Sachin Dev Duggal is a serial entrepreneur who created Builder.ai to make building software as easy as ordering pizza.
You enter the entrepreneurial world with an idea, passion and, hopefully, strong business savvy to boot. In decades past, this was typically enough but not anymore. Whether you rent a storefront or operate fully online, you’ll be in need of the software development know-how required to thrive in the digital realm. From app creation to website building, entrepreneurs face several challenges as they attempt to launch and maintain a digital presence.
Lacking the necessary skills isn’t a death sentence for your small business though. After all, not too many entrepreneurs have degrees in computer science or software engineering. All you need is to be able to identify any technological shortcomings and take the necessary steps to build around them.
App Development’s Double-Edged Sword
Talented entrepreneurs know how to market themselves and reach consumers online and through social media channels but providing a smooth and rewarding digital experience for customers is an entirely different beast. This struggle is most apparent when small business owners try to translate their operations virtually and presents a dilemma when it comes to finding a solution. It can be very time-consuming for you to learn how to develop your own applications, and it’s often a major distraction from other important matters in your day-to-day schedule of running a business.
So, the natural solution would be to outsource the job, right? If you somehow already have deep pockets, then bringing on a software developer is an easy fix. But because many small businesses are operating on thin margins, hiring a developer can be too significant of an investment. The idea of paying a market-rate, six-figure salary for someone to build an app from scratch (which can take a long time to accomplish) is just not feasible for the average mom-and-pop shop and the countless marketplace disruptors with a million-dollar idea and only a few thousand bucks in the bank.
This is also assuming that a small business would be able to recruit a developer when the industry is expecting up to four million openings by 2025, according to a recent IDC report. The lack of developers only drives the cost up further, as small businesses have to pay an even higher salary to compete with the corporations and billion-dollar startups vying for those same recruits.
Upkeep Ain’t Cheap
The troubles of creating a custom app don’t stop once it’s built. For anyone who’s able to code or commission an app for their business, the next step is maintenance. It’s a pressure that never goes away but must be addressed at all times if you want to keep customer satisfaction and retention high.
Debugging whenever a user reports a glitch or updating an app when new features are demanded is the kind of work that can quickly drain a small business of its money and a small business owner of their time. Whether you try to keep up with it yourself or have to outsource these tasks, the unpredictability of app maintenance is an unnecessary stress in an environment as cutthroat as the small business ecosystem.
No Code, No Problems?
Yet, other options exist that don’t pigeonhole small business owners into spending all their time or money. Low-code and no-code platforms provide the ability to create apps and websites without (as the name suggests) writing endless lines of code. Sound like it’s exactly what you need? It’s not so simple.
Countless startups are throwing their hats in the ring, and these kinds of offerings have been touted as a be-all-end-all solution for small business owners with no prior tech or coding experience. Yes, low-code and no-code solutions do remove the tedium of programming. But what they still require is a fundamental knowledge of coding languages and app development. This kind of service surely has its place, particularly as an excellent tool for actual developers, project managers and other tech-adjacent professions that understand software development and are in need of a streamlined workload.
It’s much more difficult to reap the benefits of this kind of solution when the underlying problem for small business owners remains.
Smart Tech For Your Small Business
As I mentioned, though, low-code and no-code platforms aren’t the last stop on the train to simplifying app development. Recent developments in automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning mean unique and customizable apps can be created for small businesses without the baggage that comes with learning code or hiring a developer. For example, an AI-powered platform that collects data on existing app structures, features and designs could put together an app based on your vision and specifications, like an assembly line machine.
This kind of technology is still relatively in its infancy, but the progression of these automated development programs will likely be able to match the capabilities of human developers in time. Businesses have gotten around this by using a combination of AI and humans, which offers the best of both worlds. The benefit is that this tech often requires less time and a relatively low investment.
The only barrier still holding you back from fully digitizing your business is not being aware of emerging technologies. Small business owners can now create apps, often without learning to code or hiring someone to do it for them. Many still struggle to find the perfect solution, but you could become an early adopter of the AI-powered, automated software development platforms that could help small businesses grow in the upcoming years.