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What Digital-native Businesses Want — and What You Can Learn From It

“Digital natives” is a term used for people born into a world where being online has always been part of daily life, and businesses can share a similar upbringing. While technology is a factor for most businesses, some companies were born with tech in their DNA. Often, these businesses are disruptors in their fields, employing technology to reinvent processes, products, and experiences. They may be wildly successful at redefining an industry, from online banking with instant loan approvals and payments from anywhere, to streaming media services that bring entertainment to device screens worldwide. These “born digital” organizations are typically demanding when it comes to technology. They start with the presumption that technology can be deployed to their advantage, with specific needs and value coming from data, machine learning, and more.  How digital-native businesses use technology Everyone has heard tales of technology gone awry, whether it’s laggy or buggy software, or solutions that are overkill and overpriced. There are five key ways you can ensure technology has a positive impact in transforming your company’s processes and products, making them more efficient and effective:  Harness machine learning for personalization Machine learning powers the personalized experiences people now take for granted, from movie recommendations on Netflix to the personalized ads that show while you scroll your social media feed. In business, machine learning enables tasks such as predicting trends based on historical data to identify performance improvements,  managing inventory, or scheduling deliveries. Likewise, you can use historical data to predict the type of information that’s most relevant to and timely for your customers and employees. Use data to unlock business advantages Mining data can provide valuable insights that impact your company. Whether it’s determining your most profitable customers, the products with the strongest sales or margins, or supplier and employee performance, every company can optimize their business with existing data. In fact, Forrester reports that between 60 and 73 percent of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics purposes, representing untapped potential for improving business performance. Put users at the heart of product development People on the front lines of a business often have transformative ideas because they’re the ones addressing issues as they arise each day. “Human-centered design” is the process of empowering end users to develop the ideas for tools that solve their problems, meeting their needs in a way that’s logical, effective, and easy to use. This approach also dissuades employees from adopting tools outside the company’s approved IT selections, which could cause issues for security, compatibility, compliance, reliability, and redundancy. Select frictionless experiences When choosing technologies, savvy IT personnel evaluate more than the tool’s capabilities. They also consider the ease of implementation, training needs, and the user experience. These factors can make or break the value of the tool, rendering some technologies a waste of time and money and others a vital facilitator of daily performance and information sharing.  Create safeguards Businesses with an advanced technology culture emphasize security to keep their data and processes safe. Technology should be built with safeguards in place and maintained to prevent breaches. When new technologies are being developed, they should be tested in a development environment that is separate from existing systems with access to sensitive information or essential functions.   The advantages of no-code development For each of these five ways that technology can transform business, you’ll find value in choosing no-code development. While custom-engineered machine learning development can be prohibitively expensive and time consuming, using no-code Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) removes impediments by reducing the cost, time, and skills needed to create personalized apps.  With no-code development, internal teams and individuals can lead the charge in organizing and analyzing data to draw out key insights — while access to the data remains securely inside the company, not with external developers. By allowing employees and teams to create their own apps, no-code ensures that the tools employees build are well suited to the task and easy to implement and use. At the same time, no-code frees up IT resources so they can focus on more complex work while still having centralized control of the no-code tech environment and establishing guardrails that ensure security and governance organization-wide.  Learning from digital natives You don’t have to be first to win. Businesses that weren’t born in a digital incubator can still benefit from the learnings of tech natives, gaining the benefits of their experience while avoiding the pitfalls of early adopters.  However, digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. Even the most iconic tech companies and digital natives need to keep innovating. Technology adoption is a good first step, but no company can stall out there. While we reference digital natives as a guide for how to use technology at work, the following tips can be used by any organization at any stage. When looking at your own organization’s needs and approach, consider these questions: How can each of the five principles used by digital native businesses apply to your industry? Which pain points in your industry are ripe for transformation?  If you could achieve any dream for how your business operates or how it changes the lives of your customers, what would you make happen? Dream big, and then consider how data and machine learning can bring you a step closer to this reality. Which teams in your company are ready to transform themselves? What processes might they redesign? Who can lead the project? Who will champion it? Who will benefit from it? What can your IT resources accomplish with more time? How can enhanced security pay off for your IT team? No matter how near or far down the path of evolving your company you are, no-code development and the lessons of digital natives can guide you toward the future while learning from the past.

Feature Friday | Google Cloud storage and a sneak peak

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase both new and favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.  Google Cloud Storage We’re expanding the storage options made available to Creators. The most recent addition allows you to store application and workflow files in Google Cloud. The detailed walk through of how to configure this function can be found in our knowledge base, but here’s a few key notes:  The setup process is controlled by Creators You can choose how to control access to objects (we recommend uniform).  Creators who work with a high quantity of images will find this recent release of particular interest. Inventory for your e-commerce store, rapid factory assembly, field inspection reports, all of these and more would benefit from this storage addition.  A sneak peek at a feature we can’t wait for you to “Meet”  Sometimes we have a feature that is so exciting that we are bursting at the seams to talk about it. When that happens, we try to provide a sneak peek at what we're working on. In this case, we’d like you to “Meet” a functionality that enriches the experience available to your calendar view type. Stay tuned for more information and get your best virtual hangout outfit ready! How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building

Feature Friday | Offline & sync, desktop usage, and LINKFORM()

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase our favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.      Offline & sync Did you know that applications built in AppSheet can be used offline? It’s true! And even better, this behavior can be enabled in a few easy steps.  In your application editor, navigate to the “Behavior” tab. Once there, navigate to the “Offline/Sync” tab. From there you can toggle your settings based on your needs. It’s important to note that the “sync” behavior is a critical part of how your application updates your backend. Everyone’s needs are a little different, and because of this we recommend reviewing details outlined in our support documentation.  Desktop Usage It’s a common misconception that applications are only built for mobile devices. In reality, you can actually create applications that are compatible with a variety of devices. Whether you’re working with mobile devices in the field, tablet devices on the manufacturing floor, or desktop devices at your desk, you can access your applications.  One of our favorite ways to work with data on desktops is the dashboard UX view type. You can learn more about working with this feature from this Feature Friday.  LINKFORM()  An expression that’s been trending in our Creator Community as of late is LINKFORM(). This expression allows you to construct a deep link to the form view named by view-name. If you’re looking for a great example of a use case working with this expression, this post in our Community is a great one.  How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!

Using Dashboards to Make Smarter Business Decisions

The best business decisions come from having all the information you need at your fingertips. If you’re missing even one data point, you can make million-dollar mistakes or put your employees in harm’s way. That’s where dashboards come in. Organizations have been using dashboards in one form or another to bring buried business insights to light and provide an overview of key data since the era of Pong and Apple: the 1970’s. But it took several decades for technology to catch up to business leaders’ appetite for real-time analytics and the type of data processing that could truly transform their business. It wasn’t until advances like data warehousing and online analytical processing of the 1990’s that businesses were finally able to use current data to make timely decisions. This breakthrough coincided with the advent of key performance indicators (KPIs) in business strategy, and before long, dashboards evolved into an all-in-one view of a company’s most important KPIs. Today, business leaders across all industries use real-time digital dashboards to monitor which of their processes are working, which need to be ramped up, and which need to be eliminated or dialed back. A manufacturer or construction company might use a project management dashboard to show cost variances, planned vs actual schedules, or earned value. Or a utility might create an efficiency dashboard that shows insights based on energy production and outages. No matter the vertical, dashboards are a vital piece of the decision-making puzzle. The key is knowing how to create them without breaking the bank.  No-code: An inexpensive way to create customized dashboards It can take a lot of time and effort to create a dashboard that pulls in all the data your teams need. In today’s climate, that’s not an easy sell. And buying off-the-shelf software and applications isn’t a quick fix. They demand a tradeoff: you can quickly launch the software but you can’t necessarily customize it to your specific KPIs. That’s where no-code platforms can help.  No-code development platforms like AppSheet make it easy for anyone in your organization (including those who don’t have technical chops) to build a custom application. The result? You can use existing data that might otherwise collect dust and use it to derive business insights and share them in a customizable, interactive dashboard view that pulls in key metrics from across your app for at-a-glance access. And you don’t need developers or data scientists; products like AppSheet’s  dashboard view lets you easily control the data presented and how it’s displayed. You can include decks, tables, charts, galleries, maps, details, forms, and more in a single snapshot that’s also interactive. Share dashboards across teams No-code apps like this built with AppSheet also make it easy to capture and digitize real-world processes and share that information in real time through a dashboard view. Let’s say you have a construction team building a new shopping mall. Your site manager is in charge of hundreds of workers’ progress but won’t be able check in with each one to ensure they’re on task.  Your app can gather and share locations and project updates and notify the site manager when certain events happen, like a worker entering a fall zone or the crew missing a project milestone. The manager can see all of these details in real time on the app’s dashboard and stay up to date quickly.  Or perhaps you work for an auto manufacturer. You need to make sure that every part is installed correctly and that each step of the vehicle-production process is signed off on by an authorized technician. With a dashboard view on your no-code app, your managers can quickly see who inspected which parts and approved systems, and when they did it. Executives can keep tabs on the high-level business productivity, timing, and budget insights to make decisions about headcount, equipment, and more. Gain online visibility into offline processes Sending important information from the field to the office (and other locations) can be tricky without digitizing the information. If a utility company is using an array of offline tools and methods to track usage, outages, KWh production, and other plant and field data, they can’t easily share need-to-know information with the right teams in real time. But with no-code development, anyone on your team can build an app with a dashboard that executives can use to understand expenditures, track customers with outages, and even identify regulators who need to monitor energy production and pricing. While dashboards come in many forms, it’s important that they deliver simple, high-level insights about the KPIs that matter most. AppSheet’s no-code applications with interactive dashboard views make it easy for anyone to build an affordable, customizable, business insights snapshot, and share it with decision-makers so they can stay informed, up to date, and in the know about important projects.

Feature Friday: GETY and GETX, XY map version control, and slices

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase our favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.    GETY and GETX functions For those that work with locations, we’ve added a few additional functions:  GETX(xy) returns the X portion of an XY value as a decimal value in the range +100.000000 to -100.000000. GETY(xy) returns the Y portion of an XY value as a decimal value in the range +100.000000 to -100.000000. These functions are a fantastic alternative to LatLong related functions. You can learn more about these function types in our Expression Types article series.  XY Maps with version control  Column types are an important piece of the data design process. One of these column types, XY, represents a position within an image that you provide. This column type is used most often with the Maps UX view type. When a Map view is configured with an XY-type MapColumn, it will display the image in place of the usual map. This data type is commonly used for applications developed for manufacturing, field work and inventory management but there are a number of other ways in which to leverage this functionality.  One of the challenges of working with this type of data, however, is that the pins associated with these maps could shift if updated maps were not the exact same crop and scale as the previous version. To solve for this, we built the below demo app. This post in our Creator Community contains a detailed walk through of working with this application. Slices The concept of slices is one of the most popular topics for app Creators. Because of this, we want to dive a little deeper. Our upcoming Office Hours on Tuesday, May 19th will feature an in depth conversation on slices and user roles. You can submit your questions and sign up for the session here.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a slice, it’s a subset of the rows, columns, and actions of a table. A slice definition has five components.  The table it's based on (required) Does the slice permit adds, deletes, and updates? (required) The subset of rows it retains from the table (optional) The subset of columns it retains from the table (optional) The subset of actions it retains from the table (optional) You can learn more about slices and how to implement them in our support documentation. How will you use these features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Want to spend time with our team? Register for our next Office Hours session for additional Q&A.  Happy app building!

Feature Friday: EOWEEK, creating sample apps and barcodes

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase our favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.    EOWEEK()  If time management is important in your application development, there are a number of different ways to organize how that time is segmented. The EOWEEK() expression, for example, determines what you would like to set as your last day of the week. You can learn more about this expression and comb through a variety of examples here.  Create Sample Apps During this week’s Office Hours we received a lot of questions surrounding how to create sample apps for your team. The simple process takes six steps:  Make sure your app has been marked as Deployed. Open your app in the Editor. Select the Manage > Author tab. Click "Team Work". Set "Make this a team sample?" to checked. Click "Change Visibility". Note that this functionality is only available in certain plan types. Please contact sales@appsheet.com for more information.  Barcodes Whether you're managing inventory, shipping packages or in the field, enabling barcode scanning functionality within your application is a great feature add. Before you reach for your device to start scanning, however, there are two quick steps to take.  First, you’ll need to ensure the column type is set to “text” or “ref” in Data→ Columns. From here, scroll all the way to the far right and click the “Scan” toggle on the column you’d like to enable. Viola! You can now scan barcodes with your mobile device. If you’d like to test it out or see how other apps use this feature, click on the sample app above.  How will you use these features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Want to spend time with our team? Register for our next Office Hours session for additional Q&A.  Happy app building!

Using Internal Apps to Prevent Customer Churn

Low customer churn is critical to business success, and is especially urgent during a recession when new customers might be harder to come by. Research indicates that 63% of consumers will abandon a product or service after just one poor experience, underlining that strong customer retention relies on strong customer satisfaction, regardless of the state of the economy. Equipping employees with the tools to build their own custom internal apps is one way businesses are lowering their customer churn by maintaining high customer satisfaction, while also streamlining internal operations to better serve customers throughout the sales and support cycle.  For example, sales and marketing teams are often closest to the customer experience, yet are also often the least well-equipped to improve their own processes with custom app solutions. With the help of no-code development platforms, all process owners (including non-technical employees) can create internal apps that are custom-built to company-specific, team-specific, and even project-specific requirements. Businesses find that internal processes can be improved by the process owners themselves; in addition, data collection and sharing can be digitized for greater accuracy, so the customer ultimately benefits from a smooth experience. Let’s take a closer look at three ways companies are using internal apps to improve customer retention over time: Stay informed Keeping all team members on the same page is critical to reducing customer churn — and to earning the trust of new customers. Internal apps can help teams work together and to present one external voice to the customer by streamlining communications through commenting and workflow reporting. For example, multiple teams working with the same customer or client can add notes to an internal app to ensure that anyone who touches the account fully understands its history and can quickly get up-to-speed without disruption to the consumer.  To maintain a pulse on customer satisfaction, many businesses extend their custom internal apps to identify warning signals for customer dissatisfaction by allowing the app to correlate consumer behavior with information around churn. With no-code development, process owners in sales and marketing can create internal apps that alert them to changes, as triggers can be built in to notify team members when key performance indicators dip into the churn danger zone. Know your customers Customer health scores are critical to maintaining internal tools that predict churn. However, because companies rely on a litany of metrics to create these unique scores, finding an off-the-shelf solution for data collection and analysis can be quite difficult.  No-code platforms are stepping in to allow people and teams to build reliable models that keep data clean in a way that’s customized specifically for them, which results in more accurate trend data over time. Outdated data input systems like pen and paper or digital spreadsheets that introduce human error can be replaced with customized apps that allow for the automatic flow of data from apps like Salesforce or Marketo. The equation behind a customer’s ever-changing health score is honed over weeks, months, and even years, and custom apps are able to flex with these changes while keeping data secure and streamlined. Deliver on time Point-of-sale is only the beginning of the customer journey. Whether it’s goods, services, or a brand promise, businesses must follow through on prompt delivery to maintain customer trust. This is particularly relevant in industries like retail and manufacturing, where inventory management can be a complex task and customers need the ability to track their purchases even before they leave the warehouse. To help simplify and streamline delivery, businesses are turning to customized inventory control apps to track assets, capital, and output.  For example, with no-code development, floor managers can create inventory tracking apps that integrate with barcode and optical character recognition (OCR) scanners, cloud databases, and data visualization to track products in real time. With continual tracking in place, both the company and the consumer can access the exact location of inventory to better ensure an on-time delivery.  Inventory apps can also help reduce manufacturing carrying costs, eliminate waste and delays, and increase worker productivity by providing valuable information on the efficacy of processes and managers. Apps compatible with barcode scanners can record work-in-progress inventory over time, and the accumulated data can be used for anything from cost-benefit analysis to workforce optimization to reducing a product’s time-to-consumer. Preventing customer churn starts with accurate data, and relies on well-informed employees, streamlined processes, and long-term analysis to improve retention. By adopting no-code platforms, companies can greatly increase their ability to prevent customer churn by providing employees with the tools to discover, build, and maintain customer relationships that last far beyond the first sale.

Feature Friday: Color Picker

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase new and favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.  UX update: color picker  Branding is an important piece of your applications design. It helps define ownership and allows app creators the opportunity to add their own personal touch to the citizen development process. Our recent Office Hours previewed the color picker update. Now, the update is live! In this post, we'll take a deeper look at this release and provide some insight from the team that built it.  Read my chat with Morgan, Adam, and Nico, who are developers on the AppSheet product team.  Jennifer: Can you describe the term "color picker” for those unfamiliar with the term?  Nico: It's a graphical interface that allows you to pick custom colors. Morgan: A color picker lets you choose a color for your app! You can now pick any color you want. Jennifer: That sounds like a really great update! When a Creator makes a color selection, where will that color be visible in the application?  Adam: Places meant to draw attention or emphasize selection state, interactivity, or focus — like buttons, actions, form inputs, active tabs or view buttons. Jennifer: And where can they find this capability?  Morgan: In the UX > Brand tab. Jennifer: Features updates we make to AppSheet are all meant to help citizen developers find success with their application development. How does this latest UX improvement accomplish this?  Morgan: This helps people make apps that fit more closely with their brand. Nico: It gives app creators a little more customization power. It is important for some companies to have colors that match their brand. Adam: It makes it easier to create apps that look consistent with a particular brand, which is often a priority when developing apps for business use. And in general, people will be much happier with the apps they create when they can choose a color they like. If you didn't like any of our default options, you can finally get some relief. Jennifer: It sounds like we're giving more choices back to the Creators for their UX needs. That feels like a powerful addition to the feature set. Are there any helpful tips or tricks you’d like to share to help make the most of this feature? Morgan: Choose a color that coordinates with your app logo and pick a color that is “high contrast,” meaning it is easy to read against the background of your app. You don’t have to be a color expert  — the AppSheet platform will show a warning if the color you pick is not high enough contrast. Nico: Try to pick colors that will contrast well with other colors in your app. For example, a yellow with a white background may not be the best mix. Pick formatting rule colors that don't clash with the primary color. This online palette tool can help. I like a lot of those colors. Adam: The custom theme color can be combined with format rules to add additional colors in more places. Try not to get carried away, though, — sticking with two colors that complement each other well gives a nice effect. Jennifer: Great suggestions! While we're on the topic of UX improvement, are there any additional feature releases coming out soon that this new color picker will impact? Morgan: The header and footer will be colorizable. Also stay tuned for even more brand and theme options.  Adam: A return of the colored header and footer option is on the way, and now you'll be able to choose any color for it. Jennifer: A closing personal question, what is your favorite color combination with the new picker? Morgan: Lately I’ve been into Dark Mode + Purple Nico: I'm a fan of the light blue in the dark theme. Adam: In my own apps I like to use the dark theme with the "LightGreen" option. Thank you to Morgan, Adam, and Nico from our incredible engineering team for their contributions to this week's post. Be sure to follow along in the AppSheet Creator Community for additional updates and register for our next Office Hours session for additional Q&A.  Happy app building! This post was updated on May 20th, 2020.

Unlocking Value: Data Sources Uncovered

Data is all around us, and is constantly being created and logged by sensors, people, and machines. According to one estimate, over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every single day — that’s 18 zeros! For comparison, a trillion has only 12 zeros. With so much data being produced, more and more businesses are learning how to harness and connect it to applications to create useful tools. In fact, most modern apps rely on connections with data sources to deliver powerful, productive, and meaningful experiences to their users. Data itself can range from inventory counts to credit card numbers to geolocations, and can present as plain text, numbers, percentages, and more. Business leads typically deal with multiple types of data that come from a number of different places, commonly referred to as data sources.  Data sources can be anything from a Google Sheet to a SQL database; basically, that’s where information is housed. Data sources are an important component in app development, as their connection to the development platform allows the data to be transformed into actionable insights for users. Regardless of the data type and where the data is stored, app developers must ensure a secure pathway through which the data can interact with the app, usually with the help of the coding platform. From Amazon to Zillow, data sources are a fundamental building block of traditional application development, and no-code development is no different. Designed to provide non-technical employees with the tools they need to quickly and securely create their own apps, no-code platforms like AppSheet help to uplevel and repurpose previously-dormant or under-utilized information. With a no-code platform like AppSheet, everyone in an organization can securely connect data sources to power customized apps — no coding skills required. By connecting their data to AppSheet, process owners can make better decisions, come up with new ways of working, and ultimately create new value from existing information. Converting data into actionable value Tens of thousands of creators using AppSheet have collectively made almost a million apps that are connected to even more data sources. Though a data source can be something as simple as a Google Calendar, it can yield enormous value when leveraged by an application.  Let’s say that a retail team manager collects inventory data in a Google Sheet. She can leverage this data by connecting the Google Sheet to AppSheet to create an inventory management app, for example, that allows her team to easily recall product information from the store floor.  When people want to leverage data within a custom app to improve their processes or even to create new ones, AppSheet allows them to easily make their data workable, applicable, valuable, and actionable. Let’s look at two ways data sources connect with AppSheet: Cloud databases and tables: AppSheet enables connections with a variety of data sources, including popular cloud databases and tables like Google Cloud SQL, MySQL, Salesforce, and Oracle. These connectors add data to the apps that creators build on AppSheet, like the Google Sheet that powers our retail team manager’s inventory app in the example above.  Integrations: AppSheet integrates with a variety of external services to allow process owners within the organization to connect their data to AppSheet. For example, a marketer or sales team may connect data from Google Maps to create a location-specific query app, or another data process owner may flow information from Okta or Twilio to improve process-specific time-to-value. Whatever the intent, AppSheet enables non-technical employees to connect the data they know best to to deliver seamless chatbots, communication workflows, barcode scanning, custom maps, and more. Remember that when creating an app — either by traditional software development or through a no-code platform — you own your data and continue to be the sole owner of your information even after it’s connected via data source. AppSheet ensures that your data remains secure by design, and does not require any coding knowledge to use. Just as traditional software developers must secure the apps they create, no-code development platforms like AppSheet ensure that security and privacy are built in from the beginning. Line-of-business employees know their data best, and who better to create custom data-driven solutions than the people who work with that data most closely? With no-code platforms like AppSheet, non-technical employees can use the data they work with every day to create powerful, secure apps in just a few clicks. Learn more about AppSheet compatible connectors. Interested in speaking with a team member about how you can get the most out of your organization’s data? Let's schedule a demo.

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