ERP Designer- As early as the ’90s, businesses and analysts alike have foretold the death of the ERP system. Over 20 years later, however, ERP is still alive and well. Globalization, digitalization, the internet and a whole host of other technologies have made it virtually impossible for businesses to move away from ERP. There’s simply too much critical data housed in the underlying databases for elimination to ever be a viable option.
ERP was criticized for its complexity and for being difficult to change without expensive and time-consuming coding — and still is. Customization is almost always a necessity and can mean locking into a current version or vendor because those customizations are impossible to maintain.
However, this whole dynamic has changed in a relatively short period of time thanks to cloud technology advances and the burgeoning low-code/no-code market. Citizen developers are taking advantage of visual coding environments and machine-generated code to easily and quickly create high-performance applications that are custom-built to fit a business’ exact needs. While these low-code/no-code environments have been quickly adopted in consumer technology and app development, adoption has been slower in the enterprise space — and for good reason. Skeptics worry that we’ve been down this road before and that the rise of the “citizen developer” will lead to Shadow IT all over again: ungoverned, unmanaged solutions built outside of IT’s domain.
I believe the citizen developer market will be huge in the coming years, but this growth should be driven by the citizen developer – not big software vendors like us. The true power of low-code/no-code development comes from the industry-specific and tailored functionality that can be added by smaller, specified app development platforms and their citizen users, which can be far more tailored to a single micro-industry than the software of an industry giant ever could. Even our company, which offers ERP solutions for many industries, can’t compete with the enterprise-specific apps citizen developers may create. And those apps will only be augmented by interfacing with and extending the capabilities of ERP platforms that already exist (no matter which ERP vendor they come from).
To prepare for and be ready to fully take advantage of the benefits low-code/no-code can offer, organizations should put in place an integrated, “all hands on deck” approach, where apps built by citizen developers are governed and managed by IT, leading to a more successful digital transformation. While there will undoubtedly still be bumps in the road ahead, it’s time to set aside reservations and explore the possibilities of low-code/no-code — but not without a solid plan in place.