The ROI of Low-Code Platforms for Citizen Development

citizen development roi

citizen development roiChoosing how you provide technology solutions to empower teams within your organization is fundamentally a decision about how you allocate organizational resources—budget, people and time, among others.

Whether you’re in IT, business operations, or some other part of the business tasked with driving operational efficiency, elements of “Lean” thinking likely characterize at least some aspects of how you currently solve problems and accelerate digital transformation across your organization.

But getting insight into whether you’re efficiently using technology dollars requires that you have a way to measure your return on investment (ROI) for the allocation decisions that you make. When providing one-off technology solutions — often called “point solutions” — to different teams in your organization, many technology leaders often take two different routes:

  1. Traditional custom app development with programming languages like .NET, C and Java;
  2. Procuring multiple point solutions — such as a CRM, IT help desk, or project management applications  —  on an ad hoc basis.

As QuickBase customers and users of other low-code platforms for rapid app development will attest, leveraging a platform for Line of Business Citizen Developers, in partnership with IT, is an extremely powerful way to maximize IT investments and ensure better alignment between the Business and IT.

Even in organizations where the notion of citizen development is taboo and IT still prefers to control most, if not all, of the app development and delivery process, the time (and, therefore, cost) savings of using no-code tooling for prototyping and iterating custom cloud apps is dramatic (more on that below). There are at least two important ways that using QuickBase as a low-code platform for rapid app development leads to lower IT costs:

  1. Staffing costs: As full-time employees (FTEs), Citizen Developers often cost less to hire than traditional business app developers with scarce, expensive programming skills in popular development languages and frameworks like .NET, C and Java. But regardless of whom you hire, hand-coding almost always takes longer than using no-code app building capabilities in platforms for citizen development, which also runs up staffing costs.
  2. Procurement costs: Buying user seats for a single platform on which you can build, customize and connect different types of business apps is extremely cost effective when you compare it to procuring one-off point solutions, often via a time-consuming procurement process.

Staffing Costs: Low-/No-Code Platforms for Citizen Development vs. Traditional Hand-Coding of Business Apps

As mentioned before, the staffing costs of hand-coding app developers using languages and frameworks like .NET, C and Java are considerably more expensive than individuals who often make for good citizen developers, which include business analysts and business operations analysts. Consider the data below, taken from Glassdoor.com.

As you can see, the average salary for traditional, hand-coding app developers of business apps cost, on average, $78,803 across the country, with C developers pulling in over $90,000 per year. Many technology leaders find, however, that they may have to spend even more on hiring the right talent, with the right array of skills beyond proficiency in an individual programming language.

In contrast, Line of Business Citizen developers, who often are business analysts or business operations analysts, have average salaries of $63,506. That’s roughly 19% less than hand-coding business app developers.

All that said, the right composition of your team that delivers on custom app solutions for your business will depend on your specific needs. Far from prophesying the demise of traditional app developers, we believe that there are certain use cases where hand-coding custom app development may make sense, especially in large enterprises.

National Average Salaries: Traditional App Developers (.NET, Java, C) vs. LOB Citizen Developers (business analyst, business operations analyst) | Glassdoor | QuickBase | Steven Duque - 2

Among our enterprise customers, we often see QuickBase working side-by-side with more traditional enterprise platforms. However, for many of our mid-market customers, many of them use QuickBase to run their entire business; increasingly, we’re also seeing enterprise customers use QuickBase to build mission critical, strategic applications.

Beyond salaries, developing custom apps on low-code platforms for citizen development, like QuickBase, is significantly faster than hand-coding.

In fact, according to a recent survey we conducted for QuickBase’s 2015 State of Citizen Development Report71% of  organizations that leverage Citizen Development have sped up application development and delivery by at least 50%, while 29% have seen a 2X or more increase in application delivery speeds.

Faster burndown of an IT backlog, coupled with lower overall salaries of Citizen Developers, makes for significantly higher ROI of apps built on low-code platforms like QuickBase, compared to hand-coded custom apps.

Procurement Costs: User Seats for One Platform for Many Solutions vs. Multiple Point Solutions with Distinct Pricing

Calculating the difference between the cost of a single user seat for one platform that can provide many solutions and the cost of multiple seats across multiple point solutions for the same single user is simple math. The value you get out of a platform like QuickBase multiplies every time you find another need that can be solved by an app built on the platform. And many forward-looking technology leaders are doing just that.

Point Solutions vs. Platform | 2015 State of Citizen Development Report | QuickBase | Steven DuqueIn the same survey we conducted for QuickBase’s 2015 State of Citizen Development Reportwe also asked respondents how many point solutions, on average, were required to replace apps built on low-code platforms for Citizen Development; the answer was 8.

Among QuickBase customers, however, the average number of active apps built on the platform is closer to 20, as QuickBase’s GM Allison Mnookin discussed in her keynote speech at EMPOWER2015, QuickBase’s annual user conference.

Calculating the ROI of No-/Low-Code Platforms for Citizen Development

If you’re interested in learning more about how to go about calculating the ROI of low-code platforms for citizen development like QuickBase, then you’re in luck.

You can join the QuickBase team on December 15, 2015, at 1:00 pm EST for a live webinar, Get 2X ROI from Your Apps, during which we’ll dive deeper into the concepts and actual math that you can use to approach thinking about the ROI of low-code platforms for citizen development, such as QuickBase. If you sign up, you’ll also get access to the recording.

On that note, measuring ROI of things we can measure doesn’t necessarily paint a complete picture of the total value you can derive from using a low-code platform for citizen development — for example, improved relations between the Business and IT, better daily decision-making from real-time reporting across connected apps, and more.

There’s a tendency to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot. As most technology leaders know, though, providing solutions is also about the people and processes, not just the technology.

Have some thoughts about ROI? Please share them in the comments below.

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  • Sas Vijay

    Quickbase has, in many ways provided alternate and easy ways compared to traditional platforms.

  • Steven Smith

    The ROI is huge at a company with a few employees handling a large number of tasks. Quickbase allows much more organization and collaboration than you would otherwise have.

  • bigrobstunner

    Measuring time saved by having better visibility and access to information is huge! People waste so much time tracking down paperwork, emails and spreadsheets that it can cost tons in wasted productivity. With QuickBase you have it all on your homepage or a few clicks away!!

  • Dan Richard

    We have certainly moved beyond being able to track ROI or other points via excel. So utilizing a platform that can be interfaced more readily and can evaluate the numbers more easily has become a necessity for us.

  • Matt Sarver

    I find the ROI from QuickBase is two-fold:
    1.) Low cost of development .
    2.) Leveraging the platform to build different applications that were likely not thought of in the initial plan to purchase a QuickBase subscription.

  • Great article Steven! I typically look at the cost of the current process vs. the cost of a more efficient process within QuickBase, including time to develop. I’ve seen thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours saved per week with a QuickBase implementation.

  • Mohit Chawla

    ROI is the first thing that any transformation or an evolution initiative will look out for.

    ROI in terms of reduced cost to serve, low maintenance, productivity gains etc are some of the most important decision points for choosing a platform and going digital. QuickBase has the potential of helping their clients meet all of these.

  • Hitesh M

    ROI is the first thing that is weighed when choosing a solution. QuickBase is an apt solution that can offer all this at low cost.