Power Analyst – DIY

By now you’ve probably heard about and maybe even built your own Mash Ups – a Do It Yourself (DIY) information portal containing information and data useful for doing what you do.

But there’s a new wave coming, a kind of application mash up.  Where a DIYer can build in a hosted model their own applications using only a browser based tools.  The user paints / builds these application using a drag and drop pallet of application widgets.  It’s kind of like building a forms-based application in Microsoft’s access, but without the need to focus first on the underlying data model.

This concept has potential.  A very typical IT project role is that of Business Analyst (BA).  These BAs are primarily business people, but with strong technical skills.  They effectively understand the business needs, then “translate” it into terms a skilled programmer can ultimately turn into working code.  These new application-building tools allow the BA to skip the translation step; they essentially build the entire application themselves using the toolset.

One of the many vendors popping up in this space that is getting a fair amount of good press is CogHead (www.coghead.com).   CogHead provides some logical starting points for users to build out useful applications like Asset Managers, Company Directories, Lead Managers / CRMs, Project Management Tools, PTO Managers, and Recruitment Tools.  Using CogHead analysts can define applications, create collections (data definitions), forms and views, actions (business logic and rules), and integrations.  Once an application is built, it lives in the CogHead data center as a hosted application.  Pricing is very reasonable, $49 per month gets you an unlimited application, 5 person license.

The benefits and disadvantages of such a tool are pretty obvious to anyone who has spent any time in IT.  The pros are empowered business people and a reduced workload on IT staff.  Cons include lack of official IT support for these applications and the resulting application sprawl that could result, as well as the risk of relying on small vendors such as CogHead.

My personal opinion is that these applications are likely most appropriate for smaller businesses or inter-departmental applications as opposed to the big iron IT applications that run core processes in larger enterprises.  But, just like PowerPoint took presentation creation away from the Graphics department, and Excel directly empowered the Finance organization, the DIY application building tools will likely find a lasting place in the corporate IT.

I welcome you comments.

Mike Brannan