Who Owns the Rapid Application Development (RAD) Landscape?

Assessing Your Competition

What’s comes to mind when you think about any competitive landscape? One of the biggest questions should be–and one that you can hopefully answer when researching a new product–is who, exactly, is your biggest competition? And how do the top competitors stack up against each other? This question also applies when taking it from a VC (venture capital) perspective. Many entrepreneurs and startups are of the opinion that they are so unique that they have no competition. This may actually be the truth, but if you need VC money, don’t claim this. Why? Because if you have no competition, they might think there is no market opportunity. Some startups are reluctant to mention competitors because they may have certain advantages, features or price points they can’t match.

But we digress. Having said all of this, do you as a Servoy user know what the RAD landscape looks like and who the competition is? There are three distinct categories: the first is no-code and low-code vendors, second we’ll discuss RAD platforms and third we’ll talk about DIY stacks. Let’s take a look at the differences.

No-Code and Low-Code Competitors

No-code or low-code platforms are extremely well suited for less complex or smaller, and often in-house applications. Let’s say you have done your research and find there is no off-the-shelf Software as a Service (SaaS) application available for your industry or specific need. Btw it’s easy to find SaaS apps, just check out for example G2Crowd or contact research firms like Gartner or Forrester. Companies like FileMaker (which by the way, have beautiful iPad templates), Mendix (big in the government space) and OutSystems (can compile to Java and .Net) stand out as ones you’ll want to consider. I would consider the latter as low-code and the others more on the no-code side.

RAD Platforms

For more complex applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or vertical accounting applications, you typically end up with RAD platforms or DIY (which we’ll discuss next). We have all heard of RAD environments that came up before the internet like Delphi, Powerbuilder, Uniface and FoxPro. And one that stands out as very well alive and kicking: Progress OpenEdge. Interestingly, these platforms provide us with the majority of our customer ISV clientele. Some of these platforms have slowly died or are dormant, and the applications built on them either need to be converted to something more modern and Cloud enabled, or the business wants to keep the database and business logic intact and simply wants a new modern front-end. The latter scenario is obviously less expensive and ensures a quicker time-to-market.

DIY Stacks

A DIY approach begins with picking a “language” (notice the difference between a “platform” and a “language”) like COBOL, Pascal, Fortran, and more recent PHP, Ruby on Rails and maybe even Node.js and the likes. And of course .NET and Java. Developers who are using this approach often refer to themselves as “full-stack” developers. They not only code the front-end and business logic by hand, but they also build and maintain all the NFR’s (Non Functional Requirements) by themselves. We see DIY approaches mostly happening in large companies and/or in off-shore scenario’s.

Modernize or Build Your App Servoy

So why use a RAD tool like Servoy to “save” your application? If you have a large or complex application (like an ERP app), and you need to modernize it, you probably don’t have the time to do a full rewrite in a DIY stack or you probably don’t have resources hanging around and available to do it either.

Back to the question, as a Servoy user, who IS your biggest competitor? The answer is not platforms or languages. You most likely juggle every single day with time-to-market and resource questions. You and your staff are obviously smart enough to build a “full-stack”. The question you need to ask yourself is what is the added value of having your own stack, the part that your end-user will never “see” or except by default. Our customers prefer to spend their resources on the part where they make their money, the front-end, the UX, the industry specific business logic, ie everything that makes their app superior and enables the end-users to do their job better, faster and more efficient.

My DIY story. My wife (and I) bought a new rustic wooden table the other day (Urban Home Outlet). I said: “honey, I can build you such a table for far less”. She replied: “I think you could, but it’s not gonna happen” 😉

We’ll continue this conversation in the second part of this series, coming soon to the Servoy blog. Tweet me if you know someone that wants to talk about DIY versus platforms, happy to chat.