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7 min read

You Wouldn't Code a Website From Scratch: Lessons for Data Management

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Data engineers and business intelligence professionals can learn a lot from the world of website development.

In the early days of the internet, websites were developed from scratch using coding languages like HTML and CSS. This was a complex process that often required a team of web designers and developers, a complex stack of tools, and months of development time.

Advantages of Developing a Website from Scratch

However, there were a number of advantages to building a website this way:

  • Design Precision: It allowed for complete control over the design of the website
  • Customization: It meant that the website could be customized to a very specific set of requirements
  • Hosting & Storage: It gave the website owner complete control over the hosting, storage, and migration of the website

Drawbacks of Developing a Website from Scratch:

Unfortunately, there are many drawbacks to this approach, as well:

  • Expensive: It is very time-consuming and expensive
  • Highly-Technical: It requires a lot of technical knowledge and skills (which are hard to staff for, especially with the talent shortages organizations continue to struggle with)
  • Error-Prone: It is prone to errors and coding mistakes that can be very difficult to track down and fix

The Shift to Low-Code Website Development

As more people began using the internet, better tools and resources became available. Today, the market is full of low-code Content Management Systems and drag-and-drop website builders (WordPress, HubSpot, Shopify, SquareSpace, etc.) that make it easy to create a professional-looking website without any coding knowledge.

While there are still a handful of very specific use cases where you would need to code a website from scratch, organizations quickly realized that using a low-code CMS or drag-and-drop builder was a much better option in the vast majority of cases.

This shift has led to a dramatic decrease in the amount of time and effort required to build a website. In fact, you can now create an entire website in just a few hours using these low-code tools.

Resistance to Change

Every great shift comes with some level of understandable resistance. At first, web developers were skeptical of (or outright opposed to) low-code tools for the following reasons:

  • Fear of Replacement: Developers saw these tools as a threat to their jobs
  • Power & Flexibility: Developers were unconvinced that they would be powerful, flexible, or customizable enough to produce the same quality of work
  • Trust & Reliability: Since the code was generated automatically, developers were unsure that it could be trusted to the same degree as the code they wrote themselves

Over time, most developers have come to realize that these fears were unfounded and that these tools are not a replacement for their skills, but rather a complement.

The benefits became abundantly clear:

  • Automated: Developers can automate all the repetitive, tedious tasks so they can focus on the more complex and rewarding aspects of website development
  • Combined Experience: The algorithms that power the automatic code generation contain lifetimes of combined developer experience and best practices
  • Fewer Errors: The code that is automatically generated by these tools is not only reliable, it is almost always less prone to error than code that is written manually by a human
  • Agile: By trusting the code that others have created, you can go from idea, to mock-up, to publishing in a fraction of the time
  • Adaptable & Future-Proof: The web evolves at an incredible speed, and the code automatically adapts with it, so you don't have to worry about constantly updating and maintaining the underlying infrastructure

At the very least, a low-code website builder can help you get the first 80% of the website development work done quickly, so you can then spend the final 20% on customizing and tweaking things manually to meet your organization's unique needs and specifications.

As you've likely identified already, the parallels between the worlds of website development and data management are abundant.

The Dark Ages of Data Management: Complex Tool Stacks and Manual Coding

Like website development, the data preparation process has traditionally relied on a highly-complex stack of tools, a growing list of data sources and systems, and months spent hand-coding each piece together to form fragile data “pipelines”. 

There are several problems with this approach: 

  • Manual coding & pipeline creation: New pipelines must be manually built for each data source, data store, and use case (analytics reports, for example) in the organization, which often results in the creation of a massive network of fragile pipelines. Most data professionals report that they spend up to 50% of their time solely on these types of manual, repetitive tasks.
  • Stacks on stacks of tools: To make things even more complicated, there is often a separate stack of tools for managing each stage of the pipeline, which multiplies the number of tools in use and creates additional silos of knowledge and specialization.
  • Vulnerable, rigid infrastructure: Building and maintaining these complex data infrastructures and pipelines is not only costly and time-consuming, it also introduces ongoing security vulnerabilities and governance issues, and makes it extremely difficult to adopt new technologies in the future. 
  • Fragile pipelines: Even worse, these data pipelines are hard to build, but very easy to break. More complexity means a higher chance that unexpected bugs and errors will disrupt processes, corrupt data, and fracture the entire pipeline. 
  • Manual documentation and debugging: Each time an error occurs, data engineers must take the time to go through the data lineage and track down the error. This is extremely difficult if the metadata documentation is incomplete or missing (which it often is). 

No wonder 85% of these projects fail

We know how slow, painful, and expensive this approach is from years of first-hand experience as IT consultants. We struggled through all these same issues when helping our clients build their data infrastructures. 

We refer to this as the "dark ages" of data management due to its reliance on manual processes, brittle infrastructure, and high rates of failure.

Thankfully, there is a new way to build your data infrastructure that is significantly more efficient, resilient, and scalable.

The Rise of Low-Code Data Management

Low-code data management tools now enable data engineers to build data infrastructure and pipelines very quickly using a drag-and-drop interface.

In fact, 75% of all applications globally will be built using low-code development tools by 2024, according to Gartner.

When low-code data management tools first started to become popular, there was a lot of resistance and skepticism among data and analytics professionals.

Their concerns were very similar to the concerns web developers had:

  • Fear of Replacement: They felt that using low-code tools would make them less valuable and marketable (since their jobs would be easier to automate)
  • Power & Flexibility: Data engineers felt that coding data pipelines from scratch gave them more power, control, and flexibility
  • Trust & Reliability: They were worried that low-code tools would be less reliable and wouldn't be able to handle the scale or complexity of data engineering workloads

However, as organizations have started using these tools, it's become clear that these fears are unfounded, just as they were in the world of website development.

All the same benefits became abundantly clear:

  • Automated: Data teams can now automate repetitive, tedious tasks, and focus on the more complex and rewarding aspects of their work, such as data modeling and data analysis
  • Combined Experience: The algorithms that power the automatic code generation contain lifetimes of combined developer experience and best practices
  • Fewer Errors: The code that is automatically generated by these tools is not only reliable, it is almost always less prone to error than code that is written manually by a human
  • Agile: By trusting the code that others have created, you can go from development, to testing, to production in a fraction of the time
  • Adaptable & Future-Proof: Data storage technology evolves at an incredible speed, and the code automatically adapts with it, so you don't have to worry about constantly updating and maintaining the underlying infrastructure

At the very least, these low-code data management tools can help you get the first 80% of the data engineering work done quickly, so you can then spend the final 20% on customizing and tweaking things manually to meet your organization's unique needs and specifications.

Unfortunately, not all low-code data management tools are built the same.

Platform vs Builder

The data management market is now full of "platforms” that promise to reduce complexity by combining all your data storage, ingestion, preparation, and analysis tools into a single, unified, end-to-end solution. 

While this might sound ideal, these claims start to fall apart upon closer inspection: 

  • Stacks in disguise: Most “platforms” are actually just a stack of separate tools for building and managing each component of the data estate that have been bundled together for one price.
  • Stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster: Yes, all the tools are sold by the same vendor, but they’re often collected through acquisitions, and it ends up just being a big, ugly mess of incompatible code that has been haphazardly stitched together into a “platform”. 
  • Low-code*: Many of these platforms brag about being “low-code”, but when you dig into the details, there's usually only 1 or 2 features that actually have this functionality. 
  • Welcome to data management prison: Worst of all, you end up being locked into a proprietary ecosystem that won’t allow you to truly own, store, or control your own data. All tools and processes are pre-defined by the platform developer, and then hidden in a “black box” that you can’t access or modify. Many of these platforms even force you to migrate all your data to the cloud, and do not offer support for on-premises or hybrid approaches. 
  • Trying to escape might cost you everything: Not only do these platforms significantly limit your data management options, if you decide to migrate to a different data platform later, you must rebuild nearly everything from the ground up. 

These solutions are not truly “platforms”, they have very limited "low-code" functionality, and they don’t really “unify” anything. They’re just tool stacks with better branding and a lot more restrictions. 

Data professionals are in desperate need of a faster, smarter, more flexible way to build and manage their data estates. 

What data professionals truly need is the same solution web developers have relied on for years; a drag-and-drop builder of their own.

Introducing TimeXtender, the Low-Code Data Estate Builder

TimeXtender Data Estate Builder

TimeXtender empowers you to build a modern data estate 10x faster by eliminating manual coding and complex tool stacks.

Our data estate builder seamlessly overlays your data storage infrastructure, connects to any data source, and integrates all the powerful data preparation capabilities you need into a simple, unified, drag-and-drop solution. 

TimeXtender automatically generates all code and documentation, which reduces build costs by 70%, frees data teams from manual, repetitive tasks, and empowers BI and analytics experts to easily create their own data products. 

We do this for one simple reason: because time matters.

Goodbye, data management. Hello, data empowerment.

TimeXtender Strategic Narrative Deck (8)

Data teams at top-performing organizations such as KomatsuColliers, and the Puerto Rican Government are already taking this new approach by using TimeXtender, the low-code data estate builder.

How TimeXtender empowers everyone on your team:

  • Business leaders get fast access to reliable data, with 70% lower build costs and 80% lower maintenance costs.
  • Data teams get freedom from manual, repetitive tasks, and have more time to focus on higher-impact analytics projects.
  • BI and analytics experts get a code-free experience for creating their own data products – no more bottlenecks.

By making the complex simple, and automating all that can be automated, our goal is to free up millions of human hours that can be used to execute on what matters most and change the world. 

It All Comes Down to Trust

Today, an organization's website is a critical asset. You don’t want it going down for reasons that are shrouded in mystery. You also don't want your website to slow down to turtle speeds because of poorly-coded customizations.

The same could be said of your data estate.

Low-code website builders and data estate builders both require you to trust the system to generate proper code.

In exchange, you get much faster development, higher code quality, and future-proof scalability.

I don’t think the choice is very hard.

LEARN HOW TO BECOME DATA EMPOWERED WITH TIMEXTENDER

Book a demo to learn how we can help you build a modern data estate 10x faster.

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