September 2, 2018 Jason Bakke 0 Comments

When you start a business, you bring your ideas into it, and if you’re fortunate enough to find some work, you have the capital to explore them. A constant point of friction in much of my work life is collaboration and knowledge management software. So, I wondered, could I use low or no code platforms to develop better tools?

By low-code tools, I am referring to databases that have grown into something akin to VBA in Excel—FileMaker Pro, QuickBase. While they support APIs and connectivity to other services, they are primarily focused on collecting, storing, and processing data internally (rather than automation-focused tools such as Apple Workflow for iOS, which can collect data, interface with device applications, and access cloud services via APIs).

Low-code platforms are relatively easy to use to build basic functionality. Replicating a SharePoint form and workflow is straightforward, except the end product looks and functions even worse than SharePoint. Useful functionality requires scripting and variable types and naming conventions; UI design blends art and science, and I fail at both.

My goal is to design efficient workflows and then create custom apps that enforce quality and efficiency. I imagine the best workflow would include some machine analysis, but the reality is even after a nontechnical person crafts API calls to Watson to assess unstructured data, the results are only incrementally more useful than the original data. I’m not curing cancer; I’m not even confidently extracting phone numbers.

I would love a knowledge management system that uses AI to extract user-defined metadata, the names of the quals in a technical proposal, for example. IBM and Microsoft are beginning to advertise such features, so I imagine in 20 years there will be a workable product, along with a SharePoint version that doesn’t inexplicably lock the one file I need to go to production on.

In the meantime, I am going in the opposite direction and piloting web apps such as Dropbox Paper, which is basically one big unstructured container with little UI or toolsets. I have faced the ugly truth that technology still can’t overcome a user’s technical inability and that ultimately end-users should guide, but not develop themselves, technology that will be widely used or client facing.

Low code was last modified: September 13th, 2018 by Jason Bakke

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