Low-Code Platforms Shift Application Buy versus Build Debate

    There’s always been a fierce debate between providers of packaged applications and developers of custom applications that goes to the root of any business process management strategy. Packaged application providers generally claim they have optimized a specific business process such as order-to-cash to the point where it no longer makes sense for organizations to develop their own custom application.

    Despite those claims, however, a new survey of 370 customers conducted by FileMaker, a provider of application development tools that is a subsidiary of Apple, finds that 91 percent of the respondents that opted to build custom applications reported an increase in productivity, with more than half reporting productivity gains of over 40 percent.

    Ann Monroe, vice president of worldwide marketing and customer success at FileMaker, says the survey also suggests IT organizations are getting faster at building applications using low-code application development platforms such as FileMaker. A full 72 percent of FileMaker customers had their apps up and running in under six months, the study finds.

    Monroe says advances in low-code application development are making it possible for organizations to rely more on so-called “citizen developers” that typically are closer to a business process than a professional IT developer. The result is that more applications that are specifically tailored to the organization’s business processes can be built faster at a lower cost, says Monroe.

    “Customers are starting to save a lot of time building their own applications,” says Monroe.

    Overall, the survey finds that 76 percent report gaining a return on investment (ROI) on those projects; 77 percent saw a reduction in manual data entry.

    Low-code platforms, of course, can be used to build applications or custom packaged applications. Most packaged applications automate a finite number of processes based on industry best practices. Most organizations, however, can’t resist the temptation to customize a packaged application to one degree or another, or simply choose to build an equivalent of that application themselves. When an organization builds its own application, it tends to save a lot of money on commercial licensing fees. The tradeoff has been weighing the cost of developing and maintaining that custom application.

    As low-code platforms for developing applications become more accessible, however, the calculations used to determine when an organization should build versus buy an application are clearly starting to change.


    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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