How long does it take to create a custom app?

Does your business want a custom app for this?

It can be – and not just if you’re the CIO of a big company. New advances in app building technology have reduced the cost of building apps, as well as the time and knowledge required to build, test, and deploy them.

Just as the power of website building was once in the hands of those who knew HTML, but can now be created by anyone with a Squarespace or WordPress account, new programs make it easy for non-developer employees to create apps.

“I couldn’t write a line of code to save my life, but I can configure an app,” says Rebecca Wettemann, research vice president, enterprise apps, at Core search. Application development can be a drag-and-drop process, which allows a business user to build the application themselves.

Not every business will go this route, but it means apps happen — and faster — whether they’re created by non-IT employees, developers, or both.

Shared building experience

The reason for this mix of application development is not just because of the tools that make it easier, but because it allows the end user – the one who knows what he or she needs – to do part of the process.

“I always tell people that you know more than you think,” says Ann Monroe, chief marketing officer of FileMaker. “You have this expertise in the matter. You know how your team works and you take advantage of it.

For FileMaker 2016 “Custom Application Status” report, they surveyed 490 of their customers and found that 52% had built custom apps in less than three months. They found that 82% of customers developed their apps in-house, but only 10% of total respondents said the apps were created by in-house IT. Only 18% outsourced the work to a custom developer.

[Related: Where do mobile apps fit in the world of enterprise software?]

This doesn’t mean developers will be shutting down soon, but it does mean that the process of building an app is no longer solely theirs and can lead to more collaborative efforts with end users.

A knowledge base of app builds means their job is easier too. They no longer need to start from scratch either.

“People have learned that doing all the tedious work to create a framework is probably not a process they should be in,” says Gautam Agrawal, senior director of product management at Senchaa provider of cross-platform mobile application development tools.

He says app development times have also gone down because most testing is done before users see an app, when it was the other way around. “A decade ago, people would finish applications and hand them over to QA so they could start testing,” he says. “They would find a bunch of bugs and they would kick them out. It was quite a long cycle. Now with unit testing, he says developers test within their own department before sending them to QA and “find more bugs ahead of time so they don’t get found after things have been delivered”.

This reduction in cost and time also makes it possible to create what Wettemann calls the “disposable” app, as it takes less time and money. By “disposable” she means something that is put in place for a short period of time, or a one-time purpose like a conference or a sales initiative.

“I can be a lot more experimental in the way I do things,” she says. “If I have an event coming up and want to launch an app for someone attending that app, where before it would take weeks and weeks and cost too much, now I can do it in the service marketing.”

Application Expectations

Not only are apps being developed faster, there is also a greater demand for fast apps. A 2015 Sencha study conducted with Forrester Consulting called “The Rise of Web Technology” found that applications should be built in a shorter time without a corresponding increase in developer activity.

The study also revealed that 43% of companies expected to see a 50% or more increase in the technical complexity of web and mobile applications.

This pressure to make complex applications readily available can cause business units to turn to third-party applications. Ensuring that IT is working with employees to meet their application needs is vital, says Wettemann, not just from an administrative position, but also from a security position.

“IT is going to have to take a longer-term view of how they manage, administer, and address security to enable user productivity without shutting them down,” she says. “It’s clear today that if IT is an obstacle, business users are increasingly willing and able to work around them.”

This could mean the introduction of third-party applications into the system that do not comply with your company’s security standards, which poses a significant risk. Even if a third-party application is perfectly suited to a business unit’s needs and is more cost-effective to acquire rather than create something new, IT still needs to make sure it works within its ecosystem – safely.

“It’s better that I get ahead now and get the administrative capabilities in place and adopt the app instead of doing a complete workaround,” Wettemann says.

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