Low-code vs. COTS: What works better in your context?

Whether you are starting your business or thinking of upgrading your software, you may be faced with the dilemma of whether to go for a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTs) software or opt for custom development to ensure a bespoke solution suiting your business needs.

Some of the considerations on deciding would be the cost and the time for implementation and development, as the case may be. Often, COTS wins because there are many industry-standard software available that reduce the burden on the IT teams and allow businesses to go live quickly, enabling them to focus on their core business areas.

However, if the effort to tailor the COTS product to suit your need seems too much, then some businesses may opt for custom development. This will require a lot of coordination with the development teams right from the requirements gathering stage to testing and deployment, but it may well seem worth the effort.

But after the initial euphoria of going live quickly with COTS or with a solution that seems like an ideal fit, you may start seeing the limitations of these options that start curtailing your growth. Especially in today’s world of digital transformation, being stuck with a bulky solution that impedes agility and keeping pace with the competition is difficult and may well result in loss of revenues and deceleration.

Low-code is a viable and fast-becoming-popular solution that overcomes many of the limitations of COTS and custom-building. Just read on to find out how.

COTS – The Hurdles

COTS offers businesses many advantages such as cost-efficiency, high reliability, good customer support and documentation, incorporating best practices, and is highly customizable.

However, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages in today’s dynamic world of constant change and globalization. These include:

Rigidity: Businesses need an agile solution where features can be added quickly and modularly. COTS makes this difficult due to the complex architecture that makes it rigid. This makes adding features a slow process, delaying transformation and innovation.

Niche Skill Requirement: Customization also requires developers with technical knowledge. There is not only a dearth of skills but there is also a cost attached that can be a deterrent.

Complex Integration: Integrating COTS applications can be challenging due to their coming with separate databases with complex data models and customized Application Programming Interface (API) sets.

Low Differentiation: Since customization is an arduous task in COTS, differentiating from the competition becomes difficult and challenging. Upgrading the product with a customized feature may also not be possible in the future.

Not Agile at Scale: Due to the absence of a mature continuous delivery capability of most COTS products, you will find delivering agile projects to scale difficult.

Custom Development – The Limitations

Custom development may sound like the best alternative to COTS as it provides you with the choice to build what is best for your businesses, whenever you need it. However, it has its own flip side, which includes:

High Cost of Development: Allocation of funds is critical for the success of a custom development project as it requires a dedicated team, continuous delivery pipelines, scalable application architecture, etc. It requires an equally steep operational budget too, which can be a drain on your resources. If there are any errors or bottlenecks in the architecture that require rectification, this can add to the costs.

Time to Develop: From requirements gathering to build, test and deployment can be a long journey that not only requires time but also the involvement of your key resources to ensure you get what you need.

Documentation Challenges: Often, documentation gets a go by in custom-built projects due to a lack of resources. This leads to what is called a “developer lock-in” where some of the developers become irreplaceable.

Low Code That Delivers

Low-code is getting adopted by businesses for application development due to rapid development and a configuration-first approach. According to one market research report,  the global low-code development platform is expected to grow rapidly at 31.1% CAGR between 2020 and 2030, its revenues going up from $10.3 billion in 2019 to $187.0 billion by 2030.

According to one Deloitte blog, low-code is no longer only an “interesting” technology but a “must-have” technology for businesses that want to retain their competitive advantage.

The advantages that low-code provides include:

Building Blocks: As the name of this development approach suggests, it does not need code development but instead allows users access to graphical models and pre-built application components that they can utilize to create functional applications. As a result, business users can rapidly develop even complex applications without the need for proficient coders.

Prototyping: With prototyping of fully functional applications, developers can leverage the rapid Minimum Viable Product (MVP) development model well suited for agile development, delivering business value iteratively and quickly using a risk-based approach to deliver customer value.

Simple Architecture: As the functionality forms the basis of the code, it uses a simple architecture to develop applications that are easy and cost-effective to maintain. Being microservices oriented, they are easier to scale, rework and enable fast visual API modeling.

Low-Code PaaS: As it is available as Platform as a Service (PaaS), it reduces operational costs.

Responsive Multi-Channel Applications: The applications developed in low-code can be used/accessed from different devices such as computers, mobiles, and tablets seamlessly, thereby reducing the customization effort for each.

Pre-Canned Functionality: The applications store offers several free and priced vendor and 3rd party “pre-canned” functionality that low code developers can use by dragging and dropping for their projects.

Dashboards and Analytics: Users can also assess the health of the platform and the applications by viewing the operations dashboards.

Mature Continuous Delivery: One of the key requirements today is a continuous delivery pipeline, which is possible with low-code development, enabling agile development in the truest sense.

These features enable you to develop differentiated offerings to retain and strengthen the competitive advantage. Furthermore, low-code also provides flexibility, scalability, facilitates business-IT collaboration, and lowers the total cost of ownership.

So, really, whatever your context, low-code development can fit in very well giving you a cost, time, and resource-effective solution.

Indium is a Mendix low-code development partner that can help you become agile and responsive to the market trends by developing solutions best suited to your needs quickly. Our team of technology and domain experts works in close collaboration with our customers to maximize their development efforts to accelerate growth.

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