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Full code custom build VS. Custom off-the-shelf VS. No-code: Challenges in going digital

Updated: Feb 4



Companies undergoing digital transformation face a conundrum when it comes to equipping their organizations with the best digital solutions to address business challenges. We are faced with the need for using digital solutions in doing business and the question now arises: How do you get to the solution which is not just an ideal fit for your present requirements, but would also keep you ready for a future where you can seamlessly upgrade the features and functionalities of your solution to match the ever-evolving technology requirements?


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:


1. Are the problems that you’re trying to address very unique?

2. Do you have the funds you need to complete this project?

3. Can you afford to take several months (even 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 care of 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.


How do all the three options compare:


Some of the benefits for using no-code for your non-banking financial services solution are listed as follows:

Cost of app development

With custom-app development, the cost of app development is very expensive as it involves hiring developers, business analysts, and project managers. There are often costs associated with translating business insights into technical language which coders can understand. Off-the-shelf purchase also involves moderate to high costs as the IT team spends resources in evaluating options which best suit the requirements.


Comparatively, the licensing cost of the no-code development platforms is pretty much the only cost which is involved while building and maintaining applications. With every new application launched, the cost of development for the IT platform goes down and the ROI improves considerably.


Time required

The time required to develop applications could range from months to even years. This is because of the time to scope the requirements, programming, testing and debugging. More often than not, because of the time required for development the requirements might have changed considerably than what the business teams might have set out to achieve. No-code platforms 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. Off-the-shelf purchase also involves high team as the IT team is involved in understanding the requirements from the business teams, budgeting, evaluating alternatives and finally making the purchase.

Applications developed by no-code development platforms could be development in a matter of a couple of minutes to a couple of hours. No-code development platforms usually have templates which are used commonly and using them ensure that an application could be rolled out to be used in a matter of minutes.


Technical skillset

The technical skillset required for custom development is steep. Highly skilled developers are required to develop software ground-up. The skillsets in consideration for off-the-shelf purchase are also fairly advanced. One would need knowledge of features of solutions and entails usually the IT department gets involved.


In case of no-code development platforms, the technical skillset is minimal. It really is for the citizen developers- with little or no technical skillset or coding expertise. The visual drag and drop enables application delivery without any major challenges.


Application deployment

The application deployment is seamless in case of no-code development platforms. This is because it is aided by pre-built modules and templates which makes the roll-out and deployment a matter of a few clicks. This is, however, not the case with custom development which is time consuming to get the apps into production. Application deployment is relatively complex as it involves process of debugging and testing.


Fostering innovation

No-code development platforms enable rapid prototyping in a matter of minutes and at no additional costs. If the users don’t like the offering, you could either pivot it to add more features or kill the offering without loss of much time or cost. Hence, it is ideal to foster innovation within organizations. Understandably, this is not so the case in custom development or off-the-shelf purchase.



This article is an excerpt from our eBook entitled Transforming the Field Services Industry Through Service Design & No Code eBook. To get a copy of this eBook for free, CLICK HERE.


About Steer

Steer helps companies like yours transform the way you do business through ordering & fulfillment automation.

We envision a world where your customers love your brand because you provide them with seamless and pleasant experiences through 24/7 access to products and services and transparent & convenient payment. At the same time, our platform helps you achieve smooth-like-butter operations supported by reduced waste & costs, better scalability, and higher profitability.

Steer was created by the same team behind BlastAsia. Established in 2001, BlastAsia is one of the largest software product engineering companies in the Philippines and  is a Microsoft Gold Partner for Application Development and Cloud Platform.

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