Introduction

Modern applications and software development solutions can solve a myriad of complex business challenges. Whether you're investing in a custom application, SaaS or Cloud solution, you must weigh your options carefully.

Evolution in the tech space is constant. New choices of software and application solutions are emerging daily with ever more catchy names, acronyms, and fancy buzzwords to go along with them. In this article, we review software options ranging from simple, low or no-code solutions to more complex custom options, and suggest which route might be an appropriate fit for your business use-case.  

Simple Software Solutions

If your business use-case is on the simpler side, opting for the good old fashioned spreadsheets and online forms can often solve most of your problems.

Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel (Online) are common in the work place and come with countless applications you can tack on to improve your business productivity with some powerful automations. For example, tools like Zapier integrates with Google Sheets and connects to over 2,000 apps that allow you to automate workflows and improve your efficiency. Similarly, Microsoft Power Automate has hundreds of pre-built connectors to automate workflows and streamline repetitive tasks with digital automation saving you time and money.

Big tech companies invest heavily in these applications so you can easily integrate across vendor boundaries. Many companies have built-in SaaS solutions making connecting those dots easier than ever.

Now let's take a look of some other options for more complex scenarios.

No-Code Software Solutions

Just as the name implies, no-code development solutions can easily not involve you writing a single line of code.

No-code apps are surprisingly user-friendly to create and typically require no programming experience. You simply use the building blocks provided by the platform to create an app or use predefined templates. Anyone on your team can start building bad-ass web or mobile applications that will save time and enhance productivity.

While most no-code platforms allow for some level of customization, you're bound by the rules set in place by each vendor. They'll come equipped with a variety of components that can be linked together using a simple drag-and-drop interface, and you can easily connect to web services for stuff like Salesforce, ServiceNow, Twitter, Slack, etc.

Top no-code platforms we recommend to simplify your business processes include: Amazon Honeycode, Betty Blocks, AppSheet, and Airtable.

No-Code Pros

  • Speed - business user friendly, quick to market.
  • Cost - no developer required and you only pay for what you use.
  • Maintenance - easy to maintain with limited technical know how.
  • Deployment - click a few buttons and you have a process up and running.
  • Adaptability - easily build multiple apps or prototypes.

No-Code Cons

  • Customization - live by the rules set in place by each vendor.
  • Vendor lock-in - you can't easily move to another vendor once your solution is built out.
  • Scalability - you may hit a ceiling when it comes to scaling your application.
  • Visibility - it can be hard to troubleshoot issues when you can't see behind the curtains.

Low-Code Software Solutions

Let's say you need to step outside the boundaries, but still want a complete speedy project, low-code may be your best bet.  Similar to no-code, low-code software solutions offer a bit more flexibility. You'll get the perks of no-code but with more customization options. Low-code comes standard with the nice drag-and-drop UI and caters to tech savvy business users and professional developers.

Low-code allows you build custom business processes using easy-to-use tools that require little, if any coding. We like Oracle Apex which allows you to build enterprise apps much faster using little to no code. The same goes for Azure Logic Apps or Microsoft Power Apps. Other low-code software solutions we've tested include OutSystems, and Ionic X.

Let's say your situation is more complex. Low-code allows for more advanced scenarios and custom coding. Developers love it because you can develop a proof-of-concept (POC) without having to reinvent the wheel every time. Business' love low-code because the speed at which solutions can be crafted is super fast.

The downside to low-code apps can be the lack of diversity. While consistent, quality products delivered at lightening speed can be great for fast food giants like Chick-fil-a, the end product of low-code and no-code apps can feel a bit "cookie cutter." Low-code solutions are efficient and aimed at saving time and money, however, developers wanting more options may need to look towards a hybrid or custom solution that allows for more customization.

Our top low-code vendors include: Oracle Apex, Azure Logic Apps, Microsoft Power Apps, OutSystems, and Ionic X.

Low Code Pros

  • Speed - developer friendly, quick to market.
  • Cost - no developer required and you only pay for what you use.
  • Scalability - easily scale up your solution as your usage grows.
  • Maintenance - easy to maintain with limited technical know how.
  • Deployment - click a few buttons and you have a process up and running.
  • Integration - easily integrate with other platforms.

Low Code Cons

  • Customization - although you have more options than no code, there are limits to customization.
  • Vendor lock-in - you can't easily move to another vendor once your solution is built out.
  • Skills - writing code takes skill and depending on the complexities you might need to bring in an expert.

Custom Software Solutions

If you have the time and know-how, possibilities are endless when it comes to custom software solutions. You can tune every aspect of an application to fit your business needs when you build from the ground up. With the right development team and/or technology partner, you can tailor processes for everyone involved.

The custom approach has a longer development cycle when compared to no-code/low-code solutions, however, using modern cloud technologies means you can achieve robust functionality, while minimizing cost. Given the excess time, budget and/or skill set to tackle a fully custom solution, you can transform your workflow in remarkable ways.

And custom doesn't necessarily mean you must write everything from scratch. You can start with a no-code/low-code platform and then as you outgrow the solution, you can build out the complex parts separately. This scenario is more of what we call a hybrid solution.

Hybrid solutions allow you to quickly create the bulk of an application using a low-code platform and build out the remaining complex business processes using custom code.  We like Azure Functions for more intricate workflows because you can achieve custom solutions faster and with minimal IT oversight .

Custom Software Pros

  • Scalability - you control the scale of your solution from day one.
  • Customization - mobile, tablet, web, watch, wearable, or IoT device can be built for any platform.
  • Agility - build the right tool for the job.
  • Agnostic - using container technology like Docker or Kubernetes you can build without vendor lock-in.

Custom Software Cons

  • Time - takes longer to build custom solutions,.
  • Cost - anything fully custom is going to incur development hours, but using the cloud can certainly help reduce cost.
  • Complexity - custom solutions require more knowledge to manage and support.

Conclusion

There are many options when it comes to crafting a software solution that is right for your business. By connecting a few disparate business processes, you can free-up valuable IT resources or reallocate personnel to perform more important tasks. If you can live within the bounds of the no-code/low-code platforms you can easily build solutions that solve your business challenges.

You really have to weigh your options when it comes to choosing the right tool for the job. But you don't have to do it alone. We have helped countless businesses navigate the decision making process when it comes to building and implementing software solutions.

If you ever have questions or need assistance, we specialize in hybrid and custom software solutions. We would love to hear from you about your next project.

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Photo by James Harrison