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NO CODE 2018: Caspio CEO’s Vision for Low-Code

Good morning everybody, and welcome to the NO CODE Conference. Thank you for being here again.

 

We are extremely humbled that you’ve traveled long distances to be at this conference. It means so much to all of us at Caspio and we’re so grateful for that.

 

The team has put together an incredible program. There’s lots of great content and opportunities for learning, networking and getting inspired.

 

We’re also eager to learn from you, to get to know you better, to understand the environments where you work and operate. We want to understand the challenges that you face and how Caspio can play a better role in that for you.

 

I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.

 

I’m asked to talk about the future of no-code and where we go from here. I thought it probably would be helpful if we talk a little bit about where we are now and how we got here.

 

I’d like to start with a personal story, so you can see how we got to our A-ha! moment about Caspio.

Caspio Founder’s Background

It was 1994. I had just graduated from university with a brand-new degree in computer science and I was looking for a job. I was so lucky because I was able to land a job at Microsoft.

 

Something happened during that time at Microsoft that explains why we’re all here in this room together.

 

You see, getting a job at Microsoft was a big deal for me.

 

Just a few years earlier, I was a refugee in the streets of Pakistan, waiting for my asylum process to be completed. I escaped Iran, the country where I was born, because of persecution of people like me who believed in the Baha’i faith.

 

Back in those days, Microsoft was at the top of its game. It was perhaps the most successful tech company. I joined the PowerPoint team.

 

As a developer, I was living my dream. Life was great and I enjoyed every moment of it. Well, almost. Why?

 

For this little thing: in addition to my PowerPoint responsibilities, I was given an internal app to maintain.

 

It was a defect management app, a standard database application that does searches, forms and reports. It was an old app and it was never good enough.

 

I was the recipient of a never-ending stream of requests, enhancements and fixes, all sorts of things. It was annoying because it prevented me from dedicating my time to what I really liked to do, which was working on PowerPoint.

 

I thought that my skills and even my salary deserved better utilization of my time. It didn’t make sense and I felt there must be a better way.

 

But it didn’t end there.

From Mundane Programming Tasks to Templated Coding Inspiration

I left Microsoft a few years later to start a company that took the hassle out of buying a car.

 

At autoweb.com, we provided detailed information about cars and helped buyers connect with local dealers who joined our program. These dealers were trained by us to deliver a no-haggle, no-hassle experience to car buyers.

 

That was our business. It was a web 1.0 company.

 

The technology behind our business was not very complex, but we needed a lot of web applications, forms and portals that continuously changed. A significant part of our limited financial resources was going to a team of expensive, hard-to-find and hard-to-maintain IT personnel.

 

Ironically, many of them were given the same sort of tasks that were annoying me just a few years earlier. They were asked to work on these mundane database applications.

 

On one hand, we had Microsoft, one of the biggest and the most successful companies, and on the other hand, we had this really small startup company with just about 100 employees, but which was a good representation of how the future would be.

 

Both companies had very similar problems, which was expensive and hard-to-find engineering talent who were asked to do mundane database work.

 

I say “mundane” because no matter what the application may have been and what data it was managing, these types of applications were all forms, searches, data lookups, workflows, reports, charts and calendars. For a developer like me, they were all the same, just different data.

 

So, after autoweb.com went public, I left to focus on this problem. I wanted to build a product like PowerPoint.

How PowerPoint Revolutionized Presentations

Why PowerPoint?

 

Well, because of how PowerPoint transformed presentations.

 

Before PowerPoint, making a presentation was considered a work of art and had to be done by specialized designers and technicians. Slides were real, physical things that you put on a carousel to display.

 

Remember those? They had to be final days before the event.

 

As a result, slide presentations were very expensive and they were used only on special and high-profile occasions. But PowerPoint and products like it completely transformed presentations: how they were made and how they were delivered. They made it so easy that everyone could make presentations. And with pre-made templates, they all looked great!

 

Today, every office worker has PowerPoint or a similar software as part of their productivity toolset. The process is democratized and the cost of producing them has gone down dramatically. We all use them to communicate and we consider them fairly easy.

How Low-Code Platforms Democratized App Development

We at Caspio wanted our product to do the same thing for applications. The word “application” means different things to different people. Our definition includes electronic forms, live interactive web-based reports, automated processes, workflows, and data-management apps.

 

At the time, all these required developers, database experts and webmasters for all of them to work together to build it and to put it in production. All were the domain of the IT experts.

 

On the other hand, our product was going to be for the business user, without requiring development skills, deep database knowledge or application hosting. It was going to include everything that was needed, well-integrated into one solution.

 

A powerful database at its core that was operated and managed by us, with application-building tools for user interfaces, access permissions, styles, localization and the operational engine to run their finished applications.

 

All the user was expected to do was to just log in, start building applications and go live when they’re ready. We believed that with a good tool, anyone would be able to build standard business database applications.

The Birth of Caspio’s Low-Code Platform

It was year 2000 and the dot-com crash was unravelling all around us. Investors were running for cover. Those who listened to our pitch said, “You’re crazy. This cannot be done,” which gave us more resolve to do it anyway but not rely on their investment.

 

The journey has been amazing. These days, every business is in the software business. Every business is in the information business. And applications are the infrastructure of every business.

 

While some software are standardized, the fact is that the majority of them can’t be because they are unique to each business or organization. For those unique apps, the choices are: ignore them, substitute another tool for them, or create custom software.

 

Ignore them and face the consequences in productivity and loss of market opportunities.

 

Substitute Excel, email, or something else that is not really meant for the purpose and risk exposing data, old and inaccurate information, or all sorts of other problems.

 

And writing custom software requires coding, or it required coding.

The Pitfalls of Traditional Coding

Code is a four-letter word. It should be avoided at all costs because code is complex and complicated.

 

You see, coding is half-art and half-science. When you build an application by crafting code one line at a time, you get quality that is directly related to the person who wrote it, to their skills and experiences, even how well they slept the night before.

 

Code can have hard-to-find bugs lurking in it. Code needs ongoing care and maintenance. It gets old and outdated, must be updated or replaced. It’s rarely documented properly, so it’s difficult for the next developer to figure it out. That’s why most developers prefer to work on brand new projects than to fix somebody else’s code.

 

Coding is slow to write, so much so that many projects that begin never end, because before the work is finished, the requirements change, or the market opportunity evaporates, or people just move on.

 

That’s not all. Code that is in some file does not run by itself; someone must provision it on servers, make it fault-tolerant, ensure that the app scales at the right time, that it is secure, and all data and applications are backed up regularly.

 

The cost and complexity of operating an application are quite high and require different skills than those of the developers.

 

So at the young new Caspio, we had our goal set. We went to work and we built Caspio.

 

It wasn’t always a smooth sail, we made our own share of mistakes and hopefully learned from them but we never doubted our vision.

The Pillars of Caspio

Back to Caspio, the no-code platform. We built Caspio on three pillars: Respect, Service, and Innovation.

 

Respect for our team, our customers, and the world that we live in, to be responsible corporate citizens. To respect your intelligence, your business, your time, your operation, your data.

 

Our second pillar of Service means commitment to perform our work in the spirit of service. We do not view our jobs merely as a source of income; we are here to make a difference.

 

Innovation, our third pillar, is what stimulates us. It’s what makes the job at Caspio so exciting and explains why so many people at Caspio have been with the company for over 10 years. We enjoy working on big problems and creating new and innovative solutions.

 

Today, Caspio is a leader in no-code. Thousands of customers from over 170 territories and countries use our platform to power their applications. Caspio is ranked very high by the analyst community.

 

For many years, we have been operating in the black while remaining independent from investors. All of these have given us stability but also self-reliance and discipline. We owe this to our amazing team and our fantastic customers.

Longtail Processes and Applications

There are longtail processes and applications in every organization. All parts of the organization have their own workflows, their own data that need to be collected, managed and shared. The main operational areas of the company usually get the most attention. But you can’t transform an organization unless you deal with the longtail.

 

Right now, the model is not scalable because automating business processes and making them run on the cloud need IT resources, and limited IT resources cannot scale fast enough.

 

Something must change, but what should be changed?

 

The approach that has existed for quite some time has been these rapid application-development tools for IT so they can accommodate more projects. That’s a good thing, but the need is so completely overwhelming that we think there must be something more profound. Incremental changes would not do this.

 

Where can that profound change come from? Let’s look at who owns the longtail. They are the teams, the individual professionals, the departments within the business, whether they are customer-facing or not. The applications and automation they need is specific to the way they work, their way of thinking, and to the communities that they must work with.

 

How do you expect IT to come up to speed on serving the application needs of every corner of the organization, and do that for multitudes of communities and audiences? How can they learn the specific needs of every group? It’s just not realistic.

 

The real way to solve this is to turn the people who own the problems into application developers. Make them responsible for the automations because they know exactly how they work and how their work can be improved.

 

If there was a tool that could make that happen, that would be a profound change. Unlocking of net-new capabilities in the organization that previously didn’t exist would be a profound change. That’s massive because they’ll get an application developed that they want to use because they built it themselves that will work for them.

 

That tool exists today. All they need is a bit of extra help along the way when they run into something outside of their technical expertise.

How Low-Code Reconciles Your Organization’s Needs

That’s where we come in because we leave no user behind. But they should also have someone inside the company to help them, you know, for them to go to.

 

IT’s role should be to endorse the tool and standardize on it. They should be empowering the organization and removing obstacles so other people can do what the organization must get done holistically from a software perspective.

 

And then, IT can do the things they’d rather do, the things that are truly complex enough that must be done by trained developers.

 

Makes sense, right? It’s so obvious! But why is it not happening everywhere? Why aren’t all businesses working like this? Why aren’t all CIOs running to embrace this amazing new enablement tool?

 

Because these two departments have needs that must come together.

 

You have the CIO who needs something different from the needs of the business manager or VP.

 

The VP needs access to data: they need to get the job done, to make good real-time decisions, increase productivity and bring new ideas to market fast. Their budgets are limited.

 

The CIO needs to ensure data security, integrity, compliance and openness. They also need many good developers, DevOps, database experts, QA teams, project managers and big budgets.

 

What’s great is that those needs can come together on this platform. In fact, without this platform, those needs cannot be reconciled. And that has been the challenge, because the needs of these two people could not have been reconciled before. Now, they can.

 

The only thing that we’re really lacking is knowledge, the awareness and the appetite to make changes. That’s where there is a lot of room for the leadership of the business to really take a deeper look at these platforms.

 

The great thing is that they can accomplish things. They can harmonize the diverse needs across the organization, get others to jump on board and not have it continuously percolate from the bottom up. Because it’s percolating, it’s bubbling, and it’s boiling now.

How to Help Your Organization Achieve Digital Transformation

The range of applications our customers built with Caspio is incredible and proves how applicable this platform is for the entire operation. They practically touch every aspect of the business.

 

Organizations that want to achieve dramatic business transformation and stay relevant cannot expect the tools and the mindsets of the past suddenly to give them different results. They need to democratize application building and process automation, and it can only happen when you give relevant tools to everyone in the organization.

 

They should provide the tools, provide the training, and let the people experiment and learn because a learning company is a winning company. Then the results will come. Innovation will accelerate.

Shadow IT and Low-Code Enterprise Adoption

Just a few years ago, it was mostly shadow IT that was coming to Caspio to overcome shortcomings of the official IT. They were too frustrated by the state of their IT operation.

 

Shadow IT could get so much done so fast and at a fraction of the cost. To them, IT was just an obstacle.

 

But now, we see leading IT organizations come to us and tell us they’re interested in the platform but they want to understand how their data will be secure, how compliance will be addressed, how users will be trained. They want to get comfortable with it.

 

Now, those conversations are happening and that is great. And we see some ITs taking the leadership role to bring the platform into the organization and distribute it broadly.

 

The next chapter of this stuff is just pure enterprise adoption, because it solves a real challenge out in the marketplace that is impacting a lot of organizations and businesses. It’s a real challenge.

 

The way that we’ve tried to approach the challenge in the past is no longer applicable today because the need keeps growing and growing and growing. No-code makes perfect sense.

Why You Need to Move Forward with Low-Code

Where do we go from here? It’s really no different than Microsoft Office. The future is about having people manage their data and automation needs by themselves at their fingertips on a fully secure platform with lots of guardrails, with lots of room for creativity and experimentation, and without risking exposing organizational data at 4 o’clock in the morning.

 

There are skeptics who say, “Not everyone should be creating applications even if there was a tool that let them do so.” They argue that it’s a task for professional developers because otherwise the sky will fall.

 

The fact is that anytime there is a disruptive technology, there are those who reject it, fear it, or are too accustomed to the traditional ways.

 

Or it may be because of self-preservation. They have a hard time accepting that there is a new and better way.

A Brief Look at Web Development

Look at what it used to take to create a website. It used to be quite complex, you needed designers and HTML coders.

 

I remember some HTML coders who used nothing but a text editor to build a complete website. Over time, tools were introduced to make their jobs easier, so there were these new text editors that color-coded HTML.

 

This made coding easier; you could easily see your code and follow it. And later, WYSIWYG tools came to the market that made it even a little bit easier. But it still wasn’t for you and me.

 

Websites didn’t explode until eventually online tools came to the market that allowed anyone to create great websites in minutes or hours using templates and drag-and-drop tools. With a push of a button, they were live. No need for servers or anything.

 

Website developers initially dismissed these tools, but it got to a point that there was no argument left. Now, for the building and maintaining of high-profile websites, you may still go to web developers, but not for the longtail, which makes up 90% of websites.

The Importance of Business Transformation

Now is the time for application building to go through the same type of change. With a tool that meets both the needs of the CIO and the VP, potentials that didn’t exist before suddenly open up. It’s truly unlocking.

 

By opening up access to this tool, application development is democratized. Creativity flourishes and business transformation occurs.

 

Something businesses always need to do is to transform themselves and adjust to the changes that are happening within them and outside of them, to take advantage of the opportunities that come up and let go of those that didn’t work. If the business does not continuously transform itself, it risks becoming irrelevant or, worse, gone.

 

We were founded in 2000. Out of the companies that were on the Fortune 500 list that year, 52% of them were no longer on the list in 2014. They either no longer make the cut, are now part of another company, or simply don’t exist anymore. Business transformation could have saved them because they were replaced by the companies who got it.

 

The power is in the numbers. Transformation comes from the impact of a lot of small successes: the longtail. The impact of even a small implementation is profound.

The Snowball Effect of Transformation

You may say a repetitive task was transformed or was automated. That’s great. But once we peel the layers and look at the impact on the company and its people, we see how business transformation takes root, one small success at a time.

 

The person or the team who built it feels empowered and appreciates that the company cares about them and is progressive. They become more committed to the organization and go on to find other problems to solve.

 

Their peers also take note of their contributions. Some may even try to emulate their success and make their own improvements. People whose work was impacted by the app enjoy that their company is not idle and things are happening. They appreciate and feel respected that they don’t have to perform repetitive tasks.

 

The IT department is comfortable that none of their resources were pulled out of their critical projects, yet compliance and security were taken care of. The VP is satisfied.

 

The result is that the organization sees improved employee morale and maybe even lowered employee attrition, gains in productivity, fewer errors, better data and faster decisions.

 

This is repeated with every project. This leads to drastic business transformation one step at a time. And this is not even about big company-wide projects that have far bigger impact.

 

We are proud to be a pioneer of this. We are proud of what we have accomplished so far. We’re also committed to continue to lead in this space and to keep improving the platform, both incrementally and fundamentally.

Achieve Exponential Growth with Caspio

We have so much in the works and we are so excited about them. Some are short-term, and you will see them released every couple of months, and some of the projects are longer-term and they may span multiple releases.

 

Our strategy with the product is to make it powerful enough to let you build the applications you need today and tomorrow, and at the same time, make everything as easy as possible.

 

We know that you want to build more complex apps and screens, and you want them to be mobile-friendly. We know that app analytics are important, we know that you want to build apps in a sandbox and without interrupting your live apps. You want more and better native integration with tools and technologies that you use.

 

These are exactly the things that we’re working on.

 

We are focused on them and we have expanded our team so we can do a better job. We are excited that, in 2017, we opened a new research and development center in Poland. You saw a few of the team members there, not everybody was in that video. But the team in Poland is complementing our existing R&D Center and this new operation is growing nicely and is adding more capacity to our team.

 

We’re also committed to expand our front-line teams and operation and ensure that we are there when you need us. We are a human company and we love human-to-human interactions. We try to find great people who love technology and love helping people, and we put them in those customer-facing roles because we want to connect with you. Oftentimes, customers say good things about the technology but great things about our people. We are making major investments in our front lines, and you will hear more about it in future sessions at this conference.

No-Code, Low-Code, and the Caspio Platform

Ladies and gentlemen, NO CODE is our vision. It has always been and it will continue to be. It gives us a clear direction and it’s our compass.

 

We know our mission is to create a platform that does not require development experience to use it. And this is achieved by eliminating coding.

 

Today, you can create a robust and feature-rich application on the Caspio platform without a single line of code.

 

But every application is different, and your creativity and expectations far exceed our capabilities. We are realistic that NO CODE is a work-in-progress. Technology keeps advancing too, so the goalpost keeps moving. New hardware devices and software that is used to access data and applications provide new opportunities and create new requirements.

 

Given how diversely Caspio is used across organizations, across different industries, and across the globe, there are always new capabilities that our customers want that are not yet in the platform.

 

No-code is our vision but it’s not a religion. We want you to be able to build the application that you really want. Sometimes 100% of it will be no-code, sometimes less. We don’t want to limit your creativity; we are more committed to your success and the success of your apps than to be purely a no-code platform.

 

That’s why there will always be the ability to code with Caspio. We do our best to limit its need but you will always be able to customize your Caspio apps until you love them, with or without code.

 

But we don’t leave you in the cold to find developers to close the gap. If you need assistance in going beyond the no-code, you can always get help from us through our Professional Services or other programs.

Meet the Innovators Who Use Caspio

So, in closing, I want to thank you again for taking a few days to travel to California to be at this NO CODE Conference. Thank you for being such great supporters of Caspio, many of you for a long time.

 

We appreciate that. There would’ve been no Caspio if it wasn’t for your trust and your business. I am thrilled that at this conference, we will be hearing from so many users who have used Caspio to transform customer experiences, operational processes, and even business models in their companies.

 

People who took these initiatives were usually not from IT. Many of them have no background in software development. Building applications was not on their job description.

 

But they had the resolve and the initiative to solve problems, and they had a tool that empowered them. The results were amazing. They are here today among us, and we are so grateful for that and we look forward to hearing their stories.

 

When you go back to your organizations, I urge you to think about how you can empower everyone in the organization, how you can democratize application building, and how you can put a business-application platform at their fingertips.

 

The truth is that you are the visionaries, you are the trendsetters, you are the ones leading your organizations to transform itself and embrace the future.

 

And it is our honor to be working with you. Thank you.

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