Should a company use a low code solution or an MDE tool?
When researching low-code and MDE software, I realized that the former is marketing itself as a solution; while the latter as as a tool. Solutions are aimed at business people, who have problem to solve. Tools are marketed to engineers/developers who have a solution to build.
The users of a solution, usually do not care about how it works or is implemented, as long as it solves the problem. However, the those of a tool are interested it maintaining the solutions they built using it.
An open source tool is a benefit for a user. In the worst case scenario, the tool can be maintained in-house and we have the guarantee that the solutions we have built can be maintained in the long term. For a solution, however, we expect the solution provider to keep solving our problems while we pay for it. An open source solution is just a nice to have.
However, there is a catch with low-code solutions: in the end, you are buying a tool (marketed as a solution) to build your own app. There is a risk a risk that the vendor disappears and you are left unable to maintain your app.
This risk might not be big if you are just pursuing an optimization. In the worst case scenario you go back to whatever you were using before you created the app. For a while, you will be less optimal, but at least you can continue to work. However, if the app is mission critical or core to the business the worst case scenario is a catastrophy.
Clearly, the decision depends mostly on whether the app you will build with the solution is core to the business or just a nice to have. Also, what is the price of migrating to a new vendor.
For example, many web-based companies depend on landing page generators to host their landing pages. Since these pages are their main source of leads, we could argue that these are a core part of the business. However, migrating one of those pages to another provider can be done very fast, hence the benefits far outweighs the risk for this case, and a low-code solution is the way to go.
On the other hand, migrating a low-code generated custom web app to a standard web-app can be the work of months. If it is impossible to continue the business without that app, then using an MDE tool is the way to go.
There are many factors to decide, but it is a good start to try to answer the following questions before deciding:
- Am I building core apps for my business or just optimizing with low-code/MDE?
- What would happen if the solution provider disappears?
- Can I easily migrate to another provider?
- Do I need a tool or a solution?
- Do I have the competencies to use the tool to build my solution?