Build from Scratch, Buy Off-the-Shelf, or Create using No-Code: Which One is Best for You?
Companies undergoing digital transformation face a conundrum when it comes to equipping their organizations with the best digital solutions to address business challenges.
Traditionally, there are two options: Build or Buy. Before we go into the pros and cons of these two options, ask yourself the following questions:
Are the problems that you’re trying to address very unique?
Do you have the funds you need to complete this project?
Can you afford to take several months to years to solve these problems?
If the answer to these questions is "no,” then you’re better off buying. If the answer is “yes,” then you can look at building.
Building software gives you:
Customization. Get all the functionality you need to operate in exactly the ways you need it to.
Full control. Because you own the solution, you have full control on user options, security measures, and system updates.
Competitive edge. Having your own software can better differentiate your business from others.
However, building software has:
High upfront costs. You need to shell out a huge amount in CAPEX to build a software.
Long development time. Building from ground up requires time to identify and optimize your processes.
Talent drought. You’ll need to put together a solid internal team to carry out the job. Outsourcing is an option, but can also push the cost, complexity, and build time higher if not managed well.
Now let’s look at buying software. Buying software, in contrast, gives you:
Low/No upfront cost. Pre-built software is typically cheaper to buy and implement, and subscription fees are booked as OPEX.
Rapid deployment. Ready-made software is oftentimes plug-and-play.
Continuous updates, new features, security, and maintenance. Software companies will take all of these for all subscribers, so you don’t have to worry about it.
However, buying software means:
Limited customization. While many pre-built solutions allow some form of configuration or customization, the solution won’t fit your organization like a glove. Also, the need to customize also brings out the same issue as with building from scratch: talent pool availability and cost.
Lower control. Although off-the-shelf software takes care of updates, volume capacity, and functionalities, it also means you’re at the mercy of the vendor’s decisions.
Compatibility. You’ll have to look out for the software’s compatibility with your existing and future programs, devices, or products.
Connectivity. In addition to compatibility, you’ll also have to consider the ability of the software you’re buying to integrate back to the various software that you’re already using.
Given these two approaches can be a tough choice, most companies flip from one to the other.
But what if there’s a third choice? One that takes the best out of these two choices?
Enter no-code development. It’s the agile way to create and continuously improve apps at the same pace as today’s dynamic business environment.
No-code development (“no-code”) involves using platforms that lets you build and deploy web and mobile apps without writing a single line code. Instead of building your layout with code, you typically drag and drop components or parts of an application.
No-code is often times confused with ”low-code” where there is minimal coding. Low-code is primarily built for developers or programmers, like a modern rapid application development tool. Meanwhile, no-code is primarily designed for “citizen developers” or business users who may not know, nor do they need to know, any actual programming languages to use the product.
Both no-code and low-code platforms are built with the same thing in mind: agility.
As mentioned, no-code takes the best out of buying software and building software into one:
Customization. No-code platforms allow you to create workflows that fit perfectly with your organization. Although some have limitations regarding UI, it shouldn’t matter as much particularly if the apps you’re building will be mostly used internally. Alternatively, these platforms allow you to build the front-end of a custom mobile app for customers (from ground-up or using a template) and utilize APIs from the platform for back-end processing. The level of customization these platforms offer can already provide you with the same competitive edge that building from scratch offers.
Integration. The makers of these platforms understand how critical integration is, and offer various options such as pre-built, single-click integrations, comprehensive API libraries, and even AI bots that let you to connect with legacy systems without APIs.
Lightning-fast deployment. No-code platforms allow you to deploy in as fast as minutes because they provide templates that you can easily setup and configure.
Hosting, maintenance, security, and compatibility. These no-code platforms, as with off-the-shelf software, take care of all these things for you.
Simple and affordable subscription fees. As with buying software, no-code platforms offer pay-as-you-use options with minimal or no upfront costs. Some charge on a per-app or per-workflow basis, some charge on a per-user basis.
This article was originally posted for our no-code development platform Steer.
BlastAsia built the Steer platform drawing from our experience in building business software and digital solutions for the past 19 years. In those years, we’ve seen SMEs facing the same challenges over and over when trying to customizing an off-the-shelf software or custom-building from the ground up:
1. Large upfront CapEx that poses a high financial risk
2. Long build time that delays ROI
3. Keeping up with ever-shifting business requirements
4. Difficulty in integrating with existing systems
That’s why we went ahead and created Steer: to empower business and IT leaders with tools that essentially replaces traditional software development that requires coding know-how. This way, companies can tackle any challenge in front of them with various digital solutions built on the platform.