Power Apps vs. SaaS vs. Custom Build: Which Solution is Best For Your Business?
When you want to invest in modern applications for your business, the first hurdle can often be the most challenging: that is, deciding exactly how you’re going to do it. You’re constantly presented with multiple competing options for either modernising or innovating applications, and each has a vast array of pros and cons.
To pick the right solution, you have to establish exactly what you need to get out of it. This depends on a range of factors, including:
- Your budget.
- Security needs.
- The amount of data you have.
- UI preferences.
- Integration types.
- Your list of requirements.
It also depends on whether you’re seeking a short- or long-term solution. As you very well know, SaaS solutions are a great cheap, hassle-free option in the short term, but over time you could find yourself needing the lack of limitations offered through custom builds.
In this article, we’ll pit these three solutions to implementing cloud-native applications against each other, highlighting the use cases and drawbacks for each. So, Power Apps vs custom-built vs SaaS — what’s the best choice for you? Let’s dive in.
Suggested reading: Unsure whether you need to invest in new, cloud-native applications? Check out our eBook, Legacy Systems Are Costing Your Business Growth.
This suite of applications, services and connectors is a quick fix for businesses in need of an application. However, their template-based approach can be just as much of a drawback as a benefit.
Why are businesses opting for Power Apps?
The Microsoft tool allows users to build and deploy apps relatively quickly and easily. Its rapid-development, drag-and-drop environment enables businesses to launch new applications with little or zero code. Therefore, a lot of businesses tend to opt for Power Apps in order to take some of the strain away from internal teams, who would otherwise have to build an application from scratch.
In addition to application development, their underlying data platform means applications can connect directly to your data sources. Businesses therefore pick Power Apps when they’re looking for a budget-friendly solution that improves operational efficiency.
Gartner predicts that 70% of new applications will be built in low-code or no-code development platforms by 2025. That number is up from less than 25% in 2020.1 This is a sign that more and more businesses are opting for low-code platforms such as Power Apps.
Suggested reading: Microsoft is a leading provider of cloud-native application technology. Learn more about it in our blog, Why Microsoft Cloud Native Applications Take Businesses Forward.
Should I use Power Apps?
Microsoft Power Apps is a solid choice if you have immediate needs to address and semi-technical users who are willing to learn. The relative speed and ease of Power Apps allows you to deploy applications with minimum hassle and strain on internal teams.
Even if you don’t have a concrete idea of an application’s requirements, Power Apps can act as a great starting solution that helps you establish the actual requirements you are trying to fulfil. They’re also a quick and easy way to modernise your legacy technology.
What are the drawbacks of Power Apps?
While Power Apps’ pre-built templates-style approach allows developers to build applications quickly, the downside is that the functionality of those apps is limited to the features available. For example, there are limited customisation abilities in Power Apps builds in terms of UX, unlike in custom-built applications.
If you want your app to have a feature that isn’t there, or if you need scalable solutions that can adequately support your business as it grows, Power Apps might hold you back.
That said, the drawbacks are just as much about the people involved as they are technical. For example, the original authors of your apps might not be available or even willing to offer you the level of support you need over time, which can put mission-critical functions at risk.
What’s more, as these proprietary stacks evolve, there is a constant need to keep up to date. Citizen developers may struggle to keep up with demand as applications become more complicated and stray away from the required governance processes. For these reasons, they can begin to hinder operational efficiency, make it harder to scale the business, and put greater strain on internal teams.
Pro tip: We talk more about how businesses can make the most out of cloud-based applications in our blog, 4 Growth-Enabling Benefits of Cloud Databases.
This software distribution model gives you access to cloud-based applications at a fraction of the cost of custom builds. But short of finding the perfect SaaS application, you’ll be investing a lot of work, money and time into a proprietary solution.
Why are businesses opting for SaaS?
The SaaS market, although not new technology, is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. In fact, the cloud application market is expected to hit a value of $168.6 billion by 2025.2
Considering that SaaS customers essentially “rent” a pre-built application’s capabilities via a licence rather than owning them outright, plenty of businesses opt for this to save upfront and maintenance costs, as well as reduce the amount of time it takes to get an application up and running. This makes SaaS a very attractive option for younger businesses on tighter turnarounds.
Since data is stored by the third party, you’re guaranteed secure data storage, saving costs and setup for a young business.
Should I use SaaS?
The SaaS model has exploded in recent years, thanks to its accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and simplicity. In an environment where companies need to move fast and streamline business processes, having quick access to quality products is a real bonus. It’s no surprise that SaaS products like Slack, Zoom, Office 365, and Salesforce are so popular.
Simply put, if there’s a SaaS product that completely fulfils all your requirements — and is within your budget — then this is likely the best, most effective solution for your business.
This is especially true for fast-moving startups, which should only ever consider building their own business applications once they have outgrown a SaaS product’s capabilities.
What are the drawbacks of SaaS?
What you gain in convenience, you lose in control. SaaS vendors handle everything to do with their products, including updates and new features. End users are at their mercy, with close to zero say in the direction the product takes. In some cases, SaaS companies can fail and their products can be decommissioned altogether, leaving your business in the lurch.
Because you don’t own the SaaS products you use, there are limited options for customisation. Additionally, slower speeds than custom-built apps can become an issue over time. This has major ramifications for the following:
- Operational efficiency.
- Strain on your internal teams.
With all this in mind, if a SaaS product isn’t a perfect fit in terms of requirements, the drawbacks likely outweigh the potential benefits.
Although they’re a big financial investment, these applications are designed to fit your every need, both immediately and long-term.
Why are businesses opting for custom-built applications?
Because custom application development involves designing, building, and implementing software applications from scratch, plenty of businesses feel they get more control over the final product.
Additionally, the fact that they’re designed with the aim to fulfil your specific business requirements makes them a far better solution than their competitors in terms of scalability.
While custom applications are a substantial financial investment, their ability to fully support operational efficiency makes them an attractive option for many businesses.
According to Forbes, one of the biggest advantages of custom-built applications to businesses is their flexibility. They say, “sometimes a one-of-a-kind solution can be deployed anywhere, can allow for more integrations and can offer more independence in terms of design and features.”3
Should I use custom-built applications?
When it comes to performance and suitability, nothing can compete with a custom app, for the very reason that it is designed specifically with your business needs in mind. What’s more, custom business applications can be built with the intended environment in mind, lowering the overall cost of integration.
In regards to long-term benefits, custom applications built through a third party provide access to a development team that can enable change at speed, helping you to scale fast and stay ahead of the market.
Unlike SaaS products, you are involved at every step of your application’s development, providing full control over the final product. And, where justified, you can even acquire the IP rights, which can sometimes be classed as a business asset that increases the value of your organisation.
If your goal is a scalable solution that meets business goals and is optimised to be as efficient as possible, then custom-built applications are the way to go.
Drawbacks of custom-built applications
Building an application from scratch is a greater undertaking than simply paying for a SaaS product licence. It also represents a greater expense — at least at the outset. This could quite rightly put off some businesses, especially new startups that don’t yet have the resources to make this work.
Custom-built applications also require a lot of expertise to build, implement, and maintain. Many businesses don’t have this expertise in-house. As a result, they may fail to get the most out of their custom applications, turning a potential investment into a money pit. This is where businesses would benefit from third-party application management if they lack the resources in-house.
Pro tip: Want to know more about the third-party support we just mentioned? We talk about the benefits in our blog, What Effective Bespoke Application Support Looks Like.
Choosing the right solution for your business
Whatever solution you choose, you have to ensure that it effectively supports your business as you grow. The stage of development your business is in, your in-house resources and your specific needs all have a big role to play in the solution you settle on. That said, for businesses seeking to grow and scale at rapid rates over the coming years — and who have the resources to support it — the expense of custom-build applications pays off over time.
Custom-built apps are designed to meet your unique requirements both now and in the future, providing superior ROI and performance in the long term. The key to unlocking the power of custom applications is partnering with a trusted expert, like Talk Think Do.
We work closely with our clients every step of the way to ensure that their custom apps meet their business needs. And, with Managed Application Support, we ensure you’re continuing to get the most out of your applications long-term.
If you’d like to find out more about how Talk Think Do could help you gain a competitive advantage through custom-built applications, get in touch today and book a consultation.
1 Gartner Says Cloud Will Be the Centerpiece of New Digital Experiences | Gartner
2 How Many SaaS Companies Are There? (2022) | Exploding Topics
3 Buy Versus Build: When To Invest In Custom Software Development | Forbes
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