A recent ComputerWorld article shed some light on Santa Clara County CIO Ann Dunkin’s conundrum: Should Santa Clara build or buy mobile apps? I suspect this is a question many city CIOs are asking themselves as they try to figure out how to offer their city residents a mobile-friendly, one-stop shopping experience that is platform-agnostic.
Based on past experience, Dunkin imposed the following criteria on app development projects:
- First, consider the applications that the city currently has and explore ways to leverage them to address the need.
- Second, look to SaaS providers as possible solution candidates.
- Finally, if the first two options are exhausted, consider building the app in-house.
I understand Dunkin’s reasoning: why build your own if there are commercial apps available? In this respect, it comes down to core competencies. However, I suspect that Dunkin and the IT organization find themselves having to build custom apps often to fill gaps between solutions as well as offer their citizens apps that address specific needs where there is no viable off-the-shelf solution. I also suspect that like most IT organizations, the city of Santa Clara is facing an ever-growing backlog of app requests comprised of new apps or extensions to existing apps.
This is my question to all the CIOs trying to meet the needs of their citizens or business users: Why not standardize custom app building on one development platform to meet your needs?
No-code and low-code app development platforms are far more cost-effective in terms of maintenance and support than their traditional counterparts. For example, no-code platforms like AppSheet are specifically designed to take the complexity out of app development. Our goal is to enable any business user to create the apps they need to automate a business process, address a specific business problem, or simply fill a digital gap.
Platforms like ours revolutionize the app development process by putting app creation in the hands of business users, those folks who know what they want their app to do, what features it should have, what content should be shown on each screen, what information should be collected, etc. I can’t speak for other no-code platform providers but I can say that a number of cities use our platform for mobile app creation for the very reasons I outlined above.
But don’t get me wrong: in the no-code (or even low-code) app development platform world, IT still plays a central role in terms of governance, security, privacy, and scalability. These are IT’s core competencies and if the platforms you’re looking at don’t fully address these issues, remove them from your list.
When deciding whether you should build or buy custom apps, first consider the development platform. After all, it’s not about building the app, it’s about selecting the right platform. Once the platform is in place, build versus buy becomes an easy decision.