Given the pace of change in modern business, many of the solutions we implement to solve software issues won’t last forever. As a result, traditional investments to build solutions don’t always make sense. Enter the disposable app.

Wait a minute. How can an app be disposable? Why would someone go to the trouble of creating an app that may not be permanent? Well, as organizations become more agile, and as they grow and embrace digital transformation, the rules of business apps are changing. 

What is a Disposable App?

Traditionally, we think of IT spending as a long-term investment. When IT is building custom software for an organization, they are typically making a significant financial investment, and they want to get the value back over a long period of time. This is especially true of expensive applications that are necessary for running the enterprise at scale. They are likely to have a long lifecycle.

But this does not account for all business apps. There’s a difference between an app that represents a strategic investment and one that has a tactical operational-type approach. In today’s fast-changing technology and business environments, the need in the organization, or in the team that introduced the app, might change rapidly. In two years, or possibly even less, the need might be completely different, or it might not exist at all.

For example, many companies begin the journey of embracing mobile apps as a way to replace paper processes. They take their existing workflow, their paper form, and replace it with something that mimics in the digital world what they had in physical format. But as they start using this app and transforming their business, they’ll realize that their paper form doesn’t translate well to the digital world. They find new ways of doing business, and the company starts changing. So then, the app that originally existed just to replace paper no longer works with the new goals they want to accomplish. The original app usually gets disposed of, or gets modified heavily and transforms into something completely new.

When a Disposable App Makes Sense

Imagine that you are running an organization where you see that the business problems you need to solve are in and of themselves subject to change over time. You know that between five and 20 people will be using these apps, and that most of your apps will not persist beyond a short window of time – be it months or years. Consequently, you want a low-investment option. It doesn’t make sense to spend a six-figure sum for projects that are going to be used by a small audience, will be delivered quickly, and will live only a short time.

This is the perfect scenario for a disposable app.

The concept of a short-term, disposable app aligns well with a philosophy for IT management and app delivery among enterprises that has been fostered by Gartner. It’s the notion of bimodal IT. Gartner defines the classic mode, or Mode One, as a situation where the IT team is dealing with the large-scale apps that matter for the enterprise. They absolutely require certainty and predictability in those apps. The IT team does not make radical changes, because the company cannot absorb that risk. So, Mode One is about certainty, predictability and evolution.

However, Gartner has suggested there is another mode, in which the software demands are more dynamic. Gartner’s Mode Two is where the IT team explores changes to the app in an innovative fashion. In this mode, organizations can absorb more risk and attack problems a bit more creatively. This is the mode of the disposable app.

Getting Started

If you have identified a problem that might be solved by a disposable app via small-scale, rapid, responsive delivery, a short development cycle and lower investment, then the first thing to do is to pick a toolset that will enable you to deliver it. This explains the growing popularity of development platforms that are low-code or no-code enabled. These types of platforms enable a pro developer to deliver something very quickly and inexpensively to their end users.

For instance, one of the classic use cases for a disposable app is at the line of business. No one knows a person’s job as well as the person doing it. When you’re determining requirements for delivering an app, one of the great challenges is that the farther you get away from where the rubber meets the road, the more difficult it can be to deliver a useful app in a timely fashion. With low-code/no-code platforms, IT can get much closer to the person actually doing the work – the one who knows the problem and knows the specs intimately. Then IT can understand the requirements with much more clarity and more speed than most traditional development platforms would allow.

Could a disposable app be the answer you’ve been looking for? Define the problem you’re trying to solve and discuss it with line-of-business folks to determine if it’s a short-term problem that a disposable app could solve. If the answer is yes, work with a low-code/no-code platform to build a customized and more affordable app that meets your temporary needs.

To explore the key steps that Best-in-Class organizations take to improve their application testing strategy, check out this comprehensive research report by Aberdeen’s Jim Rapoza.


Andrew LeCates is head of platform evangelism, FileMaker, Inc., an Apple subsidiary.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter Today and Receive the Latest Content From Our Team!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter Today and Receive the Latest Content From Our Team!

You have Successfully Subscribed!