Mid to large-sized businesses stand to significantly benefit from the rise of no-code enterprise software development.
Many daily processes – which can be automated and/or managed by software – have continued to rely on less efficient spreadsheets, email, or even pen and paper. That’s because they’re processes that aren’t well-served by commercial software, and/or custom development is too costly.
But thanks to no-code tools, building enterprise applications to run these processes can now be done cheaper and faster.
No-code tools allow business users to custom build enterprise applications by pulling data from spreadsheets or databases to improve user interaction with their services or streamline internal workflows – almost all without requiring expensive and slow internal software developers.
So when should your business consider building custom business apps no-code? Where does it make sense to use within the organization?
At Airdev, we’ve built custom web apps for hundreds of businesses who chose to use no-code. We primarily build on the no-code platform Bubble because it’s a full-stack visual programming platform that specializes in responsive web and mobile apps with dynamic databases and complex functionality. (Refer to our guide What is Bubble.io? to learn more about how Bubble works.)
Based on this experience, below is a brief guide to help you evaluate if a web app built on Bubble is right for your enterprise. We’ll cover the business benefits of no-code web apps, the types of situations where organizations find them helpful, and a few FAQs from business users.
How can your business benefit from no-code custom business apps?
To identify the situations where businesses most often find building apps without code useful, it's important to first understand what web custom apps can offer businesses. Key benefits of transitioning to web apps include:
- Accessibility - as long as there’s an internet connection, web apps can be accessed at any time through any device, such as a desktop, laptop, or mobile.
- Improved business processes and efficiency - because they allow multiple users access to the same version of an application, teams can work together with more transparency and consistency. In addition, web apps can replace paper-based workflows and reduce the risk of conflicting versions.
- Interoperability: APIs can connect siloed systems to provide a more cohesive and streamlined workflow.
- Low maintenance - web apps have lower technical and support requirements from the user’s computer, and they are always up to date since updates are applied centrally.
5 reasons businesses choose Bubble for no-code enterprise software development
With the benefits above in mind, below are common cases where we see companies come to us for help custom building enterprise applications:.
1. To substitute traditional code
For most business users, hiring a development team or getting capacity from existing internal resources just isn’t practical. Both are expensive and have long lead times due to slow hiring processes or simply getting onto a development roadmap (most internal developers are super busy).
In addition, almost all enterprise IT teams operate with tedious internal processes around the development, testing, and release of apps. This can make the traditionally coded app development process incredibly time consuming and hard to get budgeting for.
For example, the average development cost of custom enterprise software for small-to-midsize businesses is in the $75k to $750k range. For larger enterprises, that number can often hit the $1m mark. According to a 2016 survey by Enterprise Mobility Exchange, 29% of respondents budgeted $250-500k and 25% budgeted over $1.5m for an average mobile app development project.
While this makes sense for revenue-generating, public-facing applications, there are other app development needs that are intended only for internal business use. Why should they take so long and be so expensive to build?
Bubble is changing that. They’re helping business users bypass their IT teams by offering a platform that allows individuals without coding skills to build their own apps. Because it is open-ended and like a traditional programming language, you can build (and maintain) almost any type of web app much faster and cheaper than working with your internal coders. For example, we’ve built web apps that support thousands of users for large businesses in just a matter of weeks.
2. To replace Excel spreadsheets
It’s hard to beat the accessibility and cost of MS Excel for data analysis. If you’re like the 54% of businesses using Excel, you’ve probably found its spreadsheets to be the quickest, most convenient and accessible, and least expensive tool for all kinds of business functions that require data and information management.
But despite Excel’s useful features like time-saving formulas and the ability to produce professional charts and graphs, Excel has inherent business limitations, including:
- Version control - when spreadsheets are shared and people start editing them for their own purposes, it's difficult to know who has the 'latest'/'correct' version.
- Connection to external data sources - Excel doesn’t connect to other internal business systems such as your ERP or CRM. This also means data sets don’t sync and can’t be shared in real-time, which can be a severe disadvantage.
- Quality management - spreadsheets platforms will accept most of what a user types, allowing for spelling mistakes, incorrect data input, and broken formulas. In addition, there are many opportunities for accidental data loss, which makes it impossible to share crucial data and information.
- Open access - once a file is shared, there is no way to restrict user access to spreadsheets.
- Not mobile friendly - documents are really only usable from a computer.
Business teams that are reliant on Excel but struggling with these issues are now finding it possible to bring their data living inside of spreadsheets to a Bubble web app that can be accessed anytime and anywhere. By doing this, they’re able to eliminate the countless Excel documents flowing across the organization and instead have everyone interact with the data through a simple, unbreakable interface that syncs automatically.
3. To upgrade software from other no-code tools
As no-code grows in popularity for its quicker development speed and lower cost, more enterprises have adopted point-solution no-code tools that focus on one part of a software’s function. This can include use of the following no-code tools:
- Airtable instead of Excel because it has the functionality of a more robust database system (e.g. it’s harder to break formulas and easier to create relations between databases)
- Zapier to automate specific workflows
- Webflow to create nicely designed landing pages
However, as needs grow and change, enterprises often realize that they need a more complete software solution that talks to other tools and automates processes into a single user interface. Point-solution no-code tools tackle either a specific problem or a specific part of the stack. So as businesses look to expand or modify their solution, they can get stuck – this can look like the following scenarios for the tools listed above:
- When users need to design front-end interfaces to support data stored in Airtable
- When users cannot quickly store and retrieve larger values of data in Zapier
- When users need additional, more customizable functionality in Webflow
For example, after creating a website with Webflow, a business may decide that they want an intake form that sends data elsewhere, which then connects to a specific system or database – but unfortunately there’s no good single interface to manage this process. Or they may have an existing workflow rule that fires on a function-specific no-code tool, but the business now needs it to go into a customer facing portal.
Businesses that need to increase the firepower and capabilities of their no-code tools are finding that apps built with Bubble can solve these problems. Bubble is a full-stack programming platform with a visual programming language that allows integration between a business’ individual no-code tools. It’s a way to create a more comprehensive software solution that does it all by connecting to your existing tools like Airtable or Zapier.
4. To augment or replace SaaS solution/s
Most large businesses now use Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions for common core functions, including standardized backend processes such as HR, finance, accounting, project management, CRMs, ERPs, and more.
However, as the business grows and evolves, the following issues with the SaaS often arise:
- Flexibility limitations (i.e. the business has to make compromises to their actual process to fit what the SaaS tool does)
- Costly per-user pricing (i.e. the SaaS becomes too expensive to grow and maintain)
- Too many unnecessary features/lack of control over the direction of the software (i.e. the SaaS no longer has the features the business actually needs)
Businesses that are using SaaS solutions but struggling with these issues are now finding it faster and cheaper to build custom web apps on Bubble. They’re doing this by either rebuilding their whole platform custom to them, or taking a hybrid approach to create micro-apps that latch onto their SaaS tool.
The latter is a great option for businesses that have made a big investment in their current SaaS tool. It’s an augmentation process rather than a full-scale replacement.
To illustrate, our business clients that have an existing ERP or CRM system that’s collecting all data into one giant infrastructure have used Bubble to create a ‘constellation’ of little micro apps that are user facing. They tap into the business’ big data warehouse to build a simple customer facing portal that either sends data back to their CRM, such as Salesforce, or collects data from the CRM to display to users. Or, others that are using a big ERP system have made a simple invoicing app to sit on top of it.
5. To replace individual pen and paper processes
Business users often create written workflows based on their own individual knowledge or process because there’s no app or software to facilitate everyday functions. This could be as simple as collecting information in the field on a clipboard, then transferring the information manually to a database system. Or physically printing and signing documents to scan and email on to the next person in the workflow.
These daily tedious workflows and processes could be made more efficient and effective from the creation of a web app. However, they often get sidelined due to limited budgets and resources.
But thanks to the existing infrastructure and low overhead of no-code tools like Bubble, these smaller processes can now be streamlined for business teams. This could include the creation of little micro-apps that tap into existing tools so that pieces of paper are no longer flying around. With no-code, programming web apps no longer needs to be an enormous endeavor.
When not to use Bubble for no-code enterprise software development
While Bubble a good fit for building most types of web applications, there are a few categories that Bubble isn't yet good for:
- Apps that need to work without an internet connection
- Apps that have complex regulatory requirements
- Fully native mobile apps (e.g. Whatsapp or Uber) – though web-based mobile apps are supported
- Apps with novel technology and custom visual interfaces (e.g., video editors, machine learning algorithms)
Bubble software development FAQs for business users
While cheaper and faster, building software on Bubble still requires an investment of time and resources. In addition, it’s not something to take lightly as it’s meant to collect important business data and information to improve processes – both internally and externally.
Below are answers to some of the most common questions about Bubble software development that we get from business managers:
Q: Will we get locked into Bubble once we start?
No, but migration to another platform can be easier or more difficult depending on the situation. For example, if you decide to migrate your users and data to another platform, Bubble offers options to export or sync data through CSV export, data API, and direct SQL connections. However, you cannot export code. So most migrations mean rebuilding the app logic in a new platform.
Q: What is the upfront implementation cost to bring Bubble to my business?
Fortunately, it is very minimal. Unlike major SaaS platforms where you're typically looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement and embed the SaaS platform into your enterprise, Bubble’s upfront implementation effort is almost zero since it operates on an AWS server.
Q: Should somebody at my business learn Bubble?
Yes, you can learn and build with Bubble, but it has a higher learning curve than some other no-code tools. It will take time (i.e. weeks) to learn the basics, and it will take plenty of time (i.e. years) to become a great Bubble developer.
Most businesses find it easier to start with a partner to validate the value of going no-code. From there, we have seen some clients stick with the agency approach, others hire their own team, and others take a hybrid approach. (Learn more about the benefits of working with a no-code agency like Airdev to launch your app.)
Bubble software development FAQs for IT teams & developers
Because Bubble’s no-code software development isn’t the same as traditional program development, your internal IT teams may be a bit skeptical. Below are answers to the top 2 questions we hear from business’ internal developers:
Q: Is Bubble secure?
Bubble is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is itself compliant with certifications such as SOC 2, CSA, ISO 27001, and more. All data behind Bubble apps is stored in the cloud using AWS and is generally hosted on AWS West Region (Oregon, US) which maintains a state-of-the-art security infrastructure. All this means that Bubble and Amazon are taking care of a large number of security concerns so you don’t have to.
Learn more about how Bubble works to protect your apps and data on their security page.
Q: Can Bubble scale?
Yes. Bubble apps can scale comfortably to 100k daily users which is plenty for all but the largest consumer-facing platforms. Larger user bases and application activity typically require a robust optimization effort within the Bubble structure.
For applications with more than 1M daily users, your team will likely have to supplement Bubble with custom code for certain components, to provide additional control. In this case, Bubble is still a good option to launch your app quickly and plan a transition to a traditionally coded tech stack where you can optimize and configure every aspect of your app to perform at this scale.
For a more in-depth look into Bubble’s capabilities and limitations, refer to our article How customizable is a web app built on Bubble?
Why building enterprise applications with Bubble helps IT teams
Overall, no-code tools like Bubble aren’t designed to replace the jobs of your internal IT and developer teams. In fact, they’re designed to help them.
Internal developers have advanced coding skills. This means their time and effort is best reserved for cases where no-code tools can't achieve what you need. The key idea behind no-code is that your internal developers shouldn’t spend their time fixing bugs, dealing with QA issues, or developing basic apps. Instead, they should be able to focus their attention on higher priority development projects that can drive innovation and revenue.
Need a Bubble developer to help build your app fast?
No-code and tools like Bubble.io are revamping the way enterprises can do technology.
If you’re looking for an outside Bubble developer to help you build a web app that replaces Excel, upgrades your software, or connects existing systems, Airdev can help. We’re the largest and most highly-rated Bubble agency globally.
If you need to launch a custom, production-grade web app fast, contact us about your project today!