Low-Code Principle #9, Community: The Power of Connection
Low-Code Principle #9, Community: The Power of Connection by Johan den Haan
Behind every successful technology, you’ll find a community of experts and enthusiasts.
The internet, for example. One of the first uses of the Internet was to connect the engineers and scientists who were laying the groundwork for virtually everything that makes up our technology-centric lives today. The internet, and everything it spawned, was and is a collective effort — a community effort.
And so it is with software, too. In the early days of personal computers, it was possible for a lone developer to create freestanding applications, perhaps a word processor, spreadsheet, or database program. Not anymore. Software today is too complex and entangled, and user expectations are too high, for any developer to go it alone. This is a good thing, because now we have communities.
Through the incredible multiplying effect of communities, we can access the resources and functionality to bring even our grandest software ideas to life. The best thinking of the best minds is at our fingertips. How powerful is that?
So it would be terminally short-sighted to build a technology platform without simultaneously nurturing a user community right alongside it. One of the reasons low-code is fast-becoming a dominant force in the application development world today is because its crucial DNA includes Principle #9:
A platform without a community is no platform at all.
On the most fundamental level, the community is the difference that makes a platform a smart career choice for a developer, and a smart strategic and economic choice for an enterprise. When a developer sees a large, active community, they can be confident that their investment in learning the technology will pay off; there will be opportunities to keep moving forward and upward. For an enterprise, a substantial, engaged community lends legitimacy and credibility to the platform, signalling its acceptance and staying power, and incidentally, gives potential enterprise adopters a source of unbiased perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of the platform.
In short, a vibrant community minimizes risk. It inspires confidence that your horse is hitched to the right wagon, and provides proven resources for creating better software solutions.
Community is the lifeblood of a platform
A tech community has three primary purposes for its members: to form connections, share knowledge, and be inspired. It’s a place where users can build mastery, find ready-to-use resources, attend an academy, get help, and in turn, pass their knowledge and expertise on to others. Some go on to become evangelists, metaphorical elders of the community, held in high regard by their peers for their knowledge and commitment. When these things happen, it creates momentum for the platform and contributes to a virtuous circle of adoption.
But the benefits accrue to the platform as well as to the users. Many an idea that becomes a key platform feature originates with the user community. An especially popular feature or module, for example, sometimes finds itself built into into a future official release. The very roadmap of the platform is shaped to a significant degree by the user community.
In its ideal conception, a platform community is organic, largely self-governing, ever-evolving, and of course, welcoming, diverse, respectful, humble, and all those qualities we value in interacting with others. And importantly, independent, free from profit motives and the influence of marketers. “For the community, by the community.” Therein lies its power.
The democratic community of low-code
Wondering if you can use low-code to connect sensors and automate process controls in an IoT application? Have an idea for an augmented reality application for inventory control? Want to explore the possibilities of low-code and AI for facial recognition? Somebody in the low-code community is thinking about the same thing or something similar, and somebody has probably already put together some resources to make it happen. And it’s all there for the asking.
What distinguishes the low-code community are the same things that distinguish the low-code platform itself. It is not an exclusive club of hard-core developers.The platform is built for everyone, technical and not-so-technical alike. Professional developers and business domain experts, ops experts and number crunchers, solution architects and mechanical engineers — all able to use the platform and all encouraged to be part of the community.
Just as users of diverse skills and backgrounds collaborate virtually side-by-side on the platform within their enterprise, they collaborate in the community, sharing expertise to build better software, faster and more efficiently, for themselves and their organizations. It’s an open and inclusive environment for everyone, novice or expert, that meets everyone at their level to advance their skills and enhance the platform.
There’s a place for gated communities, too
Business is a competitive sport. You don’t want the other team stealing your signals. So in addition to the broad, everyone-is-welcome low-code community, individual enterprises benefit from building their own private, gated communities. Everything that happens in the greater low-code community also happens in these private, enterprise low-code communities — business and IT professionals work together to build their expertise and proficiency; resources such as pre-built model components, extensions, connectors, and other reusable assets are posted and shared; new developers are mentored and seasoned pros swap their favorite tricks. In this case, it all happens securely, either on the enterprise’s own servers or in a gated area of a vendor like Mendix’s app store. The enterprise maintains governance and control, managing permissions and ensuring all the resources comply with the enterprise’s security, quality, and other standards.
Great communities make great platforms make great communities make…
Application development platforms that endure never stop growing and evolving, and only a committed, energized, active community of users can sustain that growth. Sharing knowledge, and sharing and reusing software components and even whole applications makes it faster, easier, and cheaper to explore and develop innovative solutions. No individual R&D organization, no matter how big, can out-deliver a global “good citizen” developer and user community.
If you’re considering or working with low-code, you have a community. Use it. Be active. Be involved. Be a contributor and supporter. Give what you have and take what you need. All our solutions are better as a result.