8 min read

Low Code Development With AI: An Engineer's Replacement?

Low code development combined with AI democratizes software development. But, does it mean the end of engineering as we know it? Let's chat.
Written by
Jonathan Mitchell
Published on
April 12, 2024

There have always been tools that improved developer productivity. From Github enterprise to sonarQube to IDE plugins to libraries. This is now taking another shape in the form of low-code platforms. Does this really mean you can take the developer out? Or does it mean the developers get more effective both in terms of speed and quality?

There’s been a lot of talk, given the current popularity of AI, that no code and low code development in concert with artificial intelligence will cost engineers their jobs. Collaboration between AI and these development strategies makes it seem like an engineer is an expense companies no longer have to pay when looking to build a product. However, that isn’t the case quite yet.

Planes have had autopilot/fly-by-wire for decades now. But pilots are still in the cockpit, ensuring that the machine does not go rogue. Same thing for self-driving cars. They still require the driver in the driver’s seat. The role of the developer will evolve but not be eliminated. Here’s the reality, engineers aren’t going anywhere. They’re not being replaced by AI. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t understand the capabilities of artificial intelligence. At least, at the moment. Is AI an incredibly helpful tool? Yes. Does it make engineers irrelevant? No.

The Beginning Of The End

For AI or no-code or low-code to be commoditized as it is made out to be, the person using it must know exactly what to build. Sure, low-code development means there is less strain on your existing engineers. A lot of the basic building blocks and menial tasks are taken care of when utilizing low-code development in concert with AI. That doesn’t mean engineers are now unnecessary. Quite the contrary. Their role in low code development becomes rather pronounced when an organization is in the throes of a sprint.

There’s a misunderstanding in public discourse on what AI does and doesn’t do. Low code development minimizes the strain on your current engineering team. In simple terms, because it requires fewer engineers to function. But just like how a Stand Mixer didn’t all of a sudden make bakers worthless, low code development and AI don’t lessen the impact of an engineer. The potential of low code development is enormous, but it must be properly harnessed. Engineers are an integral piece of that puzzle.

What Is Low Code Development?

Low code development is an approach to software development that relies on visual interfaces and pre-built blocks of code. These tools are used to create applications quickly and efficiently. The main goal here is to reduce the amount of traditional “hand-coding.” This approach is intended to make software development more accessible to non-developers. It reduces costs, and increases efficiency. Essentially, no matter your technical experience, when utilizing low-code development, you can still bring your vision to life. The lack of coding democratizes the ability to create. Idea creation is now available to people who previously would’ve had to have outside experts build a platform for them.

Low code development is an exciting and emerging field. As technology continues to evolve, low code development will likely become more sophisticated. Over time the tech will be capable of handling more complex scenarios. That doesn’t mean expertise becomes irrelevant. Engineers are still pivotal even when utilizing no-code development.

How Does Low Code Development Work?

Low code development platforms provide a lot of pre-built functionality. Still, they require a significant amount of engineering expertise to be effective. Engineers are needed to design, configure, and integrate the various components of a low-code development platform. They are also needed to customize and extend the platform's capabilities. It's important the platform meets the unique needs of individual organizations. It’s here that their voice of reason can drive a project to new heights and enable greater innovation. The experience and knowledge available makes low-code development possible. It’s not an entirely independent process.

The utilization of AI within these low-code platforms is becoming more commonplace. Organizations are innovating on initial attempts to create ecosystems capable of generating all aspects of the project autonomously. This approach truly does make development easier and quicker, but not foolproof. While low-code development platforms have simplified the process of building software applications, they do have limitations. For example, low-code platforms can struggle to handle complex logic and advanced functionality. This means that engineers are still needed to develop custom code to handle these more advanced scenarios. Here AI truly epitomizes its role as a tool. Use it to create. Use it to innovate. But its uses are limited without the guiding hand of an engineer. AI and low-code development are now two peas in a proverbial pod, but you still need a gardener to get the best result.

Why Use Low Code Development At All?

Low code means there is some code. As long as there is some code, it needs to be managed. And, this is where the no-code platforms simply become ‘assistive technologies’ and not the ‘core tech’ at least in its current form. Low code development can make the development process faster and more accessible. Previously excluded parties can now try their hand at creating a platform truly representative of their vision. They can get hands-on and let their creativity shine through. It does not eliminate the need for engineers entirely. As such, low code development should be seen as a complementary approach to traditional software development rather than a complete replacement for it.

Whether the low code platform you’re using has AI enabled or not, there still needs to be human hands available to mold the clay and shape the project into a product that meets quality requirements. So, feel free to utilize low-code development. For companies that lack the enormous budget of international corporations, low code development and AI are helpful tools aimed at leveling the playing field. Just make sure that when you embrace this new technology, you have the staff available to manage the project. It may take fewer people, and the product may be ready faster, but haphazardly eliminating any assistance from engineers would be true folly in this scenario.

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