Today, if you’re in the market for a business application, chances are you’re looking for a solution to address a specific need. This may include managing projects, customers, leads, budgets, trouble tickets and other data sets and activities, as well as automating approval, order fulfillment and other business processes.
Deciding the best approach to meet your application needs depends upon a host of parameters. You will want to consider application tiers and requirements, resources available, time and budgetary constraints, as well as how easy the solution needs to be to customize and update.
Two common approaches are to buy a packaged application or develop a custom solution using a traditional development methodology. New advances in technology have created a third option that enables business professionals to build their own solutions without having to write code.
A packaged application might be a good choice if you require a deep set of pre-built features for a specific functional or vertical challenge, and you need it now.
However, there are several obstacles that can arise when solving problems with single-purpose applications. They don’t work well for unique and dynamic business needs because they are often costly to customize. Further, you will not only need to integrate each new application into your business ecosystem, but also devote more time to management as your universe of stand-alone applications grows. Finally, your users will go through yet another learning curve, which may slow time-to-value.
In a traditional high-control application development environment, IT controls the entire process and draws upon highly specialized programming expertise in languages such as .NET, Java, C#, and C++ to build and maintain your application. The downside with this type of platform is that most IT departments are spread thin and have sizable project backlogs. This could mean waiting months for a solution or an update.
The third option encompasses a new breed of high-productivity business application development platforms in the cloud, where most of the application code is generated automatically and a minimum of coding is required. These platforms are increasingly taking center stage in many corporate digital transformation initiatives because they empower business professionals, in partnership with IT, to build, deploy, and maintain their own custom business applications in a matter of hours, days or weeks.
Instead of time-consuming hand coding—the hallmark of traditional development—high-productivity platforms simplify and speed up the application-building process. They achieve this by facilitating configuration via easy-to-use menus, graphical editors, and visual models.
The fast growing high-productivity platform market can be best described as a spectrum based on the business goal and primary type of application builder supported. The "no-code" side of this spectrum enables a net-new pool of developer resources—business professionals who cannot code—to create applications. These platforms are focused on driving business productivity.
By contrast, the "low-code" side of the spectrum, which reduces the amount of hand-coding required, is about improving the productivity of existing IT development resources. What makes business productivity platforms unique is the ease of use for the builder and the speed of application development and updates. They enable business professionals to perform a comprehensive set of application-building tasks, a set unmatched by any other platform type.
Platforms on the business productivity side might be a better fit for organizations with scarce coding skills who need to build a lot of apps fast and make frequent changes to them. The IT productivity side might work better for organizations with ample technical resources who are looking to plug into existing IT development processes and infrastructure.
The infographic below provides an overview of the decision points involved in choosing the right application-building tools for your business and IT needs, as well as key things to consider along the way. For a more comprehensive perspective and lists of actionable information, check out our new research-based white paper: Solving Problems with Application-building Tools for Business and IT: A Buyer’s Guide.