The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) released a new primer on states using low-code and no-code software. The primer, titled the Need for Speed: Why State CIOs are Turning to Low-Code and No-Code Software Development, is based on extensive interviews with state CIOs and NASCIO private sector members. In the primer, NASCIO outlines a handful of use cases, the upsides, the downsides, and strategies for success in using low-code and no-code software.

In a press release, NASCIO said that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of low-code/no-code (LC/NC) software development by states by providing the business case for how this technology can be used.

Denis Goulet, NASCIO President and Commissioner and CIO for the State of New Hampshire, commented, “State CIOs are constantly looking for ways to innovate and streamline operations in state government,” explained Denis Goulet, NASCIO President and CIO of New Hampshire. “Low-code/no-code platforms have proven themselves as a way to lower costs, fill gaps in the state IT workforce and respond to citizen needs much more quickly.”

Benefits and Challenges

In terms of benefits of LC/NC The Benefits, NASCIO said interviewees repeatedly cited the reduction in time from concept to implementation as a key benefit. “Being able to stand things up for traditional development would take us 18 months. The average time during the pandemic was 11 days,” one CIO told NASCIO.

Another benefit of LC/NC is the ability to address workforce challenges. States are struggling to find qualified software developers due to both a workforce shortage and an inability for governments to compete with private-sector salaries. However, using LC/NC application development means that they don’t have to hire as many people. “We are doing more with less and getting more of our projects done with the same number of people. In-state government, it’s hard to get new positions, but we can make our current positions more productive,” a state IT professional said in an interview.

In terms of challenges, state CIOs and private sector partners cited cost, licensing complications, specific skillsets needed for success, debugging challenges, and the presence of shadow IT as top obstacles.

Strategies for Success

In the primer, NASCIO offered five strategies for states to follow to see LC/NC software success.

  • Don’t forget governance: “Creating strong governance around LC/NC, and owning the process also ensures that you end up dealing with less shadow IT and don’t have problems figuring out how to debug applications. Ideally, as a state, you would have an easy way for agencies to ask for something and a low-code team to build it for them.”
  • Make sure you aren’t giving away your intellectual property or data in the contract: “Before signing a contract, ensure that you would be able to get back your intellectual property if you had to switch to a different vendor. Alternatively, you might agree to save the data in another location as a backup.”
  • Get a grasp on licensing: “Licensing is complex. Know what you need before you sign a contract because finding the best fit solution, despite the upfront costs, can save a lot of money and time.”
  • Avoid making changes to low-code applications: “Don’t live ‘outside the box because if you have to program on top of it, it is no longer considered low-code. This is also an important part of your training for users.”
  • Find or train staff with the right skill set: “Having the right staff on board to manage the programming that is involved in low-code software development will help make things run more smoothly. Train your users so that the applications can be maintained over time.”
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs