In the late 1990s there was a temp who had left university not long before, with an MA in Ancient Greek Literature and a PhD to write up. He was applying for academic positions but uncertain where his long-term future applied. He started at a company which used Lotus Notes for a CRM planning events and working as office support for remote staff who worked on local replicas. Of course replication conflicts occurred and once he understood from IT what they meant, liking a clean database, he took the time to work with others where appropriate to help consolidate the conflicts and manage the data. When the person left who did weekly exports and manipulations of data to send to a third party, he embraced the opportunity to take over. When IT decided to modernise the application, the developer asked if he would be interested in shadow developing it. So he read the book, learned about Domino development and helped out partly in his spare time. He helped write the documentation and joined in the training for staff on the new version.
Opportunities came and went and he eventually joined IT as a developer too. When the developer was absent long term, he temporarily helped lead the development team and took on support and development of other applications. The investment in his learning enabled the company to cope with increased workload. His first application, using drag and drop, formula language only and some garish colours, nonetheless persisted and long outlived his time with the company. He was not technical, he was not a developer by education, he was not employed as a manager, but he was willing to learn and willing to grow.
Years later he became a speaker, blogger, author, considered by many an expert, IBM Champion and eventually a lifetime Champion. Yes, I am that person.
And that’s why low code is important. That’s why the citizen developer is important. The citizen developer who is eager and shows an aptitude can become a mid-code developer. And this is another route for growing the platform, for growing the developer base and for augmenting small development teams – even of one – in small organisations. And for rapid development the citizen developer brings something more – end user focus and business knowledge. The citizen developer is a user who codes, someone whose work may not even be 100% computer-based and certainly not someone who is a software expert. There is a reason there are Domino developers and not programmers. We don’t just code and with rapid development we shouldn’t. Our business knowledge helps build what a user really needs for what the business really wants. Pro code skills can be learned, particularly in the era of YouTube, just as business knowledge can be learned.
This is why for low code I’m looking through the eyes of both that young person eager to help out his fellow workers as well as the IT expert I am now. I’m not thinking primarily about IT control, I’m not thinking primarily about massive organisations, I’m not thinking primarily about what Domino development means today. I’m thinking about the business users who squeeze this alongside their day job, for whom this needs to be easy and fun. Some of them will only be interested in that current career, but some of them – many of them if we do this right – may augment and increase their development teams and with the right investment fly higher than they ever thought possible and bring talent from backgrounds we’re not expecting.