Main image of article What Kind of App Developers Do You Need?

Developers are a quirky bunch. With their own languages, customs, culture and even dress code, there’s no questioning that they march to their own beat. But while they lend themselves well to certain stereotypes, developers aren’t just “people who know how to write code,” and no two developers are exactly alike. If you’re running a business that employs developers, there are several different types of app builders within the community you should be aware of, in order to ensure you’re playing to the strengths of each, and deploying your development resources effectively.

The Professionals

You know the type: these developers know computers and mobile devices like the backs of their own hands. The moment they first laid eyes on a terminal, it was love at first sight, and they’ve never looked back since their very first boot-up. They’re multilingual, just not always in spoken languages. Send them a riddle written in C# or Java, however, and they’ll solve it faster than you can say “Rubik’s Cube” out loud. They’re happiest when they’re deep in the weeds with their sleeves rolled up, making sure everything’s running smoothly on AWS and helping your applications take advantage of the latest and greatest server architectures. But if you ask them to spend their day churning out every single app requested by end-users, or bombard them with requests for small updates and tweaks, you may be met with glossed-over eyes, not to mention a potential delivery date months or years away. They want to tackle big challenges involving mission-critical applications or systems.

The Power Builders

These folks might not hold a traditional CS degree, or have the deep technical training or coding know-how of the professional developers, but they still know their way around a relational database and can capably write a decent script in Python or Ruby. Many of these app developers have backgrounds in business operations, as consultants or analysts, and they’re in touch with business needs. As such, you’ll find many Power Builders embedded in specific business units. Come to them with a business problem, and they’ll solve it for you with a custom app that is tailored to specific needs such as these:

  • You need to pull on-premises data into a cloud-based app to streamline a process in your supply chain or order management system.
  • You want to automate a multi-step business process.

For medium-complexity asks like these, Power Builders can help you get the job done.

The Builders

You’re probably on a team with one right now: that one coworker you go to when you’re struggling to get an advanced Excel formula or macro to run properly. With a few swift keystrokes, they’re able to make all your problems disappear. However, your average Builder doesn’t spend his or her day knee deep in app-building. They’re focused on business problems, first and foremost, while squeezing in time to figure out how to use technology to fulfill their tasks at hand more efficiently. These employees have probably made a few apps for themselves and their teams along the way, but they don’t know a lick of code. Instead, Builders rely on their advanced Excel knowledge, and are able to translate it to a no-code app development platform. Some examples of instances when involving Builders might be a good bet:

  • You need an app that automates workflows and notifies members of your team when the process requires them to take action.
  • You’ve recently brought on some contractors to lend a hand, and you need an app to track the time they’re spending in order to ensure they get paid accurately.

If you’ve spent enough time messing around with databases, you also have the skills needed to become a Builder and develop your own basic apps.

So How Do You Know Which One You Need?

To choose the ideal groups to enlist to build the app you need, you’ll want to consider the following factors:

  • The complexity of the app’s purpose: More advanced functionality and usability requirements are best handled by the pros.
  • The IT involvement the app will require: If your app is handling sensitive information or integrating complex data, you’ll want to involve pros at the beginning.
  • How quickly you need it built: Professional developers have limited availability for all but the highest-priority projects, so if you need it done yesterday, the Builders and Power Builders are your go-to.
  • The expected lifespan of the app, and the frequency with which it will need to be changed to fit evolving business needs. Hand-coded, mission-critical apps are much more laborious to change, so if you expect to be swapping out your app’s engines mid-flight, best to talk to the Builders and Power Builders.

However, keep in mind that these groups don't need to work in silos: They work best when collaborating and iterating with each other. So you might want to talk to more than just one of them. Each can bring complementary strengths to achieve a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts: many apps, including those that handle sensitive data, benefit from being changed and updated quickly by Builders and Power Builders, while keeping IT involved to maintain security and permissions. The boundaries between these groups are also constantly shifting. The shortage of traditional development talent means the Power Builders are stepping up to fill more responsibilities of IT, and Builders are increasingly stepping up into Power Builders' shoes, as well. Business productivity platforms for developing no-code or low-code applications that can be used collaboratively by all three of these developer types are helping to facilitate this shift, and training programs offered by those platforms are helping developers at every skill level up their game by prioritizing a problem-solving mindset. These days, more and more companies view themselves fundamentally as tech companies. In the future, the same will be true for the workforce, as more and more workers learn to think and act like developers, solving problems both individually and collaboratively. Mark Levitt is Customer & Market Insights Senior Manager at QuickBase, where he leads research that generates insights into buyers, builders and users of no-code and low-code business applications. Mark has worked as an analyst and researcher for various markets within the technology sector for over two decades.