Myth of the No-Code Solution

  • 16-Apr-2010

I get an uneasy feeling when someone tells me their product is so simple that business users can create new applications without writing any code. This is especially true of products that offer some kind of a gadget and/or mashup functionality. Granted, it's comparatively easier to create Gadgets as compared to more heavyweight components like Web Parts or portlets. But a gadget does not make an application. It only provides a front end to an application.

Let's consider an example. You need to display a list of all new auto insurance claims to an agent. It's a fairly trivial task to do this with a gadget utilizing an RSS feed of new claims that displays using a colorful tabular format. A vendor might claim that most business users understand RSS and could create such a gadget.

However, someone actually needs to create that feed in the first place. And that is by no means trivial, because you will need to create integrations to one or more back-end systems such as a customer information system, policy management system, a customer correspondence system, and a document management system. When you integrate with these back-end systems, you will also need to consider all standard application development needs -- such as transactions, exception handling, scalability, logging, and so forth. This may in turn require the development of new service interfaces.  Plenty of code to write.

Second, I am not convinced that most business users understand feeds in a way that's required to create these applications. Even if we assume they are, you will probably need to filter or extract the right information out of the feed, and I don't think it's likely that your business users will understand the complex regular expressions needed to do that.

So before you choose to use something that promises "increased productivity" because of "zero coding" always consider the whole application and not just the functionality required for displaying feeds. It is possible that for your use cases, such a solution would be a good fit. But if a no code front end solution needs huge amounts of application development effort, you should be prepared for that as well.

We covered several such issues in our recent advisory and will continue to expand these in our Portals and Content Integration research.  In the meantime, remember that "simple to use" seldom is...

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