Every few years, a new company comes along that promises to deliver all the results of understanding how to program without actually having to write a single line of code. From what you see is what you get on websites 10 years ago to the emerging trend of no code mobile apps.
While the pitch is seductive, the reality is that tech’s future is going to require a much deeper knowledge base in order to generate a competitive advantage. This is not to say that low or no code websites or mobile applications do not have their place. However, we are deceiving ourselves to think that groundbreaking new companies can be built with off the shelf solutions.
The most likely outcome is that similar to the Gold Rush in California, the person selling the picks and shovels makes all the money while those digging for gold are unsatisfied in their quest for wealth.
On the other hand, if people take the opportunity to invest in building their tech skills now, they will be more prepared for a future that is filled with deep tech. Those who get their start learning how to build websites or mobile applications using readily available programming languages are going to be much more able to learn and apply the latest new technology.
Make no mistake, emerging technologies like cryptocurrency & artificial intelligence are going to be dominated by those who have a deep technical foundation and understanding. The more straightforward solutions that require only an innovation in business model may be able to be solved by low or no code solutions.
If recent history is any guide, most users of these emerging low or no code solutions are going to be frustrated. For example, many years ago, businesses emerged that enabled people to build websites using templates. These pre-built templates could be modified and re-arranged so that you could get a website for your business that you were happy with. However, what most people quickly learned and ultimately became frustrated with is that a slight deviation in design required an understanding of HTML & CSS to truly deliver the desired outcome.
For those with a knowledge of technology, this was predictable. To develop a template, you must necessarily trade-off the unlimited ability to customize. Regardless of industry, most businesses do not want their website looking like everyone else’s. If you are a photographer, yes you want to showcase photos. But, you don’t want the same gallery design as everyone else.
As those who were willing to dive in and learn found, it became difficult to make even the slightest deviation without having to pay a web developer to build a solution for them. Most recently, you have a business like Shopify that builds end to end e-commerce storefronts. These storefronts help small business sell their goods online with a solution that is specifically developed for their customers. In order to spin up the millions of websites on Shopify, their technology team had to have a deep understanding of how to develop these solutions. While there are certainly customers who are benefitting, the reality is that Shopify is very narrowly focused on e-commerce customers.
In many ways, they are providing an alternate solution to small businesses that may have previously been forced to sell on Amazon.
By looking across industries, we always see the trend favors those with an actual understanding of how to build with technology. As we’ve discussed previously, technological gains tend to be iterative in much the same way that investing gains result in cumulative financial performance.
Although it can be seductive to jump on board with low or no code solutions, the true way to achieve long term competitive advantage is to learn the intricacies of technology so that you can create custom solutions that meet the needs of your customers. Emerging solutions help get you started down that path. But, what you quickly find is that in order to truly differentiate, you need to know how to not just innovate the business model but also the technology stack.