Small businesses spend around nine percent of their annual revenue on technology— three times the percent spent by large enterprises. According to one survey, more than half of small business owners would like to spend more on tech, which seems to support the view that software is a critical driver of growth, revenue, and operational efficiency within this segment. Small businesses do not, however, spend much if any money on low code platforms or resources needed to manage and scale custom apps. Why don’t small businesses use low-code?
In reality, small businesses do use low code platforms to build applications and services, which we know from looking at the size of select Zoho Creator Platform customers. Still, the majority of small organizations remain wary of the presumed cost and complexity involved with creating custom apps. This is true upmarket, where mid-sized companies and enterprises can leverage the talents of IT to build specialized, coding-heavy apps and deep system integration, all which are highly scalable and permeate the technological infrastructure of the business. None of this is important to the average small business owner, but if this article accomplishes one thing it will be to dispel the myth that low code app development is only for IT and can’t help small businesses.
Is building an app too hard for a small business?
What we’ve found by looking at Zoho’s Creator Platform customers, is that many small business users have developed and deployed and managed critical applications with little or no coding experience. Non-technical business users have created everything from workflow automation software to custom sales tools to customer databases to recruitment systems, each adding tremendous value to their companies and customers. Analysts predict that this is where low code is headed—away from IT and into the hands of citizen developers. Gartner estimates that by 2024, 80 percent of technology products and services will be built by professionals outside of IT. This reality is entirely possible so long as non-technical users feel comfortable with low code platforms, which is already happening, if slowly.
How do you create apps without code?
Take the example of building a sales app… Using Zoho’s Creator Platform, users can drag and drop different data fields—customer name, salesperson name, contact information, sales date, product description, line items, etc.—onto a digital workspace within a single window. Users can then control the permissions and security settings by individual field or for the application as a whole from a drop-down menu, weeding out data duplication along the way. Most low code platforms also feature visualized blueprints, allowing users to manage data flow and trigger actions and automation by adding or removing steps along any business process or procedure. If a potential customer emails the company inquiring about a product, for example, the low code application can be programmed to automatically send out a form response while simultaneously notifying a particular sales agent based on certain customer criteria, such as time of day or location. Initial app creation is not more complicated than launching a landing page from a website builder, and the benefits to small businesses are exponential compared to out-of-the-box tools.
What are the benefits?
The immediate benefit of low code adoption for small businesses is cost. These organizations already spend the highest percentage of revenue on technology, so to be able to reduce that spend by developing mission-critical applications that, say, improve customer experience, has big implications for companies with tight margins and precious capital and resources. Custom apps also allow small businesses to be more strategic in their sales, recruitment, and customer retention strategies better data flow and consolidation. As low code users become more proficient at developing tools, the complexity of their apps and how well they integrate into the larger software ecosystem goes up. Instead of trying to extract customer information from a spreadsheet and expose that data to analytics to draw actionable insights, low code users can develop centralized databases that automatically integrate with business intelligence solutions to gauge when and how customers are buying. The same can be done for internal teams as well—building tools that evaluate performance and inform strategies based on good data, so the company can be more effective and productive.
Is it worth it?
For any small business, it can be hard to see beyond the concerns of today and invest in something systemic and maybe a little mystifying. Embracing low code doesn’t have to be disruptive, and the return on investment can be swift, so long as users and businesses commit to change. One of our Creator Platform customers was able to increase employee retention after reconfiguring its sales software, making the system easier for agents to use and the agents subsequently happier using it. Another small business user was able to forgo the cost of an enterprise ERP and see huge operational and productivity gains simply by getting off spreadsheets and building bespoke apps that minimized manual data entry. Like anything, starting from scratch is scary, so small businesses are encouraged to start small, building one application at a time with a specific intent and goal in place, all while managing expectations in those early adoption months and years.