No-code, low-code, no-fear.

No-code/low-code software development seems to be surfacing again as the savior of the future for tech-enablement and the addition of custom software to many organizations who rely solely on IT to bring them improvements.  While there is definite benefits to enabling non-engineers to build applications, the power of what is possible is short-lived and often left at the proof of concept level.

Amazon’s Honeycode is their first foray into building a development environment that allows for non-engineers to produce applications to automate daily tasks, reports, and other initiatives that would otherwise be shelved by IT as a non-starter.  Built on top of many of the same AWS services that power much of the internet, it makes complete sense for AWS to start to try and make those products more accessible.

What problem is AWS solving?

Besides trying to get projects through to the IT department with the appropriate funding, the need for applications that are not sweeping platforms like Salesforce is high and would provide a measurable amount of value to a specific audience. 

It is this sea of wanted “apps” that causes grief in large organizations and has employees resorting to manual processes and more manpower. Honeycode promises building value on top of those that are already familiar with an excel spreadsheet type interface by providing a visual builder on top of the data structure that is already consumable.

Who is it for?

Citizen Developers. Coined by PTC Inc., ‘citizen developers’ are users who have an understanding of general excel capabilities and the functions it provides, the ability to do simple discrete math and if/then/else statements. These ‘developers’ want the ability to deploy functionality on both the web and mobile platforms. 

Make no mistake, building applications requires the ability to build screens, have some general understanding of user experience, and a willingness to invest in the ecosystem and IDE to learn “how” to do something.  For these no/low-code environments to work, the configuration driven screens require mastery in order to achieve what might be a simple task.

What are some of the important shortcomings?

1.

No/low code is for POC's

The largest and most obvious shortcoming of Amazon’s Honeycode is the fact that it is part of an IDE and ecosystem that is configuration driven and no/low-code.  That on the surface sounds silly because that is the product!  Therein lies the problem.

Selling this platform as the way to build and provide lasting value for people who cannot access a development team is another way of enabling proof of concept, fragile, and non-scalable applications.

2.

Configuration Experts, not Developers

The second shortcoming is the investment into the ecosystem goes far beyond using AWS as an infrastructure partner and now building on a set of skills that are proprietary to AWS.  The time spent in configuration, work-arounds and learning the ins and outs of the UX choices made by the team at AWS is completely lost the minute the limitations of Honeycode are too great for further progress.  Simple problems for any front-end developer like layout, font choices, themes are all abstracted to configurable text boxes and dropdowns in which you must know the secret handshake for it to do what you want.

3.

Lifecycle Costs

The third shortcoming on a list of many more is the creation of a product that eventually will have to be rewritten.  Inevitably as a project becomes larger inside Honeycode, the more apparent the limitations will be.  If an application has real value, like every software project, it will start to grow in size, function and reliance from multiple business units.  Beyond that, it starts to become a supported product (internal or external) that will have a roadmap, feature requests and bugs.  When you have reached this part in the lifecycle of the application, by using Honeycode, you have effectively kicked the bucket down the road and will now have to spend money to have it rewritten by a great development team.

Product Development Agencies are more important than ever

Product development groups shouldn’t fear this movement or Amazon’s Honeycode because it builds on the growing need for custom development and is giving more people in an organization a taste of the power of automation, user experience, and ultimately success with technology.

In our opinion, the demand for custom software will only increase with the usage of tools like Honeycode.  Amazon has already indicated that the demand for it outstrips supply, and tools like this can help in the interim.  The largest obstacle to building scalable products inside large organizations that largely are not technology based, is the education and the elimination of risk for the decision-makers.  Honeycode will allow people inside the organization to reduce that risk and ultimately open the door for more groups like us to make a difference.

A great example of this exact scenario is Thingworx and what it promised customers in the industrial IoT.  Thingworx had a product as part of their development suite called the Mashup Builder.  This application IDE would effectively do the same thing as Honeycode, but allow for access to a dynamic model of abstracted data integration, IoT live data, and streaming data. 

The deployment targets were largely the same except that after Thingworx was acquired by PTC in 2012, AR devices were added as a target to support the same datasets. 

We found that with the advent of the “citizen developer”, Thingworx’s Mashup Builder helped organizations build out small but effective tools by influential people within.  The best of the tools went on to be built as custom applications on top of the same services that powered the app, but with full development teams for flexibility and no limitations on the user experience.

“Everything that can be digital,

will be digital”

We are Kingsmen.  Together we conquer.

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