
How many times did the Architect say Neo had confronted him in The Matrix? Hundreds of times? Still Neo persisted, and in the end, though he didn’t banish the machines, they at least came to an accord.
Failing in traditional development environments usually costs a lot of time, effort, and money. Failing more than a couple of times at the same thing probably means someone is getting a pink slip.
With OutSystems, potential problems are analyzed and reported at every step of the SDLC. Reusable code developed by us and by our more than 137,000 community members is already in use around the world, so as you are building your apps, you know you are working with blocks that are already in production.
Then, before you deploy your application, OutSystems runs multiple checks to make sure everything works as expected and that no part of the code will bog down servers when it goes live.
Intuitive design, templates, helpful prompts, drag-and-drop development, and single-click deployment take away much of the frustration, and the manual back and forth, code-test-code-test, of traditional development, reducing errors and all but eliminating failure.
Even industries that have not relied heavily on software in the past (e.g., service industries) now benefit from B2C applications for automated tasks such as appointments and billing. The demands placed on businesses to provide more and better information consistently in more places also demand changes in how that information gets delivered.
These types of needs are best addressed by a team of developers of all backgrounds, skill levels, and specialties. Simple B2C apps do not need the guiding hand of a 25-year programming veteran. Conversely, digital transformation efforts will benefit that level of expertise. It is going to take citizen and professional developers working together, to satisfy growing business requirements.
Also, get your copy of the recent Gartner 2019 Low-Code Application Platforms Magic Quadrant, and see why Gartner ranked us a “Leader” in low-code.