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Feature Friday | Charts and an IP address update

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.    Charts  One of the areas we’ve been working to improve is our UX View Type: Charts. We have not released anything just yet, but over the next few months, you’ll begin to see changes and updates. Here’s some of what you can expect:  Charts are changing in a positive way. Our first step is to improve some of the issues that had been encountered in the rendering of the charts.  Over the next few months, a number of updates and small releases will be taking place. These will impact everything from enterprise management to authoring.  Community driven iterations! We’re in need of testers to help us ensure we’re getting it just right. Not everyone who volunteers for this will be accepted into this particular test group, but there will be many more opportunities in the future. You can volunteer by replying to this post in our Creator Community. A friendly reminder for database users For those that currently leverage databases to develop applications, there are updates coming to the IP addresses you’ll need on your allow list. These changes are taking place next week and require an action on your part to ensure there is no disruption in authorization of data usage. Please consult this thread for additional information.   How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!

5 Tactics to Inspire No-Code App Adoption

As an innovator, you’re a change agent who seeks ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness. A single idea can transform a business by solving problems, saving time, improving performance, or boosting profits. And you probably already know the impact that an individual or small team can have on your business if you empower them with the right tools. That’s why a no-code app can be such a powerful resource, enabling non-technical team-members to manage business processes, track, plan, audit, take inventory, and do other essential activities. . By allowing anyone in an organization to develop apps, a no-code platform like AppSheet can provide the power to scale a solution from one person’s idea to a tool for your team or even an integrated suite of apps that completely reshape the way your entire organization works. But if you build it, how do you ensure that your colleagues will actually use it? As you approach designing a no-code app, it’s vital to plan steps to ensure adoption. Even if you create a flawless app that can enhance or streamline your business, it won’t work if people don’t actually use it. No matter how brilliantly an app solves a problem, it’s common to encounter colleagues who don’t embrace it without help. Some may dislike new technologies (or any type of change), preferring to do things the way they’ve always been done. Other co-workers may have a different view of the best solution. And some may not understand how to use the new tool. Whatever your specific adoption challenges, here are five proven tactics that can help you get your colleagues on board and help your no-code apps achieve their potential. 1. Sign up for the features you need To ensure adoption, your app should work seamlessly for everyone; done well, it can even  inspire other “citizen developers” to tackle their team’s needs with a no-code app solution. As you begin this journey, you’ll want to decide on the right no-code platform Service Level Agreement (SLA) for your needs (which is in part based on the features you want and the number of users your app will support). Here are three key factors to consider when identifying the right SLA for your app: Features It may be tempting to sign up for lower SLA levels for lighter users or developer groups, especially if your app creator team and end users don’t all need the same features. However,  it’s a best practice to give all app creators the same feature set to make sure everyone has the features they need and not preclude development. We recommend including popular features such as precision address geocoding, machine learning,  barcode reading, and QR code scanning. Also, make sure your company has registered all the domains they’ll need in advance of rolling out your no-code solution so that your domains function properly with the apps being developed. Performance Choose an SLA that offers the performance you’ll need so your apps run smoothly and quickly for everyone using and building your no-code apps. Factors such as server geolocation, data partitioning, and active database filtering may need to be enabled to ensure app performance. Hardware Make sure your no-code apps will work properly and securely on all types of hardware and devices used by employees, especially if you have bring-your-own-device (BYOD) options. Different tiers of SLAs may include different levels of security and hardware integration, such as on-device encryption and different user roles. 2. Provide training and onboarding Whether you’re creating an app for a team or inspiring others to create their own, it’s important to build a plan for training and onboarding. As a developer, your job isn’t done once your app is built. If you just hand it to users and expect everyone to intuitively know how to use it, users will struggle, which is why timely training and onboarding are key to successful app adoption. The same is also true for any workers who are considering building their own no-code apps. You’ll need to train and onboard them on how to use the no-code platform. Decide if you’ll train everyone at the same time, use a staggered schedule, or perhaps provide documentation that lets users onboard themselves. Consider creating documentation as you design your app (and be sure to include screenshots), and then test it with a few users who can provide feedback on the materials. Communicate your plans and launch timeline so users know what to expect and when.  3. Establish your no-code community Creating an internal no-code community at your organization that defines requirements, tests features, troubleshoots issues, and provides feedback can be a valuable tool for adoption. Your internal no-code community can include fellow citizen developers, colleagues who volunteer to be early adopters, and perhaps a consultant from your IT department and a division supervisor. Also, consider adding colleagues who might represent reluctant users of new apps. Gaining their input early on can help you anticipate roadblocks and overcome objections. During launch, your community can also advocate for your app’s adoption across the organization. And after post-launch, this no-code cohort can help with further app development over time by filing feature requests, testing new releases, and inspiring others to create additional functionality and apps.  4. Encourage no-code sharing to inspire development Reviewing apps that have already been built can help inspire prospective citizen coders who are dabbling in no-code. Check your no-code platform to find available samples from within your organization. When you launch a new app, post a data-scrubbed version of the app to your company’s intranet to share how you approached solving a problem with the app and inspire others to create their own no-code solutions. You can also encourage more no-code development and app adoption by sharing data across teams and opening up your development team to additional internal collaborators.  5. Plan for user support No matter how intuitively designed your apps are, you’ll inevitably have some users who struggle to get started with them. To ensure adoption and spare your inbox, offer a clear and easy way for users to get support. Begin by creating detailed documentation such as FAQs and video tutorials that you can publish internally. Check if your no-code platform provider offers helpful materials or links, as well. And keep track of questions you receive, incorporating them into self-serve support options over time. You can even build a no-code support app or ticketing system!  Using these five tactics can smooth the way as you design and launch your no-code apps and inspire others to build their own. Even if your app development is well underway, it’s never too late to use these techniques to improve your processes, enhance the success of your final product, and, ultimately, transform your business by driving adoption of these useful apps. Haven't started building yet or have a new idea to explore? Sign up for AppSheet for free today.

Feature Friday | Roadmap edition

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.  The first six months We can hardly believe it, but roughly six months ago AppSheet joined Google Cloud. There has been a number of activities taking place behind the scenes, and this week we held a special Office Hours to address some of the questions and concerns. A recording of the session is available, but below are the three main areas we've been focused on:  Creator Community. We continue to take in and absorb feedback from each one of you across multiple channels. The impact may not be felt immediately, but this feedback helps influence our engineering decisions and other actions we take.  Team expansion. The funny thing about a no-code platform is that you need coders to build it. We've welcomed a number of new team members to make this happen and take AppSheet to the next level.  Improvements and/or new features. In six months we've worked on over 120 new features or updates. Here's a brief overview of some of what we've worked on: What we're working on next  We have some really, really exciting developments in the works. Our engineering efforts will be focused on the following five areas:  Richness Authoring App UX  Connectors Admin So what exactly does this mean? In short, many, if not all, of the features and updates we release this year will be focused on the above list. While we cannot provide a complete list of each and every feature we're working on with a proposed release date, we hope that this provides some clarity around the direction in which the product is heading.  Our commitment  We've thrown a lot of information at you, but the outstanding question is how are we going to improve communicating this all to you? Here are a few immediate steps we're taking: Feature Release Notes section in our Creator Community. The goal of this area is to behave much like a changelog, please see the category description for additional details.  A feature release summary blog post of what we've released that month. This will be posted on the last Friday of every month.  These items are the immediate actions we're taking to improve your experience with AppSheet. Have additional suggestions or requests on how we can improve this part of your experience? Send a direct message to jennifer@appsheet.com  Which of these new features have you used in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!

Using Apps to Bridge the Gap Between the Physical and Digital Worlds

As computer chips become smaller and more connected, the digital world increasingly overlaps and interacts with its physical counterpart. The ubiquity of smartphones, the rise of big data and the Internet of Things, and applied augmented reality applications within gaming, education, and manufacturing are just a few examples of how the digital world builds on — and even alters— the physical world. The physical world comprises everything around us, and consists of the tangible products we use each day, the cities and towns we live in, our workplaces, field sites, and the infrastructure, sensors, and machinery that support them. Though it may not always feel like it, we live in the physical world 100% of the time, even as the digital world increasingly augments it. Unlike the physical universe that’s existed for billions of years, the digital world emerged in the 1950s with the advent of the computer. While digital access was once limited to government agencies, most of us now regularly interact with the digital world via our computers and mobile devices. The digital realm consists of everything that’s stored in the cloud: personal and enterprise data including emails, documents, spreadsheets, photos, videos, and all the metadata surrounding them. Many businesses already recognize the benefits of applying the digital world to enhance or keep track of the physical world, and are digitizing physical processes to reduce human error, redundancies, and inconsistencies. For example, a manufacturer may develop a barcode scanning system that allows for fast and accurate real-time data collection throughout the distribution process. Replacing the physical, analog system of pen and paper with a digitized solution not only helps to ensure more accurate data collection, but it also enables new capabilities like instant access to past records, digital forecasting, and trend analysis.  Though companies are increasingly embracing top-down digitization, it’s not always possible for individual process owners to build customized digital processes from the ground up. As a lack of technical coding skills can often hinder progress for teams that rely on analog processes, no-code application development platforms are stepping in to provide non-technical employees with the tools they need to connect the physical with the digital.  Let’s explore a few areas where enterprise apps can help bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds to remove friction and error while increasing speed, accuracy, and visibility.  Rich data collection: Clear and accurate data collection is critical to day-to-day operations, particularly within industries like construction, manufacturing, and utilities. Apps can improve data gathering methods by digitally logging information like GPS coordinates, capturing and annotating images, accepting signatures, and scanning barcodes for immediate data entry. Digital apps power 24/7 data collection with the ability to run offline when a data or internet connection isn’t available. The collected information about the physical world will sync to the digital world as soon as a connection is restored, which means physical-world data doesn’t fall through the cracks even if a digital connection is temporarily unavailable. Process automation: Digitization can help improve organizational processes by introducing automation and customization into physical workflows. For example, apps can automatically log physical-world data, transfer it into the desired digital format, and notify appropriate teams throughout the organization at specified times. Apps can help teams create dynamic reports that update with real-time data flows, as well as customized campaigns based on the digitally-logged activities of team members, managers, and customers. Actionable insights: Bridging the physical and digital worlds helps teams and companies to discover meaningful insights that can transform operations, processes, and even business models. Digitized data can be analyzed, monitored, collected, and updated in real time, and shared through automatic notification workflows and customizable dashboards via charts, maps, and galleries. For greater holistic insight across data types and sources, apps can be directly integrated with legacy software, or exported to sync with existing external platforms. The constant and streamlined convergence between the physical and digital worlds creates opportunities for insight, as business leaders and process owners alike can make more informed decisions for their teams, their customers, and their businesses. When process owners are empowered to minimize the divide between the physical and the digital, fewer items are lost, processes can be uniformly communicated and executed, and teams are able to achieve goals with greater speed, accuracy, and visibility.  Want to start bridging the gaps at your organization? Start AppSheet for free today.

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 LINKTOFORM()

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.  LINKTOFORM()  An expression that’s been trending in our Creator Community as of late is LINKTOFORM(). 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. Do you have ideas for an app to prevent customer churn? Build your app for free on AppSheet today.

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.

Feature Friday: UUID, SmartSheet data source and working with Forms

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.  With the rapid changes in the world around us at this time, we hope everyone is staying safe and sound. For more information regarding AppSheet’s COVID-19 support efforts, please visit our COVID-19 resource page.  Universally Unique Identifiers (UUID)   In this week’s office hours we showcased the recently released UUID.  Previously, Creators could expect to receive a randomly generated, eight character unique ID if the UNIQUEID() expression had been invoked. With this recent release, this expression can be expanded upon to incorporate a longer identifying sequence.  Both UNIQUEID expressions are suitable for those building their applications on AppSheet. Those that work with SQL databases, however, may find that the UUID addition is a better fit for their needs.  SmartSheet report data source Great news- we’ve increased our SmartSheet capabilities! Previously, only SmartSheet Sheets were supported by AppSheet tables. Our recent update allows AppSheet tables to support both SmartSheet Sheets and SmartSheet Row Reports.  This change enables creators to display, update and delete row data contained in a Row Report through an AppSheet table. In addition, AppSheet applications also permit the same SmartSheet Sheet to be included both directly as an AppSheet table based on that sheet and indirectly through an AppSheet table based on a SmartSheet Row report that contains that sheet.  Working with Forms  Some of the most popular use cases for AppSheet application development are inspections and field service work. Forms, one of our UX View types, are an important feature in the creation of these applications. This functionality can range from a basic, single page format to a more advanced, customizable form. We could tell you about how this feature works, but we’d rather show you. Check out the below sample app to explore some of the capabilities of this important feature. How will you use these features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Stay safe and happy app building!

The Citizen Developer’s Guide to Machine Learning as a Service

You’ve probably heard of machine learning, and you’ve almost certainly experienced it. Machine learning algorithms help power everything from Netflix’s personal movie recommendation engine to Google Search and Translate, and research suggests that companies will invest $12.3 billion in machine learning by 2026, up from the $2.5 billion spent in 2017.  While large enterprises invest billions to  develop machine learning (ML) capabilities, smaller companies and individuals can sometimes feel that machine learning is out of their reach. After all, the average salary for a machine learning engineer is about $140,000/year (source), and learning how to code isn’t exactly a small task.  Luckily, one emerging technology trend, machine learning as a service (MLaaS), is removing barriers such as time, budget, and even coding expertise to make the power of machine learning available to everyone. Offering ready-made tools that can be easily adopted and fitted to various business needs, MLaaS is being used by business leads and front-line workers in an array of industries. So how does MLaaS work? No code needed: basic features of democratized machine learning Coding expertise is perhaps the largest barrier to creating apps. Software development traditionally includes everything from data collection and debugging to resource provisioning and security, which is (for good reason!) a full-time job in and of itself. Machine learning applications are no different, and require a foundation of complex coding before app development can begin.  No-code development platforms automate the bulk of this sophisticated behind-the-scenes work so that non-technical users, aka citizen developers, can tackle the business task at hand without touching a line of code. This means that teams and individuals can autonomously build and deploy apps made by them — and for them — in a matter of days, not months.  Whereas traditional models of app development require heavy cross-functional communication and weeks of iteration, no-code development puts the power to solve problems into the hands of those who know the problem best. Because no-code requires zero technical know-how, MLaaS is accessible to a much wider group of people and teams within an organization than traditional machine learning implementation.  With a no-code platform, anyone — regardless of their technological prowess or background — can build robust applications that are driven by machine learning algorithms to solve problems, increase productivity, and deliver a healthier bottom line. MLaaS and the power of problem-solving Like no-code development, MLaaS is not limited to any particular group, and is used by industries from manufacturing to healthcare to empower non-technical employees to improve their processes with powerful digital technology. Faster time-to-value: Business leads and process owners often know best where help is needed on the ground, but can’t wait weeks or months for diverse teams to coordinate, build, test, and iterate on a niche application built with them in mind. MLaaS makes it easy for process owners to build apps that do everything from helping users interact with data more quickly through natural language processing to interpreting qualitative categories of new data, within days. Process improvement: MLaaS can also help non-technical process owners significantly streamline workflows and existing processes. For example, MLaaS empowers any employee to build predictive models that can generalize from historical app data, providing the ability to forecast values and predict trends. Time reallocation: From supply chain optimization to inventory management and predictive maintenance, businesses rely on software development and machine learning to get things done. When the power of machine learning is distributed across an organization, the role of planning and execution moves from the IT and development teams, to the  people who know their challenges best. This frees up time for IT teams without sacrificing technical ability and growth. Tools that put experts in control As we’ve seen, MLaaS allows anyone in an organization to digitize routine work and automate tasks with apps that would have otherwise been too costly or time-consuming to develop. From HR and finance to sales and marketing, people in any area of a company can easily build apps that are customized for their team, process, data, and goals.  With no-code, machine learning doesn't need to be expensive to deliver enormous value. This democratized solution saves companies time, money, and resources, while empowering every employee to do her best work. AppSheet machine learning resources Create apps on AppSheet with the power of machine-learning built in. Exploring these resources to learn more:  AppSheet Intelligence features page White paper: Why the Future of Machine Learning is No-Code

The New WFH C-Suite: Communication, Collaboration, Connectivity, and Culture

If you’re like the majority of workers today, you’re reading this article from home. Many businesses have had to make speedy decisions and transitions, including implementing mandatory work from home (WFH) policies and giving employees the tools they need to get their jobs done remotely. While telecommuting has been on the rise (increasing by 159% between 2005 and 2017) our new “normal” has left many organizations scrambling to come up with ways to manage distributed teams. Meanwhile, some employees are also floundering, trying to figure out how to quickly adopt new technologies all while having to juggle and manage changes in the home. We’re all starting to feel the stretch. While WFH comes with some challenges, companies like AppSheet are rising to the challenge — providing tools, online plugins, and resources to help teams not only survive, but thrive. Quick transitions Many businesses that historically haven’t had remote workers are having to suddenly manage a distributed workforce. Nearly overnight, entire organizations have had to shut down office doors and have everyone work from their home offices (if they’re lucky), dining room tables, and living room couches. Employees are struggling to stay focused and productive during normal business hours while also having to help kids transition to distant schooling or having to care for others who may be in or outside their immediate home. And worldwide pandemic aside, there are inherent issues with working from home. Let’s dive in. Communication Communication can be a challenge, even when everyone’s working from the same location. Factor in essential staff working in the office or field while others work from their makeshift home offices, and communication becomes more crucial than ever. This is especially true with fast-changing policies, shifting work priorities, and employees who may be struggling with social isolation or other ramifications of the quarantine. Online communication and project management tools, video conferencing, emails, IMs, and more are mission-critical. And providing ways to effectively communicate with large and small audiences alike is a must. Collaboration Employees may also have a difficult time with remote meetings and collaboration if they’re used to face-to-face interactions. Nearly overnight, teams that are used to rallying around a whiteboard to brainstorm ideas or collaborate are having to find new workarounds. Organizations of all sizes and industries have to provide the online tools, applications, and resources their employees need to not only get their work done but to also foster creativity and collaboration across newly distributed teams.. Connectivity How often do you say or hear, “How about now? Can you hear me?” The ability to communicate and collaborate online entirely now depends on employees’ IT infrastructure at home, and many aren’t set up to access online services securely from home. Some homes aren’t equipped with enough bandwidth to reliably access large files or stream video conference with colleagues without bringing their Internet to a crawl. Do you have a contingency plan for when your company’s VPN isn’t working or when WiFi isn’t available at workers’ remote locations? You need a strategy to help staff do their jobs whether they’re online, offline, or some combination of both. Culture When you don’t have proper communication and aren’t collaborating well, workplace culture can suffer. In fact, simply lacking a central physical gathering place (like the iconic water cooler) can damage morale, and in turn, your company culture. Meme-sharing on Slack, Zoom happy hours, and Google Hangouts get-togethers make up for the lack of in-person interactions to a large extent, but be mindful of the sudden change in interactions that may have some people thrown. Provide creative, virtual social outlets and opportunities for letting off steam and for simply communicating and connecting — no matter where people are based. How AppSheet can help We recently held an Office Hours webinar to demonstrate how key features of AppSheet can support remote workforces and improve productivity. Because AppSheet allows anyone to create apps without any coding (or IT team reliance), team members can still build and maintain apps from their new home office and keep everyone on the same page during these difficult times. Here’s a recap of what the AppSheet team covered during the webinar: Onboarding Add an onboarding experience to your no-code app to give users a place to start – especially when you add new assignments, functionality, or roles and responsibilities for remote workers. Maybe you have a new team of volunteers handing out food and supplies for the first time. Adding onboarding details can help them understand how to use the app and properly track what they’ve distributed and where. Or perhaps you have a project management app and need to help your offsite team understand how to review and check off completed tasks. Onboarding is an easy way to support first-time users, as well as return-users who may be seeing an updated version of your app. Offline capabilities Not all of your remote users will have a stable internet connection throughout the day (or even have any access to it at all). For situations like these, AppSheet’s Offline Use functionality helps keep your app users connected even when they aren’t. AppSheet lets you control how the app behaves – whether your data loads every time the app opens, when data syncs are delayed, or if it’s accessible offline. And since remote workers may rely on mobile devices for access, AppSheet allows you to  select online syncing options so your users can save their valuable mobile data by only using WiFi to sync when their access is restored. Commenting Communication is key to collaboration. Depending on your app, you may want to consider adding AppSheet’s commenting functionality, which allows users to share feedback on specific projects within your application. This can be incredibly useful for any kind of project management or task-driven application. It’s as simple as creating a table in Google Sheets and then toggling between a handful of settings on your AppSheet interface. Notifications Reliable message delivery is another important part of both communication and collaboration. AppSheet provides several options for alerting and notifying your users, including email and SMS text messages. You can also set up push notifications. Think about what works best for your team and organization, what will enhance their ability to communicate and collaborate across locations, and how to best keep them informed and up to date. Dynamic sizing AppSheet also supports dynamic sizing across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, ensuring that no matter what technology your users have, they receive the best possible experience. As we’ve learned with Covid-19, anything can happen, and we may not always have a lot of lead time to prepare for big changes in the way we live and work (together or apart). Make sure you’re thinking about what your team will need even beyond these next few months so you’re ready for any challenges ahead. The collaboration tools you put into place today will help prepare your organization for tomorrow. Visit our COVID-19 support page to learn more about how you can use AppSheet to help response efforts.

We're All in this Together: AppSheet's COVID-19 Support

We’re all in this together: from neighborhoods to cities to countries to the world, we are figuring out new ways to work, teach our children, make sure our first responders and neighbors are supported, help out with healthcare needs, and so much more.  Many of our AppSheet community members have shared suggestions and feedback for apps that address problems they’re seeing at this time. In addition, community members have been responding to requests for help, as well as giving guidance and support to new app creators working on COVID-19 related apps. We’ve put into place a number of resources to make this process easier: New COVID-19 category in the AppSheet Community.  This is the hub where new and existing customers, plus the AppSheet team, can share guidance and help others that are building COVID-19 related apps. The AppSheet team is actively monitoring this category. AppSheet Sample App Directory with a new COVID-19 tab. The COVID-19 page features apps that were built to address crisis use cases. Some apps have been built by the AppSheet team, others by the AppSheet community. All community apps are vetted by the AppSheet team and can be previewed or copied for use. These are ‘Sample Applications’ that organizations can copy and use as a template for creating their own version of the application. AppSheet COVID-19 resource page. This page provides links to all AppSheet support materials. Additionally, all apps supporting the COVID-19 response will be made available on our platform at no cost to new and existing customers until September 30, 2020. We realize that the situation is very fluid so as needs change, we will review extending use of the platform at no cost as well as update these resources with the most current information.  Many of you have approached us asking for support in making these kinds of apps available to everyone who needs them. Already, we have seen many use cases that our community or internal folks are working on that can have broad application. Our ask: We’d like your help in making every COVID-19 related app built on our platform available to others as a sample app. We believe that the use cases are very similar. For example, others could copy and customize a neighborhood support sample app instead of building their own. From the Sample Apps Launcher, you can submit your app for review. If it passes our process, we will include it in the COVID-19 category.  For more details on this process, go to our COVID-19 resource page. Please use the COVID-19 category in our community as a support starting point for sharing your great work and feedback. We’re already seeing a lot of activity and want to thank members for pitching in! We are navigating through some uncharted waters but we know one thing for sure: now is the time to reach out and help our neighbors. Our thanks to all of you for doing just that!

Three Technologies Impacting the Utilities Industry

Digital transformation like mobile apps, augmented reality, cybersecurity, and more are natural fits for people entering the workforce today. But for workers who have been in the utilities industry for years, the idea can be puzzling. After all, the sector only recently opened up to innovation. They’ve been doing things the same way for a long time. “The power and utilities sector was traditionally where many parents or grandparents parked their savings as they got older, attracted by low volatility and stable returns,” explains Deloitte. “While solid and dependable, the sector wasn’t generally considered cutting-edge, innovative, or exciting by any stretch of the word.” The sector’s main goal, Deloitte continues, was to “keep the lights on without breaking the bank.” So, how did we get to this point? As it turns out, innovation has been happening steadily, behind the scenes, for quite some time. Slowly but surely, organizations have been building out their networks and laying the groundwork for the technical revolution that’s taking place today. The roots of what we’re seeing take place can actually be traced back to the 1970s, and the spread of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA), an architecture used for data acquisition and automated control in industrial environments. In the early days of SCADA, utilities only had large mainframe computers. Wide area networking (WAN) hadn’t been invented yet and each SCADA system operated disparately. Over the years, SCADA continued to evolve along with breakthroughs like the Local Area Networking (LAN), personal computers, software, the internet, and eventually wide area networks. Each iteration in computing opened new possibilities in terms of how companies communicate, and how they collect, process, store, and share data. Today, SCADA systems are mostly digital, and they’re playing a critical role in managing information flow and automation across industrial networks. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some digital technologies that are making their way into SCADA systems and utilities.  Machines learning through big data Thanks to the IoT(Internet of Things) and the industrial IoT (IIoT), utilities today are collecting vast amounts of data from business and consumer environments. This information is being used to identify usage trends, drive sustainability efforts, curb costs, and discover revenue-driving opportunities. These days, leading utility companies are starting to move beyond merely collecting big data and applying it more intelligently to their operations. One of the best examples of this can be seen with no-code machine learning. In short, utilities are starting to use intelligent no-code platforms to develop business productivity apps powered by their own data. By using a platform with an embedded machine learning engine, companies are finding new ways to process and leverage unstructured data that they could not previously extract value from. What machine leaning is capable of doing is continually iterating on itself as it collects data. This keeps your businesses as up-to-date as possible so that workers can make the best choices for the job. Cybersecurity for digital infrastructure As utilities are becoming increasingly connected, decision makers are becoming increasingly concerned about the ramifications of a large-scale cyberattack that could produce widespread outages across electric grids. In a recent example, 6,500 government officials and executives came together to prepare for a catastrophic attack. Making matters worse, bad actors are starting to apply artificial intelligence to cyberattacks. This is a trend that will take off in 2020, leading to many problems across the globe. Utility companies are starting to prepare for this next advancement in cybercrime, implementing next-generation cybersecurity solutions supported AI, machine learning, and biometrics. Another security technology that utilities are using today is security information event management (SIEM), a system that provides advanced security monitoring and analytics services across wide area networks. SIEM systems make it possible to detect suspicious end-user activity across WANs. For example, with a SIEM solution in place, a company would be able to detect an unusual login based on the time of day, the location of the end user, and the information they are accessing. IT departments are embracing the power of no-code development because it allows companies to create application specific to their needs while offering complex security protocols that remove some of the headaches for IT when dealing with out-of-the-box software. Increasing networks through SD-WAN SD-WAN revenue is on track to reach $1.5 billion this year. It’s now a top networking trend across all sectors—especially in the increasingly connected utilities sector where bandwidth, security, and availability are all critical for success. SD-WAN involves decoupling the control plane from the data plane, making it possible to deploy virtual networks with lightning speed. By deploying SD-WAN, utility companies can guarantee maximum app performance and scalability across a global network. This leads us to one of the biggest technologies to hit the utilities sector to date: business productivity apps, which are being enabled by cutting-edge no-code platforms. Again, no-code is sought after my many industry leaders right now because of its flexibility, power, and agility. Not only are networks expanding by removing the need to visit centralized control panels, but they are also evolving with a variety of new options thanks to the ability for no-code platforms to iterate upon themselves as new problems arise. Conclusion Technology is a part of our everyday lives whether some would like to admit it or not. In this day and age it's not a choice of whether a company should implement digital transformation into their business model. It's a question of when. "Business as usual" today means that your business is constantly changing thanks to no-code and other technological advancements that are allowing companies and workers the capacity to respond to problems more quickly, efficiently, and securely. The hardest part is making the choice to jump in, but we believe the hard work is worth it in the end.

Getting Creative With DIY Technology

In a matter of months, the Coronavirus had drastically altered how people around the world work and live. The response to the virus has been unprecedented with schools and businesses closing, as well as vast swaths of the population working from home for the foreseeable future. Right now, we don’t know what will happen.  However, we can look to small silver linings that center around human ingenuity. Humans adapt. We make the most of bad situations. We find ways to thrive, even when the odds are stacked against us. In the age of COVID-19, IT departments have once again stepped up to help teams stay productive. Team members are learning new ways to stay connected while working remotely.  But what can individuals do? What if there isn’t a solution for the work or life project you need to tackle?  No-code development platforms have long challenged the status quo set by one-size-fits-all software and applications. And now, as everyone figures out a new normal, no-code technology is uniquely poised to rise to the occasion. Non-technical people can build highly specific technology solutions that adapt to new challenges around work and play. The following list of free AppSheet sample apps will help spur your creativity as you come up with new ways to stay productive, happy, and connected. Or start with your own data to create unique applications. In the meantime, the AppSheet team wishes you health and safety. Take care! Education and homeschooling apps Assignment management app Activity schedule app Class assignment app How-to instructional app Work from home apps Project management app Sales and lead tracking app Contact manager app Quote calculator Timesheet app Webinar app Leave a comment to let us know what you’re building.

Making the Most of Barcodes, QR Codes, and NFC

The origins of barcode scanning in business For most, the word “barcode” conjures up images of stocked grocery aisles and packages marked with the now-ubiquitous Universal Product Code (UPC). While we’re all familiar with the the black vertical lines that make up a barcode, most of us take this simple invention for granted — not realizing the extent to which it’s revolutionized how businesses operate. Invented in the 1950s, barcode scanning was inspired by a Philadelphia grocery store’s desire to automatically record product information during checkout, a manual process up to that point. During the 1970s, with the introduction of the UPC, barcodes started appearing on the packages and store shelf labeling for most household goods. Over the last five decades, barcode scanning has revolutionized industries — improving overall efficiency, speeding up inventory management, automating tasks, and reducing opportunities for human error. While the one-dimensional barcode continues to be reliable and effective, its success inspired the development and adoption of more modern scanning systems like Quick Response (QR) codes and Near-field Communication (NFC), which help businesses streamline their processes even further. Let’s take a look at the role these systems play today in the manufacturing, utilities, and construction industries. “Lean manufacturing” with barcode scanning Many areas of manufacturing can be rife with inefficiencies, with excess labor and overly complex processes leading to bloated costs and reduced productivity. But barcode scanning has helped companies of all sizes pursue “lean manufacturing” — a way of doing more with less that was first popularized by Toyota in the 1930s. While adopting lean systems can be expensive (in terms of both cost and time), barcode scanning continues to be a simple, proven and cost-effective method for streamlining and automating myriad manufacturing and distribution processes. In manufacturing, barcodes are used for a variety of mission-critical tasks, including: Getting real-time tracking alerts and inventory status on parts and goods Quickly locating stock across multiple locations without having to roam warehouses Processing and managing orders with accuracy Replacing manual inventory-taking and data entry methods Eco-friendly QR code practices for utilities The success of the barcode led to the development of QR codes in the 1990s. Unlike one-dimensional barcodes, QR codes are coded in two directions (across and up/down), which means they can hold much more information, including text, URLs, images, videos, and documents. Because of their flexibility and storage, utility companies have been using them to not only improve the customer experience, but also to implement sustainable and eco-friendly business practices. For instance, in 2015, the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy and Climate Change introduced QR codes on residents’ energy bills. With a single QR code, each resident was able to perform all of the following by simply scanning the code with their smartphone: Monitor their gas and electricity consumption Review comparison charts of energy costs across different suppliers Easily switch suppliers to save money Utility companies in other regions have adopted similar practices, as well as using QR codes to replace paper documents that require mailing to provide a quick and easy way for customers to access billing and other information without having to print it or request hard copies. NFC on construction job sites NFC — a short-range wireless communication technology that became its own standard in 2003 — is also helping companies improve efficiency, especially in the field. Rooted in RFID (radio-frequency identification technology), NFC allows two-way communication between two electronic devices when they’re within 4 cm of each other. It enables familiar consumer experiences like contactless mobile payment systems and content-sharing on social media, as well as pushing offers and incentives to retail customers’ smartphones as they enter or move through a store. NFC has also been widely adopted to help companies with workforce, equipment and inventory identification, authentication, and tracking. In the construction industry, NFC tags and readers are used on busy job sites to streamline day-to-day operations. For instance, NFC readers are strategically placed around sites to automatically track workers’ arrival times and whereabouts across specific locations. Some companies even place NFC tags on hardhats to quickly access workers’ safety accreditations and to accurately track people during sudden site evacuations. Construction sites are also using NFC tags and readers to track and manage on-site equipment, including tracking materials and sections of large structures as they arrive on site. Choosing the right solution for your business Barcodes, QR codes, and NFC all have their individual advantages, and one shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for another. Instead, all three are effective for streamlining processes, automating work, and reducing opportunities for human error — it’s just a matter of using them smartly, in ways that optimize for each of their strengths. And while their results can transform your business in powerful ways, they’re still quite affordable and easy to implement. So why not experiment with all three?

No-Code Development Saves Time and Money by Bridging the IT-Business Gap

Virtually every business is now digital in some form or other, with organizations heavily relying on digital systems and tools to engage internally and externally. As a result, IT teams play a key role in most large- and many medium-sized companies. But businesses that weren’t born digital — including those in traditional industries such as manufacturing, utilities, and construction — often struggle to bridge the gap between business and IT teams.  No-code platforms can help those on the business side easily build and maintain key apps, reducing development and communications churn, saving money, and creating more relevant user experiences. At the same time, often-overburdened IT department are freed up to focus on mission-critical network and infrastructure initiatives.  Save time and communications churn with no-code App development can be a time-consuming, inbox-filling experience; and many companies spin their wheels as IT and business teams try to align on development. Like the analogy of too many cooks in the kitchen, app development initiatives often have too many voices at the table, working at cross purposes as they try to define requirements, design the user experience, and develop a solution that meets everyone’s goals and needs.  Since no-code platforms do not require coding skills, business teams can autonomously build and deploy a wide array of data-based apps to support everything from inventory and asset management to hiring streams and business process workflows — without relying on IT to get the job done. With the right no-code platform, apps can be built in as little as a day (vs. the months-long process typical in cross-functional app development efforts).  Off-the-shelf is often off-the-mark IT teams often rely on off-the-shelf software or pre-written codebases to build apps that serve the widest possible audience. But those apps often don’t support the specific needs of the teams that license them.  With no-code development, people in any area of the company — from HR and finance to marketing and sales — can easily build apps that are customized for their team, processes, data, and goals. Instead of purchasing a one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t quite solve downstream needs, teams can now build, launch, and update their apps as needs evolve. Doing more with less (IT support) Often, apps are costly to build due to the sheer amount of IT development time involved. And in a landscape where demand for skilled developers outstrips the available supply of talent, IT teams are often understaffed and paying a premium for their hires. Likewise, the expense of per-user seat licenses for third-party software can be prohibitive (especially if most of the users are only using a fraction of the available features and functionality). No-code development allows companies to build the specific apps they need without absorbing costly developer hours or investing in large-scale SaaS tools. For instance, companies with a vast array of equipment and other hard assets may spend upwards of $11,000 per user for broad-spectrum, off-the-shelf enterprise asset management (EAM) software. Yet, with no-code, those same activities can be supported at very low cost by building apps for user-, location-, asset-, and function-specific needs. And then these apps can be integrated with a centralized reporting app. Stakeholders and users get exactly the functionality they need, while saving not only money but also valuable IT resources that might normally have gone into rolling out a large-scale solution. An added bonus: Instead of the months often needed to train an entire company (including new hires) on a one-size-fits-all solution, you can now quickly train individual teams to work in just the apps they need for their respective jobs. As digital transformation takes hold around the world, no-code platforms are empowering business teams to independently build the apps they need most, while freeing up limited IT resources for more strategic initiatives. No-code is helping companies save significant time and money, while also allowing teams to create the data-based apps they need to support their users more effectively and efficiently. The time is ripe for no-code to shift the way everyone works, from IT to business. Ready to learn more? We are here to help you get started with no-code development!

How to Foster a Citizen Developer Culture at Your Organization

Previously, workplace software and applications were exclusively built by expert coders on tools that took years to master. No-code development challenges this paradigm by lowering the barriers of entry to application development and laying the groundwork for the inevitable surge in citizen development. What is citizen development? Gartner defines citizen developers as employees who create “new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.” Look closely at the tail end of this definition. Citizen developers are not renegade rule breakers. In ideal scenarios, their work is controlled through official channels, namely information technology departments. IT holds the keys to standardize their organization’s no-code development practices. In turn, implementing uniform no-code development practices within a workplace fosters a culture of innovation, human-centered design, and productivity. AppSheet helps IT departments achieve these complementary ends of order and flexibility. By enabling everyone to develop their own digital solutions, AppSheet allows processes to be digitized rapidly at an organization-wide level, and customized to the needs of end users. Meanwhile, the platform gives IT the ability to quickly deliver high-quality solutions, gain increased insights into the processes used throughout the organization, and implement the governance policies that ensure compliance. More specifically, our platform empowers IT departments through these three standardization pillars: Organization-wide visibility AppSheet turns the concept of shadow IT on its head. Instead of having unregulated and unmonitored novice technologists running amuck, the implementation of an official, organization-wide no-code platform provides IT clear visibility into their organizations’ challenges and solutions. Control Simply put, IT should control an organization’s technology. This no-brainer principle stays solid even after granting app making capabilities to end users. AppSheet’s no-code platform places security, privacy, and governance capabilities squarely in the hands of the information technology department.  IT sets the policies and guardrails for app creators and users. Here are a few examples of restrictions IT departments set for AppSheet app creators: Ensure that every app enforces access control with domain groups Require offline mode or any functionality across all apps Restrict who can deploy applications Require app documentation Reliability and speed AppSheet eliminates the risk of rogue code which can create huge technical debt in organizations. Similarly, our platform eliminates the slog of traditional application development cycle. Instead of wasting technical time and talent on building workplace apps from scratch, no-code speeds up the process by ten times. Additionally, you can expect a flywheel effect in productivity once your workforce gains confidence as citizen developers. Learn more about creating a standardized digital transformation strategy by reading the full AppSheet Adoption Blueprint.

No-code Development + Human-centered Design Puts People First

Made famous by the Silicon Valley design firm, IDEO, in the 1990s, human-centered design (HCD) is a framework that approaches problem-solving and product design from a deeply human perspective. According to IDEO.org, “Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.” And when used effectively, HCD incorporates input from the very people experiencing the problem you’re trying to solve throughout the design process. While human-centered design can manifest in different methods, depending on the team and the problems needing solving, HCD is founded on guiding principles that are also exemplified in no-code development. Let’s take a look at how human-centered design lends itself to both no-code development and successful no-code apps. Staying people-focused Who better to fix a problem than those who understand that problem best? While human-centered design emphasizes the importance of empathizing with the people affected by the problem that needs solving, no-code development actually empowers those same people to build solutions themselves. Because no-code platforms allow non-technical people to create apps without having to write actual code, anyone can digitize routine work, automate tasks, and create apps to improve how things are done in the workplace. Like HCD, no-code development uses a bottoms-up approach that enables those closest to a problem and the work to explore the types of products or solutions that can make a meaningful difference in the workplace. No-code allows the general workforce (and not just engineering teams or IT) to come up with solutions that meet the everyday needs and use cases that off-the-shelf products too often can’t address, since they’re built “for everyone.” With no-code, the very people experiencing a pain point can take matters into their own hands and develop a solution that addresses their real needs. Teams no longer need to wait for engineering resources – and the inevitable game of telephone (and endless meetings) that often lead to lengthy development timelines, not to mention products that don’t fully solve the problems faced by workers. Test, iterate, repeat A fundamental principle of human-centered design is to frequently test your designs and solutions on the very people who will ultimately use what you build. Without HCD, you can end up designing within a vacuum, which often leads to solutions that don’t actually solve anything and products that just collect dust. Meanwhile, people don’t get the products they actually need to do their jobs, resulting in a lot of workarounds and duct-taped solutions that lead to inefficiencies, poor management, and inaccuracies. While traditional software can take months or even years to develop, no-code platforms are designed to help people without any technical skills or background to launch apps quickly and easily. With no-code development, workers can easily deploy prototypes for testing within the workplace, refine their prototypes using feedback gathered from trusted testers, and continue iterating until they’re ready to launch a finished app across a team, department, or entire organization. Empowering your workforce Applying human-centered design principles to no-code development can not only result in a rich set of apps that are incredibly customized and fine-tuned for your teams, but it can also empower your workforce and engage them in meaningful and truly productive ways. No-code platforms allow workers to bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds at a time where many are worried about their skills getting replaced by artificial intelligence and automation. By keeping people and real-life users at the forefront of development – and empowering employees to build their own apps – your teams will have the ability to improve all areas of their day-to-day work, including training, on-boarding, project management, and more. So as you consider your road map for internal tools and identify urgent business needs, consider using the framework of human-centered design and a no-code development platform to inspire and get real results, quickly. Want to learn how AppSheet can help your organization use human-centered design?

Transform Expense Reporting in 2020

This year is shaping up to be pivotal for business as companies look to boost profits and make inroads into new markets. But growth takes money which of course impacts the bottom line. Controlling financial output becomes critical. However, many companies still use outdated expense reporting systems which puts them at a major disadvantage against their forward-thinking peers.  Enter expense reporting for the year 2020. Challenges around traditional expense reporting  First, let's explore some problems that can arise by using traditional paper or spreadsheet-based expense tracking systems:  Slow processing times  This won't come as a surprise: paper and spreadsheet-based expense reporting takes time. Reports need to be created manually, submitted, processed, approved, and cleared. In some cases, the process can take weeks or even months. This timeline can result in delayed payments, slowing down your business and frustrating workers.  Unauthorized transactions  Employees often submit expense reports without receipts, opening the door to fraud, errors, and abuse while creating challenges during financial audits. Companies tend to be less strict about expense reports when there aren’t any formal policies or mechanisms in place for processing employee payments.  Security issues  Manual expense reporting is very insecure and can leave sensitive transactions — like strategic trips or executive purchases — open to employees who shouldn't see this information. Companies should always avoid managing expense reports without proper access controls in place.  Expense reporting apps  The solution? Going digital with your expense reports. Here are some of the benefits:  Goodbye, paper!  Paper is highly-resource intensive and takes a toll on the environment. Paper expense forms need to be transcribed, processed, and filed. Paper also needs to be purchased and stocked on a regular basis. Digital apps are far less expensive, provide more accurate data, and are a more sustainable record keeping option.  Automatic alerts Paper and emails can remain stagnant within inboxes for weeks on end. However, digital reports can be sent along with SMS triggers ensuring that administrators receive alerts and respond quickly with approvals. This system reduces payment backlogs while supercharging productivity and accelerating incident response. Advanced forecasts  Digital apps can also provide advanced reporting features, making it possible to track daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly employee or departmental expense patterns. A company can track annual expense reporting over time and use that information to make better decisions about the next year’s budget. No longer a drag For most companies, financial expense reporting is a laborious and inefficient process.  The good news? Mobile expense reporting apps turn the process into a strategic asset, helping to reduce waste and risk while improving back office efficiency. Ultimately, making the change delivers more value to your customers.  Check out how AppSheet’s no-code platform can help transform expense reporting.  

The Stages of Digital Transformation for Construction Companies

There are many ways construction companies can approach digital transformation with each approach carrying specific advantages.Ultimately, construction companies should be looking to weave multiple technologies together in order to create well-rounded digital transformation strategy that encompasses connectivity, software, connected endpoints, big data, and analytics. So where do you start? First, consider where your company sits in terms of digital transformation progress. Forrester breaks down digital transformation into three tiers: 47 percent of organizations are classified as beginners, using rudimentary digital strategies that transform experiences. 39 percent of companies are in an intermediate state of digital transformation, with strategies in place that can transform business operations. 14 percent of companies have achieved an advanced state of digital transformation, where it’s possible to transform markets. Here’s a breakdown of some of the benefits that a construction company can achieve through digital transformation in the context of Forrester’s three tiers: Beginner Construction companies with loosely-defined or uncoordinated digital transformation strategies can be classified as beginners. Benefits at this stage may include enhanced communication (e.g., using apps or real-time communications platforms), enhanced productivity, improved data entry, and possibly some cost reductions. At this level, business processes and employee experiences are improved. Intermediate At the intermediate level, digital transformation is tied together and executed strategically across the organization. At this stage, benefits extend beyond just the user experience. Companies tend to operate as cohesive digital units driven by mobile apps, connected devices, and analytics. At the intermediate level, however, benefits do not extend beyond the walls of the company. A company can’t expect to drive industry-wide change with an intermediate digital transformation strategy.   Advanced The highest level a company can attain is an advanced state of digital transformation. Here, the organization is fully digitalized and capable of driving change across an entire supply chain, making use of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, sharing apps and services with vendors, and using predictive analytics to make decisions and plan project outcomes. At this stage, companies typically avoid making hasty digital deployments. Instead, they roll out so-called “lighthouse” projects, which are small projects designed to study how digital processes may impact teams or divisions. Companies at the advanced level tend to be much more methodical about how they go about digital transformation. One step at a time Digitalizing your construction business is becoming a vital process because of how the industry is evolving, but that doesn't mean you have to drop yourself in the deep end immediately. The great thing about digital transformation is that you can do it at your pace, one step at a time.

Digital Transformation for Utilities: The Flywheel Effect

Has your organization begun its digital transformation process? Are you just starting out or well on your way? No matter your answer, remember that digital transformation refers to an operational state and not a destination. Even organizations that are fully digitized need to continuously explore new and better operations. Digital transformation, in other words, is an ongoing effort much like research and development. The utilities industry needs to be especially ready to adapt and grow. Customer expectations, new technology, and climate change present challenges—and enormous opportunities—for utility companies. Seem daunting? Let's get motivated. Digital transformation promises a massive potential payoff. Utility companies stand to generate performance gains of 20 to 40 percent by implementing new technologies. Read on for the top benefits to digital transformation in the utilities industry. And remember, once your digital programs have started, these benefits become ongoing characteristics that you can improve and grow. Reduced waste Digital transformation helps identify and eliminate areas of waste, both in terms of finances and productivity. Digital lighthouse projects help kick-start and illuminate these benefits so that everyone in your organization gets on board. Lighthouse projects involve setting up a small team that goes through the various departments of your company and analyzes the various ways they conduct their work. This digital analysis uncovers inefficient practices or problems areas in your business that you can then implement digital solutions toward. Once a lighthouse project succeeds, digital transformation tends to work like a flywheel by gaining momentum with each new project. Improved visibility Digital transformation can also be a remarkable learning experience for utility companies. One you've identified how different departments operate, implementing new technologies can be an empowering experience for both the workers and the management team. For instance, imagine sending a task force to interview a group of engineers and see how they work. In addition to potentially identifying new technologies, it’s a great opportunity for management to check in and find out what actually happens on across the business. This can produce invaluable feedback that can help improve operations. Agility to get the job done Digital disruptors entering the industry put traditional utilities companies at risk. Embracing digital transformation is a great way to stay agile and nimble enough to pivot and capitalize on new opportunities. No-code platforms create flexible, agile, and powerful technological solutions for businesses. Workers, project managers, and IT professionals create applications that provide standardization while allowing immense customization and options. Employees get tools they need to complete jobs quicker and from anywhere. A key factor in job completion is getting the data recorded and then entered into the system. Often, that might involve workers having to transport paper documents to computers or offices. With mobile applications, workers can record and upload data directly to the server from their phone, cutting out a lot of the legwork. Improved customer experience  Utility companies that undergo digital transformation also have the opportunity to become customer experience (CX) leaders — a strong differentiator in a field that typically ranks very low in customer satisfaction reports. Successful utility companies use a combination of data, smart devices, intelligent apps, and more to provide stellar customer service that translates into stronger experiences. Customer experience is often based around response time, ease of use, and transparency. When workers have more freedom and power to complete their jobs efficiently, customers enjoy quicker and more reliable service. Everyone wins.

Your Guide to No-Code Development

Want to learn about no-code development? You’ve come to the right place. Recently, we created a resource center where you can learn all about the technology, AppSheet’s bread and butter. Visit our “What is No-Code Development” page to find: A download of AppSheet’s latest white paper, Business Uncoded: An Introduction to No-Code App Development. Customer stories from no-code development early adopters. A library of sample no-code apps for you to explore, copy, and customize. Explore no-code development Check back frequently for updates to the page. In the meantime, comment below with any questions you have about no-code development, platforms, use cases, or whatever else you’d like to know about the technology. We'll do our best to answer your questions. Have no-coding!

Tips for Inspiring Digital Change in Manufacturing

For a lot of manufacturing companies, transitioning into a digital ecosystem can feel like an insurmountable task. It doesn't have to be that way! You'll get there through careful planning and patience. Follow the proper steps and you'll see that adopting the latest and greatest technologies can be a smooth process. We're here to help you start on the right track. Keep reading for our tips: Don’t rush into digital transformation Often, companies invest in technologies before they fully understand their digital transformation needs and goals. As a result, they wind up spending money on technologies that don’t actually help improve their businesses. Prior to launching an initiative, administrators are strongly encouraged to form a digital transformation task force to study various parts of the organization and investigate how using digital solutions will improve workflows. Focus on solving problems  Digital transformation isn’t about buying technology for the sake of appearing current or trendy. Rather, it’s about making your business leaner and more agile — identifying areas of waste and working to change them. For this reason, digital transformation teams are encouraged to spend time consulting with division leaders, conducting workshops, and trying to understand the challenges workers face. Together, the team should explore different technologies and attempt to figure out which ones may be worth deploying as an experiment. If a project proves to be successful, that technology could then be deployed in other areas of the organization. This type of experiment is called a lighthouse project because it provides a signal for further digital transformation.  Build your own digital software Manufacturing software is notoriously expensive and not always customizable. These constraints often give companies buyer's remorse when they realize that the software doesn't rise to their needs. By using a no-code app platform, you can build apps that meet your exact specifications using your own data. In other words, your team can build the perfect tool for the job. With AppSheet, you can either create apps from scratch using a simple no-code approach which is easy enough for non-technical employees to master. Not only can you tailor the apps you create to your specific needs, but it also allows for centralization of data, and better communication between staff. Your IT department will love you, too. No-code platforms allow security options that you might not get in mass-produced software. Here's a list of AppSheet sample apps which you can copy and customize for your use cases within the manufacturing industry: Work Orders App: An app for requesting equipment repairs. Try the Work Orders app.  Loss Prevention and Report App: An app that floor supervisors can use to ensure all equipment is in proper working order. Try the Loss Prevention and Report app. Activity Based Costing App: An app for tracking production line activities. Try the Activity Based Costing app.  Employee Training App - For providing medical training materials to employees. Try the Employee Training app. These are only a few examples of what you can do with a no-code platform like AppSheet. You can start designing your own app, for free. We hope to hear from you! 

Create a Safer Manufacturing Environment

Manufacturing can be dangerous. Employees work in fast-paced environments with heavy machinery, dangerous materials, and crowded spaces. Facility managers must conduct due diligence to reduce accidents and maintain operational safety. Let's take a closer look at manufacturing safety. The top injuries in manufacturing are essentially caused by environmental and behavioral factors. Examples include coming into unexpected contact with objects, falling, exerting too much energy, repetitive motion, and touching harmful chemicals or substances, among other things.  All of these injuries can be reduced by using digital workplace apps. With that in mind, here are some examples of how apps can create a safer manufacturing environment.  Optimizing training  Training is critical to ensure worker safety and productivity. It’s also essential from a regulatory and compliance perspective.  To prevent accidents, manufacturing workers should be properly briefed about occupational hazards before conducting operations. Unfortunately, training and policies can often be rushed, disregarded, or lost in the mix of a busy workday. Apps can provide a perfect mechanism for supplementing training. For example, apps can be used to transmit important documentation and ongoing updates. Managers can request sign-offs and even schedule periodic reviews to make sure employees remain up to speed about safety issues.  Maintaining equipment  Communication is critical for avoiding accidents and keeping machinery running as designed. Machine operators and managers need to be diligent about scheduling maintenance and conducting safety checks — especially when working with machinery that’s prone to overheating or malfunctioning. Apps can be used to request maintenance or share notes about the performance of a machine or vehicle. Custom apps can include forms that enable workers to enter notes and data, and they can be used to share pictures or even video files.  Protecting workers  Some processes, such as working in extreme temperatures or reducing noise exposure, require special attention from managers to prevent harmful health effects. For example, some manufacturing companies limit shift hours to reduce worker hearing loss. Manufacturers can avoid these issues by creating apps designed to expedite advanced hazard control. This type of app would enable management to track and monitor risks like sun, cold, or loud noises. The data could then be fed directly into worker schedules to optimize staffing and ensure safety.  Sharing reports  Management needs to remain in the loop about what’s happening across all of work sites and factories. Company administrators need to have a system that enables them to report daily activities and details. They also need to be able to hold managers accountable for what happens during projects. Apps provide an easy way to stay on top of all safety reporting, making it possible for managers to assemble and share accident reports, safety reports, safety-related complaints, or even suggestions for improving worker safety. These reports can be delivered via email or SMS, ensuring administrators receive them in a timely manner.  Responding to emergencies  When manufacturing accidents happen, it’s important that managers know who to contact. Some companies are now building dedicated apps for emergency response. These apps enable workers to indicate family and medical contacts so managers know who to reach out to in the event of an emergency. Further, these apps let workers list common allergies and other health-related issues, making it easier for technicians to provide a medical response when needed. Ready to get started with custom apps? If so, we’ve got you covered. AppSheet offers a sample Inspection App that you can use to streamline equipment checks. You can also try building your own custom app. AppSheet’s no-code app platform works with both Sheets and Excel, as well as a variety of third-party cloud services. So no matter where your data lives, you can build custom apps to transform your manufacturing workflows — building a more efficient and more profitable company because of it.   Start using AppSheet today and find out how you can take your company to the next level by building custom tools designed specifically for your needs.

The Digital Approach to Construction Management

Compared to other sectors, the construction industry has been slow to adopt digital transformation. Many companies fail to move beyond pilot projects and capture the true benefits that next-generation technologies have to offer.  However, there is a tremendous opportunity for construction companies that can successfully digitalize their operations and move away from manual paper and spreadsheet-based workflows.  It’s important to realize that there is no single solution for digital construction management. Rather, digital construction management refers to a class of hardware and software technologies that can be used to streamline all areas of operations including scheduling, inventory, project management communication, hiring, on-boarding, and more.   Let's go over some tips that can help your company embrace digital construction management and enjoy better business outcomes because of it.  Start with a clear goal One of the top reasons digital construction projects fail is because teams lack a cohesive and value-driven plan.  “For a digital transformation to be successful, executives and managers must start with a clear definition of how digital will create value for the business,” a recent report from McKinsey says. “During the transformation, they must spend as much time, if not more, on operational change as they spend on technology. Those that do stand to realize a significant productivity payoff.” According to McKinsey, productivity gains can increase by as much as 15 percent by implementing digital transformation.  Assign a dedicated task force For the best results, assign a team of business champions to oversee digital transformation initiatives. This team should consult with individual department heads and managers to identify opportunities for improvement, experiment with digital solutions, and track progress. Simply put, creating a digital transformation task force will greatly increase your odds of success.  Use software strategically There are many off-the-shelf construction software solutions on the market. However, these programs tend to be very expensive and lack flexibility and customization options.  Instead of buying software, a growing number of construction companies are choosing to build their own proprietary applications using no-code app development platforms.  What constructions app might look like Now that you’re aware of some of the benefits that come with using apps for construction management, let’s take a look at some specific apps to give you a better idea of how you might use them. Daily reports: Create a list of items that require daily logging and track them in a centralized hub. Check out AppSheet’s sample Daily Reports app. Safety audits: Never get caught off guard during an audit. Build an app to track, manage, and share safety audit reports. Try AppSheet’s sample Safety Audits app. Manage inventory: Maintain open lines of communication between your inventory, purchasing, and field managers by using an app. See AppSheet’s Inventory Management app. For more ideas, check out some additional sample apps. Better yet, jump right in and build your own digital solutions. Get started for free.

Using Apps to Improve Incident Reporting

It can happen when you least expect it: one minute everything is fine, and then a worker goes down with a sudden injury triggering an immediate response from management.    Managers in high-risk environments like utilities, construction, oil and gas, and manufacturing need to be ready to spring into action whenever emergencies arise. And part of this job involves knowing how to produce clean, professional, and accurate incident reports.  One way to improve incident reporting is to create dedicated reporting apps that include forms and fields employees can use to easily share data.  Read on to learn about the advantages to using digital incident reporting.  Establishing a formal process  Companies run into problems when employees lack clear guidelines for creating and escalating incident reports. For example, when an accident happens, a manager may overlook an important detail and take the wrong course of action. These snafus spur unnecessary complication.   By creating a digital incident reporting app, companies create official reporting protocol that offers managers detailed step-by-step instructions. This way, when injuries happen or incidents occur, there are no guessing games.  With the right app in place, managers will know exactly what to do and when they should do it. Scheduling interviews When an incident occurs, it’s necessary to interview employees who were directly involved and have first-hand knowledge so that management can accurately assess the information on hand. Apps can help here, too.  For example, an incident reporting app could contain an embedded scheduling assistant to coordinate follow-up interviews. Managers can track who they reach out to, as well as when and why. This type of information comes in handy when dealing with union or legal representatives and third-party auditors, among others.  Compiling evidence The more data that management can collect following an incident, the better. This is very important for both administrative and legal purposes.  An app can serve as a central repository for photos, interviews, documents, and more. The app becomes an easy, convenient, and secure way to track information as it flows in during the investigation process.  Submitting reports After an incident occurs, administrators must respond in a timely manner. There’s no room for dismissing, overlooking, or misplacing reports.  Incident reports can be easily shared with all relevant parties via SMS or email. Digital signature requests can also be added to ensure issues are followed up on.  Apps also lead to more accurate reporting. Traditional reports are submitted on paper forms and then entered manually into the computer. However, hand-written reports can be difficult to read and are easily misinterpreted. By eliminating the need for transcription, apps improve accuracy while reducing the time that’s needed to close investigations.  As you can see, digital reporting apps deliver a number of benefits to organizations like yours.  To learn more about how you can create custom apps for your organization using AppSheet, check this out.

Feature Friday: Exciting News, New Card View, and Onboarding View Update

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.    Have you heard our big news?  Last week we announced that AppSheet is joining the Google Cloud team. We’re incredibly excited for this next step in our journey and most importantly, we’re excited to have you join us. For more information on our future with Google, please read this letter from our AppSheet CEO Praveen.   Improved Card View   We discussed this release in our recent Office Hours session, but in case you missed it, here’s a quick overview. This improved card view gives you much more flexibility and allows your app to have that custom feel you’ve been hoping for. You can even create a kanban board layout with this view type.  We anticipate more updates in the future, keep an eye on this thread to ensure that you remain up to date on how we continue to improve this view.  Onboarding View It's easy to overlook one of the most challenging parts of creating and deploying applications to a team: app user adoption. In order to help your users understand why your application is useful and how to best take advantage of it, we've introduced a dedicated 'Onboarding' view type. This view works like any of our other first class views, working directly from a table of data that contains visual and text instructions. You can construct multiple pages that app users swipe through when they first open the application, rather than the single static 'About' page that existed previously. How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!    

A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Facility Management

Efficient facility management is critical in industrial environments where large teams of workers interact daily with complex, dangerous, and sensitive equipment.  Small mistakes can lead to massive industrial accidents, endangering lives and harming both facilities and local environments. For this reason, facility managers need access to modern solutions that provide visibility and control over daily operations. Many facility management teams are using digital solutions to improve the way they execute tasks and communicate.  Three technologies enabling digital facilities management  There are three major technologies that are transforming the way organizations approach facilities management: 1. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Facility managers are increasingly using connected devices like cameras and sensors to record environmental data and respond more efficiently. For instance, a camera can be used to detect activity and adjust temperature and lighting controls. This functionality can save money and improve sustainability.  In addition, sensors can be used to collect data, triggering alerts that could lead to potential safety issues — like chemical leaks, sudden power spikes, and pressure changes in sensitive machinery.  2. Big data As IoT devices become more common in industrial environments, we can expect a huge influx of data. As data is processed and studied over time it can be used to make vital operational decisions related to power, sustainability, and performance. 3. Mobile apps Communication is critical for any facilities management team — which is why a growing number of facility managers are using apps to improve their operations. Apps are useful for assigning tasks and projects, tracking performance, sharing data, and compiling reports, among countless other tasks.  Up until recently, apps were very expensive to design and deploy. However, recent advancements in no-code development have made it possible to build apps quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.  Using apps for facilities management  Here are some of the top benefits that come with digital facilities management:  Task triage  Managing a large industrial facility can be a never-ending job, especially for teams that are short-staffed or spread out across multiple buildings. Projects can change by the hour, requiring rapid attention from workers. Managers need to quickly adjust employee workflows and communicate changes to workers.  Workflow apps make it easy for managers to assign tasks to team members. They also make it easier to close them out once the work is done, providing receipts to ensure they are read and acted on. Inventory management Inventory management is critical for managers, who need a constant supply of spare parts, equipment, and other similar items. Managers are now building apps to view, request, and replenish inventory supplies. Applications make it possible to prevent bottlenecks and delays, increasing productivity and boosting profitability along the way.  Employee scheduling  Managers need to carefully balance employee schedules, considering a range of factors like shift limitations, daily responsibilities, location, and worker availability. These functions are difficult to accomplish through manual data input.  Apps can be used to create flexible schedules, alerting workers when they are needed on a job site ahead of time and letting them know what they will be working on. These capabilities set proper expectations and increase alignment. To learn more about how you can design apps to streamline facilities management using AppSheet’s no-code platform, check this out. 

AppSheet Acquired by Google Cloud

Dear AppSheet Community, Today, I’m pleased to announce that AppSheet has been acquired by Google and will be joining the Google Cloud team. Before I explain why this is the right step, I want to be very clear that our customer-centric focus will not change. We have built relationships with you, in some cases over many years. I know many of you personally. We value these relationships deeply and we will continue to invest in, and broaden our relationships with you. With that said, I would like to share the most important details: The AppSheet services you use will continue. In fact, they will grow and expand once we integrate deeper with Google Cloud.  Our team is joining Google Cloud and will continue to run our service. We will continue to support customers—new and existing.  AppSheet will continue to work cross-platform. While we have always integrated deeply with G Suite and Google Cloud data sources, we will continue to support and improve our integrations with other cloud-hosted data sources like Office 365, Salesforce, Box, Dropbox, and databases hosted in other clouds. And while the majority of our mobile app users run on Android, we will continue to support and improve the way our apps run on iOS and on web browsers. Our core mission is unchanged. We want to “democratize” app development by enabling as many people as possible to build and distribute applications without writing a line of code. That continues to be our mission, and it aligns well with Google Cloud’s strategy to re-envision digital transformation with a business-user-centric application platform. Why does this acquisition feel like the right next step? First and foremost, we are philosophically and strategically aligned with Google Cloud in a shared commitment to a no-code platform. The AppSheet platform has been live for more than five years. As we’ve matured, so has the IT industry, and there is now a tremendous pent-up demand for enterprise automation. With the rise of low- and no-code platforms, citizen development has emerged as the strategic way for modern organizations to invest, innovate, and compete. As we engaged with various leaders in the Google Cloud team, we found to our delight that Google Cloud shares our commitment to a no-code platform. Like anyone who works in the technology industry, we admire the amazing, innovative technology that Google has created over the last two decades. There is great potential to leverage and integrate more deeply with many of Google’s amazing assets like G Suite and Android to improve the functionality, scale, and performance of AppSheet. Moving forward, we expect to combine AppSheet’s core strengths with Google Cloud’s deep industry expertise in verticals like financial services, retail, and media & entertainment. For more perspective on what this means for us together, you can read the blog from Google Cloud’s Vice President, Amit Zavery. In short, we can now deliver a better platform for our customers and reach and empower many more users. There will likely be a period where we have to settle into the new environment before forging ahead, but you should start seeing the benefits of today’s announcement soon. It is an exciting time for all of us at AppSheet. I appreciate your continued faith in us and I know we could not have reached this stage without you. Our journey together continues and I look forward to it. -Praveen

Improving Construction Safety

Construction sites can be dangerous. Construction work, by nature, is also physical work. And depending on the type of construction job, employees are often working under conditions where there's a potential to be harmed. According to the OSHA, one in every five worker deaths happens in construction. The top causes of private sector construction fatalities include electrocution, getting struck by an object, and getting caught between objects. These accidents cause 59.9 percent of construction-related deaths. Clearly, worker safety is a very serious matter for construction companies. Providing workers with the proper safety mechanisms can literally be a matter of life and death. To maintain safe working conditions, a growing number of companies are using mobile apps to streamline construction safety. Apps can act as critical liaisons between administrators, field managers, and workers, helping teams share important safety-related information in a way that is fast, convenient, and reliable. Recent advancements in no-code development have also made it possible for construction teams to design, develop, and deploy apps in a way that is easy and affordable. With that in mind, here are some of the top ways that apps can help improve construction safety. Communicating with teams Construction workers are often dispersed across large physical distances, whether they’re in tall buildings, massive warehouses, or enormous lots. Work is usually autonomously performed outside of the sight of a direct manager. Site managers and administrators can use apps to issue critical weather or safety-related alerts, reducing the need to track down employees manually across construction zones. Issuing reminders Injuries can happen when employees get careless about safety requirements. For example, workers may be inclined to remove helmets, gloves, or goggles from time to time. A crew may head into a work zone without enough water during a heat wave. As such, safety reminders should be sent on an ongoing basis to avoid unnecessary lapses in protocol.  Managers can use apps to transmit digital reminders on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Managers can also embed digital signature requests to notifications, requiring workers to sign off on important safety checks. These workflows protect both the workers and the company. Improving transparency Site managers are typically responsible for overseeing many workers. It’s important to have a solid understanding of where workers are and what they are doing. However, tracking can be tricky when using non-digital management systems. Apps can be used to communicate team locations and project updates, allowing managers to see exactly where all of their workers are across different sites at any point. For example, a manager could use an app to receive a notification whenever someone from the team enters into a high-risk situation, such as working in a fall zone or transporting heavy or dangerous items. Sharing emergency information No matter how much precaution you take, accidents happen. At some point, something will go wrong and a manager will need to take action.  One challenge facing construction teams is tracking down emergency contacts — especially when working at a remote site away from computers or employee files. Mobile apps can help here, too, by serving as a database where employees can enter family or medical contacts and add notes related to health issues and allergies. Having easy access to this information can be very helpful when emergency action is needed. These are just a few ways that apps can be used to improve construction safety. AppSheet, for instance, offers a sample Safety Reporting App that teams can use to report and log accidents. Check out the construction safety reporting app here: AppSheet also allows you to build custom apps using your company’s data. To experience the power of agile no-code development, try AppSheet today for free.

Feature Friday: Top Ten Empowering Features of the Year

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase our favorite features. To close out 2019, we wanted to highlight the top feature releases of the year. We took this list very seriously, in part because we released so much this year that it made our heads spin. Rather than rehash the data pulls and heart breaks over what made the list, we’ll take you straight to the good stuff.  The Top Ten 10. File Generating Workflows If you work with workflows, chances are you also use the "Save File" feature. Because of its popularity, we grew this feature over the course of 2019 to include custom PDF sizes, .ics calendar invites, and more. To learn more about the “so awesome”capability of this feature, see how the AppSheet Community has been using it. 9. SNAPSHOT() SNAPSHOT() is a new release, but within the first few days of availability it was used more than 3000 times. For those of you that have applications that incorporate daily inspection reports of a worksite or you have large amounts of data displayed in a dashboard that you would like to send to your executive team automatically, this is a great expression to add.  8. Bulk Select The small but mighty action that made a big impact for applications built by everyone in the AppSheet Community, including our staff. With this feature you can scroll through the view highlighting the rows where you want to apply a normal action. If you've never used it before, there's a sample app included below where you can give it a whirl.  7. Data: execute an action on a set of rows As displayed below, there are a number of actions you can take to modify data or navigation within your application. One of the purposes of these action types is to save you time and make your applications more efficient. If you're looking for an automated version of the popular bulk select feature, this action makes that happen. 6. Customizable Dashboards Interactive mode, tabs, and custom sizing all provided new and powerful ways to display your data in this view type. according to fellow Creators, “The dashboards and data analytics side of app sheet is honestly my favorite.” The data supports this too, with tens of thousands of dashboards being added to applications this year.    5. Add a new row to another table using values from this row Released this summer, this action has been a hot topic. With this action you can specify which separate table data should be added to while defining each column added, allowing rows of data to quickly be updated and moved across all tables in your application.  4. Predictive Values Need to estimate the cost of a project or predict customer churn? You'll love predictive values. Technically we released a beta of this feature in late 2018, but we’ve made so many updates to it this year that it was an absolute must to include on this list.  3. Predictive Classification If you've ever wondered why we call ourselves an "Intelligent Platform" this is one of the reasons why. This release plus a little machine learning can help improve your apps in countless ways.    2. Map Point Grouping Maps can become very cluttered very, very quickly. We wanted to help avoid this often frustrating display issue by giving you the option of grouping your pins together or leaving them separate on your map display.  1. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Extracting information such as prices or names from an image became possible this year. Since the beta release in late July, this feature has been used in thousands of applications making it number one on our list for a reason. It’s highly customizable, powerful, and a complete game changer.    That’s a wrap on the top features of the year! Stop by the AppSheet community to let us know what your favorite feature of the year was.  Thank you all for a fantastic 2019 and a very Happy New Year!   

The Modern Approach to EAM

Utilities, gas, construction, and manufacturing providers are increasingly using custom apps to streamline enterprise asset management (EAM). This makes digital EAM a top technology to watch in 2020 and beyond. Enterprise asset management challenges any large industrial provider. The average company can have hundreds of thousands of assets scattered across multiple locations. These assets include human resources, machines, vehicles, wide area networking components, servers, and more. And each system plays a vital role in the ongoing stability and profitability of the organization. Using software to manage EAM Traditionally, most of these systems and machines operated independently, making it difficult to achieve effective enterprise asset management (EAM) goals. Today, though, more and more industrial providers are moving digital transformation initiatives forward, implementing cutting-edge solutions to oversee the sum of their assets. There are hurdles to the digitization of EAM, however. Off-the-shelf EAM software is very expensive with costs often exceeding $11,000 per user. EAM can be a costly investment for the budget-conscious organization, especially when considering all of the additional technological expenses facing companies today (e.g., data management, the cloud, computers, communications, insurance, and more). It’s possible, however, to build your own EAM apps using a no-code app platform — saving your company thousands of dollars while building a solution that matches your precise needs. The no-code approach to EAM Using a no-code app platform like AppSheet, it’s possible to build individual apps for specific EAM processes. For example, you could build apps to track HR processes, workflows, data management, inventory, and more by merging these functions into a centralized reporting app. Here are some of the benefits that come with using no-code EAM apps. Agile asset tracking One of the problems with out-of-the-box EAM platforms is that they lack the ability to enable you to easily create and track new and custom assets.  By using a no-code EAM platform, however, a company can create specific apps on an as-needed basis. For example, a manufacturing company may decide to start tracking IoT solutions. This could be easily accomplished by taking data from Sheets or Excel and building an app to provide ongoing expense reports.  Fewer errors  Human error remains a major challenge with EAM solutions, which still require physical data entry. It’s very common for data to be entered incorrectly, resulting in inaccurate reporting and untrustworthy results.  No-code EAM eliminates manual data entry by creating a system where information can be entered via digital fields and intuitive drop-down menus. This removes the need to manually transcribe data — increasing data integrity and helping your business make smarter decisions.  If a data value is entered incorrectly on a no-code platform, it’s far easier to detect and correct the mistake. No-code apps offer greater data transparency than traditional paper-based data entry systems. Authorized users can access, review, and update data from any device. Cloud-based management  A study by Software Advice found that 86 percent of EAM buyers prefer a cloud-based EAM solution. This statistic highlights the need for streamlined back-end management and affordable storage. No-code app platforms like AppSheet leverage the cloud to deliver powerful, SaaS-based building functionality. It’s a far more cost-effective approach to running an on-premise EAM solution or hiring developers to build one from scratch for you.  Learn more about AppSheet’s no-code platform.

Feature Friday: Duration, CONTEXT() Updates, and a New Onboarding View

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.  Duration  Duration is part of the Date and Time expression family and allows you to calculate duration of seconds, minute, or hours. This has been expanded to make it easier to compute intervals in TOTALSECONDS(), TOTALMINUTES(), and TOTALHOURS(). These functions are great ways to track hours worked by your employees or manage duration of time spent on a project.   CONTEXT() Update The function CONTEXT(option) is used to return a Text value that indicates where in the app this expression is being used. It's useful for "meta-data" operations but in a rather limited scope. We've expanded the functionality to include a fourth option, CONTEXT("AppName"). You can take a deeper dive into the technical side of CONTEXT() functions in reviewing this help document.  Coming Soon: New Onboarding View  The “About View” that your users currently interact with is rather static. To improve the experience for onboarding those that use your applications, keep an eye out for a soon to be released “Onboarding View.” You’ll have multiple pages for content, swiping capabilities and more.  Top Features of the Year  Next week we will be releasing our list of the Top Ten Features of the Year. stay tuned to see if your favorite made the list!    How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!

Year in Review: AppSheet 2019

Another amazing year is in the books and we couldn’t be more thankful to our devoted app creators and community. This year, we greeted over 100k new app creators and 190k new app users. Welcome to the family, everyone. And, wow, have you all been busy! In 2019, app creators produced over 490,000 new mobile and desktop applications. That’s an app created nearly every minute. Also, we're now deployed in over 190 countries. Recently, we’ve made it even easier for AppSheet creators to share the love. Check out our new resources page for an array of tools that will help you inspire your team to build apps, digitize processes, and grow your productivity. Speaking of growth, let’s take a moment to highlight the AppSheet team. At the start of 2019, we had 17 full-—time employees in our Seattle office. Now, we total more than 40 employees in Seattle, plus part-time team members spread all around the world. We will carry this ethos into 2020 and continue our commitment to personalized customer experience. As always, the AppSheet User Community remained the place for our most vibrant, engaged, and enthusiastic platform advocates. We now have over 17.5k community members who published a total of 30k posts and comments. This is the place where users and AppSheet team members connect and work to improve the platform — this ecosystem has always been important to us and we look forward to working with all of you in the new year. The AppSheet platform has also experienced tremendous growth. In 2019, over 50 new features were introduced with expanded functionality across all areas. We’ve improved each facet of our platform with special emphasis on UI richness, enterprise capabilities, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. To learn more about how no-code platforms bring machine learning and AI technology to businesses of all sizes, read our new white paper, “Why the Future of Machine Learning is No-Code”. This year certainly has been a whirlwind of positive change and we can’t wait to keep the momentum rolling into the new decade. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2020 to our AppSheet community near and far! Finally, check out some more statistics from the past year: Most popular sample apps Explore & copy sample apps to get your project started Inventory Management Stock Management Order Capture Manufacturing Inventory Sales Report Work Order Store Inventory Quote and Proposal Project Management Top 5 new features in 2019 OCR  Map Point Grouping   Predictive Classification  Predictive Values Add a new row to another table using values from this row  Most common app use case  

Construction Management Programs in the United States

At AppSheet, a huge part of our mission is to help professionals excel in their careers. No matter your industry, we provide the platform to help you work better and innovate on the job. Our blog also serves as a resource for industry trends, workplace inspiration, and ideas for career continuing education.   This post is the first in a series where we'll index popular continuing education programs by industry. This week, we share a database of construction management programs in the United States. If you want to start a construction management career or expand on your established career in construction, start your research of programs right here. In typical AppSheet fashion, we’ve converted the database into an easy-to-use application. Explore construction programs by state or use the map tab to locate a construction school near you. You can also search the app to pull up programs by degree type (certificate, associate, bachelor, or even PhD) or keyword. Click into the program to find a description, address, and link to the program website. In addition to construction management programs, the database includes information for other construction degrees such as those in green buildings, building construction technology, sustainable construction, building inspection, and more. Check out the app embedded below. Click on the "details" tab or visit the construction program app page to copy it for use on your own phone, table, or laptop. We'll continuously update this app, so check back if you don't find the right program for you! Construction management programs by state California Cosumnes River College A.S. in Construction Management Technology Degree type: Associate Program description: This program offers training of management-level employees for the construction industry, as well as preparation for transfer to a four-year college or university construction program. Graduates may be employed by contractors, business and government agencies for work in project planning, estimating and project coordinating. A student planning to transfer to a four-year college or university should consult the lower division requirements of the anticipated college program. Construction Management Technology Certificate Degree type: Certificate Program description: This CRC program offers training of management-level employees for the construction industry, as well as preparation for transfer to a four-year college or university construction program. Graduates may be employed by contractors, business and government agencies for work in project planning, estimating and project coordinating. A student planning to transfer to a four-year college or university should consult the lower division requirements of the anticipated college program. Green Buildings Certificate Degree type: Certificate Program description: The purpose of this certificate is to develop job skills and an understanding of green strategies for high performance buildings and livable communities. It is focused at students and professionals in the fields of architecture; construction; building management; construction management; building inspection; design technology; landscape; and planning, who want to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of an integrated, economic life-cycle approach to the design of the built environment. It includes study of green rating systems, material choices and environmental strategies for a livable, sustainable future. American River College Building Trades and Construction Associate Degree Degree type: Associate Program description: The STRIPE Pre-apprenticeship program teaches you basic construction skills and introduces the building trades. In an apprenticeship, you’ll receive on-the-job training, paid employment, and instruction in many industrial processes and building methods.  Building Trades and Construction Certificate Degree type: Certificate Program description: The STRIPE Pre-apprenticeship program teaches you basic construction skills and introduces the building trades. In an apprenticeship, you’ll receive on-the-job training, paid employment, and instruction in many industrial processes and building methods.  Sierra College Construction Management Degree type: Certificate Program description: Do you love working with your hands? Learn everything from job safety to construction skills. Get in-demand skills in our hands-on classes including electrical, plumbing, carpentry and solar energy. Construction Basics Skills Certificate Degree type: Associate Program description: Do you love working with your hands? Learn everything from job safety to construction skills. Get in-demand skills in our hands-on classes including electrical, plumbing, carpentry and solar energy. Energy Surveying and Lighting Retrofits Degree type: Certificate Program description: Do you love working with your hands? Learn everything from job safety to construction skills. Get in-demand skills in our hands-on classes including electrical, plumbing, carpentry and solar energy. Victor Valley College Photovoltaic Technician Program Degree type: Certificate Program description: Construction Technology’s Photovoltaic Technician Program teaches students the knowledge and skills needed to enter this fast-growing industry. Building construction technology Degree type: Associate Program description: The Construction Technology program provides preparation for a wide variety of positions in the construction field as a contractor, supervisor, building inspector, or tradesperson. The program offers the opportunity to be self-employed and the pride and satisfaction of creating and building with your own hands. Florida Florida State College at Jacksonville Building construction technology Degree type: Associate Program description: The Associate in Science (A.S.) in Building Construction Technology degree program prepares students for a rewarding career in the all encompassing construction fields for both residential and commercial construction. Designed to prepare the students for numerous industry standards and practical certifications, instruction consists of academic as well as laboratory and hands-on training. Upon successful completion, students will be qualified for a position as an entry-level building construction technician, responsible for performing a variety of job functions, from hands-on work to supervision. Michigan Michigan State University Bachelor of Science in Construction Management Degree type: Bachelor's Program description: The Construction Management major is nationally accredited by the American Council for Construction Education since 1999. It is one of the earliest established construction management programs in the nation. Core areas of study include: Project management; Site planning and development; Building materials and structure; Information Modeling (BIM); Planning, scheduling and project control; Commercial, residential and heavy construction; Building construction systems; contracts and documents; Construction safety and protection; Quantity takeoffs, estimating and accounting; Construction business and finance; Energy efficiency and sustainability. Master of Science in Construction Management Degree type: Master's Program description: The Construction Management Master of Science degree is designed to provide breadth in the managerial, technological, economic and environmental aspects of construction. The program is also designed to provide depth and breadth through a systems approach encompassing project management, estimating, scheduling and project controls, housing, land acquisition and development, architectural and engineering design, construction technology, real estate, finance, business management and marketing. PhD Concentration in Construction Management Degree type: PhD Program description: The Doctor of Philosophy in Planning, Design and Construction with a concentration in construction management will enable SPDC students to meet future challenges. The doctoral program is designed to focus on scholarly research, and combine the technical and managerial aspects of construction projects. This program is designed to provide the depth and breadth in the managerial, technological, economic and environmental aspects of construction. The aim of this degree is to prepare students to become globally engaged citizen-leaders and scholars in the built environment. Minnesota University of Minnesota Bachelor of Applied Science in Construction Management Degree type: Bachelor's Program description: Our mission is to prepare future construction leaders to sustainably manage the built environment. Founded in 1997, the program has gained significant support from industry and alumni over our program's history, blending technology and management into a well-rounded yet flexible curriculum. Construction Management Certificate Degree type: Certificate Program description: Designed and taught by industry professionals, the program focuses on management skills necessary for success in the construction industry. You'll gain essential skills and knowledge in estimating documents; scheduling contracts; planning project execution; measuring results and ensuring quality; and managing projects. Montana University of Montana Sustainable Construction Technology Certificate of Applied Science Degree type: Certificate Program description: The mission of the Sustainable Construction Technology Program is to provide the regional workforce with credentialed, skilled and competent individuals who are responsive to emerging workforce needs. Certificate of Applied Science Degree type: Associate Program description: The Sustainable Construction Technology program provides students the opportunity to learn sustainable construction skills in a competency-based learning environment. Students work hand-in-hand with professionals both on campus and at construction sites. Certificate of Applied Science - Construction Management Degree type: Certificate Program description: The program provides students the opportunity to learn construction skills in a competency based learning environment. In addition to general education courses, students in the program learn the various steps of becoming a successful tradesperson in the construction industry, including safe practices, management and skills competencies. Students construct real world projects and can earn a Certificate of Applied Science and continue for another year to earn an Associate of Applied Science Degree. New York Alfred State University Construction Engineering Technology Degree type: Associate Program description: The program in construction engineering technology includes a well-designed balance of theoretical and laboratory studies, providing students with a broad knowledge of civil engineering technology and the construction fields. This field is expanding rapidly, and our technical curricula will give you a broad-based education, as well as the hands-on skills and experience needed for leadership in today’s construction business. Construction Management Degree type: Bachelor's Program description: Do you dream of a leadership role in the construction industry? Then this program is for you. Our expert faculty have designed a series of courses that will familiarize you with all aspects of construction management. Technical course work is combined with specific construction management courses as well as several business courses, giving you a broad-based education. Pennsylvania Pennsylvania College of Technology Residential Construction Technology & Management: Architecture Concentration Degree type: Bachelor's Program description: With a degree in Residential Construction Technology & Management, you’ll explore architecture and design principles and master industry-standard software like AutoCAD. Pair these hands-on skills with residential construction management courses and you’ll be real-world ready. Residential Construction Technology & Management: Building Construction Technology Concentration Degree type: Bachelor's Program description: This bachelor-level program lays the framework in residential construction. Studying everything from layout to materials and methods, you’ll learn what it takes to build a home and a career. Management courses on topics like estimating, scheduling, and code compliance coupled with leadership-building experience fuel your momentum to play a leading role in this dynamic field. Building Construction Technology Degree type: Associate Program description: Plan, design, and execute homes and smaller-scale commercial buildings. From estimating and layout to material selection and safety considerations, coursework taps into all phases of the construction process from start to finish. Concrete Science Technology Degree type: Associate Program description: From buildings to bridges, concrete is everywhere. Concrete science experts are in demand. In this program, you’ll analyze the properties of concrete. Explore admixture techniques. And learn which type is best suited for the job at hand. The only one of its kind on the East Coast, this industry-driven major pulls together science, technology, and construction to deliver the specialized skillset that employers need most. Construction Management Degree type: Bachelor's Program description: When you come to Penn College, you’ll leave prepared. With the vision and technical know-how to build a better tomorrow. As a construction manager, you’ll be a major player in seeing construction projects from concept through completion. You’ll tackle estimating and planning. Oversee purchasing. Manage subcontractors. Supervise staff. And best of all, you’ll have a job waiting for you post-graduation. Actually, the vast majority of our students have offers before tossing their caps! Utah Weber State University Construction Management Degree type: Bachelor's Program description: Program Prerequisite: Declare a Program of Study in Construction Management Construction Management Degree type: Associate Program description: Grade Requirements: A grade of “C” or better in all major courses, business courses, and support courses is required (a grade of “C-” is not acceptable) in addition to an overall GPA for all courses of 2.00 or higher. Utah Valley University Construction Management Degree type: Bachelor's Program description: This program provides courses in building construction, construction management and construction science that apply to all segments of the construction industry with an emphasis on heavy civil and commercial construction. Facilities Management Degree type: Associate Program description: This program is designed to prepare graduates to manage physical facilities such as resorts, health care centers, government facilities, recreational complexes, schools, industrial plants, and apartment buildings. Cabinetry & Architectural Woodworking Degree type: Associate Program description: This program prepares students to find employment in factory production, set-up milling, assembling, and installing highly customized cabinetry in residences, banks, department stores, and restaurants. Construction Management Degree type: Certificate Program description: A Certificate of Completion for students seeking an applied education in construction. The courses can lead the students who desire to further their education towards the AAS and/or BS degree in Construction Management. Cabinetry & Architectural Woodworking Degree type: Certificate Program description: This program prepares students to find employment in factory production, set-up milling, assembling, and installing highly customized cabinetry in residences, banks, department stores, and restaurants. Washington Renton Technical College Construction Management Degree type: Certificate Program description: The Construction Management program offers students important administrative and personnel skills to become successful project managers, superintendents, estimators and more. Some the skills covered include reading and interpreting drawings, estimating costs, sequencing work activities and applying technology to measure results. Students can enroll on a part-time or full-time basis. Construction Management Degree type: Associate Program description: The Construction Management program offers students important administrative and personnel skills to become successful project managers, superintendents, estimators and more. Some the skills covered include reading and interpreting drawings, estimating costs, sequencing work activites and applying technology to measure results. Students can enroll on a part-time or full-time basis. Clover Park Technical College Construction Trades Academy Pre-Apprenticeship Program (C-TAPP) Certificate Degree type: Certificate Program description: This apprenticeship readiness program prepares students with the knowledge and skills necessary for employment in the construction industry. This one-quarter program covers safety, hand and power tool use, math, carpentry trades, print and plan reading, and employment preparation. Students entering the one-quarter Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Trades program will be required to complete entry and quarterly assessments while enrolled in the program. These assessments will not determine eligibility for the program. Construction Technologies Associate of Applied Technology Degree / Associate in Applied Science – T Degree Degree type: Associate Program description: This program is designed to train construction professionals and facilities managers for building applications and systems that consume a minimal amount of non-renewable resources and contribute to environmental and personal health. This program will prepare graduates for careers in resource energy management, indoor air quality, solar installation, home energy rating systems, and other specialties that support the design, building, and maintenance of sustainable living environments. Construction Technology Certificate Degree type: Certificate Program description: This certificate program builds on the knowledge and skills students earn in the C-TAPP certificate, which serves as the first quarter of the program, and provides an introduction to residential construction technologies. Grays Harbor College Carpentry Technology Degree type: Associate Program description: The Carpentry Technology program teaches the fundamental skills required for those seeking a career in construction or career advancement. Those wishing to explore carpentry as a career and those with personal interests in carpentry are also welcome. Students receive hands-on training with the tools of the trade in the various phases of residential construction, as well as building codes, drawings, estimation, math, and layout. Strong emphasis is placed on work habits and safety. Carpentry Technology Degree type: Certificate Program description: The Carpentry Technology program teaches the fundamental skills required for those seeking a career in construction or career advancement. Those wishing to explore carpentry as a career and those with personal interests in carpentry are also welcome. Students receive hands-on training with the tools of the trade in the various phases of residential construction, as well as building codes, drawings, estimation, math, and layout. Strong emphasis is placed on work habits and safety. Edmonds Community College Construction Management Associate of Technical Arts Degree Degree type: Associate Program description: The Construction Management Associate of Technical Arts Degree program is primarily designed for students with experience in some phase of the construction industry who want to specialize in construction project management. The program is designed to meet the needs of the working student. Most courses are offered in the evening. Certificate in Building Inspection Degree type: Certificate Program description: The certificate in Building Inspection is designed for students interested in, or presently employed in, the building inspection field. The program is designed to meet the needs of the working student. Most courses are offered in the evening. Construction Management Certificate Degree type: Certificate Program description: The Construction Management Certificate program is primarily designed for students with experience in some phase of the construction industry who want to specialize in construction project management. The program is designed to meet the needs of the working student. Most courses are offered in the evening. This certificate requires successful completion of a minimum of 58 credits as outlined. Civil Construction Management and Inspection Certificate Degree type: Certificate Program description: The Civil Construction Management and Inspection Certificate program is primarily intended for students with experience in the construction industry who want to specialize in road or utility construction project management or inspection. The program is designed to meet the needs of the working student. Most courses are offered in the evening. This certificate requires successful completion of a minimum of 47 credits as outlined.

New Horizons for Digital Transformation in Oil and Gas

In the oil and gas sector, extracting valuable resources and transforming them into usable assets is the name of the game. The digital transformation of this industry is not all that different. Incorporating technologies into the oil and gas sectors is all about extracting value in areas that are either under served or reliant on outdated systems and processes. In other words, digital transformation involves using technologies to make an a oil and gas company operate more efficiently. This work leads to greater output and improved financial performance.  Digital transformation is impacting all areas of the global oil and gas industries, including exploration and production (E&P) companies that search for hydrocarbon reservoirs, drill and sell raw materials; drilling companies that contract with E&P companies; refineries that purchase and manufacture energy products; well-servicing companies that construct and maintain drilling rigs; shipping companies that transport materials to global distribution centers; and regulatory bodies that govern all of the above organizations. Basically, everyone is turning their heads toward technology to provide solutions for issues in their businesses. Here are some specific examples of how digital transformation can impact the oil and gas sector today: A new reservoir of resources Before a company can start drilling, a team of engineers must plan ahead to form a safe and operationally efficient strategy that is also cost-effective. Drilling engineers create these plans, using a combination of engineering specialties, including completion engineering, operational engineering, production engineering, and reservoir engineering. Technological advancements in drilling engineering are helping companies tap into new reservoirs of natural gas and oil that were previously inaccessible. In the past, companies were typically confined to depths of about 30 meters when drilling for oil and gas. Now, companies are using extended reach drilling and advanced stimulation technology to better understand rock and fluid interactions. As a result, companies can drill deeper and more effectively than ever — all while reducing their environmental footprint. There are two types of well stimulation practices: Matrix stimulation, which involves acidizing wellborne areas in order to dissolve dolomite and limestone formations and make the reservoir rock more permeable. Hydraulic stimulation, which is the more common approach and involves forcing open fissures in subterranean rock formations using high pressure liquid in order to extract natural resources. Advancements in stimulation software have made it possible to create and execute well stimulation projects. MFrac, for instance, is a leading hydraulic program, while STIMPRO is used commonly for matrix acidizing analysis. Fabricating toward the future In the ultra-competitive oil and gas industry, time is critical for success. Broken parts need to be fabricated and replaced rapidly — especially in something like a central delivery point (CDP), where several different operators may use the same CDP system to process gas, separate natural gas liquids and different pressure gasses, and scrub hydrocarbons. Downtime in this type of system can impact multiple operations, driving the need for fast and cost-effective repairs. Over the past few years, oil and gas companies have been increasingly relying on additive engineering or 3D printing to enable affordable and timely part fabrication; 3D printing also makes it possible to manufacture parts locally, reducing travel time, and lowering total repair costs. For example, an oil rig in the Persian Gulf no longer has to ship a product from a plant in China or the U.S. Now, that part can be manufacured on-site. Looking forward, 3D printing will play a massive role in digital transformation for the oil and gas industry.  The key idea to remember when thinking about technology integration is that it should always be agency-driven. Integrating technology into your industry shouldn't be limiting your choices, it should be expanding them. 3D printing has allowed business to create parts for themselves so there is less time waiting on others to complete jobs. Finding new technological horizons for refining While we think that adopting technologies into one's business is invaluable in this current age, that doesn't mean that industry professionals always know how or why they should do it. The refining industry is at a crossroads right now with cracking the code for how they can use digital transformation to grow their businesses. Digitization is occurring in the refinery sector, albeit slowly. According to Accenture, 50 percent of oil refiners consider themselves to be digital or semi-digital. But there is little evidence of advanced digital maturity beyond pilots and proofs of concept. “Most refineries have not moved beyond basic digital technologies like cloud technologies or next-generation advanced process control,” Accenture says. “More cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and edge computing are still not prevalent.” Right now, there are three major hurdles inhibiting digital adoption for refineries: Budgetary restrictions, a lack of strategy, and a lack of digital skills in the refinery workforce. “By failing to grow their digital operations, there is still significant potential value which refiners are not realizing,” Accenture continues. A good start for any refining business is to work through what problems they'd like to find digital solutions for. Then, begin documenting the data they currently have on that problem. No-code application development is able to start solving so many problems as long as you're able to input the data in a cleanly-formatted, and standardized manner. Machine learning improves R&D processes E&P companies need to know where to drill for oil. To determine the best locations, they rely on geophysical data gleaned from geophysicists, who conduct surveys using digital sensing instruments, which extract information from above and below the Earth’s surface. Over the last two decades, we have seen dramatic advances in geophysical software and instruments. Today, geophysicists are using advanced seismic processing solutions, prestack seismic interpretation, depth imaging, and quantitative predictive interpretation in order to figure out where to move their operations. Looking forward, artificial intelligence (AI) and similar technologies will play a massive role in helping geophysicists process the vast amounts of data they are collecting on a daily basis. In one example, machine learning is being applied to analyzing well log data. “Reliably predicting lithology becomes one of the key problems in reservoir characterization,” explains data scientist Tannistha Maiti. “In practice, combination of physical models, local geological knowledge, and experience to reduce large seismic and well log datasets into low-dimensional models of the Earth are used. Unfortunately, these simplified physical and geological assumptions do not always hold true in practice, making the inferred model highly uncertain and biased.” “This problem can be reformulated using general machine learning models,” Maiti continues. “Hence, it would be a good idea to predict the lithologies of the huge well dataset in a basin with some algorithms.” Machine learning is being implemented across industries because of its power and adaptability. Not only is it streamlining work processes, but it’s future-proofing businesses by growing with the data that is collected as opposed to only updating when a technician releases a new iteration of the software. Safety can improve with digital transformation Oil and gas companies are under enormous pressure to ensure their systems are operationally sound. This is critical for both personal and environmental safety. The BP oil explosion, for instance — which killed 11 people and resulted in one of the greatest environmental disasters of all time — was partially the result of valve malfunctions, leaks, and misinterpreted pressure tests. Technology is playing a much bigger role today in helping companies avoid this type of issue. Connected devices and sensors, for example, can now be embedded directly into various parts of a well and transmit data back for analysis. Advancements in big data and AI are also helping crew members notice trends and predict when equipment should be checked or repaired. It's easy to forget just how much new technologies play in making work environments safer, if implemented carefully and consciously. One of the first thoughts for any business wanting to digitally transform their business should be: how will this make my business and workers more safe? Conclusion We've covered a few key areas of oil and gas that have potential to improve through incorporating technology. All of these hurdles can be overcome with careful planning, and a conscious effort in trying to make your business run more smoothly and efficiently while also keeping your worker's safety in mind. The first step is always the hardest, but we hope this inspires you dig a little deeper, you'll be surprised what good things you'll bring to the surface!  

Feature Friday: Intersect, Table Sorting, and ICS Calendar

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.    INTERSECT() Are you a list person? If so, then you probably have a few lists running with common items that you wish you could manage differently. We’d like to give you a bit of sanity back by introducing you to our INTERSECT() function.  Whether you're managing inventory or events, you’re going to want to go straight to your editor and add this function. It takes all the elements which are common to both of the original lists and stores them in another list. The newly created list becomes a summary of the elements that we similar.  Our community has had a few days to work with this feature and has some great suggestions on how to implement this new expression. To learn more stop by the AppSheet Community.  Table Sorting in Dashboards A small but mighty feature, this update allows Tables displayed in Dashboards to be sorted by their headers. Previously, Tables that displayed in Dashboards were relatively static. This new capability, however, provides a more interactive way to present your data.  We introduced this update in our new and improved Office Hours this week. If you missed the session, we've got you covered.    ICS Calendar Attachments   We're expanding the options available for the file types that can be sent in your workflows. The latest addition is the ICS Calendar (also known as .ics) which allows you to send calendar invitations in an email message. If you've received a meeting request or event invitation in an email, you've used .ics before.  This workflow update can be used for sending calendar information for everything from formal meeting requests to surprise party invites. Information sent in your .ics file can include location, date, time and more. To learn more about working with workflows, review our workflow support series.  How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!

Five Tech Gadgets to Adopt into Your Construction Business in 2020

Incorporating technology into your construction business model will continue to be an important factor going into the new year. With so many different technological advancements happening all the time, it can be challenging to navigate what technology is going to prove the most valuable for your business and your workers. We’ve compiled a list of five tech gadgets that we think would be valuable additions to your construction business. Some of the key ideas we considered when compiling these five were safety, accessibility, and security. Check them out below: 1. Illumagear’s Halo Helmet Light Having proper lighting is important for your workers who are completing jobs in tough environments, especially when the work goes into the night. Traditionally, construction workers have used headlamps and stationary lamps around the site to illuminate the field. Ilumagear's Halo Helmet Light is great addition for your team because it provides a full 360 degree spectrum of light, illuminating the worker so they are visible to others while also illuminating their surroundings. Additionally, traditional headlamps burn through batteries left and right, the Halo light uses a rechargeable battery that lasts over 5 hours! It might seem like a trendy addition, but this head light isn't just sleek, it makes your workforce more safe and saves you money. 2. Kespry Construction Drones Adding a drone to your construction fleet might seem like a costly way to have visual documentation of your groundwork, but Kespry has designed a drone that does a lot more for construction. One of the first hurdles your workers might cross with drones is learning how to fly them. Kespry has made it simple. You can plan out a flight ahead of arriving to the site and the drone will follow your route, documenting the site as directed. It can produce survey-grade field data in less than 30 minutes from the air, and all of the data it collects it automatically stored on the cloud. That's right, not need for SD cards or data transfers; the drone does it all with a few directives to get it going. The Kespry drone reduces field surveying hours by 30 times and allows workers to complete jobs quicker with more efficiency. 3. Sonetics Rugged Headsets Sometimes half the battle on a construction site is making sure that coworkers can hear one another over loud machinery. Sonetics offers a great option to keep workers connected out in the field with the headsets. The headsets offer a rugged design that is completely hands-free. And it can withstand the demanding environment of construction. Sonetics offers one-way and two-way communication options that work wirelessly on the site, and on top of that, the headsets protects workers hearing with great noise reduction technology. The headset comes with a rechargeable battery and when fully charged it offers a whopping 44 hours of battery life before needing to be charged again. Sonetics is a great addition to any construction team, it makes workers lives safer and more connected. 4. Pillar Risk Management Technology One of the hardest aspects of managing any construction site is securing your assets and making sure the site remains safe for your workers and the public. Pillar offers a great product with their risk management technology. Hang that green sensor in your construction zone and it monitors your site for environmental hazards, gas leaks, asbestos, and more. The best part? It will automatically notify you view text message if there are any unexpected changed on the site whether you're away or present. All the data that your Pillar collects is stored in the cloud and accessible through their software so you can keep track of data collected by workers on the site, floor plans, building history, and more. The Pillar has a year long battery life too, so you won't have to worry about charging it every couple of days. 5. Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 8.0" Today, any construction site can benefit from having tablets deployed at the work site. The hardest part about utilizing tablets in construction though is their durability. Samsung's Galaxy Tab Active2 is a great, affordable choice to bring into your workforce. The Active2 offers a ruggedized design that is also water-resistant, so your workers don't have to be afraid of getting it a little dirty. Samsung has also developed technologies that allow for security on the tablet while also acknowledging that construction workers are often wearing gloves and other headgear. Active2 offers a "glove mode" for gloved hands to navigate it, as well as a facial recognition software. The Active2 also comes equipped with a stylus for more precise actions on the touch screen, and has a camera so your workers can take on-site photos for documentation. One more thing With the addition of any tablet into the construction workforce, it's worth noting that you can start utilizing that mobile interface to design apps to automate workflows, better document work history, and more. AppSheet is a no-code platform that allows you to design powerful, agile, and flexible apps specifically for your work-related needs. All you need is the data organized nicely in GoogleSheets or Excel spreadsheet, and our software will start populating an app for you to build out. Check out our sample apps and get started designing your own! Conclusion Technology is changing the way we engage with our work in a number of ways. The construction industry is the perfect place to incorporate the latest in wearable tech, drones, and other IoT (internet of things) technologies to make work sites not only smarter, but safer. This is only a short list of the possibilities that are out there, but we think it's a great jumping off point to start thinking about concrete ways construction can benefit from digital adoption.

Four Concrete Ways Digitization is Transforming Construction

The construction industry is changing immensely through the adoption of digital technologies that provide solutions to tough problems at the job site and beyond. Construction companies are launching all kinds of digital transformation initiatives to automate workflows, connect construction sites and workers, provide better security and safety, and much more. In this post, we'll explore four tactics that are spurring technological change in the construction industry.  Construction management software With the advent of the cloud came an explosion in off-the-shelf construction programs that help professionals manage projects, finances, clients, and more. Today, most construction companies are using platforms like CoConstruct, Procore, RedTeam, and others to oversee daily operations. These solutions, however, typically lack flexibility and customization. No two construction companies are exactly alike. It’s unreasonable for a company to expect to find a program that can meet its exact needs. What’s more, these types of programs are also typically expensive to purchase and deploy. Beyond that, companies often get trapped and confined by the construction software that they use. It’s common to start using a program and become so reliant on it that you stop innovating and experimenting with other digital solutions. Out-of-box programs can pigeonhole a company into working a certain way. Teams will often shift the way they work to accommodate a new type of software — instead of utilizing software that matches the way they want to work. Biometric security sensors Another leading digital technology that we’re seeing in construction is biometrics, which is increasingly being used to help provide increased security for remote construction sites. Biometrics is a technical term that means body measurements and calculations. Basically, it’s using physical and behavioral characteristics to identify human beings. Construction sites are finding added security and protection through the use of biometric sensors such as fingerprint readers, as well as facial and voice recognition technology. “The construction sector has really woken up to the significant advancements that digital technology such as biometrics can offer them,” says Nick Wilkinson, head of human recognition systems at Workforce Management Solutions. “Not only does it help to improve site security and training compliance, it can provide management with a significant amount of useful data that can improve site efficiencies for future jobs. Biometrics was the first part of the jigsaw in the digital construction picture for many main contractors and will remain at its heart as the industry moves forward.” Internet of Things (IoT) In addition to software, we’re also seeing more connected devices coming to market in construction. Over the last decade, IoT has been steadily growing as more and more devices have become IP-enabled. As a result, construction sites have emerged as a leading IoT arena. For example, workers now wear a variety of sensors that collect and deliver data about their environment and performance. Sensors can be used to collect information related to air quality, body and surrounding temperature, location, heart rate, and other important factors. At the same time, companies are using IoT devices to track their fleets, streamline safety inspections for vehicles and machinery, assess construction quality, and anticipate project completion times.  Additionally, IoT devices make it possible to keep key stakeholders and customers informed with project updates. Using the IoT can also significantly boost the customer experience, leading to more projects and contracts in the long run. Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) The rise of the IoT and the ultra-connected, modern construction site has increased the need for reliable remote connectivity. Downtime, after all, can lead to lapses in data, system monitoring, and communication — grinding operations to a halt until service is restored and delaying projects. Now, construction sites are starting to use software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) to establish virtual, fail-proof remote networks supported by link aggregation, centralized management functionality, and enhanced security. Conclusion The construction industry is barreling toward technological advancements to provide solutions to tough problems. We are already seeing plenty of different digital avenues that are changing the ways in which workers engage with the job site and beyond. Whether it be added security through the use of biometric sensor, the adoption of remote connectivity, utilizing software to streamline certain processes, and much more. Failing to hop on to the train now can lead to significant setbacks for your business. Best of all, adopting digital technologies doesn’t have to be daunting. And we promise that the hard work it takes to get the ball running will be worth it in the end.

How Mobile Apps Can Increase Your Construction Site Productivity

Finding ways to increase productivity at the work site is a major concern for many construction company owners. Often, there is a lack of standardization across construction teams; workers complete tasks differently, find shortcuts to get things down quicker, and record data often by hand. Adopting mobile apps is a great way to solve a lot of these problems while also offering powerful and flexible tools for workers to add to their tool-belt.  Many contractors are using (or building their own) apps for project management. One benefit of project management mobile apps is reducing the amount of paper needed on a job - especially drawings. Mobile apps are not only reducing the need for so much paperwork, but they also are centralizing your data. In the past, workers might need to fill out paperwork after visiting a site, and then deliver it, fax it, or scan it, when they get to the site office or back to their own. Using Mobile apps allows them to store and send data to everyone who needs it wherever there is a mobile signal. Many existing processes can be automated and provide important information for everyone involved on a construction project. Applications can be designed to track progress of projects to help save time and increase efficiency. Here are some ways mobile apps can help your construction company stay productive and agile in today’s fast-changing market: Better tracking of your job site Adopting a mobile infrastructure for your business doesn't just get rid of paper, it also allows you more flexibility and agility in tracking your workers' work and your assets whereabouts. Theft is a common problem on construction sites, particularly of valuable materials like tools, copper, and aluminum. Using radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices to track assets via mobile apps can help recover missing or stolen articles, while mobile surveillance can help reduce job site theft and increase employee productivity, especially at remote sites. In addition to the added protection over your job site, mobile tracking allows you to make smarter decisions when allocating resources between multiple sites and workers. Power to your payroll One of the biggest headaches of any business comes from tracking and recording of your workers' hours. Accountability can prove difficult when you're working systems that don't properly document the time in and out. Using mobile apps to file times sheets and process payroll can help boost efficiency, since workers can clock in on their mobile devices and report to work immediately on their mobile devices. Your apps can also give GPS tracking and bio-metric capabilities can also help reduce time fraud. And real-time information can be immediately processed via mobile apps, reducing response time and increasing efficiency. One example of this type of app is SurePayroll, which allows employees to access paychecks and other payroll details at their own convenience, and allows employers to access their payrolls even on the go. Whether it’s paying regular employees or independent contractors, employers can enter payroll, preview, and submit payroll at the touch of a button. Project Management and Collaboration Mobile apps can connect everyone involved on a construction project, from architects to engineers to project managers. Adopting these mobile technologies can help manage activities, employees, information, and processes associated with a given project and even control scheduling. Mobile apps allow project managers to download blueprints, sync information in real-time, and communicate with the job site even when they aren't on-site. One popular app for project management  is the Photo Measures App, which allows users to measure dimensions captured in photos. It has a user-friendly interface, and users can quickly record and save measurement on a frequent basis. Another app that helps reduce planning time and boost efficiency in construction projects is Plan Grid, which allows project managers to easily share plans, markups, photos, and reports with the entire project team from anywhere. PlanGrid can be used with or without an internet connection during construction to track revisions, document progress, and manage issues in the field while keeping everyone on the current set. Mobile Apps Reduce Constructions Costs The construction industry has been seriously challenged by rising costs and declining opportunities, placing increasing pressure on companies to make their processes more cost and time efficient.  According to Go Canvas, statistics show that 50 percent of a worker’s time while on the clock is devoted to wasteful activity caused by poor communication, inadequate management, or over-staffing. Meanwhile, construction companies are losing some $6.9 billion in inefficient processes among operations and maintenance staff, and $1.7 billion to outdated communications like paper forms. And large construction companies can waste some $3.5 million searching for information or recreating documents they couldn’t find. AppSheet can help you customize apps to boost your construction job site productivity and efficiency. Built with Google Sheets and AppSheet, the app automatically captures GPS locations, collections images, and allows customization of the collected data. Here are a couple sample apps that you can play around with to get started: Quote Calculator enables contractors to calculate payment owed based on services rendered, and is a useful tool to quickly and easily calculate costs of services. The app allows users to input numerical data in to the app, calculate and display the results, and save the entry for future recall. Repair Manual is a useful app for any business that needs to provide an instruction manual to employees or customers. This app has step-by-step instructions for repairing dry-wall, with helpful images that demonstrate each step clearly. Timesheet is an app easily tracks log times in and out to compute hours and calculate total wages, providing all necessary information for accounting or human resources departments. This app uses information capture via forms, app formulas, virtual columns, references, and image display. Let AppSheet help you raise the roof on your construction job site with custom mobile apps!  This post was updated on December 9th, 2019.

Feature Friday: DateTime, New “Save” Button, and Enterprise Updates

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.    DateTime  Have you been waiting for the ability of 24-hour format selection regardless of locale? Good news, you can! You can learn more about this new expression in the TEXT() document, but here’s a look at the function itself.  TEXT(DATETIME("2019-11-01 1:34 PM"), "HH:MM") returns 13:34 For the non-engineers who may be wondering what a 24-hour format DateTime selection is, here's a quick breakdown. DateTime is an expression that displays time in what some call "military time" (ex: 06:00pm would be 18:00). Some locales typically default to 12 hour formats while other locales default to 24 hour formats. When you use this new expression your locale no longer matters. This is great for those who work with different users across the globe.  New “Save” button  The floating “Save” button is getting a makeover. If you've been around AppSheet for some time you're probably used to seeing this in your nested menus when it's time to save the work that you’ve done:  With the recent change, your "Save" button now looks like this:  This update brought the addition of a few keyboard shortcuts, and the ability to both Undo and Redo items in your editor. It can be found in its new location, your primary navigation bar. Enterprise Updates  If you benefit from working with an Enterprise plan, a few administrative updates are taking place. The ability to transfer all applications (think bulk action) grants a Root Admin the ability to transfer applications from one user to another. This is a great way to manage access when someone on your account no longer needs to manage applications.  The Enterprise Dashboard has also been redesigned and will include a search bar to the shared apps tab, you can take a look at a preview below.  Coming Soon: Improved Card View  More UX changes are on the way and this time it’s the Card View. You’ll be able to configure layouts by clicking on elements and when data is loading, the layout will show animated UI skeletons. Make sure to follow along in the Community to see when it becomes available.  How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know!  Happy app building!

Five Great Gifts for the Construction Worker in Your Life

The holidays are quickly approaching and with them comes all the anxieties of finding the perfect gifts. It can be hard to figure out what sort of present to get loved ones whose job you’re not too familiar with, especially in something like construction. How do you pick gifts for your favorite tech-savvy construction professional?  We’ve got you covered with a list of some great tech related gadgets to check out, so you don’t have to buy your special someone a hammer or tool belt for the hundredth time! 1. ISOtunes PRO Bluetooth Earplug Headphones One thing that all construction workers are conscious of is their hearing. Working construction is not only a physically intensive job, but often a noisy one. ISOtunes earplugs are great because they not only function as traditional Bluetooth headphones so you can listen to music or podcasts, but they also utilize advanced, heat-activated memory foam technology to expand in the ear, providing a great reduction in outside noise. On top of that, the battery will last the whole workday and they are sweat and water resistant.  2. Cobra Portable Power JumPack There’s nothing worse than a worker’s vehicle or equipment dying while out at construction site. Cobra offers a variety of portable jumper packs — all waterproof and ready for a variety of weather conditions — that can get equipment up and running again. The portable device comes with detachable heavy-duty jumper cables, an emergency flashlight, and multiple USB ports. When this little guy isn’t jumping equipment, it can be charging portable devices like phones and tablets, so you never run out of battery. 3. OTYTY Rechargeable Portable Work Light When the job calls for a late-night assignment at the construction site, getting the proper lighting is always a struggle. OTYTY offers some great, affordable, work lights that are rechargeable and portable. Offering a rugged and waterproof design in addition to bright LED bulbs with three modes (Full brightness, low brightness, and flashing) these are perfect gifts for any person who is working into the night. 4. Milwaukee M12 Heated TOUGHSHELL Jacket Construction workers not only face long hours outside, but also a plethora of adverse weather conditions, especially the cold. Milwaukee Tool’s offers a great line of heated jackets that can keep workers warm even in the coldest conditions. The jacket is heated in both the chest and back, has a rechargeable battery, and offers a sleek design that workers can wear underneath any safety attire that’s required for the job site. 5. Runner Mobile Tech Gear Tablet Belt As the construction industry continues to adopt mobile technologies like tablets into its everyday practices, protecting these devices will save businesses and workers a lot of headaches. Runner Mobile Tech Gear offers a wide array of work belts coupled with case to keep tablets protected and easily accessible while out in the field. We really like their “Heavy Duty Tablet Belt” that offers a sturdy belt with a heavy-duty belt clip and security cord that prevents tablets from dropping. Conclusion The holidays are stressful enough to get through even without thinking about gifts. Gifts for construction can be more than traditional tools if you're willing to think a little outside the box and explore some cool new technology. We hope some of these ideas will help you out in checking off some presents from your shopping list. 

How Mobile Apps are Helping Protect Florida's Waterways

"As trained experts with detailed knowledge of Florida’s waterways, shorelines and deep-water ports, Florida’s harbor pilots protect our state’s ports from harm and ensure the safe passage of ship traffic– 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We work diligently to maximize the efficiency of Florida’s seaports that serve as hubs for economic growth and stimulus, making their safety and well-being our top priority." -Capt. Stuart Lilly, President, Florida Harbor Pilots Association (http://www.pepilots.com) Following the paper trail Carl Mahler is a state pilot and partner with Port Everglades Pilots Association. His job is to navigate large ships around Florida’s waterways. With close to 4,000 ships arriving into and departing from Port Everglades each year, harbor pilots play a vital role in the field. Their services help prevent sea captains from running aground and causing damage to their ships, cargo, or the surrounding ecosystems. Port Everglades is a $28 billion-per-year economic driver for South Florida, and it only takes one mistake to shut it all down. Ships need expert pilots to help them avoid these potential disasters. As one would imagine, the information and assets required to conduct this process are myriad. Pilots need to be aware of the navigational equipment on each vessel as well as its maneuvering characteristics. If there are deficiencies in a vessel, these details can be noted so other pilots can operate with an enhanced level of safety and efficiency. Careful management of this data means the difference between smooth operations and possible catastrophe. Since 1931, the business was using a paper logbook to track jobs and a notebook to report information about each vessel. This method presented logistical challenges at every step. First, the notebooks were kept in an on-land office, which didn’t allow the pilots to record information in real-time, and meant that sometimes the information simply wasn’t being logged at all. Second, when pilots logged their data, they had to do so by hand after finishing their arduous jobs navigating ships in and out of the port. This led to inconsistencies in how data was recorded, but also accessibility problems. A digital revolution Carl had the idea to use Google Sheets to store the data from the field reporting, and from there he created an operations app with AppSheet’s Google Sheets app builder add-on. One app allows pilots to send vessel information to the database straight through their mobile devices in real-time. This helped automate their workflow and allowed them to complete tasks as they happened instead of from memory.  Carl has customized his app to require that certain information is always recorded, so pilots are not able to move on to the next portion of the data capture form. If a ship doesn’t yet exist in the database, the user must enter that data so that the new ship can be accounted for going forward. The app also allows for image capture, so pilots can provide photo documentation of any additional details.    And with the standardized data entry methods Carl assigned to the app, the team is able to access data easily anytime, anywhere.    “AppSheet has given us the chance to know the capabilities of a ship before we step foot on the bridge. This information is integral in enabling our pilots to work efficiently and reliably, equipping them to maintain our safety record and protect the port as well as the surrounding ecosystem— both of these efforts are immensely important to us,” says Carl.  This blog post was updated on December 4th, 2019.

Tips for Inspiring Digital Change in Construction

  It's easy to get stuck in a "business as usual" routine, but the construction industry is seeing a lot of growth though through the adoption of innovative digital technology. Digital transformation, however, can take a bit quite a bit of work. That’s because digital transformation isn’t a typical IT purchase or upgrade but an ongoing process. With that in mind, here are some tips that you can use to inspire digital change in your construction company: Make it a team effort  At most companies, technology decisions are made by IT administrators and distributed across the company. Digital transformation, however, is much more comprehensive. It involves breaking down barriers between technical and non-technical workers. As such, close collaboration and communication is required for success. All department heads and managers should therefore be brought together to discuss digital transformation, identify needs and goals, determine project leaders, and form a game plan. Don’t attempt to go it alone when implementing digital transformation. If you do, you will almost certainly encounter push back from employees and department heads along the way. And the point of implementing these changes isn't just to make your business more efficient, but to also allow your workers more options and connectivity between each other. Focus on change — not outcomes Another reason why construction companies tend to struggle with digital transformation is because the process is fundamentally different than that of construction. In other words, construction projects always come to an end with a finished structure. Digital transformation, however, is a process that is never complete.  That might sound like a downside, but it's actually a benefit! The end goal is not a finished product but rather a state of agility where the company is constantly collecting data, analyzing its processes, and looking for better ways of doing business. With digital transformation, you have to have a growth mindset. Not everything is going to be perfect, but that just means you can be flexible in how you deal with problems. Target small wins The phrase digital transformation always sound great around a boardroom table. But beyond that, the term can be vague and confusing. Digital transformation projects can drag on for months or years with limited results simply due to a lack of cohesion — and a lack of action. For this reason, administrators are encouraged to start small with digital transformation. Set up “lighthouse” projects and assign teams to explore various departments, identify challenges, and experiment with digital projects. Here is an example of what this might look like: A lighthouse team could meet with a site manager and ask for a complete rundown of how the department operates. Then, once the team has a clear understanding of every process and individual involved in the unit, they can drill down into potential areas of waste or inefficiency and identify possible ways of automating the process. The key thing to remember is that implementing digital transformation into your company, while incredibly value, is not a quick process and you must take your time going through the proper steps to make your efforts worth the investment.  

Feature Black Friday

Happy Black Friday! Take some time to digest our favorite new features from the last month. And you don't even have to wake up at the dawn to get cracking on using these in your latest apps. SNAPSHOT() Use this expression to embed charts & maps in workflow generated emails & PDFs, for richer notifications, documents and reports. Range of Rows A simple update that will save you time is the ability to select multiple rows (or items) and perform an action.  Webhook Generating Form Post Customize and control the content and format for your webhook body with a template.  EXTRACT() Extract selected values from your text by implementing this new expression.  UX Color Schemes Choose from “dark” or “light” color schemes to have a cohesive UX experience in your applications.  Stay current with our feature updates by attending one of our upcoming webinars.

7 Ways Digitization is Transforming the Manufacturing Industry

Early industrial automation systems, first deployed in the 1970’s, used integrated circuits — or microchips — to power miniature active and passive devices like transistors and capacitors. Today, most manufacturing companies are using automated manufacturing systems that integrate software and machinery, enabling computers to automatically control production.  Read on to learn some of the ways that digital transformation is impacting manufacturing. Artificial Intelligence (AI)  We hear a lot of scary stories about how AI will replace jobs. The flip side of fear around AI is that the technology should be a collaborative tool for workers to not only complete work more efficiently, but also to focus more on tasks they historically haven't had the time or resources to achieve. As the manufacturing industry seeks ways to automate workflows, increase productivity, and efficiency, companies are looking to AI. Through the adoption of AI machine which are able to perform complex tasks and, through repeated performance, learn better, more efficient practices over time in the field. AI combines a plethora of different methodologies, including deep learning, machine learning, neural networks, natural language processing, and more. Basically, AI is a lean, mean, learning machine, revolutionizing the ways workers engage with their work. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) For the better part of the last decade, the IoT — a global network of connected, IP-enabled devices — has been steadily growing and advancing. In the manufacturing sector, there’s the IIoT, which specifically refers to intelligent devices and sensors that collect data from the manufacturing floor for use in AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics systems.  To give you a sense of the magnitude of this transformation, the IIoT market is expected to reach $124 billion by 2021. And by 2030, IIoT could add $14.2 trillion to the global economy. Open process automation Until now, the manufacturing industry has been using programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and distributed control systems (DCSs) for process automation. A PLC is a ruggedized digital computer used for controlling processes like assembly lines and robotic devices. DCSs, which typically interface with PLCs, are used to control operations of large plants using GUI screens. The main downside to these systems is that they are usually proprietary and, as a result, are difficult to maintain and update. In search for a better way, the manufacturing industry is starting to migrate to open process automation solutions, which are easier to use and more cost-effective to manage. Additive manufacturing Commonly referred to as 3D printing, additive manufacturing involves using computer-aided design (CAD) and object scanners to layer material and form geometric parts. 3D printing removes many of the costly and time-consuming elements of manufacturing, such as carving and shaping. As a result, companies can design products faster and more affordably than they could in the past. In this day and age, who has time to wait around for a replacement part to be processed and shipped out to your business? Additive manufacturing is putting the power in your hands to print what you need, when you need it.    One of the most exciting aspects of additive manufacturing is its potential to transform the space industry. Thanks to additive manufacturing, astronauts can print objects and assemble units in space without having to transport materials from earth. Additive manufacturing is also proving to be helpful for companies that have workers in remote, hard-to-reach areas. What’s more, additive manufacturing can reduce expensive shipping costs, and it can allow construction projects to be completed much faster. Asset management A manufacturing company depends entirely on the quality and availability of its operational resources. In the past, these assets were managed manually using staff members, paper, and spreadsheets — a system that opened the door for error, abuse, safety hazards, and system errors, among other pitfalls. In the spirit of digital transformation, the industry is moving toward asset performance management (APM). According to Gartner, APM “encompasses the capabilities of data capture, integration, visualization, and analytics tied together for the explicit purpose of improving the reliability and availability of physical assets.” In short, APM involves automating asset control, providing a streamlined way to manage and control everything from fleets to assembly lines to forklifts, and everything in between. Edge computing As manufacturing environments become more connected and cloud-based, companies are being forced to find new ways to move data. Transferring large amounts of data over long distances to a centralized server can lead to data bottlenecks, latency, and other problems. To solve these problems, manufacturing environments are moving data towards the “edge” of the network. An edge computing framework leverages distributed, open architectures to process select data locally — vastly improving performance. Through edge computing, manufacturing companies can reduce resource-intensive long-haul data transfers and latency. For example, imagine a sensor recording anomalies on a milk bottle assembly line. Instead of taking photographs of every single milk bottle, a sensor can instead be trained to identify broken or deformed items — transporting less information and reducing data bottlenecks along the way. Connected systems and devices The influx of connected systems and devices in manufacturing has increased the need for fast, scalable, and reliable networks. Many manufacturing facilities are integrating SD-WAN as a way to augment or replace their expiring multiprotocol packet layer switching (MPLS) networks. SD-WAN involves separating the networking hardware from the control plane, enabling multi-site manufacturing facilities to create a centralized virtual network that can be deployed and managed from a single location. In doing so, it’s possible to allocate network resources, control costs, improve security, and reduce downtime across a global private network. Conclusion Manufacturing is an incredibly complicated process that is made harder with out-of-date software. Thankfully, the industry is coming out of the dark and embracing the light. Through digitization, manufacturing is collaborating with artificial intelligence that not only automates processes, but also seeks to continually learn new ways of increasing productivity, efficiency, and safety in the workplace. We’d love to hear how you’re implementing digital solutions to your manufacturing business, and we’re always here to answer any questions you might have. Can’t wait to hear from you.

Shedding Light on Shadow IT

Recently, we posted about why IT security departments love no-code platforms. Today, we’ll dive into a related topic: shadow IT. Let’s start by defining the term. Shadow IT, aka stealth IT or client IT, are technology systems built and used by departments or teams outside of an organization's official IT department. Importantly, shadow IT projects do not receive an initial blessing from IT nor are they deployed by IT. The term conjures images of shady actors, nefarious doings, and bad intentions. It should be noted, however, that while shadow IT is a controversial topic, the reality of the practice is far more nuanced than many first think. Good intentions People generally don’t start shadow IT projects because they disrespect the IT department or want to cause trouble. We live in a digital world. As a result, more non-technical workers are becoming tech-savvy through osmosis. They pick up new tech trends here, read about digital transformation there. They dream up all the ways that new software and hardware can make their jobs easier and more productive. Often, this tinkering moves beyond daydreams and into the office where people outside of the IT team make moves to improve their work via technology. Think marketers researching and purchasing marketing automation software or hoteliers downloading project workforce management software to communicate with staff. And while these motions might be in conflict with their IT department’s road map, the intentions behind shadow IT comes from an earnest, entrepreneurial place. People who do the work know the work best. The non-technical workers pushing for their own tech solutions have unique insights into their job's pain points, and can quickly recognize a solution’s ability to tackle problems. Cause for concern However, good intentions should not to minimize an IT department’s worries around shadow IT. Information technology departments are subject matter experts as well. Their concerns around unofficial technology programs are directly related to the department's areas of expertise, including: Compliance. IT needs to ensure that solutions are compliant with industry standards. Are teams following license agreements? Are users correctly installing and using encrypted devices?    Security. This is a no-brainer for IT teams. Job one is to make sure that all tech used within their company is unbreachable and private so that proprietary information remains internal. Reliability. IT makes sure that systems are suited for the long haul. Tools need to stay live, functional, and updated. They need to scale for the enterprise.  Compatibility. Similarly, enterprise companies often rely on various systems. These large companies have powerful and diverse IT stacks. There’s a danger that shadow projects will not be compatible with legacy software and tools. Redundancies. When tech projects happen below the board, communication tends to breakdown. Time and money are wasted when departments overlap work on the similar – or even identical – solutions. User-first IT So how do companies wed the goals of non-technical workers and the concerns of IT departments? Let’s start by reframing the concept of shadow IT. Let's instead think of the practice as user-first IT. IT departments can empower non-technical workers to explore and iterate on new tech solutions – all while staying within proper IT-defined guardrails. This arrangement will inspire company-wide agility while maintaining centralized, IT-sanctioned approaches to business technology. One way to implement this change is to embed technical experts within non-technical team. For instance, many marketing teams now have a MarTech division led by IT folks who also have marketing acumen. No-code platforms represent another opportunity which enables non-technical employees to develop workplace applications without writing code. Using this approach, workers of all stripes can build applications uniquely suited to their needs. Meanwhile, IT remains the centralized point of control for this no-code technology, setting guardrails on which teams and individuals can create. In other words, security and governance remain safely in the hands of IT experts.  In short, we see a happy future between user-driven technology adoption and IT departments. No agility lost, no security compromised.

Feature Friday: UX color schemes, a sneak peek, and SVG

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. UX color scheme updates  If you’ve created a new app recently, you’ve probably noticed a change to the color scheme selections. We’ve updated the choices available to select either a light color scheme or a dark color scheme paired with your button color of choice. This is a temporary, incremental part of some of the improvements we’ll be making to the branding capabilities in your AppSheet editor. As part of this change, we’d love to hear more from you, our app creators. Because of this we’ll have a few members of our team who work closely with UX in our Office Hours session on Tuesday, November 26th. During that time you’ll be able to provide feedback and ask UX related questions. Register here if you’re interested in attending. Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)  A topic that’s been trending in our community as of late has been working with Scalable Vector Graphics. For those new to this concept, SVG is a graphic format based on XML and is used to display a wide variety of graphics in digital environments. This is a great way to improve logo designs, images used on PDFs, and more. Coming soon: improved Emulator  Over the next few weeks we’ll slowly be rolling out an important improvement. The Emulator in your AppSheet editor is getting a makeover to improve your app creation experience. Soon, you’ll see sleeker aesthetics, have the ability to preview different form factors without leaving the editor page, and jump straight to to full screen application.  How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!  

What Manufacturers Can Expect From Going Digital

We live in a time where technology is leading the way in the ever-changing ecosystem of major industries such as oil and gas, healthcare, construction, and of course, manufacturing. Today, so many companies are undergoing digital transformation, and manufacturers must modernize their operations in order to keep up with the competition. Automation of workflows, data recording, agile management, and cutting-edge technologies are all critical for success. These improvements save companies from obsolescence. But let's get down to the good stuff of digital transformation. Here are the benefits that manufacturers can expect after going digital: Cost reductions One of the top reasons why companies implement digital transformation is to identify wasteful processes and curb costs. Often, companies will discover areas of waste that they weren’t previously aware of thanks to the various data-driven tracking mechanisms digitization offers. As a result, digital transformation can result in a leaner and tighter manufacturing environment. A manufacturing company may implement statistical process control to identify faulty products on an assembly line. Using sensors and cameras, it’s possible to disseminate individual anomalies from large-scale errors that could lead to recalls once products are shipped to distributors. Improved accountability Manufacturing facilities are fast-paced environments where hundreds of workers may collaborate on a single project. Aerospace engineering, for instance, requires impeccable communication and strong accountability. Tasks must be sequentially signed-off on and completed in order to ensure safety and compliance. This is something that’s easy to overlook when using paper and spreadsheet management systems — especially if they are all operating across disparate channels. In the past, it was easy to lose paper-based spreadsheets and field reports. A worker could forget or misplace important data while navigating within or between warehouses; someone’s handwriting might be illegible. There are a variety of issues that can arise when you’re allowing so much variance in how data is tracked within your company. To increase efficiency, many companies are now using digital apps to accelerate approvals, improve accountability, and ensure regulatory compliance. During automobile assembly, certain processes need to be checked at various stages of production. For example, manufacturers need to make sure lights and horns are installed correctly. By the time a car gets to the final inspection process, all systems should be signed off on by an authorized technician. By using an app, a team can see who inspected a certain process, when it was approved, and by who. Increased visibility Productivity can be difficult to track in a manufacturing facility. Managers might have reduced visibility into what happens on a production floor, on the road, or in a warehouse, for example. Using new technologies — like wearables, apps, cameras, and sensors — can give managers a centralized view of what’s happening across all of their facilities and teams. These technologies enable autonomy while making it possible to keep managers informed about progress. They also keep workers engaged and focused on their jobs. Consider this: According to IDC, about 40 percent of technology spend across all industries will be put toward digital transformation this year. Suffice it to say digital transformation is something that almost every company is taking part in. Hard work, planning, and communication Now is the time to form a sound digital transformation plan and become an early adopter of next-generation technologies. It’s better to act now than to fall behind as competitors continue to move digital transformation initiatives forward. There is a massive digital divide emerging. We expect this will get even larger in the years to come. So, what does it take to turn your company into a digital-first organization? Hard work, planning, communication, and teamwork are all necessary to advance digital transformation projects beyond their pilot phase. Businesses often underestimate the process and wind up abandoning their digital transformation projects before they reach maturity and see the true fruits of their labor. But we promise that taking the time to implement these digital assets into your business will not only make your work easier, but it will also give you more power to make your ambitions for your company become reality.  

What You Need to Know About Dispatch & Field Services Optimization

In today’s on-demand economy, more organizations are adding field services to their product lineup. The widespread availability of communications networks and connected devices like smartphones and tablets are enabling and encouraging that. Whether your organization is new to the field services or even if you're an industry veteran, it pays for your company to optimize its dispatch and field service operations. Companies that lag to keep up with these digital innovations will suffer from cost overruns and shrinking margins. And they run the risk of losing rather than building loyalty and wallet share with customers. Mobile apps help organizations that do field work like inspections, installations, maintenance, and repair to better allocate their resources. The AppSheet platform empowers organizations to create their own apps without expertise in coding. On top of that, the apps that are created work across tablets, phones and desktops. Mobile apps provide dispatch and field reporting teams with: Smart technician dispatching and scheduling. Real-time service status tracking. Higher productivity and profitability. Smart Technician Dispatching & Scheduling Mobile apps allow for better resource management by keeping everybody on the same page, regardless of their location or situation. Dispatchers can use apps to create a list of jobs for the day, week, or month. And field workers can find their job assignments and related details of those tasks within the app. Companies can also allow their field personnel to access information like equipment manuals and site-specific requirements and restrictions from their mobile devices. And apps built on the AppSheet platform makes all that information available whether or not a connection is available at that point in time. Field workers face a variety of situations that call for agile and flexible solutions. The standard day for a field service works revolves around unpredictability. Heavy traffic or a flat tire may prevent a field worker from getting to a job. A customer may cancel a call or require emergency service. Specialty equipment may be needed for a job. Mobile apps can help dispatch and field operations more easily adapt to such situations by allowing dispatchers to quickly and easily update assignments and send alerts to workers that require new information. Mobile apps allow for more accountability, less miscommunication, and more efficient use of time and resources. so jobs can get done not only quicker and more safely, but also more securely. Real-Time Service Status Tracking Of course, the ultimate purpose of field service is to address customer needs. That could involve anything from fixing a leaky roof to inspecting a property to installing a new internet connection. When customers are waiting for such things, they like to know what’s going on. Mobile apps can provide field workers with a quick and easy way to log the status of their work. Dispatch and business managers then get real-time visibility into what’s happening in the field. That means account managers and customer service personnel can then more easily access service status and share that information when customers when appropriate. Using mobile apps keeps everyone connected across departments making work more seamless for everyone involved. Status tracking also provides a reliable, time-stamped record of who did what and when. That way businesses and their customers can revisit individual jobs if problems arise down the line. All of this contributes to better customer service. And good customer service and efficient operations adds up to more business and greater profitability. Higher Productivity So much time in a workday can be spent relaying information over phone calls and emails that can be easily displayed over an app. Not only are apps preferable to emails and phone calls, they provide a more secure, more powerful, and more flexible option than paper-based record keeping.  It's surprising how many business are still using paper spreadsheets and forms. Not only do workers have to spend extra time deciphering documents due to non-standardized recording methods, but ironically enough, it's easy for these paper trails to get lost. Mobile apps allow for the standardization and storage of forms and spreadsheets that allows your workers to worry less about understanding what is being asked for or recorded, and more time servicing and reporting out in the field. Mobile apps just generally streamline an organization’s workflow. And that lowers costs and makes businesses run more efficiently and profitably. This post was updated on November 20th, 2019.

Building Better Processes: Apps for Manufacturing

Technologies like the cloud, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), and statistical process control are all widely prevalent in manufacturing. These innovations are having a big impact on management and production in the sector. In short, manufacturing has emerged as one of the most readily automated industries. However, despite all technological progress that we’ve seen in manufacturing, production is lagging behind its potential. For example, it’s been found that in the United States, manufacturers can boost overall output by 20 percent by 2025 if companies take advantage of new technologies and processes. This concept applies to global organizations as well. Workplace applications are one prominent example of technology that promises to take manufacturing to the next level. For years, the implementation of apps for manufacturing have been held back by high costs and lengthy development life cycles. Recent advancements in no-code app development, however, make it possible for the average business to leverage robust business productivity apps designed to support their unique workflows. As a result, more and more apps are flooding into manufacturing facilities — changing the way workers engage with their jobs, team members, and environments. Let’s explore five areas of the manufacturing industry that have been transformed by mobile applications. Inventory control Inventory control is one of the most important — and risky —  aspects of manufacturing. Floor managers must oversee complex warehouse environments and systems, and even the slightest mistake can lead to production delays, angry customers, and lost profits. Inventory errors are common when using traditional paper forms and spreadsheets. Using mobile apps, however, the process becomes much easier and more accurate. Apps help manufacturing companies with several aspects of inventory control, including: Predicting demand Placing orders Managing and monitoring stock Identifying inventory trends If this sounds like something your organization might be interested in, copy and customize the AppSheet manufacturing inventory app and give it a whirl. Work orders Shop floor teams and warehouse staffers must work closely together when completing work orders in order to ensure accurate components and quantities in their production lines. A small miscommunication or data-entry error on a work order can result in a massive production blunder — and a host of other negative consequences. Apps enable real-time changes and work order status updates. Plus, they come with advanced email and SMS alert capabilities, making it easier for team members to transmit time-sensitive updates even when they’re on the go. Apps make it easier to manage work orders by: Enabling employees to request parts needed for repair or replacement Prioritizing issues and take care of the most pressing ones first Monitoring the status of issues  You can copy and customize AppSheet’s work order app. Equipment and safety checks Managers and employees must work together to ensure all equipment is in proper working order. Otherwise, operations can grind to a halt, crushing productivity. Maintaining a safe and efficient work environment requires scheduling regular maintenance checks and creating an environment where workers actively keep an eye on tools, vehicles, and machinery for wear and tear.  Apps provide an easy way for workers to perform regular maintenance checks. For example, an inspection app can serve as a central hub for storing information and sharing it with maintenance and management teams. How apps help with equipment and safety checks: Taking pictures Recording notes Scheduling service Checking on equipment updates  You can copy and customize the AppSheet inspection app and our scanner inspection app to build a tool that supports your specific workflows. Employee training Floor managers need to have a comprehensive system in place to share information with new hires and get them up to speed quickly. Rushing through training manually can result in missed information and accidents — especially in fast-paced manufacturing environments where workers may potentially interact with dangerous equipment and systems.  Apps are now being used to share everything from medical procedures, like handling a choking or allergy victim, to properly caring for sensitive equipment.  Apps help optimize employee training through a number of mechanisms, including:  Creating a portable reference library  Collecting signatures and read receipts  Distributing timely documents  Centralizing training distribution You can copy and customize AppSheet’s employee training app and get started transforming your training initiatives today. Audits A manufacturing facility must always be ready for an unplanned audit — something that’s far easier said than done without a centralized management system.  Apps, however, make auditing much easier. They allow teams to collect and track a variety of key information related to safety, personnel, output, inventory, and much more. Here’s how apps help manufacturing companies with audits: Capturing and recording data over time Sharing reports automatically with auditors  Communicating key audit dates with team members Taking photos You can copy and customize AppSheet’s audits app to give it a spin. Don’t see a sample app that matches your exact needs? No problem. The great part about working with a no-code platform like AppSheet is that you can design your own. Get started for free.

Field Inspection: Millicom’s TigoUne Sees Field of Opportunities with AppSheet

Running a communications network isn’t easy and it becomes more involved when it encompasses both fixed and mobile network assets. On top of that, operations and maintenance become even more complex when you’re delivering a broad mix of solutions such as: cloud, data center, internet access, productivity, security, video, and voice services. Supporting this complicated array of infrastructure and services is exactly what TigoUne Telecommunications, a Colombia subsidiary of Millicom, does, and that’s why it wanted to simplify field services as much as possible. It succeeded at doing that with AppSheet no-code technology. The past is paper  In the past, TigoUne field workers conducted audits on paper. After field workers wrote out their notes, they’d store them in a folder. This led to a lot of data being housed through unsecured means, in addition to a variety of physical locations. Having and easy to access app that standardizes the ways workers relay information to one another boosts efficiency. On top of the automation of workflows through mobile apps, it also makes your IT teams' lives easier. When you're dealing with paper documentation, it's easy to get lost or go undocumented. It also created the possibility that the records might never be entered into the system. Having flexible and powerful mobile apps that your field workers can access anywhere boosts productivity. Clearly, this was a less than ideal situation. It was just too complicated. So Sebastian Arango Alzate, TigoUne’s field audit specialist, began looking for a better solution. Automate field reporting workflows First, TigoUne adopted Excel to help streamline the field service audit process. But Excel didn’t have the ease of use Sebastian and his team were looking for. “I was trying to solve our file consolidation problem in Excel but there were still too many manual steps,” he says. So Sebastian continued his quest for the best. “I found AppSheet after searching within the organization and trying free tools like Google Forms,” he says. “In a hall meeting one of the company's managers had solved an inventory problem with AppSheet. I began exploring AppSheet as a possible solution.” After doing some research on AppSheet, Sebastian decided to give it a try. “The AppSheet platform is a secure, stable, dynamic, and economical solution,” he says. It doesn’t require anyone to type in information after the fact, as TigoUne’s initial paper-based process did. It makes information available online in real time, has monitor indicators, the ability to deliver reports via mail, and more. Plus, it’s far easier to populate and change than Excel. But what Sebastian likes best about AppSheet is how easy it is to make and update apps with the platform. “The best feature of our application is the quick modifications that can be made, without going through a long and tedious development process,” Sebastian says. More than 80 people at TigoUne currently use the app created with AppSheet’s platform. It’s employed exclusively for field work audits. The company does audits for about 80 percent of its field operations work—5,600 to 6,700 audits on 5,300 to 6,000 end customers, 35 to 40 mobile network tower sites and 250 to 280 network rollouts per month. “This is the eyes of the organization,” says Sebastian.   About TigoUne TigoUne was created through the 2014 merger of Millicom International Cellular S.A.’s Colombian mobile unit Tigo Colombia and fixed line operator Une-EPM. In Colombia, Tigo is the 3rd biggest market player in mobile, 2nd in broadband and 2nd in PayTV. Its service revenue in 2017 was 1.6 billion U.S. dollars. The company serves small and medium businesses, large companies and government, residential users, and wholesale companies. You can learn more about TigoUne at www.tigoune.com.co, Millicom at www.millicom.com This post was updated on November 18th, 2019.

Feature Friday: SNAPSHOT() your data and EXTRACT()

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. Take a SNAPSHOT() of your data  We have to admit, we’re excited about this one. Let’s say you have an application that incorporates daily inspection reports of a worksite or you have large amounts of data displayed in a dashboard that you would like to send to your executive team automatically. The SNAPSHOT() addition to workflows allows you to take static images of charts, graphs or custom maps and add them to either PDF attachments or emails sent from your application’s workflow. This feature leverages the LINKTOFORM() expression but requires the addition of SNAPSHOT() to the template formula. To add to your applications functionality, navigate in your app editor to Behavior > Reports or Workflows. From here, select or add the action that you would like to contain the SNAPSHOT() template. There are a few additional steps to take and we recommend reviewing the final steps of this process in our help center.  EXTRACT() information from text A BETA release that allows you to extract a wide variety of information (values) from text. Have an image of a mailing list full of emails? Want to parse prices from receipts? All of this and more can be accomplished by inputting the keyword option value you’d like extracted from text. Below are a few examples to demonstrate. Note that the “LIST” items at the end of each example  are the values that have been extracted based on the stated value. EXTRACT("PRICES", "So, we've got a frappuccino for $3.49, a chocolate muffin for $2.49, and a chocolate milk for 99 cents, for a total of $6.97. Will that be all?"): LIST(3.49, 2.49, 0.99, 6.97) EXTRACT("DATETIMES", "Set a meeting for November 14th at 4pm"): LIST(DATETIME("11/14/2019 16:00:00")) (replace 2019 with whatever the current year is, if you're reading this in the future) EXTRACTEMAILS("Mailing List: a@a.com, b@b.com, c@c.com”) : LIST(“a@a.com”, “b@a.com”, “c@a.com”) To view the complete list of EXTRACT formulas, start with this article. How will you use these new features in your app building? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!

A Guide to Inventory Control for Manufacturing

In a recent post, we dug into Industry 4.0 and how manufacturing leaders can leverage their workers to inspire digital transformation in their organizations. Now, let’s explore how the principles behind Industry 4.0 are already contributing to one central aspect of manufacturing: inventory control. In the simplest terms, inventory control in manufacturing maintains the equilibrium of parts, equipment, and raw materials which go into the production of final products. Effective inventory control reduces manufacturing carrying costs, eliminates waste and delays, and increases worker and plant productivity. The practice also extends to the transportation of materials and final products between vendors, warehouse, and final customers. Clearly, inventory control makes up the nuts and bolts of manufacturing. Considering the vast number of moving parts and processes involved, precise inventory control requires superhuman attention to detail. Enter smart technology. Digital transformation and inventory control Digital transformation has already impacted key areas of manufacturing inventory management. Let’s explore how technology can help professionals optimize and control three central types of manufacturing inventory: direct materials, works-in-progress, and finished goods. Direct materials Also known as raw materials, direct materials are everything that goes into the manufacturing of a product. A textile manufacturer, for example, uses wool, cotton, or hemp fibers to produce a final product. Before computers, manufacturers relied on periodic inventory methods, which required workers to track materials by hand. Needless to say, this approach was error-prone and time-consuming. Nowadays, perpetual inventory tracking systems handle this work on a — you guessed it — perpetual basis. Inventory tracking apps and software integrate with barcode and optical character recognition (OCR) scanners (often available through a field worker’s mobile phone), cloud databases, and data visualization to track raw materials in real-time. This way, managers and workers alike can always know exact inventory levels on hand, information that’s invaluable when it comes to order planning, maintenance, budgeting, and revenue projections. Copy and customize AppSheet’s Manufacturing Inventory sample app which tracks raw materials and auto-calculates inventory levels to reflect sales and production data. Works-in-progress There are numerous points in any manufacturing process where a product remains incomplete. The tracking of these work-in-progress assets is crucial for successful manufacturing inventory control. Aside from keeping track of a company’s physical assets and capital at a given moment, work-in-progress inventory control provides valuable information on the efficacy of processes and managers. Use inventory control software that's compatible with barcode scanners to record work-in-progress inventory over time. The accumulated data can be used for cost-benefit analyses, workforce optimization, and people management. Try out AppSheet’s barcode scanning feature for yourself with our Scan and Search sample app. Finished goods Final goods and products are ready for sale or distribution, but still count as inventory to the manufacturing company. Tons of nuance applies to finished good inventory. Various considerations apply to inventory that’s yet to be sold to customers, as opposed to inventory that’s already been sold. For example, some customers only own goods once they have been delivered. Other goods are owned as soon as they leave the manufacturer’s loading dock. It’s unwise — or even impossible — to track finished goods inventory without the help of dynamic delivery tracking. Explore and customize AppSheet’s Package Delivery Management app to fit your inventory needs. Conclusion All the factors that go into manufacturing inventory control can make a person’s head spin. In addition, no two manufacturing companies have the same processes or use the same materials. Thankfully, technology is rising to meet these complexities. This push includes the resounding progress in the arena of apps in the workplace, which are both customizable and powerful. Let us know your questions and strategies around inventory control in the comments. We’re excited to hear from you.

What is Industry 4.0?

The Industrial Revolution conjures images of smoggy London skies and Dickensian toil. A lot has changed since the 18th century and the initial transition of manufacturing from hand methods to mass production. In fact, there have been two additional industrial revolutions in the meantime. The Second Industrial Revolution occurred around the turn of the 20th century thanks to technological advancements such as the railroad, electrical power, and the widespread use of machinery. Then came the Third Industrial Revolution, or the Digital Revolution, which kicked off in the middle of the 20th century. This stage marked a shift from production via analogue machines to a digital infrastructure including computers, microprocessors, and the Internet. Now that our history lesson’s out of the way, let’s talk about today. We stand at the very beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in which new technologies promise to bridge the physical and the digital. The world is in for rapid, disruptive change thanks to artificial intelligence, the democratization of mobile technology, quantum computing, the Internet of Things, and myriad other advances. These fast-paced changes inspire equal parts excitement and fear. On one hand, new efficiencies in supply chain, transportation, and communications promise to improve the quality of life around the globe. Meanwhile, many people fear that their livelihoods will be replaced by automation. This leads us to the concept of Manufacturing 4.0, a movement which zeros in on how these technologies impact the manufacturing industry.  The principles behind Manufacturing 4.0 We’re optimistic for an increase in safe and rewarding jobs spurred by concrete technological improvements in manufacturing. Done right, Manufacturing 4.0 will be realized through four central methods: Interconnection. People will be able to communicate with machinery and tools via the Internet of Things. Importantly, machines and devices are also able to share data with one another. Information transparency. Expect a huge influx of data enabled by these interconnected technologies and people. Improved information has the potential to touch every point in the manufacturing processes. Operators, managers, and workers will be able to make data-driven decisions when it comes to improving processes, training, factory layouts, and more. Technical assistance. Humans will not have to parse through this information alone. New systems will aid leaders and teams to make informed decisions based on the quick and systematic aggregation of the data collected with the help of information transparency. Computers can detect trends and produce visualizations so that managers and workers can make data-driven choices and plan ahead. Aside from helping people think and reason better, cyber physical systems aka smart machines, will also be there to perform or support physical tasks that are too difficult or unsafe for humans. Decentralized decisions. In some cases, systems will make decisions on their own. This is automation. The promise of automation relies on the imagination of people performing manufacturing processes today. These folks know their work best and can provide the best insights into how technology can amplify and standardize their hard work. People-powered innovation While the principles behind Manufacturing 4.0 are promising, you might be apprehensive about how you can implement these lofty ideas in your industry. After all, manufacturing touches a wide variety of industries from automobiles to clothing, specialty chemicals to aerospace equipment, and everything else produced on planet Earth. How can you make business decisions about technology that will produce specific, yet ongoing, impact? Start small. Ask around. The people who work in your manufacturing plants and facilities are the experts at the work they do every day. Seek the input of manufacturing workers and managers on how their jobs could be made easier. Does paperwork keep foremen working late into the night? Think about ways that smart technology could streamline this work, such as replacing pen and paper with tablets that store data in a centralized, cloud database. Explore optical character recognition (OCR) solutions that detect handwriting to convert scattered, paper-based information into digital files. Voila! The beginnings of interconnection and information transparency at your organization. There are countless examples of how manufacturing processes can be improved today. And given the volume and complexity of work done on any manufacturing site, it’s inevitable that one small improvement will cascade into others until eventually, your organization will become a lean, mean Manufacturing 4.0 machine.  Check out our recent post on inventory control for manufacturing to gain more insight into current applications of industry 4.0 in the industry.

Guide to Construction Apps -- Top Tools for IT Managers and Construction Leaders

As time goes on, the needs of your business change. The problems that may have plagued your field workers in the past might not only still exist, but be hanging around with new troublemakers. Mobile applications are a great way to find powerful and flexible solutions to your workers needs. Over the course of this guide, we’ll walk through a couple key steps every construction manager in charge of IT responsibilities should take. We will also explore sample apps like this Inspection Site app below to give you ideas of what you can do: We will also share about how innovators like KLB Construction's Richard Glass are spearheading digital transformation. 7 Steps to Digital Transformation at Your Construction Company Step 1 - Identify your construction app stakeholders and determine each party’s needs. Step 2 - Identify any constraints. Step 3 - Choose an app platform. Step 4 - Build your construction apps. Step 5 - Test your apps. Step 6 - Deploy your apps. Step 7 - Manage, maintain, and update your apps. Step 1 - Identify your construction app stakeholders and determine each party’s needs. Look how productive they look! As they say, "Behind every great construction field team, is a... proactive construction IT team?" The construction industry is being transformed by digital innovation in the mobile space. Let’s start with figuring out who’s going to be actually using the construction app(s). Each type of user will have unique needs that a robust app platform should be able to accommodate. Four common stakeholders include: End User - The person who's actually using the app. We have to think about how we design our app with the End User's needs in mind to make sure we are helping, not hindering, them from accomplishing their tasks. Contractors - Contractors may need to access parts of the construction project management system. These users may have separate needs including specific security filters to limit access to sensitive data. Management - Management may not be performing the field services, but they will need consistent, high-level reports on project status, expense reports, and more. IT Team - The IT Team may be a standalone corporate division or simply an entrepreneurial front-line worker. In either case, any apps or app platforms must be easy to design and implement in the hands of an IT Team charged with ensuring security, stability, and performance. Two other stakeholders that may be relevant depending on the nature of the engagement include: Client - A client may or may not have interest in the everyday activities surrounding a construction project. Typically, a client might only be interested in some form of consistent reporting on project status or budget control. Government/Municipal Authorities - For projects in heavily regulated environments, active government oversight and intervention may necessitate tools that can be adapted for external participation. While it’s tempting to jump ahead and begin looking for solutions, taking time to identify key stakeholders and their unique needs is a time-saving, utility-maximizing process that should never be skipped. Be sure to speak with at least one person in each category of stakeholders before making any assumptions. Through this process, you can also learn what the current processes are for the given task you’re trying to digitize. Learning about what existing processes are already utilized can allow you to design apps that provide a more seamless transition for your workers. If the solution you ultimately create can’t significantly beat the status quo, it probably isn’t worth doing. A well designed suite of tools can help you increase onsite productivity and efficiency.   Step 2 - Identify any constraints. Constraints of all kinds, while sometimes limiting, also serve as useful guideposts that can help inform product development decisions. A few constraints to consider include: Scope What is the overall end-goal of your construction app(s)? Is the feature set you're exploring best suited for a mobile app form factor? Cost What is your team’s IT budget? Does your team have enough budget to hire developers or external consultants to build apps? What are you currently spending on app-related needs? What are you currently spending on the work function you're seeking to fix? Time When do the app(s) need to be ready? Are there any bottlenecks that may affect the app development process? Safety What safety precautions are worth considering? How are accidents typically handled through the present system? Safety first! Even when we’re talking about building out mobile-first workplace productivity apps. Legal What processes must be documented? And in what form? Will signatures, photos, or any other forms of documentation be needed? People/Technology Is your team utilizing standardized hardware or primarily personal devices? Are you looking for iOS, Android, iPhone, iPad specific solutions? Do you have someone who can build apps quickly and on time? How many app requests do you have?  Data What kind of data is your team collecting? Does the data need to be captured in real time? How will the data need to be processed and displayed? Connectivity Will your construction teams likely be working in any cellular dead-zones? How important is offline work capacity? If only balancing time, cost, and quality were as easy as drawing nice triangles... Step 3 - Choose an app platform. With hundreds if not thousands of construction app solutions out there, navigating a technology procurement decision can be tedious if not downright exhausting! The first decision you and your team may need to make is the classic buy vs. build decision. “Apps that are built for a smartphone and tablet, that have a complex user interface, or that require a significant back-end can cost anywhere from $250,000 to $1,500,000.” Even the simplest of apps can cost at least $25,000. This is what paying for proprietary mobile app development feels like... For all but the largest constructions firms in the world, coding your own apps from scratch is not a realistic possibility. Even if you could, in most cases, 3rd party solutions provide better bang-for-the-buck and greater functionality with proven solutions. Presuming you’ve decided to buy a license to an existing solution, your next decision would be choosing between an out-of-the-box construction solution and using a low-code or no-code platform to build a suite of custom, feature rich apps. Out-of-the-box solutions  on the surface appear to be quicker to set-up, but often that isn't the case in the long run. Not only do these solutions force you to work within preset constraints, but they also cost more to maintain. You know what your business's needs are, so why not design around that?  Platform app solutions are customizable by nature, and these apps may lend themselves to more functional product use-cases in the long-run. With even a limited IT team, no-code platform apps are often quicker, cheaper, easier to customize and iterate. A well-integrated platform solution can also help IT managers avoid the classic challenge of utilizing too many disparate systems that can’t “communicate” effectively with each other. A view of your phone after installing multiple apps to do what the one app you create can do... As an example, consider Richard’s experience from KLB Construction: “Mobile apps are lagging in the construction industry, and it’s under-served by technology. Off-the-shelf software typically does not represent how we do things. Being able to customize the app for our purposes makes it more user-friendly and more likely to be adopted by the field.” Whatever route you ultimately end up choosing, be sure to explore software reviews and find out what real users have to say about the product: Best Mobile Application Development Software Best Construction App Software Step 4 - Build your construction apps. Depending on the app product or platform you choose and your team's initial competency, building and integrating a full suite of construction management apps can take anywhere from a few hours to a few months to get started. In this time, it’s best to focus on establishing the core functionality of what you need. We all must walk before we can run, you know? You may even consider building out a product road-map that includes what you’ll include at the start of your initial construction app launch and what features and functionalities you’ll build in over time. This product road-map should synthesize insights you’ve already gathered in your stakeholder, constraint, and app platform research. Bucketing Similar Functions into Apps No single tool can fulfill every function you need. Because of this, you might consider bucketing similar functions into a suite of connected apps. A few ideas include: Estimator - For contractors on the go, utilizing a mobile estimator tool can increase productivity and help save time. Punch List - Wrapping up any construction project involves closing the loop on work items. If your organization currently uses a paper or email-based system for punch lists, you might consider switching to an app-based version that works seamlessly with your teams.  Blueprint Management - Having cloud-based shared and current blueprints is an important function for most construction projects. Utilizing a single tool with a clean user interface can help engineers, architects, and contractors work collaboratively, quickly, and accurately. If you’re building apps through the AppSheet platform, you can get started quickly by integrating your data from Google Docs, Box, DropBox, SQL, and more.     Or, you can copy these generic versions of construction apps to get you started: Construction Daily Reports Daily reporting is essential for foreman and project managers who are tasked with staying on top of resources and personnel. A functional app can replace the stream of paperwork and emails that can clutter daily reporting. Site Inspections Safety inspections are an essential piece of any well-run construction project. This app allows users to capture key information for inspection reports while leveraging cloud-synced photos and GPS/map technology. Package Delivery Management Getting the right packages or deliveries delivered to the right building or job site can be a challenging undertaking. An effective internal logistics app can simplify this process for suppliers, drivers, and site managers. Field Survey Project management was never meant to be contained in the four walls of a cubicle. Putting the tools for real-time, on-site project management into those on the front-lines can help any organization retain data integrity and manage resources effectively. Learn more about this sample app. For AppSheet users, here are a few more things to keep in mind: Consider leveraging any sample app materials that may be relevant for your use case. Great apps and app platforms will always come with rich resource libraries and support to help you make the most of their product. As an individual charged with IT management responsibility, be sure to do your research and build a strong foundation of product-specific knowledge. Perfect is the enemy of good enough. Remember, you’re building a functional business application. It may not look as slick as the latest social media app, but it also does not need to. Whew! Step 5 - Test your apps. In theory, practice makes perfect, but with software, testing makes… “better.” No amount of tests can replicate all the realities of a live app, but it can certainly help! Consider identifying a subset of the construction team to engage in field tests. A simple way to go about doing this would be to provide them with basic training and ask them to complete a battery of standard field tests (i.e. processes they would normally use the app for). Have participants report back to you with data on functionality and usability. You can modify this simple Google Form to suit your needs if your solution doesn't have built in feedback functionality. For AppSheet users, users can always provide feedback to app creators through the "Feedback View" on the menu (see below).  Once your testing consistently returns satisfied end users, you’re ready to deploy your app to the team. Step 6 - Deploy your apps. You made it! You’ve successfully procured and created an app solution for your team. Before you celebrate too soon, expect the unexpected as you deploy your apps to live users. Even stock photo models need time to celebrate! In the process of releasing your app, consider hosting a universal team training event either in-person or through a webinar. Be sure to cast a compelling vision of why your team is making the change and how this change will ultimately benefit them. Change isn’t always appreciated and habits can be difficult to break. Even after the app is fully deployed, bugs, user error, and unexpected challenges are par for the course when it your apps makes it to the field. What’s important is keeping a level head and having a platform with strong help documentation and support options. "If we make it easier than paper, we increase adoption.” -Richard Glass, IT Manager at KLB Construction. Step 7 - Manage, maintain, and update your apps. In today’s ever-changing world, no product is every truly “done,” but that's a good thing! Users change. Needs change. And great software should have the ability to change too. As an IT manager or someone functioning in an IT leadership capacity, it’s your job to stay ahead of the game and ensure that the apps you build meet the needs of your team. Here’s a checklist of questions to keep your apps ready-to-go: Are there any known bugs? If so, what actions are currently being taken to address them? Is there a strong on-boarding process/documentation in place to help new users learn the system? Are there any new upcoming projects that may require distinct needs? Do you need more or fewer software licenses? Are there any new technologies (e.g. augmented reality) that have the potential to shift our future business processes? For AppSheet users, are there any new data sources that should be integrated? And now, it's your turn! So there you have it! 7 steps to transform your construction firm from technology laggard to industry trend-setter. What have been your experiences implementing mobile apps across your construction firm? What lessons have you learned? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below or join our community forum and talk to others in your field and beyond! This post was updated on November 14th, 2019.

How Can Mobile Apps Increase Productivity and Improve Inventory Data Accuracy

Many businesses across multiple industries are investing not only in e-commerce as it continues its double-digit growth, but also smart warehousing. With the rise in interest of these technologies, businesses are seeking solutions to increase productivity and address heightened customer expectations. Target last year announced plans to spend $7 billion to improve its supply chain efforts. UPS is investing $20 billion over the next three years to boost productivity and fulfillment capacity. And a recent survey indicates 42% of businesses expect to move forward with warehouse and distribution center spending—the highest level in four years. “Overall, the survey reflects enthusiasm for where things are going with the economy in general, and with supply chain activity in particular,” says Donald Derewecki of supply chain consulting company St. Onge. “If you’re not investing in technology, especially in a growth economy, then your competitors are going to eat your lunch.” Digital warehouse adoption is expected to see the greatest growth between 2017 and 2023 in real-time data gathering and interconnectivity (41 to 95%), real-time inventory management (41 to 95%), people-technology connectivity (49 to 91%), smart analytics and machine learning (17 to 89%), and warehouse mobility solutions (37 to 80%). Mobile apps can also allow for real-time inventory management, people-technology connectivity, and smart analytics. Enhance Efficiency & Productivity “The transformation from fixed desktop workstations to smartphones and mobile devices is a major step forward in gaining warehouse efficiency—it reduces the walking time substantially,” notes Cyzerg Warehouse Technology. That’s important—especially in light of growing warehouse sizes and employers’ talent challenges. The average warehouse size is now 672,080 square feet. That’s up from last year’s 473,400-square-foot measure. And a recent study suggests 76 percent of warehouse operations plan to expand their facilities this year. As for talent, a recent EmployBridge survey suggests warehouse operators are prepared to offer as much as $2 an hour over average wages to attract and retain workers during the 2018 holiday season. That’s because talent is at a premium give today’s single-digit unemployment. Using mobile apps not only allows employees find what they’re looking for faster, but it also allows managers to communicate with and dispatch field workers efficiently and better-prepared. That way, warehouse operations can get more done with fewer human resources. Improving Accuracy Of course, successful warehousing isn’t just about saving time and money. It’s also about doing things right. For example, warehouse workers who have access to mobile apps on their tablets and phones can communicate key information to one another from warehouses apart without the need for email, phone calls, or text messages. Mobile apps allow more efficient, flexible, and powerful documenting, storing, and distributing of data to whoever needs it. Outdoor power products company The Husqvarna Group reduced packing mistakes by 200 percent due to its adoption of a quality tracking mobile app. This level of improvement may help explain why the industry-wide use of paper-based picking systems dropped from 62% last year to 48% this year. Managing People More Effectively Mobile apps can also help the human resources department track the location, expertise, work history, and other factors related to warehouse workers. When appropriate, some information can be made available to other mobile apps. For example, having information about the expertise and location of their workers could help warehouse managers as they assign tasks for the day. Tracking & Optimizing Assets Mobile apps can provide a current view of the availability and location of distribution center equipment. That can save warehouse managers and workers valuable time too. Say, for example, someone in the warehouse needs a forklift to move inventory. A real-time mobile app could show what forklifts are available. And if there aren’t any forklifts available, the mobile app could show managers where the lifts are so they can decide whether and from where to pull one of them for the new job. Workflow automation is a key factor in allowing your workers to better do their jobs in the most efficient, and flexible way. Improving Accountability & Business Outcomes Funnily enough, you know what leaves a better paper trail than paper? Mobile apps that you can access and interface with wherever you are. Sure, warehouse workers can make a note on paper for whoever needs to read it next, but mobile apps collect data, make it available anywhere, update it in real time, and store it for posterity. Mobile apps can document timestamps for when work is completed. They can require a signature from the worker following completion of a task. Some mobile apps even offer the option of scanning or photographing something to illustrate the pallet, product, or issue at hand. All that serves to increase reliability, improve accountability, and let employees know what they’re doing matters and is being measured. That can have the added benefit of motivating workers to take greater care in all they do. Real-time records paired with analytics also can provide a business with a more complete picture of what’s happening in its warehouse operations. And that can serve as fuel to help the business to drive continuous improvement. Related stories: Top 5 Manufacturing Apps — Manufacturing & Warehouse Management Tools for iOS & Android How to Turn Google Sheets into an Inventory Management App A Sawmill in Uruguay Automates Tracking with Inventory Management Apps This post was updated on November 13th, 2019.

Mobile Apps Keep I-care ‘Machine’ Running Smoothly

The I-care Group provides machine measurement services to industrial companies around the world. These field services are vital to companies who do business in energy, oil, pharmaceutical, mining, automotive and many other verticals. The company is based in Belgium. It also has offices in Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.S., and soon Australia. But most of I-care’s 350 employees spend the bulk of their time in the field. These machine doctors, as I-care Group’s Reliability Engineer Julien Grégoire calls them, provide field services  for customer sites and other offsite locations where equipment resides. There they use vibration, infrared, ultrasound, and other tools and technologies to collect data about machine health. The data provided from these field reports is sent back to businesses for analysis. These services help determine what the equipment requires in the way of lubrication, repair, or other maintenance.                                                                    Courtesy of I-care Group                                                                     Searching for Efficient Solutions through Mobile Apps Most of I-care's machine doctors are still using paper and other inefficient software tools to collect their field reports and document assessments. So when Julien became available for a new project, his colleagues asked him to investigate how I-care might improve field workers efficiency. “It was all about saving time in the field and having very accurate and reliable information from the field,” Julien says. “So no more copying from a sheet of paper to an Excel file and then putting the Excel file in the Word and making a report from that.” Designing Apps Specific to Your Needs Julien is very familiar with Excel and Google Sheets. He’s not a software developer. Nonetheless, AppSheet’s no-code platform allowed him to create 10 to 15 mobile apps for I-care. “Now we have very high-performing apps—not just a Google Form,” says Julien, adding his colleagues previously used AppSheet for simple forms, but hadn’t explored the platform beyond that. I-care field workers use one of those apps during vibration analysis of turning machines. “The AppSheet-powered app is not taking vibration data, we have specific tools for that,” Julien explains. “The app helps them taking data from the machine, with pictures and the location as well, some useful information for the health analysis, and some technical specifications.”   Courtesy of I-care Group The app also allows those field workers to generate reports from that data more efficiently, share that information with others, and even access schedules showing what machines they need to visit next. Improving field work efficiency is the main focus area of I-care’s AppSheet efforts. But the company is using AppSheet at the office as well. The company built an attendance app for the office. Workers and visitors enter their information into the app as they come onsite. That way, if there’s ever a fire at the facility, I-care will know what people are in the building and need to be accounted for. Apps Providing Concrete Results Five people have been using the I-care vibration analysis app. The app initially ran as part of a pilot project for a single I-care customer. Julien got the request for this app at the end of September. A first prototype was ready and being tested in November. Beta users then asked for a few changes and upgrades. The app has been stable since December. “They told me they were saving a lot of time in their field program, being able to take measures of more equipments in a day," Julien says. With the app, vibration analysis engineers no longer waste time waiting to access schedules and populate machine measurements into databases and less efficient applications. “I believe that for vibration analysis I-care previously just took the database from the device that makes the measurements,” Julien explains. “But this is very slow and heavy, so they lost a lot of time. For the scheduling we just used some big Google Sheets, and they had to make some filters themselves to figure out what they had to do.” He adds that the photo feature of the app is also beneficial. It allows vibration engineers to take pictures of the machine and draw on those photos to remember the specifics of their visits. I-care expects to make the vibration analysis app available to between 50 and 100 people in the coming months. And I-care uses the office safety app across the organization. In addition to addressing safety, this app makes it easy for people to enter data and helps I-care meet Belgium’s compliance requirements. Creating Your Future These are just a few examples of the AppSheet apps I-care is using or has in development. Julien is also making a lubrication analysis app that’s similar to the vibration analysis app.  He’s also creating a corporate FAQ app at the request of his supervisor. That will deliver answers about internal processes. And it will provide all employees with quick and easy access to people who can assist them with specific questions and challenges. “AppSheet is getting more and more popular within the company,” says Julien, who spends two days a week creating apps. He hopes to transition to creating apps full time starting this year. Creating your apps doesn't have to be a solitary experience either. AppSheet has a robust community forum where fellow creators and AppSheet employees can share and troubleshoot ideas together. Editor's note: Curious to see how I-care Group's work? While we cannot provide those apps, we do have more than 60 app templates for you to copy and customize. These apps work on phones, tablets and desktops, as shown by the Field Services sample app below. On AppSheet Sample App Page, you can filter apps by Industry, Function, or Feature. This blog post was updated on November 12th, 2019.

Feature Friday: Range of Rows, Webhook Generating Form Post, and The Power of Dashboards

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. AppSheet Staff Favorite: Dashboards One of our team’s favorite ways to display data is with the Dashboard view. Why are we in love with the dashboard view? Customization! The dashboard view's ability to access multiple views, as well as filter data interactively, allow you to display a diverse set of view types (e.g. charts, details, tables, etc.) in one quick snapshot. Did we mention it’s also a great default view for your app’s users? In addition, the feature helps you take advantage of the larger screen sizes on computer browsers. Many of our views are designed for mobile and tablet, but if you’re viewing your app on a desktop or laptop computer, dashboards are the powerhouse view. Webhook Generating Form Post  Our product improvements are always inspired by you, the AppSheet Creator. This recent release is a great example of how your input shapes what we come out with next.  Workflows have already given you a more powerful way to make your applications your own, but we’ve added another way to customize. With webhook generating form posts you can now customize and control the content and format for your webhook body with a template. You can learn more about the webhook feature in the AppSheet Community. Range of rows A simple update that will save you time is the ability to select multiple rows (or items) and perform an action. To use this feature, you’ll need to ensure you’ve enabled Quick Edit in your applications UX settings. How will you use these new features in your app building? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know. Happy app building!

There’s a Workplace App for That

Ah, the 2000s, the decade that introduced us to TheFacebook.com, the Black Eyed Peas, and trucker hats. It’s also the decade that brought us one of the most impactful inventions in recent memory: the iPhone. But despite the glory of this product, there was one noted downside to the advent of smartphones, namely the phrase, “There’s an app for that!”. Like so many advertising slogans, the catchphrase, trademarked by Apple in 2009, became so ubiquitous that the mere sound of it sent shivers down the spine of many an advertising-wary human. Want to check tomorrow’s weather? There’s an app for that! Want to remember where you parked? There’s an app for that! And so on. In addition to much ire, the phrase inspired many parodies, including this cute ditty on Sesame Street. In the past ten years, apps have grown in power and sophistication. You no longer just check the weather on your apps, but you can track your burrito delivery in real-time, stream music from seemingly endless libraries, or meet the love of your life. So while Apple’s original catchphrase remains true, it needs to be amended. Nowadays, there are darn good apps for that, including those that make your job easier. Workplace applications, or mobile-ready platforms that improve on-the-job processes and workflows, are now being internally deployed by companies of all sizes. Still, you might be skeptical about adding yet another icon to your already-crowded smartphone display — or your team’s already busy day. In this post, we’ll explain why you should move forward with workplace apps without looking back, despite what your 2000s-era curmudgeon might be telling you. Workplace Apps: A Key Element of Digital Transformation The business world is changing. Companies everywhere are embracing digital transformation and using new technologies to automate manual processes that no longer serve them. Digital transformation is a massive trend — and one that has been in motion for a long time. This trend is sometimes called the fourth industrial revolution, as it refers to a new era in manufacturing that will be defined by the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, machine learning, ultra-fast connectivity, and — of course — apps. However, embracing digital transformation and benefiting from it are two totally different things. Often, digital transformation can be nebulous and difficult to effectively drive across an enterprise. Businesses can also face resistance from employees who are reluctant to change how they work — which is largely why one in five executives secretly think that digital transformation initiatives are a waste of time. It turns out that app usage, perhaps unsurprisingly, is now exploding in the workplace. Companies across all verticals — including finance, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, and utilities — are using apps to streamline workflows and increase productivity. When it comes to app usage, organization size isn’t a determining factor, either. Every organization — from small businesses to large enterprise — can benefit by using them. Companies are using apps to optimize many types of processes, like inventory management, communication and collaboration, scheduling, managing workflows, field service productivity, and everything in between. How apps can help your business By now, you understand how more and more businesses are using apps to work more effectively and improve profitability. But you might be wondering about the specifics. You’re in luck: Up next, we’ll explore five use cases to give you a better idea on how apps can transform your business. 1. Painless data entry Data collection is highly resource-intensive and risky when it’s performed manually. For example, in manufacturing and utility environments, data is typically recorded onto paper and then transcribed into a spreadsheet. This opens the door for countless errors. Workers might lose these records or they might fudge the numbers during the data transfer process. Apps, however, enable easy data entry, providing workers with an opportunity to record information using simple drop down menus, photos, and user-friendly forms. With the right tools in place, data can flow seamlessly from an app into correlating spreadsheets, databases, and supporting programs like customer relationship management systems or inventory control platforms.  2. Easier process control In the words of Karl Iagnemma, uniformity is the friend of scalability. Businesses must stay in sync across all departments, teams, and facilities. A manufacturing facility in Munich, for instance, should follow similar policies and procedures as a sister branch in Chicago. Companies today are using apps to centralize management and information. Thanks to apps, global teams can share information in a way that’s easily accessible over a smartphone or tablet. Essentially, apps can serve as digital blueprints for processes and procedures, enabling consistent and predictable scalability across the enterprise. 3. Improved visibility It’s not easy managing a team when you have limited visibility into what your workers are doing every day — especially if you are overseeing multiple projects and a distributed workforce. Apps can provide greater visibility across teams and departments by facilitating real-time communication. With the right app in place, managers can receive hourly or daily status updates, allowing them to make managerial changes based on data. In this light, apps help managers keep their fingers on the pulse of operations every hour of every day. 4. Enhanced productivity Productivity issues tend to stem from poor communication. For example, the average worker checks email 74 times per day. And as much as 15 percent of a company’s time is spent on meetings, on average. Workers are also less productive when they aren’t clear about what they should be doing. Apps can lead to major productivity gains in this arena by automating communication during project updates and eliminating unnecessary meetings. What’s more, thanks to no-code platforms, employees can build their own apps to support their specific workflows. They don’t have to rely on apps built for the run-of-the-mill company; they can use a tool that’s fit for purpose instead. 5. Increased profitability Inefficient data sharing can lead to major financial losses. For example, in a competitive real estate environment, agents need accurate data to identify deals, close properties, and flip them. Without an effective communications mechanism, it’s impossible to compete in this fast-paced industry. Apps ultimately put data into workers’ hands faster — meaning companies can move beyond merely collecting data and instead turn their data into actionable insights. As a result, workers are equipped with the information they need to make the best decisions and respond to new opportunities with agility. These are just a few ways that apps can help your business. In the age of no-code development — where you can build your own app to help make your own job easier — apps can deliver an essentially endless amount of benefits to companies like yours. To get started, all you need is data. Find out more about how to start making apps with AppSheet.

Five Ways Mobile Apps Boost Field Service Productivity

Are you a field service provider contemplating jumping on the mobile bandwagon? Are you stuck on the fence, wondering if it will provide ROI and actually be worth the effort? Do you want to make your company a mean, lean, providing machine? The good news is that mobile apps empower field service agents to boost productivity, improve service quality, and increase customer satisfaction. These factors combined help provide a higher, more efficient return. Mobile apps are transforming the efficacy of field services across industries. As companies invest in mobile service applications for remote workers, they are seeing excellent results, and mobile apps are now a main IT concern for field service industries such as construction, equipment manufacturing, and other service-focused fields. Here are five reasons to equip your field service technicians with the appropriate mobile tools to help them get the job done right the first time. Use real-time data to make key decisions, and track and assess tasks. Using real-time data with your mobile apps in the field allows techs to collect and sync information with the back office to create an immediate response. Mobile apps provide transparency and accountability in real-time at every step of the service process ensuring customer satisfaction, efficiency, and better outcomes.  Schedule the right technician for each job and connect the team. Using mobile apps that connect to centralized visual scheduling software boosts field service management efficacy. Schedulers can more easily send the best tech for the assignment based on real-time technician location, availability, and skill set, and allows all agents in the field to be connected to each other and to the home office. This real-time connection allows for a more informed, accountable team. Maintain lean spare parts inventory. Using mobile apps to track inventory and compare it to client product needs allow organizations to maintain a leaner spare parts inventory, thus reducing investment in stock that sits around. With a connected mobile app, spare parts consumption is visible from anywhere in the organization: service vans, offices, warehouses, and more. Improve customer relations. Mobile apps provide easy access to field service history, and equipment and repair information, thus helping insure better communication and services with clients. Mobile apps provide records in real-time, on location, resulting in better customer service relationships. Techs using mobile apps can report on-site equipped with the appropriate parts and knowledge of the service history of the equipment, allowing them to do the job quickly and correctly. Enable verification and consistency of completed work. Verify on-site work via photos and signature collection and utilize centralized inspections and field forms to insure consistency. Mobile apps allow techs to document completed work by taking photos on mobile devices and can capture customer signatures for work orders, billing, and other authorizations. By creating mobile apps with standard field forms including checklists, audits, and other fields. Organizations can ensure that their field techs are carrying out their duties in a consistent and efficient manner. The future of field service is digital. Field service management is being revolutionized by mobile apps. These applications provide simple, trackable solutions to workflow such as managing field data and equipment inspections to transporting materials. The oil and gas industry are prime examples for showing the immense growth of  service through the adoption of mobile apps to their platforms. A recent white paper from CDW stated, these companies already face a number of dynamic challenges in their efforts to produce, sell, and distribute energy, and “energy businesses are reviewing their IT strategies and solutions, including their field service mobility strategies. According to Oil and Gas IQ, an energy website, employees in the oil and gas sector are already ahead of this trend, with 71 percent of workers using mobile devices for work purposes. Ultimately, the CDW white paper concluded, “With a choice of mobile devices, capable of anytime, anywhere access to data, IT decision-makers view field service mobility as the perfect vehicle for improving field operations, increasing customer satisfaction and transforming it from a cost center into a differentiating asset – or better yet, a profit center.” And creating unique mobile apps, designed for your specific needs, can take your company further. AppSheet can help develop custom apps to fit your needs. See how you can get started today! This blog post was updated on November 7th, 2019.

Five Must-Have Features of a Digital Punch List

If you’re looking to create a construction punch list, it means that you’re close to the end of your construction project. That’s the good news. The bad news? Punch lists, for all their importance and potential, are too often stuck in the 20th century. In an age when people carry around compact computers, aka smartphones, capable of snapping pictures, mapping directions, and communicating with others around the world, many in the construction industry still maintain punch lists using paper, pen, and clipboard. The continued use of old-fashioned punch lists sheds light on a broader problem in the construction industry. While digital transformation, or the use of dynamic technology often based in the cloud, gains traction in industries such as manufacturing, transportation, and hospitality, the construction industry remains stubborn to the change. It doesn’t have to be this way. Digital transformation will inevitably tip the scales towards innovation in the construction industry — it’s just a matter of when these changes will occur and who will help implement them. This point brings us back to the punch list. Digital transformation in a construction company will not necessarily happen all at once. The effort will be a matter of small, but important, efforts to digitize the business. Digital punch lists provide the perfect place to start inspiring digital change in your construction business. So which features should you look for in a punch list app or punch list software? Check out our list of five essential punch list features below to learn more. 1. Works on mobile A central function of any punch list is to ensure communication and collaboration between team members on a construction project, regardless of their role, position, or location. You may manage multiple offices or work sites, all employing various, interconnected team members. Look for mobile-compatible apps or software so that your workers can reference the punch lists on-the-go using personal or company smartphones and tablets.  And even though a user will view the punch list on their own mobile device, the software or app should sync via the cloud. This way, administrators can assign ownership and tasks to people distributed far and wide, while keeping the cloud-based punch list as the single point of reference. Meanwhile, workers can update progress in real-time. 2. Ability to flag tasks by priority A punch list app serves as the point of reference for everyone involved in the completion of a construction project. However, if the tasks are not classified by priority, your team will have little guidance on the importance of any given punch list item. Further, some tasks need to be completed in sequential order, one after the next. The ability to classify, filter, and group tasks by priority or sequence is a must-have for any digital punch list. Your team will thank you for the clear instructions and speedy project completions. 3. Interactive maps Similar to our first requirement of mobile compatibility, our third must-have punch list feature is interactive mapping. Built-in maps clearly demonstrate the dispersed locations of work sites and projects. A map feature enables users to efficiently plan travel and visits around prioritized tasks. These interactive online maps are no-brainer alternatives to static addresses printed on paper.   4. Automation The glory of technology is that it provides the average person capabilities that would be otherwise impossible through low-tech counterparts. Paper- or spreadsheet-based punch lists are standalone, static things. And by now, you’ve probably gotten the sense that a good digital punch list is dynamic in many ways. One such dynamism is the ability to automate emails, reports, text messages, and other forms of digital communication to be sent to your users. For example, your punch list app could have a feature that sends a notification to the owner of a task when the status or priority changes. Or, send a PDF project report to investors and stakeholders. 5. Permissions and user settings Another main objective of a punch list is to keep a construction project moving towards deadlines and contractual obligations. However, not every person on the team should have the ability to define these milestones. Therefore, last but not least, a digital punch list should always include multiple levels of permissions which allow select users specific functionality.  One employee (or a class of employees) should have the unique rights to determine when a task has been completed. A digital punch list should always include various levels of permission settings which grant specific functionality to certain users. Inspire digital transformation in construction Once your team learns how to use and scale digital punch lists, the experience can be used as a proof of concept for incremental digital transformation across your construction company. Want to get started today using digital punch lists? Copy and customize the AppSheet Punch List app. Check out a preview below for a sneak peek at what you can build:

Feature Friday: CSV Files from Specified Views, Slotting Time with Calendars, and Localization

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 to do your job right. Download CSV files from specified views You and your team can now download CSV files from specified views within your application. This new feature allows you to easily specify which tables your applications users are able to download. The feature is compatible on mobile with desktop- and web-accessed applications. Screens that display the download button below let your users know that their current view is CSV download compatible. To see how this feature can work with your app, login into your AppSheet editor and click on Behaviors >> Actions. You can also view this sample app to see the feature in action. Using the Calendar for slotted time A popular topic in the AppSheet Community over the past few weeks has been time slotting with your calendar view. App creators want to know how they can better schedule machine operations, inspections and more with their applications. Using expressions with Start/End DateTimes of the Event, you can check against the Start/End DateTimes already entered into your system. Our team put together the below example of an app that manages equipment reservations to demonstrate this capability. Localization Sprechen Sie AppSheet? Localization gives you the ability to take your application global in two different ways. For those that work with an audience that uses a single, non-English language, you can change your application’s buttons and navigation by working with our “Localize” feature in the UX portion of your editor. If you require an app that can adapt to the needs of multiple languages, you’ll want to dive a bit deeper into expressions and take advantage of USERLOCALE(). During Office Hours this week, we took a deep dive into localization. Missed the session? We’ve got you covered with a link to review the feature in depth here. Want to jump straight to the end product to see an example of this feature in action? Here’s a sample app in Spanish. How do you use the features we detailed today? Stop by the AppSheet community and tell us all about your work. Happy app building!

Digitized Asset Tracking, Dispatch, and More: How Apps Are Changing the Utilities Industry

Digital transformation is now a top priority in the utilities industry, where companies are working to reinvent themselves as digital enterprises.  It’s not hard to see why utility companies are so interested in digital transformation. For example, according to a recent report by McKinsey, new technologies can reduce utility operating expenses by up to 25 percent while leading to performance gains of between 20 to 40 percent. Despite this potential, utilities have been struggling to achieve these returns. Companies are finding it difficult to move beyond pilot projects and spread new technologies across the enterprise. As a result, there remains significant potential for digitization at many utilities companies.  Many utility companies are, however, finding that there’s one technology that’s truly supporting their digital transformation efforts: apps. The emergence of no-code development in recent years has made it possible for companies to rapidly create and deploy apps that are cost-effective, reliable, and capable of streamlining a variety of tasks. Using apps, utility companies can fast-track digitization and produce tools that can generate immediate impact, with measurable returns. Let’s take a look at five areas of the utilities industry that can be significantly improved through on-the-job applications. 1. Asset tracking In the world of utilities, managing assets like bucket trucks, transformers, and other equipment is critical for success. For example, a downed pole or a blown transformer can lead to service outages, hazards, and upset customers. However, many companies still lack visibility into their assets, making it hard to track and maintain large numbers of endpoints.  This is one area where apps can be particularly helpful. In fact, apps are now being used to streamline asset tracking across utilities organizations. Companies are designing mobile solutions that provide field managers with interactive maps that detail the exact real-time locations of their assets and status updates.  With the right app in place, managers can quickly look at a geographical area, locate points that require maintenance, and assign team members to perform service checks, for example. Once a truck reaches a destination and performs service, they can use the app to communicate important status updates, repairs, photos, and other action items.  Apps help with asset tracking by: Providing visibility into field assets Making it easy to assign work orders Performing routine service checks Check our AppSheet's field survey app, which you can copy and customize to track your assets in the field: 2. Inventory management  Inventory management is a constant struggle for utility companies where mismanaged inventory can eat into margins and lead to project delays.  The digital approach to inventory management involves automating the process altogether via mobile apps. By using apps, employees can request parts, accessories, and other supplies in a way that is highly organized. It’s a much better approach than requesting items with paper and spreadsheets, or by word of mouth. Here’s how apps help with inventory management: Managing stock Predicting demand  Placing orders Check out our blog post, “How to Manage Stock: Three Free Inventory Management Excel Templates”. Then copy and customize the AppSheet inventory management app: 3. Dispatch  The utilities industry is becoming increasingly software-defined, as endpoints are  updated with IoT-enabled sensors that can transmit data in real-time. As a result, companies don’t have to dispatch as many trucks as they had in the past. Meters can be checked and recorded automatically, saving money and reducing the number of vehicles on the road.  Apps are increasingly used to interface with smart meters and other field equipment, alerting team members when service is required. Apps support dispatch workflows by:  Reducing vehicle wear and tear Saving fuel  Improving sustainability  Copy and customize our driver dispatch app: 4. Customer experience (CX) CX remains a major issue for companies in all industries, and utilities are no different. In fact, CX is quickly becoming a key competitive differentiator among brands. While other industries have made major strides in improving the customer experience, utility companies still have a long way to go in building customer trust and loyalty.  More and more utility companies are finding that they can use apps to improve CX. Apps are being used to share billing and service updates, provide a mechanism for feedback, and share alerts during storms and outages.  Equally as important, companies are using apps to streamline workflows — boosting productivity and reducing complaints along the way.  Here are some ways that apps are helping with CX: Sharing information with customers Expediting maintenance Streamlining support 5. Ongoing maintenance  Utility companies have to manage multiple concurrent projects, with complex systems, tight regulatory requirements, strict timelines, and demanding customers. Daily maintenance requires an amazing attention to detail and constant communication. A communication breakdown can lead to missed deadlines, hazards, and a host of other issues. Apps can be used to help busy and understaffed field managers triage maintenance and move projects along to completion at a brisker pace. For example, a manager can use an app to see a list of action items in a building — like fire alarm inspections — and assign a worker to oversee these tasks.  Apps can improve maintenance by:  Preventing missed service appointments Providing project status updates Assigning manage daily workflows  For some specific examples of how apps are transforming the utilities industry, check out the following stories: How Kentucky Power Sparked a Digital Transformation with Workflow, Inspection and Incident Management Apps Smart Lighting Contractor Builds Custom Apps for Project Management Want to build a maintenance app on your own? Copy and customize ours to get started: Build your own utilities app suite Clearly, apps are helping everyone involved in the utilities industry to change with the times. Mobile solutions are essential in utilities offices and in the field, and their importance will only increase. There are many options for how to meet utilities industry needs through technology — from buying out-of-the-box software to hiring developers to build custom apps. AppSheet provides an alternative to these options. Instead of building or purchasing individual apps, you can create your own unique apps with our platform. If you haven’t already started using mobile application technology on your utilities jobs, don’t worry. AppSheet lets you build a whole suite of applications all under one roof.

Why IT Security Departments Love No-Code Platforms

Picture this: After months or years of developing a business app from scratch, v.1.0 is finally ready for use. This app is large. It’s complex. And it requires maintenance and support from IT just to stay up and running. The app also houses some of your company’s most sensitive data. Even if you have a team of expert developers on hand, this security arrangement still keeps you up at night. After all, building and securing an app requires an enormous amount of work and ongoing attention. With so many moving parts, it’s easy to overlook one or many important security elements.  Many organizations still take this approach. It’s the way things have been done for a long time, after all. But in doing so, they expose themselves to a variety of security issues (e.g., backdoor attacks, unauthorized access, SSL issues, weak server-side controls, and more). In an age of high-profile data breaches, it’s increasingly apparent that the vast majority of apps created from scratch using traditional development methods are rife with security vulnerabilities. Even back-end business productivity apps can be discovered and exploited by cyber criminals. This is a problem — particularly when considering that internal apps are direct doorways to business processes and intellectual property. Case in point? HipChat getting hacked in 2017. But don't let this doom and gloom to discourage you from using apps in your workplace. Instead, reconsider how your company approaches app development. Enter no-code development. At AppSheet, we maintain that it’s far more secure to leverage no-code development than to build an app the traditional way through developers writing code.  Let’s take a step back and review the basics of no-code development.  As the name suggests, no-code development involves creating apps using a platform that provides and manages most of the underlying coding. No-code platforms are designed for non-technical employees which means that they have to be foolproof from a security standpoint.  How is this possible? Let’s investigate.  Why no-code development is more secure Since you don’t have to worry about coding when using a no-code platform, you don’t have to worry about underlying security protocols, either, such as encrypting and patching your software. A no-code platform handles most of the heavy lifting for you, giving you secure building blocks to create a comprehensive digital tool that’s fit for purpose. A no-code platform can work in close concert with IT, too. As such, you don’t need to worry about outsourcing your project to a third-party vendor or even removing development from your technical workers. Using a no-code platform, IT will still retain full control over data management, storage, and access policies. It’s even possible for IT to manage who can create apps as well. 5 ways no-code improves security Because no-code development is fundamentally secure, there are a number of advantages that it delivers for an organization.  Let’s explore five of them. 1. Centralized app management  In addition to determining who has the ability to make apps on a no-code platform, IT can also control who can access them. No-code platforms give IT the ability to easily commission and decommission apps from a single centralized portal. That way, if a team member changes roles or moves onto another company altogether, IT can revoke access and prevent potential data tampering.  2. Security reallocation   App development takes a lot of hard work and often spans different roles and departments. For example, creating an app may require the ongoing contributions of a cyber security specialist who was hired for a completely different set of responsibilities.  By creating an app using a secure no-code platform, you can reallocate your critical IT and security experts to focus on other pressing security issues instead of performing tasks like penetration testing on backend apps.  3. Regulatory compliance  If you’re in an industry that’s heavily regulated like finance and healthcare, your company will have to comply with a long list of rules when creating software — some of which may change periodically. For example, HIPAA IT compliance requires having a long list of elements in place like regular security audits, documentation, recovery, and so on. Developers in the finance industry, meanwhile, have to keep up with regulations from organizations like the SEC, CFPB, ECB, FINRA, and others.  Using a no-code app platform can make it a lot easier to stay in compliance with various industry-specific security protocols. For instance, AppSheet’s backend is hosted on Microsoft Azure’s cloud infrastructure, providing a variety of compliance certifications like HIPAA, ISO 27001, SOC1 and SOC2. Country-specific security standards are also available, such as IRAP and GDPR.  While you still have to do your due diligence to make sure you stay in compliance, you can rest assured knowing that the major pieces are baked into the foundation. AppSheet, it should be noted, works with companies to create industry-specific solutions that comply with all relevant regulations. 4. Less paper   There’s little point in worrying about app security if your business is still using paper, which could theoretically be accessed by anyone. Paper can get lost, stolen, or misplaced, resulting in a data breach or security violation. No-code app development provides a clear path to migrate away from paper in a way that is cost-effective even for small organizations.  5. Reduced shadow IT  Centralized app management also reduces shadow IT, which happens when technologies are used without the company’s knowledge or consent.  Shadow IT typically occurs when employees aren’t given the tools they need to do their jobs and instead resort to unauthorized third-party services. For example, using a personal Dropbox account to share information can be considered a type of shadow IT because there’s no way for IT to track or manage the information inside of it. In such a scenario, an employee might upload a file (e.g., a contract or a confidential document) to a personal account and hold onto it long after they leave a company.  No-code app development: the secure way forward No-code app development gives IT departments plenty of reasons to smile. A no-code platform will provide your business with a secure way to create and deploy apps in conjunction with your own IT team. Let the IT no-code romance begin! For further reading, head to the AppSheet Security Center.

Feature Friday: New Side Menu Layout, Loading Screen Animations, and Custom PDF Attachment Sizes

We’ve been making some exciting updates at AppSheet to help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters. Meet some of our newest additions below. Custom PDF Attachment Sizes For app creators working with workflows, we’ve made an exciting update to what you can send. Your PDF attachments are no longer restricted by standardized paper sizes. These can now be customized to any size you may need to help your business run more efficiently. From barcode labels to posters, customize your automation. To get started with custom PDF attachments, open your editor and click on Behavior >> Workflows. Want to learn more about how to work with workflows so you can take advantage of this new feature? Register for one of our upcoming office hour sessions. Loading Screen Animations If you’re looking for a simple way to provide a high amount of impact your app users, look no further than our loading screen animation feature. This oldie-but-goodie feature gives you the opportunity to showcase your brand or add a additional personality to your app in GIF format. No GIF? No problem! There are a number of places to find GIFs to enhance your apps. Our team finds great options on GIPHY that fit a variety of business needs. To add a GIF, open your app editor and click on UX >> Brand >> Launch Image to enter your GIF’s URL. You can learn more about how our community uses this feature here.  Improved side menu layout Recently, we’ve made some improvements to the side menu. This new, minimalist style supports a larger list of menu options, and divides the menu up so that it’s easier for your app’s users to find what they need while letting your content take center stage.  How will you use these new features in your app building? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!  

Oil and Gas Goes Digital: Achieving Operational Excellence in 2020

Oil and gas enterprises touch nearly every aspect of the global economy, as well as individual consumers’ pocketbooks. Clearly, the industry has huge external impact. The inner workings of the industry, however, carry complexities to match its external reach and influence. Oil and gas’s upstream, midstream, and downstream sectors function independently, yet rely on the health of one another to thrive. The upstream sector handles the search for and extraction of crude oil or raw natural gas, while the midstream sector covers the transportation and storage of these products. Finally, the downstream sector refines the products for distribution to businesses and consumers. This simplified breakdown of the industry doesn’t do justice to the operational complexities involved with each step along the way of discovering, extracting, and refining energy resources. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into three key challenges that span the oil and gas sectors, and how digitization can help alleviate major and minor industry pain points. Read on to learn all about what’s changing in equipment inspections, field data collection, and material transportation. Spoiler: the digital transformation of oil and gas processes and operations will elevate the industry in 2020 and beyond. Influencing a digital mindset Let’s start by exploring the many blockers in the way of technical advancement of oil and gas industry processes. Gartner Inc. surveyed oil and gas CIOs and other IT leaders in its 2019 Gartner CIO Survey.  According to Gartner, “The purpose of the 2019 Gartner CIO Survey is to help CIOs and other IT leaders set and validate their management agendas for the coming year. To achieve this, Gartner gathered data from 3,102 CIO respondents in 89 countries and across major industries, representing $15 trillion in revenue and public-sector budgets and $284 billion in IT spending. Respondents come from a range of industries, including manufacturing, government, professional services, banking, energy/utilities, education, insurance, retail, healthcare, transportation, communications and media. This report focuses on the answers from 84 oil and gas industry CIO respondents and compares them with the total sample.” According to Gartner Inc.’s 2019 CIO Agenda: Oil and Gas Industry Insights*, (report available to subscribers), the top four most significant barriers to CIOs achieving their objectives are: insufficient numbers of IT/business resources; weak management understanding of digital business; business culture blocking change; and insufficient depth/breadth of digital skills. The good news? It is clear to us that these roadblocks hinge on matters of perception which can be confronted through education and information. Gartner recommends that oil and gas CIOs “educate stakeholders and help operationalize digital initiatives and — critically — address embedded cultural issues at all levels in their firms.” We know that technology done right simplifies processes while reducing resource requirements and costs in the long-term. The following sections demystify the path towards digitization in order to help inspire a digital mindset in the oil and gas industry. Operational excellence Despite these challenges of perception, we believe digitizing processes in the oil and gas industry has the potential to fulfill longstanding priorities the industry’s CIOs. According to the 2019 CIO Agenda: Oil and Gas Industry Insights Gartner Inc. report, the top two priorities for 2018 and 2019 for these leaders were revenue/business growth and operational excellence. We believe that the digitization of processes aligns well to both goals. Investment in the right technology today will lay the bedrock for successful operations down the line. The term “operational excellence” doesn’t always inspire excitement and instead conjures up stymied images of paper, spreadsheets, whiteboards, and flimsy rules begging to be broken. However, we know that operations work can be both creative and flexible, and that digital innovation isn’t a one-size-fits-all path. As Gartner Inc. points out, “there is no single correct model of digitalization in the [oil and gas] industry, and digital ambitions with different emphases — and levels of intensity — are developing across all types of industry enterprises.” In other words, we believe that the beauty of digitization lies in customization. Oil and gas companies can customize their digital priorities and processes. So which challenges within the energy industry have the most potential to be faced by digitization? The following sections explore how digitization can improve oil and gas equipment inspections, field work, and materials transportation and tracking. Equipment inspections The energy industry relies on vast ecosystems of equipment which require upfront and ongoing capital investment. Oil and gas assets are expensive and highly regulated. It’s in the best financial interest of companies to keep this equipment in top shape. Also, the safety of workers and the security of products depend on well-managed equipment. In the upstream sector, crude oil is stored in field tank batteries, bulk terminals, and refinery holding tanks. Natural gas lives in underground tanks until it’s ready to be transported to market. After field processing, intricate transportation pipelines deliver the gas.  These are just a handful of examples of oil and gas equipment that need to remain efficient and safe. On top of that, there’s a variety of inspection methods including visual, ultrasonic, and x-ray techniques. In short, each organization runs on a variety of equipment and corresponding operations to ensure compliance to industry standards. Digital inspection platforms can facilitate seamless operational processes by tracking and providing guidance on the correct protective apparel, safety training, procedures, and equipment inspection techniques. Applications provide the universal means in which workers, wherever they’re based, can follow and log the same processes as other colleagues. This technology provides quick, easy, and error-free routes for oil and gas worker to do inspections right. Copy and customize the AppSheet equipment inspections app to get started on digitizing your oil and gas equipment inspections: Field work The upstream and midstream sectors center around work done in the field. In the energy industry, “the field” can denote a wide array of spaces including shale plays, reservoirs, oil fields, drilling and fracking sites, wells, offshore drilling platforms, and refineries. Each of these places, as varied as they are, require operational gusto to run properly and profitably. Take wells. The exploration and production of oil and natural gas requires coordinated efforts to locate natural resource wells and determine how deep the drills need to go. Further, wells need to be optimized in terms of design, construction, operations, and management. Take onsite refinement. Field processing locations employ workers and equipment that measure production rates, remove impurities, and store crude resources prior to transport. In addition to the complexity and seriousness of work done on these sites, energy field locations are scattered across the globe, often situated in remote places. The digitization of field operations promises to revolutionize the inner workings of oil and gas locations by facilitating data collection and project management, as well as the communication between workers separated by long distances. Check out AppSheet’s sample project management and field survey apps, which can be customized for specific oil and gas sites: Materials transportation and tracking The transportation of crude oil and natural gas represents an integral part of the industry’s supply chain. Each material requires unique specifications to assure safe transport. For instance, natural gas flows at a higher pressure than crude oil and therefore require large, regulated pipelines. Crude oil, on the other hand, can be transported through some existing pipelines but is often shipped via truck or rail. Basically, energy resources are perpetually on the move by way of highly complex and specific modes. In the United States alone, hundreds of thousands of miles of natural gas, crude oil, and liquids pipelines stretch the land. Meanwhile, workers need foolproof methods to accurately and efficiently track the transportation of these materials. The literal and operational expanse of materials transportation boggles the mind. It’s now safe to say that no modern oil and gas organization can get by without the help of tracking software. But which software and application features should companies consider when it deciding on the right solutions to manage material tracking and transportation? Look for GPS-powered tracking, barcode scanning, and smartphone-enabled incident reporting for when the unexpected happens. Explore and customize AppSheet’s incident reporting app: Build your own energy industry operations suite The digital transformation of the oil and gas industry has just begun. There are so many options for how to improve operations through technology — from buying out-of-the-box software to hiring developers to build custom applications. AppSheet provides an alternative to these options. Instead of building or purchasing individual apps, the AppSheet platform lets you create an endless number of apps specific to your workplace and needs. Contact us today to learn more about how you can create an entire suite of energy industry operations applications all under one roof. *Gartner, 2019 CIO Agenda: Oil and Gas Industry Insights, Simon Cushing and Rich McAvery, 15 October 2018

What is HACCP? 7 Key Principles and Process Management Explained

What is HACCP? 7 Key Principles and Process Management Explained Get the HACCP Inspections template What is HACCP? | Principles and Process Management HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) is a globally recognized food safety management standard that requires businesses to apply guidelines, procedures, and principles to ensure food safety from raw material manufacturing right up to consumption. The U.S Food and Drug Administration organization (FDA) has outlined the HACCP protocol to be applied on all vital food process checkpoints to analyze and eliminate threats of any biological, chemical, or physical hazards at all times.   What makes a HACCP plan successful? Before delving into HACCP’s seven principles, it is crucial to understand the foundations of a successful HACCP implementation. The first step is to have the support and commitment from upper management which then translates into a greater focus and priority on food safety down-the-line to employees. Furthermore, employees may be required to undergo a series of prerequisite programs such as current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) and several others. Other program line-ups can include areas such as: Individual cleanliness Establishment of facilities Verification of qualified suppliers Material labeling guidelines Management of manufacturing equipment Cleaning standards and schedules Employee roles in the HACCP program Managing chemicals to prevent contamination Proper storage, transportation and handling of materials Tracing and recovery of products Prevention of pests After accomplishing this, the company needs to settle five preparatory assignments before applying the seven principles to a HACCP plan. Preparatory assignment one — Build the HACCP core team The HACCP core team should be comprised of stakeholders with specialized experience related to the manufacturing system and the final edible product. Employees from fields such as operations, engineering, manufacturing, hygiene, science, quality assurance, and safety can be part of this team. At times, this team may require external experts to step in for domain-specific knowledge. Even when this happens, the core members are require to work closely and take ownership of the HACCP plan. Preparatory assignment two — Create a clear description on the food product and delivery The food product is to be clearly detailed by the HACCP core team. Details can contain manufacturing procedures, ingredients, and types of food involved. The food delivery technique should inform whether the needs to be distributed at room temperature, chilled, or frozen. Preparatory assignment three — Elaborate on the food product usage and its consumers The HACCP team will need to make known the type of consumers involved: children, adults, patients, and so on. Also, they will need to mention how the product is to be consumed.  Preparatory assignment four — Construct a flow diagram that explains the procedures The intention of this flow diagram is to offer a brief idea on the stages to manage the HACCP plan process. The team is to include the areas where checkpoints are to be observed and handled. The simple graphical map can include the pre, during, and after production areas.    Preparatory assignment five — Validate the flow diagram. It is essential for the HACCP team to validate what is assembled in the flow diagram. This ensures the correctness of what is written. When amendments are required, the team can better jot down and manage changes that arise. The Seven Principles of HACCP Once the obligatory prerequisite programs and five preparatory assignments are completed, a firm is ready to administer a HACCP plan. As articulated by FDA, HACCP’s orderly approach is grounded by seven principles. These standards govern the identification, assessment, and management of food safety dangers. Principle one: Put into action a hazard and risk analysis plan Here is where the HACCP team assesses the manufacturing processes and circles out the risks as well as hazards. These threats can include chemical, metal, toxins and even biological contamination. It is very important that the team leverage top-notch expertise to identify these risks. This hazard and risk assessment is finalized in two stages. First, the team must identify what can cause such hazards. Next, the team must determine the level of threat of the hazard. Once these two stages are completed, they can proceed to circle out the critical control points to be managed. Principle two: Ascertain the critical control points (CCPs) CCPs involve identification of areas in the production process in order to deter hazards from occurring. Hence, these are known as critical control points. The HACCP team must list ways to place deterrents to prevent risks from occurring.  Principle three: Identify critical limits After the CCPs are identified, the team must identify critical limits for maintaining healthy environments (e.g. chlorine, salt, acidity levels). If anything goes beyond what is the set normal levels, corrective actions will need to be implemented immediately. Principle four: Put monitoring processes in place This step contributes to the effectiveness of the HACCP program set. Monitoring processes can consist of automated or human observations in set time frames. Proper monitoring enables the team to act quickly when hazardous limits are reached.  Principle five: Begin remedial arrangements. For every CCP identified, the team needs to plan remedial steps. Corrective steps involve determining and solving the root cause of the issue. Strong preparation allows for rapid crisis management when hazardous contamination occurs. Principle six: Establish verification procedures After remedial arrangements are set up, the HACCP team can verify whatever has been set. This helps to ensure that the plan is in adherence to the HACCP system. With this principle, impartial independent authorities can step in to determine if the HACCP plan meets standards.  Principle seven: Begin tracking and documenting steps Finally, all processes and CCPs need to be tracked, stored, and easily traced in order to meet regulatory criteria. The team will need to determine what details are to be recorded.  To find out what is required to be included in this step, visit here. How to Digitize HACCP Processes If you've been tasked with implementing HACCP programs at your company, you want to explore digitizing your management processes. Once you have clarity on the processes you are running, you can incorporate different applications to run those processes more efficiently.  Food manufacturers and distributors around the world are using AppSheet to build their own web and mobile apps without code to to keep their operations safe, efficient, and productive.  We created a sample application for HACCP tracking. You can copy this HACCP app and get the underlying data and modify it to fit your process. If you're interested in building your own HACCP management app, get started creating your app by starting directly from your own data using a standard spreadsheet (e.g. Google Sheet, Excel on O365/Dropbox/Box, or Smartsheet). You can build your own functional app within just a few hours. Watch the video below for additional ideas on how to make an app!      

Feature Friday: Action Updates, Dashboard Tabs, and Translating Images With OCR Text

Recently, we've made some exciting updates to the AppSheet platform to help you build your apps faster. Read all about some of our newest additions below. Ordered-flow of actions If you work with data that moves through multiple stages, such as data used in project management apps, you’re going to love this latest addition to actions. AppSheet now uses platform intelligence to suggest and group actions without the need to set multiple behavior actions within that column group. To get started with these "ordered-flow" actions, open your editor and click on Behavior → Actions. Want to see this new feature in action? We've built a great project management app to demonstrate this feature during our office hours webinar this week. Check out this demo and the latest webinar recordings here. True/false toggle suggested actions Similar to the new “ordered-flow” actions, you can now move through stages with true/false (or yes/no) values. You can still manually make changes to these behavior actions with Enum lists Yes/No expressions, but we wanted to help you build your app faster so you can take care of what’s important for your business. OCR Translate We’ve expanded our Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to include language translation. Not only can you extract text from an image, but you can now translate the text to a language of your choice by using a new formula type. Ready to give it a try? Follow these steps to add this update: Add an ‘Image’ column to the data table Make the initial value of the ‘Phrase’ field ‘=OCRTEXT([Image])’ You can learn more about this feature and interact with a sample app by visiting this link. This feature is in beta, so please share your feedback here to help us improve and let us know how you’re using OCR to improve your business. Dashboard Tabs Enable the recently launched "Dashboard Tabs" to appear when the screen size of the current device is narrow, usually when the app is opened on a phone or small tablet. To start using this feature, visit the Dashboard View settings and enable "Use Tabs in Mobile View". How will you use these new features? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know. Happy app building!  

The Top 2020 Conferences for the Manufacturing Industry

Interested in attending the top manufacturing industry conference & events in 2020? We created an app with a curated shortlist of the top events this year. If you are starting to plan which events to participate in next year, this list will come in handy. Click on the Details tab to copy the app and you'll also have access to the data that's powering the app. You can create your own web or mobile app for your manufacturing needs with AppSheet.  If you're interested in building your own custom mobile and web apps for processes like equipment inspections, inventory management, and field service, explore how to create your own app and discover how other manufacturing leaders are leveraging AppSheet to empower their field teams.   MODEX 2020 Mon, Mar 09, 2020 - Thu, Mar 12, 2020 World Congress Center, Atlanta Georgia Learn from the industry’s best minds how key industry trends and innovations can transform your manufacturing and supply chain operations through 100+ free education sessions and four powerful keynotes. IMTS 2020 Mon, Sep 14, 2020 - Sat, Sep 19, 2020 McCormick Place, Chicago, IL, USA IMTS 2020 will be the 33rd edition of the Premier Manufacturing Technology show in North America. Industry professionals from all over the world visit IMTS to see and experience more than 15,000 new machine tools, controls, computers, software, components, systems and processes designed to help solve their manufacturing challenges and improve their efficiency. Hannover Messe USA 2020 Mon, Sep 14, 2020 - Sat, Sep 19, 2020 McCormick Place 2301 S. King Drive Chicago, Illinois 60616 HANNOVER MESSE USA (HMUSA) is where manufacturers come to discover the world-leading technologies they need to win amid industry disruption and transformation. It is the most comprehensive industrial technology tradeshow in North America showcasing the latest in IIoT, Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, artificial intelligence and more. International Conference on Manufacturing Technologies (ICMT) 2020 Fri, Jan 17, 2020 - Mon, Jan 20, 2020 University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA The aim of ICMT 2020 is to present the latest research and results of scientists related to Manufacturing Technologies topics. This conference provides opportunities for delegates from different areas to exchange new ideas and application experiences face to face, establish business or research relations, and find global partners for future collaboration. North American Manufacturing Excellence Summit 2020 Tue, Apr 07, 2020 - Wed, Apr 08, 2020 The Westin Chicago North Shore, Buffalo Grove, USA The North American Manufacturing Excellence Summit will cover many topic like building competitive advantage, lean, opex and CI programs, leadership as the engine of change, technology as the deference maker, supply chain strategies, and workforce development. Power Analytics: Data in Smart Manufacturing Conference (MAPI) Wed, Feb 12, 2020 - Th, Feb 13, 2020 Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando, Orlando, FL As the volume, velocity and variety of data in smart factories continues to surge, learn how savvy plant managers are applying advanced analytics – in predictive maintenance and other use cases – to unlock value from the IT/OT data explosion by enabling business decisions that reduce cost and grow revenue. In addition to hearing from expert speakers, the Data in Smart Manufacturing Conference will focus on interactive discussions with peer attendees to share challenges, best practices, and ideas for future initiatives." Manufacturing Matters Wed, Feb 26, 2020 - Thu, Feb 27, 2020 Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, Milwaukee, USA Manufacturing Matters aims to optimize stakeholder value for Wisconsin Manufacturers by expanding their capabilities to grow, be innovative, and achieve operational success. AmCon Cincinnati Advanced Design & Manufacturing Expo Wed, Mar 18, 2020 - Thu, Mar 19, 2020 Duke Energy Convention Center, Cincinnati, USA AmCon Cincinnati Advanced Design & Manufacturing Expo will feature products like 3D Printing, robotics, assemblies, electronics, machining, packaging, prototypes, metal, finishing, coatings, tube bending fabricating, and much more. AmCon regional expos are a cost-effective way to find suppliers of contract manufacturing and job shop services. Find suppliers of hundreds of services under one roof. Experience free admission, free attendee parking, and free seminars. Meet face-to-face with some of the finest job shops and contract manufacturers from throughout the United States. American Manufacturing Summit Tue, Mar 24, 2020 - Wed, Mar 25, 2020 The Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, Chicago, USA The American Manufacturing Summit is a leadership-focused meeting designed around improving plant floor operations and manufacturing strategy across the globe. The Manufacturing Summit serves as an annual platform to exchange ideas around the impact of market dynamics and new technologies for current and future manufacturing, operations and supply chain leaders. This year’s Summit creates an opportunity to examine key case studies around how workforce management, lean manufacturing, process improvement and automation are being rolled out in the world’s best facilities. Join the in-depth discussions to build your roadmap to achieve innovation, maximize manufacturing profitability, optimize plant floor operations, and establish standardization across multiple manufacturing facilities. Additive Manufacturing Users Group Conference Sun, Mar 22, 2020 - Thu, Mar 26, 2020 Hilton Chicago, Chicago, USA Additive Manufacturing Users Group Conference is an all-encompassing technology users group dedicated to the advancement of additive manufacturing technology. It brings together engineers, designers, managers, and educators from around the world to share expertise, best practices, challenges, and application developments in additive manufacturing. Design & Manufacturing New England Wed, Apr 22, 2020 - Thu, Apr 23, 2020 Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston, USA "International Exhibition for Design & Manufacturing Industry." Design & Manufacturing New England showcase will cover up-to-the-minute innovations in design software, motion control components, rapid prototyping, 3D printing, wearables, sensors, and more. Explore the full spectrum of cutting-edge solutions you need to make faster, cheaper, and smarter products at the most comprehensive industry event in the region. Atlantic Design & Manufacturing Tue, Jun 09, 2020 - Thu, Jun 11, 2020 Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, USA Atlantic Design & Manufacturing — part of the region's largest industry event — connects professionals from companies such as FedEx, GE Appliances, and Procter & Gamble with the latest design engineering technologies in 3D printing, automation/motion control, CAD/CAM software, and more. Join 8,000 industry professionals at Atlantic Design & Manufacturing this June. Medical Design and Manufacturing Tue, Jun 09, 2020 - Thu, Jun 11, 2020 Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, USA Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East is the east coast's largest medtech event offering professionals from companies including Abbott, Boston Scientific, and Johnson & Johnson a chance to see the latest technologies and solutions in biocompatible materials, components, assembly, contract manufacturing, and more. Join 8,000 advanced manufacturing professionals at MD&M East this June. CIO Manufacturing Summit Wed, Jul 15, 2020 - Wed, Jul 15, 2020 Convene, New York, USA The CIO Manufacturing Summit brings together C-level executives, innovative solution providers and analyst thought leaders to discuss the critical technology issues affecting today's manufacturing organizations. The summit is an opportunity for participants to share successes, failures and new ideas in a comfortable, yet focused business setting. International Conference and Exhibition on Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Thu, Aug 13, 2020 - Fri, Aug 14, 2020 Atlanta, USA The International Conference and Exhibition on Industrial and Manufacturing ENgineering brings together leading academic scientists, researchers and research scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results on all aspects of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. It also provides a premier interdisciplinary platform for researchers, practitioners and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns as well as practical challenges encountered and solutions adopted in the fields of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering American Boiler Manufacturers Association Meeting Fri, Jan 17, 2020 - Mon, Jan 20, 2020 Park Hyatt Aviara Resort Golf Club & Spa, Carlsbad, USA The American Boiler Manufacturers Association Meeting aims to lead and unite the boiler industry through advocacy, education, awareness, and the commitment to provide solutions to the members. It intends to advocate for the safe production and operation of boilers, facilitated advances in energy efficiency, and provide solutions for the member companies. IISF Trade Show Wed, Feb 05, 2020 - Sat, Feb 08, 2020 International Independent Showmens Foundation, Riverview, USA IISF Trade Show includes Ride Manufacturers, Concession Trailer Manufacturers, Game Manufacturers & Suppliers, Living Quarter Manufacturers, Plush, Novelty, & Food Suppliers, Lighting, Electrical, & Part Suppliers, Industry Organizations, Vinyl & Sign, Companies, Tourist Attractions and much more. Additive Manufacturing Strategies Tue, Feb 11, 2020 - Wed, Feb 12, 2020 Boston, USA The Additive Manufacturing Strategies aims to guide managers, entrepreneurs and investors to the most profitable opportunities in 3D printed medical and dental applications. It covers 3D printed prosthetics, implants, medical models and personalized medicine, as well as dental devices sectors. The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers Convention and Tradeshow Tue, Feb 11, 2020 - Thu, Feb 13, 2020 South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa, Las Vegas, USA The NATM Convention and Tradeshow aim to promote trailer safety and the success of the trailer manufacturing industry through education and advocacy. It represents manufacturers that produce light and medium-duty trailers and suppliers of products and services to the industry. Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference Tue, Mar 03, 2020 - Fri, Mar 06, 2020 Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, USA Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference helps commercial truck manufacturers, upfitters, distributors and body builders learn how to improve manufacturing efficiency and business results using the latest techniques and technology. Attendees will discover the most innovative tools, processes and resources available and how all of these solutions are scalable and customizable to operations of all sizes AmCon Seattle Advanced Design & Manufacturers Expo Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - Wed, Apr 29, 2020 Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, Tacoma, USA AmCon Seattle Advanced Design & Manufacturers Expo provide to learn about the latest in cutting edge manufacturing technologies & innovations. See, touch, interact with new products & processes. Meet face-to-face with the experts of suppliers of hundreds of custom parts and components all in one day. SEMI Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Conference Mon, May 04, 2020 - Thu, May 07, 2020 Saratoga Springs, New York, New York, USA SEMI Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Conference is the leading international technical conference for discussing solutions that improve the collective manufacturing expertise of the semiconductor industry. Solving the challenges presented by semiconductor manufacturing has been a combined effort by device makers, equipment and materials suppliers, and academics. It provides an unparalleled platform for semiconductor professionals to network and learn the latest in the practical application of advanced manufacturing strategies and methodologies. Impact Smart Manufacturing Summit Sun, May 17, 2020 - Tue, May 19, 2020 Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa, Las Vegas, USA The Impact Smart Manufacturing Summit focuses on the themes such as leadership and manufacturing innovation strategies, effective continuous improvement, implementing digital manufacturing, and workforce and talent management.  

What is 5S? [Lean Manufacturing Guide]

What is 5S? Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, Sustain [Lean Manufacturing Guide] Get and test templates for 5S Audits There’s a good chance you’ve come across the term 5S at some point or another. We've created this short guide to help you better understand the basic aspects of 5S principles. Learn how to implement these practices by using mobile and web apps that work directly with your spreadsheet and databases.  The 5S Methodology The 5S methodology originated from the manufacturing technique developed through the Toyota Production System. The heads of the Toyota Motor Company created a clear and distinct set of actions that would improve the quality of products and services offered to the public.  5S is closely related to the Toyota Production System. Both models work to create positive outcomes from untidiness, chaos, and disorganization in the workplace. By training employees to follow a more productive routine and utilizing the right equipment for the job, factories can substantially reduce unnecessary waste. The primary aim of 5S is to generate these minor positive changes throughout the company’s everyday procedures. 5S Elements Explained 5S is a methodology more commonly known in western cultures as “Lean Manufacturing” or just “Lean." Technically, however, 5S is slightly different from Lean Manufacturing. 5S is a way of coordinating the workspace so that employees not only produce better results, but also practice and maintain safer working conditions. Businesses large and small from every industry can adopt the 5S method to optimize their operations, do away with clutter, and promote better cleanliness and organization. Let’s look at each element of the 5S approach in more detail. 1: Sort (Seiri) The purpose of Sort is to help categorize resources by priority. Think of it as a super-detailed stock audit where front-line workers find, identify, and sort machinery, supplies, and even basic office stationery. After organizing each set of items, employees must answer key questions for each item in question including: access/security for an item, importance of a particular business operation, and whether or not the item could be upgraded to something more fitting. Once the usefulness of each item has been calculated, there are several options regarding which action should be taken. The item could either be transferred to a more appropriate division, stripped down for parts, placed in storage for later use, or put up for sale. In a situation where certain articles of company resources can’t be clearly defined as useful or useless, the item can be “red-tagged." Place an informative note on the item with details such as when it was categorized, who evaluated it, where it was situated, and any other relevant information. After a designated amount of time has passed, items from the “red tag area” can be re-evaluated to determine whether or not they should be kept. 2: Set in Order (Seiton) Now, it will be a lot simpler to begin the process of organizing everything that employees have at their disposal. Each person’s requirements should clearly delineate which items they’ll need in order to do their job. A logical pattern of where and how to store resources should begin to surface. Better organization will help create less waste. Prime examples of avoidable waste include product imperfections, excessive time expenditure, surplus resource management, unnecessary movement, unsuitable employee skill allocation, and excess inventory. Much like an athlete stays lean and only carries the body fat they require to function adequately, this part of lean manufacturing can be thought of as the process of optimally storing and utilizing a company’s resources. 3: Shine (Seiso) This is one of simplest, yet often most underestimated aspects of a high-functioning operation. A fundamental component of a well-oiled machine is making sure that everything is neat and tidy. Keeping a clean working environment is crucial for running a smooth workflow, as well as strengthening employee morale. Repairing and looking after machinery, tools, and other equipment is also a part of this stage. In addition to having good cleaning staff, each and every employee should also pay attention to how they manage their work station. If every person helps make their surroundings a little bit cleaner and safer, there will be less waste and a lower potential for injuries and hazardous accidents. 4: Standardize (Seiketsu) In the standardize phase, employees must turn these new practices into a consistent mindset and repeated actions. Without consistent reinforcement of these principles, it is easy for factory conditions to devolve. These patterns of maintenance and cleanup need to be ingrained into the everyday behavior of every employee. It can be helpful to set up schedules, diagrams, notes, charts, reminders, and checklists to assert the importance of a functional and well-structured system. Setting high standards and holding yourself and employees to them is the mark of any significantly successful endeavor. 5: Sustain (Shitzuke) A quality business model has to be based on a long-term vision. Reaching the company objectives means looking ahead and doing whatever it takes to achieve those goals. The standard of how the business is run doesn’t just need to be managed, it needs to be updated regularly as well. Every employee has to be driven to conscientiously put their best foot forward on a daily basis. As the rate of change in the business world continues to accelerate, executives and employees alike must stay vigilant of changes and adopt a healthy growth mindset. How 5S Fits Within The Kaizen Philosophy 5S is an approach that falls within a bigger philosophy called Kaizen, which is a Japanese term that translates to “continuous improvement”. It’s a principle adopted in the business world that is designed to maximize the efficiency of the workplace, as well as the overall morale of the employees.  Kaizen a concept that encourages white-collar and blue-collar employees alike to adopt ownership mindsets toward the company’s mission. It involves establishing a team-oriented way of thinking, evolving methods of daily operations, improving employee fulfillment, and ensuring a safe working environment.  5S is a very important component within this philosophy because it helps achieve the primary objectives of Kaizen such as: Teamwork: Every employee should be dedicated to helping each other successfully complete their tasks. Each individual should think of themselves as part of a larger unit that requires cooperation and dedication to put forth the best results possible. Discipline: Instill a sense of responsibility in each employee so that they are committed to doing their job in a timely and accurately manner. Everyone must accept accountability for their role in the company so that order can be established and weak links can be fortified wherever necessary. Morale: Management should construct positive reinforcement techniques to inspire employees to work harder and smarter. This could include forming a more comfortable work environment, more frequent opportunities for promotions, medical aid, end-of-year bonuses, or even gym memberships. Quality circles: Setting up meetings where employees can collaborate with one another and discuss pertinent concepts, methods, or skill sets will help each person better assess each individual’s abilities, strengths, and shortcomings. 5S and Six Sigma 5S and Six Sigma are often linked to each other, even though there a few differences between them. However, both can be used to achieve improved productivity in the workplace. Six Sigma is a controlled, methodical tactic designed to form an ongoing improvement strategy to minimize waste and imperfection, and maximize efficiency and productivity. These methods aim to advance the standard operating procedure to limit faults in the manufacturing system, and increase the caliber of the end product as well as the tasks that are performed in the process. While Lean Manufacturing focuses more on enhancing the organization of a company, Six Sigma is more oriented towards getting rid of product defects by following a thorough business plan.  In comparison to the 5S system, Six Sigma supports another very similar approach: Recognize, Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, Standardize, and Integrate. Digitize 5S processes.  If you've been tasked with implementing 5S or 5S audits at your company, consider digitizing your management processes. Manufacturers around the world are use AppSheet to build their own web and mobile apps without code to to keep their operations safe, efficient, and productive.  Check out the manufacturing audits app below to learn more:  Our sample Job Site Safety app is another app that can help you achieve your 5S methodology. The app was originally designed for construction companies, but can be customized to help track accidents and near-misses at manufacturing sites as well.

The Top 2020 Conferences for the Utilities Industry

Interested in attending the top utilities industry conference & events in 2020? We created an app with a curated shortlist of the top events this year. If you are starting to plan which events to participate in next year, this list will come in handy. Click on the Details tab to copy the app and you'll also have access to the data that's powering the app. You can create your own web or mobile app for your utilities needs with AppSheet.  If you're interested in building your own custom mobile and web apps for processes like equipment inspections, inventory management, and field service, explore how to create your own app and discover how other manufacturing leaders are leveraging AppSheet to empower their field teams.   Renewable Energy Summit Thu, Jan 16, 2020 - Thu, Jan 16, 2020 Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, Madison, USA Renewable Energy Summit will feature renewable energy industry experts, utility leaders, government officials, students, and advocates. It brings together attendees spanning the renewable energy industry, utilities, businesses, policymakers, students, educators, and renewable energy advocates. This annual event features an exposition hall, breakoutsessions, and industry professionals discussing the current and future opportunities for advancing renewable energy in Wisconsin. Presentation to CFA Society New York Wed, Jan 22, 2020 - Wed, Jan 22, 2020 New York Society of Security Analysts, New York, USA The Presentation to CFA Society New York will focus on the outlook for natural gas demand and supply, as well as regulatory and legislative changes. It will address various issues regarding investment in the natural gas utility sector of the energy industry. Buying & Selling Electric Power Thu, Jan 23, 2020 - Fri, Jan 24, 2020 Seattle, USA The Buying & Selling Electric Power will feature Political dynamics and regulatory responses in the Southwestern states with the earliest and most extensive experience with rooftop solar. Energy Generation Conference Tue, Jan 28, 2020 - Thu, Jan 30, 2020 BISMARCK EVENT CENTER, Bismarck, USA The Energy Generation Conference is the perfect combination of exclusive meeting with the cutting-edge exhibition that shall give vent to the energy industry and at the same time exhibit, most recent energy products and services for better result oriented outcomes. Winter Energy Outlook Conference Tue, Feb 04, 2020 - Fri, Feb 07, 2020 Fairmont Washington D.C. Georgetown, Washington DC, USA The Winter Energy Outlook Conference will cover areas like range of market factors that may impact the supply, distribution and prices of petroleum, natural gas and electricity this winter will be discussed in great detail by some the nation’s leading energy data and forecasting experts. Energy Storage Policy Forum & Exhibition Wed, Feb 12, 2020 - Wed, Feb 12, 2020 Washington DC, USA Energy Storage Policy Forum & Exhibition convenes a select audience of stakeholders from across the energy ecosystem - including state and federal regulators, policymakers, storage industry members, utility decision makers, and power sector stakeholders to build on exciting developments to help guide one of the most interesting and important conversations in the electric sector today. CampusEnergy Mon, Feb 10, 2020 - Fri, Feb 14, 2020 Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, Denver, USA CampusEnergy is the platform where IDEA members and professionals in the district energy, CHP and microgrid industries will come together to share experiences, explore new solutions, and learn from each other. Ohio Energy Management Conference Tue, Feb 18, 2020 - Wed, Feb 19, 2020 Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel, Columbus, USA Ohio Energy Management Conference is a unique platform which will feature insights on energy savings opportunities, energy efficiency, emerging technologies to help reduce energy consumption, and how best to take advantage of savings through renewable energy sources. Solar Power Northeast Conference & Expo Wed, Feb 19, 2020 - Thu, Feb 20, 2020 The Westin Boston Waterfront, Boston, USA Solar Power Northeast is a forum in the Northeast for the solar and energy storage industries to come together and learn about the sustainable energy trends and legislation impacting solar and storage demand, grid resilience, and electric reliability in the region. Northwest Hydroelectric Association Conference Wed, Feb 19, 2020 - Fri, Feb 21, 2020 Hyatt Regency Seattle, Seattle, USA The Northwest Hydroelectric Association Conference is dedicated to the promotion of the region's waterpower as a clean, efficient energy while protecting the fisheries and environmental quality which characterize our Northwest region. Energy Design Conference & Expo Sun, Feb 23, 2020 - Mon, Feb 24, 2020 Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, Duluth, USA Event delivers a diverse selection of quality seminars and workshops to a variety of building, housing, and environmental professionals along with educators, students, homeowners, and others." Energy Design Conference & Expo focuses on energy-efficient building and technologies, renewable energy, best practices, and responsible design. Rural Energy Conference Tue, Feb 25, 2020 - Tue, Feb 25, 2020 Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, Chicago, USA Rural Energy Conference will explore how energy efficiency and clean energy are increasing rural prosperity. Our interactive sessions, plenary panels, and networking breaks will connect you with leaders from utilities, government, industry, nonprofits, financial institutions, and academia. This conference will give you the perfect opportunity to delve into clean energy solutions tailored for rural communities that will spur economic growth and energy affordability. Many rural residents spend a higher share of their income on energy costs than their non-rural counterparts. Join us to explore the power and potential of energy efficiency and clean energy to lower energy bills and improve the everyday lives of rural residents. PowerTest Conference Mon, Feb 24, 2020 - Fri, Feb 28, 2020 Hyatt Regency Chicago, Chicago, USA The PowerTest Conference is the premier event for learning, energizing and renewing a commitment to improving safety and reliability in the electrical power systems industry. This event will offer the attendees opportunities to build relationships and establish valuable contacts with leading industry professionals, access to knowledge, examples, and case studies that have a direct impact on their profession, and technical tools and resources that can be immediately applied within their field. Microgrid Global Innovation Forum & Virtual Power Plants Derms Summit North America Tue, Mar 10, 2020 - Wed, Mar 11, 2020 Soulsight®, Chicago, USA The Microgrid Global Innovation Forum - North America, brings together thought leaders, utilities, energy providers, project managers and other stakeholders for focused networking and in-depth information sharing concerning the latest technological developments, design, implementation and operation of hybrid renewable energy microgrids. The emphasis is on maximizing the business case for microgrids, integration into the larger grid, and sharing real-world case studies of both grid-tied and off-grid/remote environments. National Conference on Microgrids Wed, Mar 18, 2020 - Thu, Mar 19, 2020 Boston - Massachusetts - USA Microgrids are rapidly becoming more popular across the USA. Not only have they provided a source of reliable backup power in emergency situations, they are helping reduce costs as well as damage to the environment through renewable energy. The discussions this year will address these new revelations happening in the industry and provide answers to help microgrid owners and utility companies grow even further and even into new avenues such as electric vehicles and power trading. Kansas Power and Energy Conference Mon, Apr 13, 2020 - Tue, Apr 14, 2020 Kansas State University, Manhattan, USA The Kansas Power and Energy Conference is a symposium of the research behind technologies for power and energy systems of the future and it will gather experts from academia and industry to present their latest ideas and to engage in professional discourse. It will also explore all the aspects of power and energy systems such as Power Electronics, Power Systems, Energy Management, and Cyber-Security. Annual Symposium on Energy Fri, Apr 17, 2020 - Fri, Apr 17, 2020 Syracuse, USA Symposium on Energy in the 21st Century provides a gathering venue for a diverse community to join together in a non-partisan, multidisciplinary learning experience and conversation on sustainability and renewable energy. The attendees range from prominent industry professionals to students and interested citizens. Commissioners, mayors, developers, architects, lawyers, engineers, farmers, many college students, all who are interested in the future of renewable energy with the most cutting edge policy being discussed. MLPA & Energy Infrastructure Conference Mon, May 11, 2020 - Thu, May 14, 2020 ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas, Las Vegas, USA MLPA & Energy Infrastructure Conference will feature an integral way our nation’s private sector finances the infrastructure needed to fully utilize newly discovered domestic energy resources – leading to greater energy independence for the United States – and to ensure that a wide variety of energy products make their way efficiently and safely from the production fields to American homes, businesses, and communities. National Hydropower Association Conference Tue, May 19, 2020 - Thu, May 21, 2020 Marriott Marquis Washington DC, Washington DC, USA The National Hydropower Association Conference will provide you the opportunity to network, learn about legislative and regulatory initiatives, and discuss the issues impacting hydropower and marine energy industry. Grid Evolution Summit Mon, Jul 27, 2020 - Wed, Jul 29, 2020 Grand Hyatt Washington, Washington DC, USA The Grid Evolution Summit brings all of the top stakeholders across the entire industry together in one room to determine how to modernize the electric sector. The packed agenda featured some of the hottest topics including 3 sessions dedicated to the impact of electric vehicles and it provides the industry professionals with the opportunity to create solutions that will leave a lasting impact on the energy future. Peak Load Management Alliance Conference Mon, Nov 09, 2020 - Wed, Nov 11, 2020 Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, Baltimore, USA Peak Load Management Alliance Conference will bring together load management practitioners are expected to attend from energy utilities and government agencies as well as industry allies, including consultants and solution providers. Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference Sun, May 31, 2020 - Wed, Jun 03, 2020 Williamsburg Lodge, Williamsburg, USA The Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference is an educational conference for fleet representatives from investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and electrical contractors. Here you will also meet with manufacturers and service providers.

The Top 2020 Conferences for the Oil & Gas Industry

Interested in attending the top oil & gas industry conference & events in 2020? We created an app with a curated shortlist of the top events this year. If you are starting to plan which events to participate in next year, this list will come in handy. Click on the Details tab to copy the app and you'll also have access to the data that's powering the app. You can create your own web or mobile app for your oil and gas needs with AppSheet.  If you're interested in building your own custom mobile and web apps for processes like oil rig inspections, inventory management, and field service, explore how to create your own app and discover how other manufacturing leaders are leveraging AppSheet to empower their field teams.   Society of Petroleum Engineers North America Student Symposium Sun, Feb 09, 2020 - Tue, Feb 11, 2020 University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA Society of Petroleum Engineers North America Student Symposium is a massive conference put together by SPE International Students across North America. The Symposium presents an opportunity for students to enhance their knowledge of the oil and gas industry through the insights and experiences of industry leaders and advocates. It also provides attendants with a myriad of networking opportunities, as students, faculty, and industry experts from around North America will be participating. WpmaExpo Tue, Feb 18, 2020 - Thu, Feb 20, 2020 The Mirage, Las Vegas, USA WpmaExpo features illustrations of oil, petroleum, technology, pumps & equipment, security products, tank & environmental, power service and much more. Petroleum and Convenience Expo Thu, Feb 27, 2020 - Fri, Feb 28, 2020 Kansas City Convention Center, Kansas City, USA Petroleum and Convenience Expo is an event that illustrates products like business services, ice and cold storage, sunglasses, fuel and chemicals, petroleum types of equipment and services, transport and much more etc. This event draws more than 2,500 attendees and features 300+ leading industry suppliers - offering c-store owners and related industry suppliers. Minnesota Petroleum Marketers Association Convention & Trade Show Mon, Mar 30, 2020 - Wed, Apr 01, 2020 Saint Paul RiverCentre, Saint Paul, USA Minnesota Petroleum Marketers Association Convention and Trade Show aims to make the leading experts related to petroleum industry aware of the latest trends and techniques which will help in the advancement of this industry. Developmental changes which are taking place in the petroleum industry will also be discussed in this event. It will facilitate the petroleum marketers and key decision makers by giving them an opportunity to interact and communicate with each other. The interaction and communication between the petroleum marketers and key decision makers will give rise to new ideas. Michigan Show Convention & Trade Show Tue, Mar 31, 2020 - Thu, Apr 02, 2020 DeVos Place, Grand Rapids, USA Michigan Show Spring Convention & Trade Show features the latest tanker trailers, gasoline pumps and fast food products with companies on display. OGIS New York Mon, Apr 20, 2020 - Wed, Apr 22, 2020 Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, New York, USA OGIS New York provides the attendees with the opportunity to hear presentations from oil and gas leaders and how they are creating value in their companies, network with oil and gas industry insiders and institutional and private investors. Eastern Gas Compression Roundtable Conference & Expo Tue, May 05, 2020 - Thu, May 07, 2020 David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh, USA Eastern Gas Compression Roundtable Conference & Expo is to provide the Natural Gas Industry with cost-effective training programs focusing on engine and compressor maintenance. One of the most popular tracks is the Entry Level Compressor Station Operator Training which focuses on the basics for those new to the industry including yard piping, auxiliary systems, prime movers, compressor components and operating characteristics of reciprocating and centrifugal compressors. Inverse Gas Chromatography Symposium Mon, May 11, 2020 - Tue, May 12, 2020 Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District, Philadelphia, USA Inverse Gas Chromatography Symposium aim is to facilitate interdisciplinary interactions within the research community, discussing the different challenges faced by researchers and scientists in characterising materials such as powders, films, nanomaterials, composites, fibers and bulk solids, and how an instrument based on iGC principle can solve these challenges. BioBased Re-Invention of Plastics Tue, May 12, 2020 - Thu, May 14, 2020 Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott, Newark, USA BioBased Re-Invention of Plastics cover the areas like use of Renewable/Bio-Sourced raw-materials (vs petroleum) addresses Sustainability/Global Warming; invention of “New Plastics from Newer Building Blocks” being an added benefit while maintaining the production of traditional polymers & plastics, Use of Polymer & Plastic Waste (vs petroleum) addresses “Sustainability/Global Warming”, Conversion of GreenHouse Gases (CO2/CH4) into building blocks for polymers has a Compounded Impact on “Sustainability/Global Warming”. Williston Basin Petroleum Confrence Tue, May 19, 2020 - Thu, May 21, 2020 BISMARCK EVENT CENTER, Bismarck, USA The Williston Basin Petroleum Confrence, organized by the North Dakota Petroleum Council will take place from 22th May to the 24th May 2018 at the Bismarck Event Center in Bismarck, United States Of America. The conference will cover areas like energy supply and demand, to highly technical Bakken talks, to managing community impacts. Washington Oil & Gas Forum Wed, Jun 03, 2020 - Thu, Jun 04, 2020 Cosmos Club, Washington DC, USA The Washington Oil & Gas Forum is a unique commercial platform for US government and energy leaders to gain market insight and promote commercial agreements. This year's focus is on the energy policy of the Trump Administration and the international impact of US LNG exports. Northwest Gas Association Energy Conference Wed, Jun 03, 2020 - Thu, Jun 04, 2020 Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, USA Northwest Gas Association Energy Conference brings both the regional natural gas and electric industry together to discuss the future of energy. Industry participants, along with energy leaders, policymakers and regulators come together to hear relevant, timely and useful information presented by speakers actively involved in shaping the future. Kentucky Oil & Gas Association Meeting Mon, Jun 08, 2020 - Tue, Jun 09, 2020 Embassy Suites Lexington, Lexington, USA Kentucky Oil & Gas Association Meeting provide quality service and affordable energy while pursuing the nation's goal for energy independence. Our goals include promoting, protecting and advancing the interest of the oil and gas industry, opposing any unfair and unjust legislation which may adversely affect the oil and gas industry, and, disseminating reliable publicity to further and protect the oil and gas industry. LDC Gas Forums NorthEast Mon, Jun 08, 2020 - Wed, Jun 10, 2020 The Westin Copley Place, Boston, Boston, USA Annual Northeast Forum is the premier event where more than 600 of the Natural Gas Industry's leaders gather in Boston for 3 days of networking, insights, & deal making. Northeast Petrochemical Conference & Exhibition Mon, Jun 29, 2020 - Tue, Jun 30, 2020 David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh, USA The NEP Exhibition attracts all of the major Petrochemical, Chemical & Gas Power Plant asset owner / operators in one unique exhibition. From senior level business executives to lower level engineers and project managers this is your chance to meet with the decision makers and technical professionals working at the heart of the region's leading projects and plants. American Public Gas Association Conference Fri, Jun 19, 2020 - Mon, Jun 22, 2020 Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, Chicago, USA American Public Gas Association Conference is the largest gathering of municipal natural gas professionals across the nation. There are plenty of reasons why our members attend the APGA Annual Conference year after year. From the educational sessions with key industry figures generating new ideas to networking opportunities with hundreds of colleagues from across the nation, the APGA Annual Conference is the event of the year for city- and community-owned natural gas utility professionals and industry experts. American Coalition for Ethanol Conference Wed, Aug 12, 2020 - Fri, Aug 14, 2020 Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot, Minneapolis, USA The American Coalition for Ethanol Conference features sessions and panels on the most timely topics for the ethanol industry, including an overview of future demand for liquid fuels and electricity in the U.S. with emphasis on ethanol's high octane qualities. The LDC Gas Forum, Mid Continent Mon, Sep 14, 2020 - Wed, Sep 16, 2020 Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, Chicago, USA The LDC Gas Forum, Mid Continent brings together 400+ of the natural gas industry’s leaders for 3 days of networking, insights, & deal making. This event provides the attendees with the opportunity to meet the peers, meet current and potential new suppliers, meet producers and pipelines, and much more. American Petroleum Institute Storage Tank Conference & Expo Mon, Oct 12, 2020 - Thu, Oct 15, 2020 Holston House Nashville, Nashville, USA American Petroleum Institute Storage Tank Conference & Expo provides attendees with new information on tank-related research, latest technologies, and API petroleum standards. This informative conference features multiple panels that will help you understand the requirements to maintain tank integrity while complying with environmental rules.  

How to Create a Custom Checklist From Excel With Four Free Templates Included

Creating Custom Checklists has Never Been Easier Checklists are essential tools for helping busy professionals stay on top of key details and tasks. If you've been using handwritten checklists as your go-to process, consider using an Excel checklist and an associated AppSheet app. Apps can be built using a cloud-based spreadsheet such as Excel and Google Sheets, relational database, Salesforce, or SmartSheet as the underlying data source.  In this post, we show you four examples of checklist apps across the following industries: healthcare, freight and shipping, construction, and real estate. Healthcare Industry Checklist App Fill out key details with open text, Y/N boxes, images, signature capture, and more. Easily configure workflow emails and reports from your checklist entries. Navigate to explore previously submitted checklists.   Freight Industry Trucking Checklist App Track vehicle issues over time. Utilize the dashboard view to prioritize repair needs. Perform a routine check anytime, anywhere with the app Construction Checklist App Quickly add new site locations. Create quick tasks on-the-go for future reference. Collaborate with project managers, foremen, and others.  Real Estate Tenant Checklist App Input new tenant information. Track available inventory of housing units. Collaborate with project managers, foremen, and others.    So there you have it. Easily create your own custom checklist apps using your existing data sources. If you're interested the step-by-step process to creating an AppSheet app, check out this guide on how to create an app.   

The Top 2020 Conferences and Events for the Construction Industry

Interested in attending the top construction industry conference & events in 2020? We created an app with a curated shortlist of the top events this year. If you are starting to plan which events to participate in next year, this list will come in handy. Click on the Details tab to copy the app and you'll also have access to the data that's powering the app. You can create your own web or mobile app for your construction needs with AppSheet.  If you're interested in building your own custom mobile and web apps for processes like inspections, punch lists, near misses, or virtually any scenario you imagine, explore how to create your own app and discover how other construction leaders are leveraging AppSheet to empower their field teams.   Construction CPM Conference Sun, Jan 19, 2020 - Wed, Jan 22, 2020 B Resort & Spa Orlando, Orlando, USA Construction CPM Conference will cover topics like Study and Training in CPM, the Critical Path Method of Planning & Scheduling Analysis, Explore and train on a variety of CPM software products and more. Construction World Expo Tue, Jan 21, 2020 - Wed, Jan 22, 2020 Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, USA Construction World Expo features drone data collection, surveys, inspections and photography for the construction and facility management world, much all-inclusive construction industry face to face networking events, latest in technology, software, tools & equipment, and much more. NAHB International Builders' Show Tue, Jan 21, 2020 - Thu, Jan 23, 2020 Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA The NAHB International Builders’ Show® (IBS) is the largest annual light construction show in the world and the home building industry’s premier event. Only at IBS can you connect with thousands of your home building peers, industry experts and manufacturers to exchange ideas, discuss challenges, and access real business solutions. Design & Construction Week Tue, Jan 21, 2020 - Thu, Jan 23, 2020 Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA The largest annual gathering of the residential construction and design industry bringing together more than 95,000 professionals and featuring more than 2,000 exhibits, industry experts, and numerous networking opportunities. Procurecon Facilities Wed, Jan 22, 2020 - Thu, Jan 23, 2020 Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead, Atlanta, USA The ProcureCon Facilities will be dedicated to the unique challenges involved with sourcing real estate, construction, utilities, and facilities management services. It is a series of events that will arm you with tools to become expert strategic sourcing and procurement executives. Mid-Oregon Construction Safety Summit Mon, Jan 27, 2020 - Tue, Jan 28, 2020 Riverhouse on the Deschutes Conference Center, Bend, Oregon The Mid-Oregon Construction Safety Summit's goal is to offer affordable training that provides the Central Oregon construction industry the tools to work in a safer, more efficient manner. Oregon OSHA education and training classes and materials provide information on occupational safety and health requirements in Oregon. The International Surface Event Mon, Jan 27, 2020 - Thu, Jan 30, 2020 Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA Comprised of three world-class trade shows: SURFACES, StonExpo/Marmomac, and TileExpo events, The International Surface Event (TISE) is the largest North American floor covering, stone, and tile industry event and is the premier global reaching industry marketplace for buyers, specifiers, and influencers to purchase products, gain design and trend inspiration, and develop their business strategies. World of Concrete Mon, Feb 03, 2020 - Fri, Feb 07, 2020 3150 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89109 World of Concrete is a major annual event that draws over 60,000 attendees in the concrete industry. According to their website, "This is the commercial construction industry’s first, largest, and most important annual international event for concrete and masonry professionals across the globe!" Construction Executive Summit Thu, Feb 06, 2020 - Thu, Feb 06, 2020 Hilton Vancouver Washington, Vancouver, USA The SWCA Construction Executive Summit is designed to meet the needs of all businesses working within the construction industry throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Summit will offer individuals and organizations the opportunity to network with other leaders in the industry, learn and sharpen business skills, and influence the future of the construction industry in the Pacific Northwest. Construction Technology and Innovation Conference Wed, Feb 12, 2020 - Wed, Feb 12, 2020 DeVos Place, Grand Rapids, USA Learn about the emerging technology shaping the construction industry today and how you can leverage them in your business. Experience live tech demonstrations to see these solutions in action and discover how other companies have benefited. Construction Institute Summit Thu, Feb 20, 2020 - Sat, Feb 22, 2020 The Westin Los Angeles Airport, Los Angeles, USA The summit brings contractors, owners, designers, and other construction industry stakeholders from all over the country to meet and share new developments and innovative practices in the construction industry. Network with peers, earn PDHs, and expand your knowledge-base to enhance the success of your projects. Build Expo Los Angeles Wed, Feb 26, 2020 - Thu, Feb 27, 2020 Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, USA Build Expo Los Angeles provides the building and construction industry an unrivaled environment to meet buyers all in one place. Attendees have the chance to meet with exhibitors, check out new developments and keep a close eye on the competition. Build Expo offers over 20 expert seminars and workshops covering many topics. This event showcases products and services on display that include architectural equipment and devices, construction materials, building materials and devices, software for building designs, and more. New York Build Expo Tue, Mar 03, 2020 - Wed, Mar 04, 2020 Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, USA New York Build is the largest construction show for New York and the tri-state area. New York Build covers all sectors of the construction industry from residential to commercial to infrastructure. The two-day event showcases all the latest opportunities in infrastructure and construction across New York, as well as connecting all the key players in the construction industry. AGC Convention Mon, Mar 09, 2020 - Thu, Mar 12, 2020 Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, USA The AGC Annual Convention provides business-critical insights into the issues that commercial contractors are facing and helpful, actionable strategies. The convention provides a showcase into all of the ways that AGC can support your business and expand opportunities in the industry. CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020 Tue, Mar 10, 2020 - Sat, Mar 14, 2020 Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas,  NV,  USA CONEXPO-CON/AGG is North America’s largest construction trade show representing asphalt, aggregates, concrete, earthmoving, lifting, mining, utilities and more. Featuring 2,800 exhibitors, 2,500,000 square feet and 150 education sessions. Construction Executive Program Tue, Mar 10, 2020 - Fri, Mar 13, 2020 Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park, Denver, USA The Construction Executive Program is designed to develop knowledge using the intense, experience-based Construction Profit Ability TM simulation. Coaching from FMI's industry experts and interactive workshops challenge participants to apply lessons learned in the program straight to their bottom lines. Ohio Construction Conference Wed, Mar 11, 2020 - Wed, Mar 11, 2020 The Ohio Union, Columbus, USA The Ohio Construction Conference provides a forum for the commercial construction industry as the premiere collaborative educational conference in Ohio. The conference brings together national experts to discuss topics that are timely and relevant for industry leaders from the diverse disciplines that make up the commercial construction community. Land and Poverty Conference 2020: Institutions for Equity and Resilience Mon, Mar 16, 2020 - Fri, Mar 20, 2020 1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433 The Land and Poverty conference will present the latest research and practice on the diversity of reforms, interventions, and innovations in the land sector around the world. The conference will cover areas like growth in capacity to automate processes and manage information, consumer feedback, and electronic payments. Experience with managing systematic registration at-scale and fit-for purpose approaches, participatory mapping, and other forms of crowd sourcing are expanding. West Virginia Construction & Design Exposition Wed, Mar 25, 2020 - Thu, Mar 26, 2020 Charleston Civic Center, Charleston,  USA The largest trade show in West Virginia for Construction and Design industries. The WV Construction and Design Expo is all about helping you find better, faster, smarter, cleaner, and more efficient ways to get things done. Get a snapshot of the latest and greatest products and companies in the design and construction industries. American Concrete Institute Convention Sun, Mar 29, 2020 - Thu, Apr 02, 2020 Hyatt Regency O'Hare, Rosemont/Chicago, IL, USA The American Concrete Institute Convention combines the brightest minds in concrete with an unparalleled social environment, bringing a premiere event to concrete professionals to collaborate and advance the industry and their knowledge. It provides the attendees with the opportunity to be a part of the technical sessions/presentations on a wide variety of concrete topics, new research, committee meetings on diverse topics, networking with peers, industry experts, global leaders, and much more. Building Innovation 2020 Conference & Expo Fri, Apr 03, 2020 - Thu, Apr 09, 2020 Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C., Washington, D.C., United States Building Innovation Conference will provide a platform to participate in examining processes, communities, workforces, structures, resources, practices, communications, and collaboration. Science meets design in a compelling program intended to engage the entire team of building professionals in creating innovative solutions for the built environment. International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction & Operations in Challenging Environments Mon, Apr 20, 2020 - Thu, Apr 23, 2020 Renaissance Seattle Hotel, Seattle, USA This event will explore the cutting edge in engineering, science, construction, and operations for extreme environments on earth and in space. Plan to attend and connect with experts and leaders in civil engineering, construction, architecture, aerospace engineering, in-site resource utilization, planetary science, and more. The Annual Conference & Exhibition of Construction Financial Management Association Sat, May 30, 2020 - Wed, Jun 03, 2020 2632-2644 Woodley Rd NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA CFMA’s Annual Conference & Exhibition is an amazing opportunity to discover and implement ideas that deliver results. The conference trains attendees to search for innovative solutions, and provides opportunities to make valuable connections with other construction financial professionals and suppliers. Better Buildings Summit Mon, Jun 08, 2020 - Wed, Jun 10, 2020 Arlington, USA The Better Buildings Summit is for Better Buildings, Better Plants Partners, and other key stakeholders. The summit provides the opportunity for professionals to explore emerging technologies and share innovative strategies in energy and water efficiency. Attendees can expect two days of interactive sessions with industry experts and market leaders, as well as many opportunities to network with peers. International Conference on Concrete Pavements Sun, Aug 30, 2020 - Thu, Sep 03, 2020 Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot, Minneapolis, USA This conference will carry on the tradition of a series of international conferences begun in 1977 by Purdue University—now organized by the International Society for Concrete Pavements. As with the previous international conferences, the focus of the twelfth conference will be to present information on new technologies related to the design, construction, and rehabilitation of various types of concrete pavements.

How Apps Have Improved Five Key Aspects of the Construction Industry

What would the construction industry be without great tools and processes? After all, this is an industry where every inch, day, and dollar counts. The success of contractors and construction companies hinges on efficiency and attention to detail. As a result, technology has already made a huge impact on the field. Recently, drones, robotics, and GIS technology have altered the landscape of construction by optimizing mapping, planning, building, and data management. We can look forward to further advancements with the help of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and much more. But what’s happening right now in the construction industry? Apps, apps, apps! According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans now own smartphones—up from just 35% in 2011. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Our lives are dominated by the small but powerful computers that we keep in our pockets and purses. We can instantly access our money via mobile banking apps, post a selfie or three on Instagram, watch some videos on YouTube, and chat with friends on iMessage. Clearly, smartphones and apps have transformed the way we live but now this technology is changing the way people in the construction industry work, too. General contractors use apps to set estimates and manage bidding. Workers navigate job sites via mobile maps. Construction teams collaborate and scope tasks using digital punch lists. Foremen log and fix safety concerns on smartphones and tablets. This post explores the top five aspects of the construction industry that have been transformed by mobile applications. Whether you work in private, residential, commercial, or industrial construction, you’ll find inspiration on how to digitally transform your workplace. We've also put together a bunch of Excel templates and sample apps so that you can start working digitally today.  1. Project estimates and bidding Before any construction project kicks off, companies and prospects need to get on the same page in terms of the scope and price of the proposal. Historically, construction professionals have resorted to all types of methods and formats for estimate and bidding work—from pen and paper forms to spreadsheet templates, Word or Google docs, and PowerPoint slides. These solutions require a lot of manually entering and distribution of project estimates. Thanks to mobile apps, however, much of this work can now be automated and digitized. How applications help with construction estimates and bidding: Track materials lists. Estimate the cost of permits, administration, legal fees, engineering, etc. Send estimates directly to your clients via standardized email templates or PDFs. Capture signatures using touchscreens. Include photos to clearly communicate concepts, locations, and materials. Download our free construction cost estimation Excel spreadsheet template or copy and customize the AppSheet quote and proposal app: 2. Punch lists Punch lists are essential tools for construction companies because success hinges on contract fulfillment and accountability. In order to pass final inspections and receive payment, all contract items on a punch list must be completed. Punch lists include work that’s incomplete or not started, areas of the project that were done incorrectly, or materials and work site features that became damaged during the job. In short, construction projects and inspections rest heavily on the quality and accuracy of punch lists. Originally, workers would literally punch a hole in the margin of a piece of paper next to a completed construction task on the list. Mobile punch list apps have since digitized this process. Now, you can keep and manage punch lists right on your smartphone. How punch list applications help with construction management: Create a single reference point for outstanding tasks that can be referenced by multiple stakeholders including owners, architects, subcontractors, and workers. Track and filter tasks by priority to ensure that all outstanding issues are resolved prior to inspections. Assign and change team or individual ownership of tasks in real time, which reduces errors and eliminates duplicate work. Update the punch list from anywhere at anytime with the most up-to-date information. Download our free construction punch list Excel spreadsheet template. Check back soon for our punch list app! 3. Safety reports and accident near misses The safety of a job site should be the top priority for everyone working in the construction industry. Of course, no one wants accidents on their watch. Unsafe working conditions put people in harm’s way, and also leave construction companies vulnerable to costly litigation. Apps that track construction site accidents and near misses are designed to save lives, time, and money. Near miss and accident reporting apps facilitate clear and timely communication between workers and managers so that incidents don’t fall through the cracks. How mobile apps help manage construction safety reporting: Workers signify the location and circumstances of almost-accidents so that near misses don’t become full-fledged accidents. Workers can document the specific nature of their accident near miss report, including uploading photos of the problem. Managers have all the information they need to make smart process improvements and secure job sites. Managers and foremen prioritize fixes to the safety issues based on urgency. Download our free construction safety report Excel spreadsheet template. Check back soon for our safety report app! 4. Mapping and site inspections Construction professionals thrive on their keen understanding of spaces and places. Blueprints are some of the most basic, yet essential, plans used during any construction project. Contour maps help workers, planners, and stakeholders better understand the job site and project progress. We all use maps on our phones to get around. Mobile map applications are so common that their impact can easily be taken for granted. The technology has so much potential beyond everyday consumer use. Digital maps are now integrated into mobile and desktop construction software to amazing ends. How applications can help with construction mapping and site inspections: Digitally map job sites for greater transparency into project scope, progress, requirements, and budgeting. Gather and track distances and measurements. Report progress on specific geographic areas of job sites. Access maps across multiple platforms (i.e. laptops, smartphones, and tablets) so that you have seamless information no matter if you’re working in the office or in the field. Save map data to work offline. Create maps from images that you upload. This can be used to map floor plans with interactive capabilities such as commenting. Download our free construction site inspection Excel spreadsheet template or copy and customize the AppSheet construction floor plan app. 5. Time sheets Construction companies of all sizes require sound HR solutions. Foremen require accurate time sheets, while workers expect timely payroll processes. The smooth management of these vital components of your business fosters trust between management and staff, helps reduce turnover, and creates records for the legal protection of everyone. There are several options when it comes to handling employee time sheets. Word processor templates and paper solutions are unreliable given the sensitivity of the information being collected. Spreadsheets can quickly become unruly if not property maintained. HR software comes with a high price tag and may not be tailored to the construction industry. How time sheet applications help with construction management: Employees can fill out time sheets on their own smartphones, which saves companies the overhead cost of investing in additional hardware. HR, management, and employees receive app interfaces relevant to their roles. This reduces distraction and keeps protected information private. Increase transparency and employee morale through accessible and easy-to-use shift and timekeeping apps. Download our free construction time sheet Excel spreadsheet template or copy and customize the AppSheet time sheet app. Build your own construction app suite Mobile apps for the construction industry promise constant, clear communication between workers, foremen, architects, owners, and other stakeholders. These tools have already become essential on job sites and their importance will only grow as our world becomes more connected. There are tons of options for how to fulfill each of these needs through technology—from buying out-of-the-box software to hiring developers to build custom apps. AppSheet provides an alternative to these options. Instead of building or purchasing individual apps, you can create your own unique apps with our platform. If you haven’t already started using mobile application technology on your construction jobs, don’t worry. AppSheet lets you build a whole suite of applications all under one roof.

Tutti Gourmet Apps Help Gluten-Free Food Distributor Scale with Ease

Over the last decade, the gluten-free trend has grown from a niche market into a global industry.  The market is especially strong in North America. Since 2009, the number of Amercians who have gone gluten-free has tripled—and looking forward, more are expected to follow. In 2018, North America was the dominant consumer market for gluten-free products, with an overall market share of 53 percent. On a global scale, analysts predict the gluten-free sector will boast a 9.1% CAGR through 2025, when it will reach $32.39 billion. This growth has been both a blessing and a challenge for gluten-free food manufacturers. Many companies, like Tutti Gourmet, started doing business before the gluten-free explosion. A decade ago, nobody could have predicted how big the market would get. As a result, companies like Tutti have had to scale their operations to meet the growing needs of their customers. The Challenge: Digitizing Tutti Gourmet  Tutti Gourmet manufactures a variety of gluten-free and allergy-free snacks and cookies from a highly regulated facility in Quebec. The company is rapidly growing, and now serves a loyal customer base that extends across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. Tutti Gourmet has experienced significant growth in recent years, which has forced the company to change its underlying management system—a task that was spearheaded by Operations Director Elijah Magrane.  Like most AppSheet developers, Magrane does not have a technical background. His area of expertise is in food science and biological and statistical research.  “I consider myself a moderate to advanced Excel user,” says Magrane. “When I came here, everything was done manually by hand—either with paper or by physically entering data into a spreadsheet. So, my first order of business when I started was to overhaul the process.”  Originally, Magrane attempted to automate several processes by entering various formulas into an Excel spreadsheet. Tutti Gourmet was using a data entry tool called Canvas, a leading program for designing mobile business apps.  This, Magrane says, was his first introduction to low-code and no-code app development. “I thought Canvas was interesting but, for what we were doing, it didn't meet our needs,” Magrane says. “It was clunky and awkward. The customization just wasn't there. I knew there had to be a better way.” Solution: AppSheet’s No-Code Platform  Seeking a better way forward, the Tutti team decided to explore their options. “We looked into several solutions, such as Microsoft Power BI, and finally came across AppSheet,” says Magrane. “AppSheet was amazing. We were able to use the same Excel sheets we had already been using. It even accepted the formulas I had been using, which was a big deal.”  After selecting AppSheet, Magrane went to work. “The first thing I did was make a timesheet app for employees to track their hours; next was production logs and summaries,” Magrane explains.“It just spiraled from there.” To date, Magrane’s created roughly 40 apps to handle all kinds of processes: ordering, dealing with suppliers, shipping and receiving, quality control, scheduling audits, project management, password management, and more. Here’s a breakdown of the three most popular apps Magrane’s team uses:  Production: In a fast-paced food manufacturing environment, staying on top of production metrics is critical for success. Small errors can lead to delayed shipments, lost profits, and unhappy customers.  This process has been simplified with an app. Now, after a shift, a production employee can use an app to describe how production went—entering data for quality control and verifying figures for raw materials. Once that data is entered, a workflow is automatically filed and sent to team members via PDF. The app also includes a dashboard that tracks benchmarks—like how many cases the company generates for specific flavors. The team can then sort through the data using filters. If any area is lacking, Magrane will know to dig deeper and find the root cause.  Inventory: Tutti Gourmet had been using a simple account program to manage inventory.  “It was a very basic accounting software,” Magrane says. “It just told us what we had on hand. There was no barcode scanner or anything like that. This made traceability an issue. We knew moving forward we’d have to use barcode scanning and get our inventory management on track.” Magrane fixed this problem by designing an app with a barcode scanner, specifically for keeping inventory. At the end of a production day, employees can simply scan QR codes, enter how many cases they made for a particular item, and enter it into a finished inventory database. Now, each case has a QR code that’s linked to AppSheet, which now serves as the company’s complete inventory management system. Documentation: When managing a gluten-free facility, there’s little room for error. It’s critical to document every ingredient—for safety and auditing.  “I also double as a Food Safety Coordinator at Tutti Gourmet,” Magrane continues. “For me, one of the best parts of using AppSheet is that it’s helped us manage our approved supplier program. We’re a gluten-free facility, so our suppliers are central to our business. We don’t allow any gluten in the facility. Every ingredient goes through a rigorous approval process before it enters the building.”  Last year, Magrane made a special supplier management app that acts as a document management and notification system. This app has specific forms, with check boxes for items like gluten-free statements and kosher certifications.  From a safety and operational standpoint, this is probably Tutti’s most important app.  “If we’re not up on our documentation, we could get a recall, which would probably put us out of business,” says Magrane. “Now, I receive notifications when expiration dates are approaching. This way, I can stay on top of all our documentation for our suppliers. This has been really really helpful.” Results  AppSheet is more than just a tool for Tutti Gourmet. The platform now serves as the underlying engine powering most of the company’s backend management processes.  “AppSheet is very scalable,” Magrane says. “And whenever there’s something that we need to add, it’s very easy to update our apps. At the same time, there’s almost no implementation cost. It costs almost nothing when I introduce a new app. And our employees already know how to use them, so they are able to hit the ground running with no training.” Tutti Gourmet’s apps, Magrane says, are used by workers of all backgrounds, from 17 year-olds who have been using phones their whole lives to older employees who aren’t as technically savvy.  Like any new technology, there was a bit of a learning curve when Magrane starting using AppSheet. But he was determined. After a few passes, it came easy.  “The biggest challenge was designing the user interface (UI) components,” Magrane says. “But I really enjoyed learning and I thought it was a positive experience. The great part about using AppSheet, too, is that everything is so customizable.” In fact, Magrane has become the go-to person for creating custom solutions.  “If someone has a problem they need to solve with an app, I can come back to them and say, ‘ Not a problem, I’ll have that for you in no time at all!’” Magrane says.  Tutti Gourmet has had such a positive experience with AppSheet that—even as they scale—they have no intention of switching to an enterprise resource management (ERP) solution.  “Moving forward, even though we are expanding, we’re still not in a position where we can go out and get a $10k ERP or anything like that,” Magrane says. “In fact, even if we had a blank check, I don't know if we’d transfer over to an ERP. We’d just continue using AppSheet.” This, Magrane says, is because AppSheet helps his team move with agility. “Depending on priority (and scope), I can create an app with AppSheet in a day or so,”  Magrane continues. “This is one of the main differentiators for AppSheet over an ERP. It comes down to time and flexibility.”  Looking ahead, AppSheet will play a critical role in Tutti Gourmet’s next growth phase. “I’m starting to do more with document management within AppSheet,” says Magrane. “I find it very helpful to upload documents, track workflows, and set permissions. This way, we can ensure things are traceable and protected by tiered access. AppSheet does that really well, and it will be very important as we prepare to move into a new facility and receive a high-end food safety certification. I can use AppSheet for everything.”                                                                                                                             Courtesy Tutti Gourmet Magrane offered the following advice for developers.  “With AppSheet you get what you put into it,” says Magrane. “If you take the time, participate in user forums, and look at their documentation, you can create something that’s very customizable and something that is really suited to meet whatever needs you may have. You can also create a very basic app in no time at all.”  For Tutti Gourmet, AppSheet is more than just a great tool. “The community and support around AppSheet are great,” Magrane concludes. “There’s been many times where I’ve banged my head against the wall, took a deep breath and went back to look over documentation or browse through their forums—and I always find what I’m looking for. You can really do almost anything with AppSheet.”  To build apps like the ones Tutti Gourmet uses, we encourage you to check out AppSheet’s sample inventory management app.  To learn more about AppSheet’s approach to manufacturing, click here. 

How to Build a Customer Experience Mobile App with Google Docs

    Customer service and communication has transformed in the past decade. With the growth of the internet, customers can now offer feedback in a matter of hours instead of days. And with the advancement of digital technology, real-time feedback is becoming standard practice for many industries. You can now easily create apps to document and record that feedback, and create a better experience for both customers and employees. Using an add-on application, you can transform your Google Docs into an interactive AppSheet app in just a few minutes.  This app will allow customers to enter their information, leave comments, upload photos, or even create an electronic signature. The business will be automatically notified any time this happens and employees, managers and owners can instantly view the feedback. This is a great tool if you have a template form or survey you want people to fill out to describe their experience with the business. This app takes only minutes to create: From your Google Doc, click "Add Ons" then "Get Add-Ons" and search for "AppSheet". Install the AppSheet add-on. If your Google Doc doesn't have text in it already, AppSheet will automatically generate a template you can use. You are free to customize the template or create your own to suit your needs.  Once you're satisfied, click on the "Prepare" button on the right-hand side. AppSheet will make sure your doc is compatible with the platform. Once it is, you can hit "Launch" to create the app. Anything that was in brackets in your template will now show up as interactive fields in the app that customers can use to enter their information. You can do a lot more to customize how this app integrates with and displays data sources. There are hundreds of ways to change the behavior and design of the app. It's entirely up to you based on the specifics of your business. For example, you can create a simple rule to generate an email notification any time a customer provides feedback in the app. Once you've finished editing the app, you can deploy it by clicking on "Not Deployed" on the left side of the screen. This will generate an email containing the download link for your app. You can now download it directly to your mobile device. This app is great for customer feedback, but can also be used for other kinds of field data, including things like quote proposals or safety reports. For a more advanced version of this concept, check out our "Field Survey" sample app using the button below.  Creating a great customer service experience is a never-ending quest for perfection. Apps that can help customers provide real-time feedback is a big step towards improving communication between businesses and the people they serve. 

How AppSheet Employees Use AppSheet to Power Their Business

We're proud to be the team behind AppSheet. But our pride comes not from building, selling or marketing the platform, but from using it. No one on the sales or marketing team at AppSheet has an engineering background. Yet when we join the company, our first task is to create an app with the platform and present it to the rest of the team. Understanding the process as a citizen developer is one of the most important aspects of our work. To that end, we've created a number of apps to power our work at AppSheet headquarters. A sort of "perfect circle of efficiency", if you will. In this post we're highlighting a few apps our team has created that helps make our day-to-day easier. We've created over a dozen apps so far for the AppSheet business. These apps are bundled together in what's called the "AppSheet Suite". These apps cover support, operations, project management, content creation, and more.  One of our most oft-used apps is the Employee Directory. It contains the contact information for every employee in the company. The list can be viewed by department (Engineering, Sales, Marketing) and can be edited as we add new faces to our team. You can make your own version by copying our sample app using the button below:   Another popular in-house app is the "Project Planner". Our Product Marketing Manager uses it as a way to organize daily tasks, including short and long-term objectives. The app displays the status of projects and their timeline to completion, color-coded for convenience. Employees can also add new tasks or share it with others who can leave comments. Our marketing team has found this app to be very useful when we are working on pushing out content, scheduling strategy meetings and interacting with our customers. It's broad enough to be used by almost any company with these goals.   The "Time Tracker" app helps our team keep on top of multiple customer projects at once and how much time we are spending on each one. Through the app we can filter by customers or by tasks, and see a simple display of how much time we've spent working on that project. This can be especially helpful for any company that juggles a number of clients or bills them by-the-hour for services.   As our company grows, we've been using the "Out of Office" app more to keep track of our team members' daily schedules. Whether they're working from home or out on vacation, they can note it in the app for all employees to see. The app tracks vacation time taken by employees, and shows upcoming vacations. Employees can add new entries by date using the drop-down menu, and classify them by the type of leave they're taking (paid, unpaid, sick leave, etc.) If needed, the employee can also add any notes to explain the absence. This is especially helpful for companies where some or all of the employees may be working remotely during the week. The real-time updates make sure everyone's on the same page (and no one is getting work calls during their vacation!). AppSheet is a business that has been made more efficient through the use of no-code apps, just like our customers. Our team is made up of citizen developers who embraced a new platform and have created their own apps to help them be more efficient at their jobs. We think this is the future of business in the digital age, and we're proud to share some of our most popular in-house apps with you. 

Create a mobile app with Geolocation and Google Maps in 5 minutes

  Anyone can build an app. It's our philosophy at AppSheet, and we want to support our citizen developers as they create their own customized apps for their businesses. In our continuing "Build an App" series, we're highlighting some of the most popular uses of our platform. In this post, we're creating a simple app with geolocation and Google Maps. Using your data, you can use this app to identify important locations and how to navigate to them. This app can be utilized in many ways, especially for those businesses that travel to multiple locations to perform services. If you've already created an AppSheet account, you can click on "My Apps" and "Create New Mobile App" to get started. If you haven't signed up yet, click the "Start for Free" button. Next, choose your data source. In this case, we're using Google Sheets, but you can use data from Excel, Dropbox, SmartSheet, Office365, mySQL, and a number of other programs. Click on the data you want to use and upload it into AppSheet's platform.     Everything that will go into our app comes from our spreadsheet. The spreadsheet we're using here has the name of the property, its latitude/longitudinal coordinates (you can also use standard addresses), an image, and any notes about the location (i.e. what services need to be performed there). AppSheet's platform will pull the data and automatically create the app. If you click on the "map view" you can see all the different locations noted with blue dots, indicating all the locations a field service technician would need to visit on that day.     If that's all you need, you can stop there, and you've made your own geolocation app. But if you're looking to add features and expand your app, keep reading. AppSheet has literally hundreds of options available to app creators, so they can build the best app for their business.     For example, you can use the "columns" feature in the app editor to specify what types of columns you have in your spreadsheet and how you want them to function. If you want different columns to act differently (like if you want a column to be searchable or if it has sensitive data) you can customize that. You can learn more about columns here. You can also create "slices" or subsets of the data. Slices can be used in a number of ways, like if you only want certain employees to see certain parts of the app, or if you want to create a UX view with only part of the table data. You can learn more about slices here.     You can also customize how your app looks. If you prefer a list or table view, you can change it in AppSheet's platforms to what makes the most sense for you. You can change the colors and branding to fit your business, and create "formatting rules" that will dictate how current and future data will look in your app. Click here for a step-by-step guide on changing your app's appearance. The "behavior" tab will also tell your app how to respond as tasks are completed. You can customize it to add or delete rows or jump to different views, depending on your preference. You can also create workflows. For example, when a task is completed the app can send out an email notification. It can also generate daily reports for supervisors. You can generate an instant messenger conversation within the app for all employees involved. If you need extra security, you can create a user sign-in feature and determine who has access to the app. You can connect it to various authenticators, like Google or AWS, to ensure the most secure access. You can use as many or as few of these features as you want to make your app uniquely suited to your needs. Learn more about what you can do with the behavior tab here.     Once you've customized the app to your specifications, you're ready to deploy it. On the left side of your screen, click the "Not Deployed" link, and then the button that says "Move to Deployed Status". Your app is now ready to use, and any users you've designated will receive an email notification and can download the app for their mobile or desktop device. Check out this video tutorial for a more in-depth look at the process. If you're not ready to build your own app from scratch, AppSheet has dozens of sample apps you can copy and customize for free to get started.         

How Kentucky Power Sparked a Digital Transformation with Workflow, Inspection and Incident Management Apps

Living off the grid is rarely an option these days. As people become more connected to digital technology, they require more power to fuel their lives. Kentucky Power knows this better than most. They celebrated their 100th anniversary this week, so they know how electricity has grown and shaped America. They're also a subsidiary for American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest electric utility providers in the U.S. The eastern Kentucky-based company is responsible for getting more than 166,000 customers the connections and power they need in the world of modern technology. That's no small feat. Members of a "Lean Team" at Kentucky Power have been thinking about ways to simplify workflows and reduce waste since 2015. They started moving away from paper and digitizing their processes, but they wanted more. They aimed for a digital transformation of the company, where anything from inspection and incident reports to employee communications could be automated. To meet that goal, the team decided to start building apps to manage different aspects of company operations.  To build these apps, there were a few must-haves: a built-in barcode scanner to track the serial numbers of different parts, an app that could create new forms and work orders rather than just updating existing ones, and one with advanced security protocols. And most importantly, they needed it fast. The apps had to be both easy to build and easy to use. Paula Bell, one of the "Lean Team" members and the main app creator, had no coding experience. Yet she was able to create 10 apps for the company in just 9 months, without writing a single line of code. Some of these apps track failed or damaged poles, transformers, and circuits. Employees know when one is being taken in to be replaced, automating a process that used to be done on paper. When you've got 10,000 miles of power lines and 210,000 poles in mostly mountainous terrain, having that kind of information instantly can be crucial. Kentucky Power's inspection and repair workflows have been substantially improved since they switched to apps. There are fewer errors in reports, and information can be updated in real time. Perhaps best of all: no more paper. Companies like Kentucky Power know the value of conserving energy and reducing waste, and digital apps are a surefire answer for both. An added bonus: the employees are happier. Having everything they need to do their job in one place has upped the company morale. Plus, the apps are easy to use. Filling out an electronic form rather than a paper one saves both time and physical energy, helping workmen get jobs done faster and leaving fewer people in the dark. In my mind, it's inspiring to see energy companies like this one become pioneers in digitally transforming their industry. The company was able to adapt long-held practices into a more efficient process, providing better service to their customers. After 100 years of business, a company that participated in changing the American landscape is able to push forward change once again. If you want to read more about Kentucky Power's journey, you can find the entire case study here. And as always, comments and questions are greatly appreciated! 

Data Still Being Gathered from the Apollo 11 Lunar Mission

Fifty years after the Apollo 11 crew of Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin successfully landed the lunar module on the moon with the help from over 400,000 people around the world, experiments left on the surface by the crew are still helping collect valuable data for researchers back on earth. In addition to numerous photographs taken and equipment installed, a two-foot wide panel called the 'Lunar Ranging Retro Reflector' (LRRR) was placed on the surface about 100 feet from the lunar lander, and precisely angled back towards earth by Neil Armstrong. test Search for 'LRRR' to find the reflector location. (View 'Details' to see how this embedded app was made) The reflector consists of what are known as 'corner-cube' reflectors that always reflect light back towards the original source (instead of scattering the light in other directions like a mirror or other surface). This makes it possible for earth-based observatories, like the McDonald Observatory in Texas, to shoot high-powered lasers towards the Apollo 11 site and directly receive the returned signal for measuring precise distances between the two sensors. The distance measurements have been collected and used for decades for, among many things, precisely determining the moon's distance from earth to within a few centimeters, testing Einstein's theory of gravity, theory of relativity, and confirming Newton's gravitational constant. Business applications don't frequently rely on gravitational measurements, but many scenarios benefit from accurate environmental, weather, remote-sensing and GIS data, especially when managing data in the field. NASA's Data Portal is one of many growing, public data catalogs that are easily accessible for augmenting business data. The app embedded above relies on a single, simple table of images hosted by NASA, with locations plotted on a custom map layer (a map of the 'Tranquility Base'). To learn more about making your own custom maps, image galleries, and turning data into applications without writing any code, start building with AppSheet today.  

The Energy Industry and IT: The Three Most Significant Digital Transformation Challenges

As energy companies embrace digital transformation, IT professionals are tasked with the complex challenge of modernizing their companies’ operations. Not only must IT professionals overhaul critical operations, they also have to navigate numerous risks—including maintaining network security, supporting grid stability, and controlling data access, to name a few. On top of that, these upgrades need to occur behind the scenes, without any disruption to customers. Despite these challenges, the energy industry is moving full-steam ahead when it comes to digitalization. Energy industry IT professionals and the companies they represent must adapt with the times. Otherwise, their businesses may become obsolete. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most significant challenges faced by IT professionals in the energy industry today. Harnessing the Internet of Things (IoT) As the cost of IoT devices continues to decrease, energy companies are scrambling to build them into the fold. Cutting-edge IoT technologies like smart meters can lower costs and boost productivity for energy companies. One study, for example, predicts that globally, smart meter implementation will deliver savings of nearly $160 billion. However, some IT professionals are finding it difficult to implement an effective IoT strategy due to limited budgets. The same study indicates that the costs of implementing smart meters will exceed $100 billion. IT professionals also face difficulties when upper management hasn’t fully embraced digital transformation. In order to realize the full promise of a smart grid, for example, many other expensive upgrades have to take place—such as real-time demand response, integrated communications, sensing and measurement, Phasor Measurement Units, and power system automation, to name a few. What’s more, in order to analyze and respond to all of the data that’s being collected from IoT devices, IT professionals must also implement a centralized management platform and cloud storage—and some are feeling overwhelmed about having to store all of that data. Building a positive customer experience Gone are the days when energy consumers were happy plugging in their halogen desk lamps and paying their electric bills at the end of the month. According to Ian Wright, CMO at Deloitte, customers want energy efficiency programs, information, and choices, and they want their energy providers to help with all of these things. Providing choices, information, and transparency to the consumer is a tricky process. In the real world, it means that energy industry IT professionals must build and maintain reliable consumer-facing apps and web portals that allow customers to view energy usage and learn how to optimize their energy consumption. Customers will also expect to be able to contact customer support and securely pay their bills. According to an IBM study, the cost of building a bad app is devastating. Believe it or not, 47% of consumers will switch to the competition and 63% of consumers will tell their friends about their bad experience. All of this responsibility falls directly on energy industry IT professionals. Cybersecurity risks As you might expect, cybersecurity is a major concern among energy industry CEOs and IT professionals. In fact, a recent study by KPMG revealed that 48% of energy industry CEOs estimate they will be targeted by a cyberattack. The Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER), advises IT professionals to implement a robust cybersecurity risk management process that includes bi-directional risk information sharing and integrates with the electricity subsector cybersecurity capability maturity model (C2M2). There are also common sense cybersecurity tactics that IT professionals should deploy such as biometric scanning, enacting strong password policies across employee devices, and utilizing next-generation VPN technology, among other things. Why energy industry IT professionals love no-code apps Energy companies of all shapes and sizes are building custom no-code apps to lower costs, bolster security, and increase employee engagement. Not only do no-code platforms enable virtually any employee to create apps that revolutionize their businesses, they also allow for employees to stay connected with management via GPS capture and cloud integration. As an example, M&O Partners is a multinational sales hub that connects off-shore oil and gas buyers and suppliers. The company uses AppSheet to coordinate project management across 100 partnerships in 10 global markets. Another example is Northwest Edison, a smart lighting contractor that uses AppSheet to manage its concurrent projects and track its workflows. To learn more about how AppSheet can be customized to suit your energy business, drop us a line. We look forward to hearing from you!

UK Housing Association Builds Apps to Manage Backend Operations

Metworks has eliminated over 6,000 sheets of paper by switching to digital inspection reports. Here’s how AppSheet is making it happen.  Managing just a handful of residential properties can be a major undertaking. Overseeing several thousand properties, however, is an entirely different ballgame. Metworks is the in-house home repair contractor for Metropolitan Thames Valley, a non-profit organization that provides affordable housing for roughly 120,000 residents across the U.K. Metropolitan Thames Valley owns about 57,000 properties, all of which require regular maintenance and upgrades.  As the company’s primary repair contractor, Metworks provides a variety of services ranging from electrical work, carpentry, and plumbing repairs to large-scale installations.The company also handles day-to-day emergency repairs and prepares vacant properties so they can be rented.  Altogether, Metworks has about 200 repair technicians and 70 office workers.  Challenge: Streamlining back office operations  Forget about what goes on in the field. Metworks has its work cut out for itself simply managing all of its concurrent projects and employees at residential sites. It takes a tremendous amount of backend communication and coordination to stay on top of everything. This is something that the company was struggling with up until recently, mainly because they were using paper and Excel to manage daily operations.  “Our supervisors were complaining about the loads of paperwork that they had to process,” says Gabriel Matei, who is a System Administrator at Metworks. “Our team members had to manually collect data and enter it into spreadsheets—a process that would take several days.”  Metworks needed to find a better way to manage tasks like product ordering, asset management, and employee requests. After some research, the company decided that it would be best to invest in a digital management system to streamline its operations.  Solution: Build custom applications After testing several leading "off-the-shelf" applications that didn’t really suit their requirements, Metworks decided to move forward with AppSheet’s no-code app platform and build its own custom apps instead. Gabriel was immediately able to start designing apps with AppSheet. It helped that he had a background in database management and a working knowledge of the Visual Basic Language, which is the programming language for Excel.  “It’s very easy to use AppSheet—especially if you are familiar with how database applications work.” Gabriel says.  Right away, Gabriel was able to design several back office applications which the team now uses for everything from processing overtime and paid leave requests to handling vehicle inspection audits and more.  One of the most helpful apps that Gabriel made was a vehicle inspection tracker.  “We have about 200 vans,” Gabrieli says. “It’s quite hard to get regular updates from drivers on their location and condition. So, we created an inspection app that expedites these critical communications. It took me about two weeks to design it and roll it out to our end users, and they were immediately productive using them.”  Using this app, a driver can move through a checklist during a vehicle inspection and digitally transmit the information to a supervisor who can either sign off or follow up with an additional inspection if it’s needed. When services like an oil change is needed, the Metworks’ leasing company will receive an email notification. The app creates a complete workflow that traverses multiple employees, departments, and even companies.  Results  As the vehicle inspection tracker shows, Metworks is now running a safer and more efficient operation. Now, there are workflows for all sorts of tasks, like ordering items needed to complete residential jobs and ensuring all company vehicles are in proper working order at a glance.  To date, Metworks has deployed over 30 apps. The company plans to develop even more. Ultimately, these apps enable a faster and more responsive management system for all of the residents that depend on Metworks for timely service. And at the same time, the company is also reducing paper waste by using apps. This year, Gabriel says, over 2,000 digital vehicle inspection reports have already been transmitted.  “That’s 2,000 sheets of paper we have eliminated with just our vehicle inspection app,” says Gabriel. “On top of that, we have processed over 3,000 overtime forms and over 1,000 equipment request forms. All of that data is inside of our application.” There’s another benefit for Metworks, too: stronger data security.  Metworks, like all companies operating in Europe, must abide by the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—which is one of the most comprehensive data privacy mandates in the world. Under GDPR, companies can face massive penalties for data breaches.  “We had a data risk assessment system before we rolled out AppSheet,” Gabriel says. “We decided that it was better to use an application instead of paper, which can get lost or left behind at a job site. Now, all of our information is centralized and we can control what information we share and who has access to it.”  Looking forward, Gabriel hopes to expand the company’s use of apps beyond just core services. “We want to go more into project management,” Gabriel says. “We have subcontractors working with us, and we want to set up a system for task management where we can assign a job and they can provide us with updates.”  As you can see, AppSheet is playing a vital role in Metworks’ modernization strategy. In fact, it’s their go-to solution for digital transformation. Ready to begin your digital transformation story? Contact AppSheet today to see how you can get your business to the next level with custom apps.  

How American Roofing & Metal used SmartSheet data and the AppSheet platform to transform their business

Background There comes a point in any growing company’s life when you look around and realize that your underlying systems and processes are outdated and need a refresh. For American Roofing & Metal, a full-service roofing contractor and metal fabricator launched in 1904, this moment of realization came after a period of rapid growth.   The scope of the company’s operation was increasing by the day and its underlying management strategy—which relied heavily on paper-based tools at the time—was struggling to keep pace. The company needed to change the way it communicated, and quickly.   An American Roofing & Metal project: The Henry B Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio Maximizing SmartSheet with AppSheet To achieve this goal, the American Roofing & Metal team set out to find a no-code platform that could interface with its Smartsheet data. Waite and his team assessed the market. AppSheet met all of the criteria and, very importantly, also offered a seamless integration with Smartsheet, a software solution for collaboration and management. “Smartsheet allowed us to custom develop processes and automate repetitive tasks. Still, we needed a better and simpler way to interface with our field personnel, project managers, production departments, and salespeople who are out on job sites and on the road.” Over time, American Metal & Roofing leveraged Smartsheet and AppSheet to built and deploy a Job Site Info App, Pick Ticket App, Project Manager Job Site Inspection App, Manager Access Only App, Emergency Contact App, and Human Resources App. Collectively, these apps empower the business's day to day operations and have resulted in reduced paperwork, stress, and greater team collaboration and efficiency. To get the full story with screenshots and app building tips, get the case study below.

Feature Friday - Rearranging Workflow Steps & Automatic App Documentation

Rearranging Workflow Steps Workflows help automatically send notifications, change data & generate documents, as data throughout your app is added or changed. Some workflows are best created with multiple steps to ensure data is changed before files are generated or reports are delivered. To help organize these steps within a single workflow, app creators can now easily drag & drop each step to rearrange their order. To rearrange workflows with multiple steps, just look for the 'Rearrange' button in the upper-right section of the workflow, then drag each step to the appropriate order. Automatic App Documentation Every AppSheet app consists of a unique combination of data sources, table structures, customized interfaces, variable formatting, various types of actions & workflows (and much more). These attributes are contained within the app's 'app definition' that the app creator makes & maintains with the AppSheet Editor. An exportable summary of each app definition is now available to app creators as a quick reference of the composition of each app. Visit ‘Info’ > ‘Properties’ > ‘App Documentation’ to access the documentation page for each app.  

AppSheet Named a Leader Among Low-Code Platforms for Business Developers by Independent Research Firm

Leading global research and advisory firm, Forrester Research, named AppSheet as a leader in Low-Code Development Platforms for Business Developers. We received the highest scores possible in ten specific criteria, including vision and strategy, startup experience, user interface development, mobile application development, data design, application scaling assistance, application documentation, and commercial model. AppSheet was among a group of select companies that Forrester invited to participate in its report, The Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Platforms for Business Developers, Q2 2019. Forrester identified the twelve most significant low-code platform vendors and evaluated them against 30 criteria, which were grouped into three high-level buckets: current offering, strategy, and market presence. This marks our second recognition as a leader by Forrester Research in less than a year (in our first Wave appearance, we were named a leader in The Forrester Wave™: Mobile Low-Code Platforms for Business Developers, Q3 2018). In AppSheet’s vendor profile, Forrester’s report stated: “AppSheet has the most aggressive strategy and road map for empowering business people as developers. The vendor is dedicated to software creation without any coding, and it shows in a stellar startup experience and strong features for mobile app development, data design, application scaling, and documentation generation, as well as in its commercial model and growth rate. Reference customers were highly satisfied with the product’s mobile features and rate of innovation.” To us, this recognition demonstrates that our powerful platform is enterprise-ready and the ideal choice for business developers who want to build robust apps—without ever writing a single line of code.  The number of companies that are running their businesses on AppSheet-powered apps is on the rise and we expect this trend to continue as our platform innovates and evolves. In 2014, when we started this journey, our mission was simple: everyone should be able to make apps. This mission is still our guiding star. Yes, the platform is far more powerful today but with every robust feature we add, we also ensure that business developers can easily incorporate those new features into new or existing apps with the appropriate enterprise governance and management guardrails in place. We are humbled by this recognition and so very proud of what all of you (our customers) have achieved building apps on the AppSheet platform. As we've said more than once, customers are a part of our team. We are so grateful that you are on this journey with us. Thank you. To get a complimentary copy of this Forrester Wave™ report, go here.

How to Approach Your Boss About Making Apps

Since you’re reading this post, you probably don’t need much convincing about the benefits of building your own business apps. You’re already aware that apps can automate manual tasks like audits and inventory and replace traditional paper and spreadsheet-based management systems. You’re also aware that you can use a no-code development platform to build robust apps quickly, easily, and cost-effectively. Your boss, however, may require a bit of convincing before they give you the green light to start designing your own apps. This can be a frustrating experience—especially if your boss is stuck in their ways and is reluctant to ditch tried-and-true business processes in favor of digital solutions. Remember, just because you know that apps can benefit your company doesn’t automatically mean that others will immediately get it. After all, not everyone thinks rationally—particularly in the workplace. According to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman, 95 percent of all cognition—including decision-making—occurs in the subconscious mind. Most decisions, in other words, are driven by unconscious urges and emotions—not simple logic. That being said, moving your no-code app project forward may require a bit of persuasion. To realize the true promise of no-code, you may have to sell your idea to your supervisor. The reward, of course, is that if you can get approval, your team will be able to work faster and more effectively. You will look like a rock star while your department flourishes. Here are some things to consider before asking your boss to invest in no-code development.  Anticipate pushback No-code is still a relatively new concept—and a revolutionary one at that. As such, many people are still under the impression that no-code platforms can only be used to create rudimentary apps for very basic processes. This, as it turns out, couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, global chemical manufacturer Solvay used AppSheet to replace many of its mission-critical paper-based processes. The company has deployed approximately 1,000 apps to date, with more on the way.  This is just one example of how companies can succeed with digital transformation with no-code apps, and there are many more. Beyond that, many managers are stuck in their ways and aren’t always open to adopting new tools and processes. Not everyone operates with a Silicon Valley mindset, after all. If you work in a traditional warehouse in middle America, for example, you may face more traditional views about how businesses should be run. This is all not to say that you can’t drive a cultural change in your company. It just may take some persistence and creative thinking. Respect the Ellsberg Paradox The Ellsberg Paradox says that people will overwhelmingly choose something that is familiar instead of taking a chance on something that is unknown. In business, we see the Ellsberg Paradox all the time when people avoid trying new processes even if it means continuing with a system that’s broken. To counter the Ellsberg Paradox and get approval for a no-code app platform, avoid uncertainty when approaching your boss about using no-code apps. Build a robust business case and demonstrate how your solution is secure and has proven to be effective in a variety of business settings. Establish common ground When pitching a new idea, timing is everything. Instead of rushing into a discussion about no-code app platforms, look for the right opportunity to open up a conversation and take it from there. When the perfect opportunity presents itself, channel your inner salesperson and get ready to start selling. For example, you could mention a common pain point—like how poor inventory management is impacting productivity, delaying projects, angering customers, and eating into your bottom line. Build a story to sell your idea, establish common ground on a particular area of focus, and offer a no-code platform as a viable and cost-effective solution. Come to the table with an example Seeing is believing—especially in the business world. It may be worth your time to build a sample app that you can show your supervisor to get your message across effectively. That individual will be impressed that you were able to design an app so quickly and will be curious as to how you were able to accomplish it. With AppSheet’s free plan, you can design a sample app quickly by leveraging data from your preferred source—like Google Sheets, Excel, or Dropbox. Believe it or not, you can build a functioning sample app in a matter of minutes. With a powerful sample app on your mobile device, convincing your boss to give no-code development a whirl couldn’t be easier.

Digital Inspection Trends: How to Maintain Your Competitive Edge

How are you staying ahead of the curve with your inspection practice? According to IDG's 2018 State of Digital Business Transformation white paper, over 44% of organizations have started implementing a "digital first" approach to business.  Once the monetary hurdle is surpassed, going digital is a sustainable solution that many companies are adopting. Some common reasons for digital transformation include: Investment in safe, and secure data solutions keep critical data from being compromised. Companies can easily minimize errors with automated processes and digital storage. Digital solutions increase flexibility and efficiency. Listed here are several digital trends in inspection ranging from up-and-coming to well-established.   Cloud-based storage & cybersecurity secure data When used properly, cloud-based storage serves as a preventative tool against common failures such as data loss, data breaches, and inconsistency across storage spaces. Several niche tools exist for this, but most commonly general cloud solutions are the primary storage spaces for inspection data. As security hacks continue to grow, so do the measures protecting this data. Here are several cybersecurity tools, ranging from expert-level to recommended everyday practices for employees, explained: Risk analyses: Running a check on all potential breaches and updating software to prevent them. Biometrics: Using fingerprints or facial recognition to unlock devices, minimizing hardware breaches. 2-factor authentication: Using two different devices to unlock an application. Here at AppSheet, data in your apps live in the cloud through countless integrations with well-established cybersecurity measures. Read more about how to digitize your data with AppSheet. Smart sensors provide predictive insights  Smart sensors are popping up all over, from monitoring the structural health of bridges to the safety and efficiency of assembly lines. What are smart sensors? They are small pieces of technology placed on the inspection area that track product health metrics, changes that could compromise quality, and machine operation health. In the past, people had to manually check all of these points, which can be dangerous and very time-consuming. Smart sensors help protect employee safety by predicting malfunctions in machinery, allowing employees to do so from other locations using remote monitoring. They also improve efficiency and help employees focus on improving manufacturing outcomes rather than diligently tracking for potential mistakes. Read about 3-D sensors and how they improve assembly inspection processes. Digital radiography is increasing portability, accessibility, and versatility Radiography is the process of using X-Rays to examine the internal structures of a component. It’s most frequently used for inspecting machinery, and it’s efficient because it doesn’t require inspectors to take apart the machines to look inside. Digital radiography is faster than traditional methods, which use film. The image quality is higher. It’s portable and doesn’t require physical storage space, and the process of capturing the image is much quicker. There are four types of digital radiography: Computed Radiography Direct Radiography Real-Time Radiography Computed Tomography They all capture inspection images, but the primary differences between them are contrast sensitivity, processing time, and the number of images captured. More information about each of these digital radiography types can be found here. AR/VR reduces inspection time Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are being used across the board for inspections. According to this article by researchers at Hamburg University of Technology, AR and VR are being used by several industries, the most prominent being aircraft manufacturing. The most promising use case is assisted inspection using smart glass. This startup developed smart glass for aircraft inspections, reducing inspection time from 2 hours to 20 minutes. It projects all the information about the materials, such as plate thickness, in 3D on the aircraft surface. This helps inspectors determine the exact size and scope of the problem, allowing fixes to get started right away. Mobile apps customize digital transformation With AppSheet’s mobile app builder, countless industries are able to utilize apps to move away from paper inspections and on to cloud-based, paperless solutions. Some key features for inspection with AppSheet’s mobile apps are: Signature collection. A map view to see all of your inspection locations. Workflow emails which you can set to send out emails when inspections fail. Easy data entry. Image annotations to track key inspection points. And More! Check out AppSheets Inspection apps, or learn how to build yours today. Read about how AppSheet’s customers have used AppSheet’s platform for inspection, and how you can too: Field Inspection: Millicom’s TigoUne Sees Field of Opportunities with AppSheet 3 Free Inspection Templates for Mobile Apps, Excel, and Google Sheets Smart Inspections - A Safe Bet for Manufacturing

Real Estate Company Transforms Operations with Custom Management Apps

In competitive residential real estate, data is as good as gold. Information needs to reach agents in a timely manner, so they can identify deals, close properties, and flip them at the right time for profit.  Unfortunately, information doesn’t always flow as smoothly as it should. Many real estate companies still lack effective backend management systems—and they’re paying dearly for it.  Recently, Benchmarq Homes, a Pennsylvania-based real estate company that specializes in buying and selling foreclosed properties, faced this exact problem.  Here’s how they turned things around with AppSheet. Challenge: Streamlining management Benchmarq is a small team that runs a big operation. The company does business across 15 counties in Pennsylvania, which means they have a significant amount of listings to sort through on a monthly basis. Up until recently, however, the company had no underlying data management system in place. “Each employee had their own way of doing business,” says asset manager Jaden Bodden. “It was a complete mess.” The lack of organization and communication, Bodden says, led to massive losses. In just two years, the company lost about $500,000 on 12 properties, primarily because employees would buy houses on a whim with no vetting or control mechanisms in place.  Making matters worse, the company had no way of tracking progress once properties were acquired. As a result, Benchmarq was holding onto properties for far too long. Some agents were holding on to properties for an abysmal average of 300 days. Solution: AppSheet Something had to be done, and so Bodden and his team set out to find a digital solution that could help the company operate more cohesively. Benchmarq was prepared to finance an off-the-shelf management system to streamline their operations. However, the company couldn’t find a solution that would match their unique needs. Bodden eventually decided to build custom a custom app from scratch using AppSheet’s no-code development platform. Bodden chose AppSheet primarily because it’s: Highly customizable: AppSheet can integrate with many types of databases and spreadsheets, making it easy to pull data from various sources. Mobile-friendly: Bodden also liked the fact his team can use AppSheet to create apps that are highly responsive and visually appealing—making them easily accessible to workers who are on-the-go. Simple to use: Like many developers, Bodden has limited technical experience. AppSheet allows him to learn on the fly and create custom apps with minimal training. The App Bodden created an advanced app that the team now uses to track and manage all of its properties. The app interfaces with Google Sheets, which serves as the company’s main internal backend database. Using AppSheet’s slice feature, Bodden designed a system that strategically moves properties into various views based on their status. Once a property is closed, for instance, it will only show on the “Closed” view. This way, when agents are viewing their active properties, that data isn’t cluttered up by their closed properties too—those are completely separate. What they see is a detailed, up-to-date list of their open and closed properties—as well as supporting financial metrics to assess their current and future costs. Using security filters, Bodden has made it so that agents can only see their properties in the app. This reduces clutter since it prevents agents from having to sort through listings that don’t affect them. It also prevents agents from seeing how much other employees are making off commissions. Each app is also customized for each agent. This personalization allows the app to present important data to each user in an organized manner.  One of Bodden’s favorite AppSheet features is the Performance Profiler, which helped him understand performance while designing the app. “With the Performance Profiler, I was able to make sure things I was adding weren't causing huge increases to the sync time,” he says. “There were a few times that I saw huge spikes in sync time, but I was able to look at the analysis and figure out exactly what it was and fix or remove whatever was causing the issue.” Results AppSheet has been a total success for Benchmarq. Employees have embraced the app with minimal pushback. AppSheet is boosting profits, making it easier for agents to close deals and track progress while reducing stress and increasing productivity.  Thanks to AppSheet, Benchmarq is able to move properties much faster than it could in the past. “Before we implemented this system, we had some properties that were significantly hurting our bottom line,” Bodden concludes. “You carry a $400,000 property for 18 to 20 months and the cost of carry becomes outrageous. Now, we’re only holding onto properties for four to five months on average. The lower carrying costs have substantially improved our bottom line. It’s been great; everyone has benefitted.”

Digital Trends in the Mobile Workforce

Recent advances in cloud computing, mobile connectivity, and enterprise app development are making it easier than ever for companies to manage mobile workers. As such, the demand for a mobile workplace has never been greater. More specifically, it’s anticipated that 50% of the U.S. workforce will operate remotely by 2020. On a global scale, 70% of employees already work from home at least one day per week. Employees increasingly expect their employers to offer mobile flexibility—and companies are rightfully paying attention. According to Global Workplace Analytics, businesses can save as much as $11,000 per employee per year for each employee who works remotely on a full-time basis. At the same time, 77% of employees feel that they are more productive working from home than in the office. Managing a mobile workforce also comes with its own set of challenges challenges—such as maintaining data security and employee engagement, among others. However, companies that are doing it effectively are unlocking the full benefits of a mobile team. With that in mind, let’s take a look at today’s growing mobile workforce trends. Using software and apps to manage remote teams By digitizing and automating processes that were once paper-based—like employee time-card management, field service data collection, and productivity management—companies are not only saving lots of time and money, they’re also making it much easier for their teams to operate remotely. Harvesting this valuable data in the cloud also enhances data quality and accuracy, as human error is less likely to enter the mix when compared to keeping track of data by hand. Additionally, mobile workforce management (MWM) services help businesses manage teams that work outside of the office. Generally speaking, a MWM strategy assigns devices and software to specific employees, thereby enabling businesses to monitor activities like software deployment, procurement, and productivity management, among other things. SD-WAN infrastructure is playing a critical role in enterprise software performance Advances in software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technology make it easier for companies to securely manage enterprise data, apps, software, and networks remotely. Traditionally, wide-area networks (WAN) were used to connect satellite offices to headquarters via Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS). MPLS is still being used in many networks, but SD-WAN is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative. By harnessing the power of private cloud or hybrid cloud infrastructure, SD-WAN—and mobile SD-WAN— enables businesses to bridge the gaps between data centers and branch offices over large geographic distances. This means that your business apps and software will operate faster, with less downtime, and with more security than ever before. And, thanks to its use of the cloud, SD-WAN lowers costs for most businesses, too. Expect to see more widespread adoption of the technology in the coming years, with the global market for SD-WAN predicted to reach $4.5 billion by 2022. Increased Focus on Security and Compliance As teams operate remotely, it’s important for management and IT to enforce strong mobile network security policies. Common sense strategies—such as requiring the use of strong passwords and biometric authentication—are helping keep accounts and devices secure as employees move from location to location. It’s also advised to conduct routine cyber security training to keep employees up to speed on the latest cyber security threats. On a more advanced level, security information and event management (SIEM) software enables business to remotely collect and aggregate security related incidents from their devices. SIEM also enables real-time monitoring of security threats from cyber attacks and data breaches. As data breaches become an increasingly common problem for organizations of all sizes, we expect SIEM adoption to continue to accelerate. Custom Apps Keep Mobile Workforces Connected As more and more companies adopt mobile workforces, they will need to use new tools and technologies to manage on-the-go employees effectively. While some of these tools can likely be found in out-of-the-box solutions, many companies are able to unlock additional productivity gains by using custom software designed to support their specific workflows. Instead of building these custom solutions from scratch or contracting an expensive agency to build one for them, leading organizations are increasingly turning to no-code development platforms that enable them to create their own custom apps without hiring expensive developers. Companies across nearly every industry—including real estate, construction, e-commerce and technology—are using AppSheet’s no-code platform to increase productivity and boost employee engagement across their mobile workforces. To learn more about how AppSheet can help you optimize your distributed workflows and streamline mobile worker management, check this out.

UVA Library Mines for Marginalia with Project Management Apps

An old library book can contain a trove of insight beyond its text. Margins can serve as direct windows into the past through the notes, thoughts, and doodles left behind by readers from long ago. There’s now a growing effort within the academic community to discover, archive, and study antique marginalia. This is the core focus of Book Traces, a University of Virginia (UVA)-led project that started in the school’s Alderman Library and has since grown into a global crowdsourced initiative. Of course, mining for marginalia may sound romantic. But it’s also hard work that requires patience, an eye for detail, and a significant amount of data entry. It’s also vital to use the right tools—which is something the Book Traces team discovered early on. Challenge: Streamlining data entry When the project first launched, students were surveying books in the UVA library stacks using bulky laptops and spreadsheets. “They had to manually enter items such as a book’s location, its condition, and whether any markings were present,” says project manager Kristin Jensen. “They’d then take the books with markings and enter more details into Google Forms. It was very inefficient.”  There were many photos to keep track of, too, which created extra work. “The team would have to spend hours going back through our digital camera, matching photos with books in the spreadsheet, and then matching the spreadsheet to the corresponding Google Form,” Jensen explains. Seeking a better way forward when the project expanded to other libraries, Jensen started searching online for a solution that could interface with her spreadsheets. After doing her due diligence, Jensen discovered AppSheet’s no-code development platform. Solution: AppSheet AppSheet was an ideal match for several reasons. Jensen liked its mobile nature and the fact that the platform can integrate directly with spreadsheets via the cloud. AppSheet was also in line with her budget. Most importantly, AppSheet was something her team could start using almost immediately. “We had a $60,000 grant, but half of that had to be spent on student wages,” Jensen said. “Plus, we only had a year to spend it and so we needed to get this project underway quickly. We didn’t have time to find a developer.”  Jensen decided to take matters into her own hands by becoming a citizen developer. Within just a few hours, she started designing an app despite having a limited amount of technical experience. “I started by building a prototype and then I kept iterating until I got it where I wanted,” she says. “I created a base app that I could copy for each new library that we go into. So each app is a variation of the original, but has its own spreadsheet.” The App Jensen’s team has now worked at nine different libraries, and so the project has nine separate mobile apps in use which students can access over a UVA-owned iPod Touch. “Our students are now fully mobile, which is very helpful when traveling to other libraries,” Jensen continues. “They don’t need to set up a laptop somewhere. They can just walk around the stacks and use an app.” The data entry process is now much faster and more intuitive for students, too. Each app is based on a spreadsheet which contains a list of books that students need to comb through. Students can type in data and attach photos when they find interesting notes in the pages. One noteworthy feature is a special “completion” dashboard, which appears when a student nears the end of his or her list of books. The dashboard alerts students about books that have not been completed so that they don’t accidentally bypass any titles—something that is easy to do when scrolling through a long list. Jensen also created a special feature that helps students enter data more efficiently for books with multiple volumes. Results: Accelerated workflows and increased productivity According to Jensen, the workflow is night and day compared to the old system. For example, in the past it would take several days or even weeks for photos and updates to trickle in from the field. Now, photos can be automatically tagged and tracked in the app. Jensen and her team can see updates in near-real time from a centralized dashboard. “When something interesting comes in, I can send it to my team right away for analysis,” Jensen concludes. “We love having instant access to fresh data.” With the help of AppSheet, the project is moving along much faster. It’s also eliminating a significant amount of backend labor, keeping it fun and interesting for Jensen and her team. The platform is enabling the Book Traces team to dig through history and pull out literary treasures that would otherwise go unnoticed—book by book. We’d also like to congratulate the UVA Men’s basketball team for its historic NCAA tournament victory! Go Cavaliers! Special Discounts: If you are seeking to build education management apps for your school or university, signup for our 50% off discount through our AppSheet for Education program. If you are a teacher seeking to use AppSheet in your classroom curriculum, signup for our free access AppSheet for the Classroom program.  

App Development Trends in the Energy and Utilities Industries

In the age of digital transformation, mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular in the energy and utilities sector. Today’s leading energy companies are utilizing mobile apps to facilitate a wide variety of tasks. From streamlining field inspections to tracking equipment and reducing truck roll-outs, mobile apps are improving nearly every aspect of operations. Let’s take a look at today’s top app development trends in this space. Reducing truck roll expenses Truck roll expenses—or the costs associated with sending a truck out into the field—can be very unpredictable. According to one study, the total cost of a truck roll is over $1,000. Of course, costs can vary from company to company. Still, whatever the price, truck rolls eat into margins and slow down operations. After all, companies have to maintain their fleets and pay for labor, gas, and insurance. The longer the distance for a call, the higher the cost. To avoid truck roll expenses, businesses are increasingly using GPS-enabled apps to reduce transit times, thereby streamlining workflows and driving profitability. Savvy companies are taking map usage one step further by tracking asset locations directly on their maps. For example, Kentucky Power, a large electric company with thousands of utility poles, placed each pole on an interactive map to make it easier for technicians to see their location and condition. Improving personnel management Energy and utility companies often have hundreds of employees spread out across a large territory, making communication challenging for managers and HR reps. Instead of wasting time using a traditional paper filing system, companies are now making apps with mobile timesheet forms, and incident reports, enabling near instantaneous updates using messaging and email. Apps, it should be noted, are also being used to send and receive contracts on-the-go. For example, a foreman might run into an electrical contractor and want to extend a formal offer for a project. Using an app, a contract can be shared, signed, and completed during a face to face conversation—saving time and preventing opportunities from slipping away. Tracking inventory Shipment delays can slow down utility projects significantly. When a part like a light, circuit, or power line needs to be replaced, team members need to be able to quickly send in a ticket and receive a timely response. In the past, inventory management was done using traditional paper and spreadsheet systems. Today, companies are using apps to request orders and track updates, expediting the process considerably. Facilitating data collection and sales operations Collecting accurate customer information while in the field is another major challenge for energy companies. Traditionally, most companies relied on field service technicians and salespeople using clipboards and paper files to gather customer-specific information, resulting in disorganized and inaccurate data. Just think: Technicians would often have to enter data in the dark, and sometimes during inclement weather. A sheet that takes five minutes to fill out could take a half an hour or more to try and decipher back in the office. Apps help accelerate field data entry, too. For example, PEG Africa, a solar energy provider operating out of West Africa, uses no-code apps to streamline sales operations and customer data collection. Over 100 sales associates currently use mobile apps to track customer payments, accounting, and sales commissions. Embracing no-code apps Energy companies also have to navigate the complexities that come with having various teams of employees, customers, projects, and tools scattered among several worksites—and, in some cases, scattered across several continents. For example, M&O Partners is a multinational sales hub that connects buyers and suppliers in the offshore oil and gas drilling industry. Recently, the company underwent a massive digital transformation initiative, digitalizing its processes. Today, the company uses no-code apps to streamline project implementation, process management, tool management, and network management. According to Janis Majors, head of special projects, M&O’s custom apps have saved the company a ton of time and money. “We are able to track, follow, and participate in hundreds of projects from a centralized location and with a lean team,” Majors says. Choosing the right apps for your business No-code apps not only save companies lots of money, they also enable companies to develop apps within a matter of days—as opposed to a matter of months. It’s important to remember, though, that not all no-code platforms offer the same level of support, flexibility, and customization. Research the market and make sure that the platform you ultimately select aligns with your financial and operational needs. Do your due diligence and you’ll make the right choice. To learn more reasons why companies are turning to AppSheet’s no-code platform, check this out. Better yet, if you’re ready to speak with our enterprise team to find out how AppSheet can be customized for your business, drop us a line today.

Solvay and AppSheet: The No-Code Approach to Digital Transformation

Last week AppSheet was at the Forrester Digital Transformation and Innovation Forum in Chicago. It was a great event and all the sessions featured some aspect of digital transformation with guidance on how companies should look at managing the technology side of the transformation equation. It’s a big topic and most companies I spoke with are currently in the trenches, making process and technology decisions to drive their digital transformation initiatives forward. Undertaking these kinds of projects takes grit, ingenuity, and a willingness to embrace the unknown. Certainly, that’s how Solvay approached their digital transformation journey. For those of you unfamiliar with the company, Solvay is an advanced materials and specialty chemicals company. Headquartered in Brussels, with more than 26,000 employees located in 61 countries, it made the ambitious decision to introduce mobility into its shop floors. Why the focus on shop floors? Well, Solvay’s plant-specific processes were paper-driven and the company wanted to replace those paper-based processes with app-driven automation. So, Francis Boulu, Industrial Data Analyst, in collaboration with Solvay’s digital office, selected AppSheet’s no-code platform to build the first set of apps. Of course, this was not Solvay’s first digital transformation project as many teams and industrial plants had been working on digital solutions designed to automate processes. But this transformation project was a bit different as one use case led to another, resulting in AppSheet becoming the no-code platform for more than 400 citizen developers. Today, there are approximately 1,000 deployed apps (and counting) and AppSheet is an integral part of Solvay’s software suite. The digital mobility team continues to find new use cases for apps built on AppSheet’s platform. All in all, Solvay is now more operationally efficient after working with AppSheet. The workforce is better supported with a no-code platform that allows them to build and support their own applications. You might even say that Solvay and AppSheet are the perfect combination for digital transformation initiatives. For the full story, download the Solvay case study.

Top 8 Digital Signature Apps

Capturing signatures for forms, documents, and deliveries is a process that has been revolutionized by technology over the past 15 years. Just as email made the fax machine obsolete, smartphones and cloud-based software tools are quickly replacing or supplementing email as go-to tools for digital signature capture. For any business that requires signatures on a regular basis, developing efficient and secure processes for signature capture can not only save money, but increase productivity and revenue. Below, we've outlined eight of the top digital signature applications that can transform the way you work. AppSheet HelloSign Adobe fill and sign SignNow DocuSign SignEasy OneSpan Sign PandaDoc 1. AppSheet AppSheet allows users to record signatures in custom-built apps that can easily be configured without code. While other providers may focus solely on digital signature capture, AppSheet functions primarily as a no-code application development platform that enables users to create mobile and web apps directly from their cloud-based spreadsheets and databases. These apps can leverage the natural features of smartphones (such as touchscreens) for hand-drawn signatures. Using the phone's camera, these apps can also be used to scan and capture barcode, take and upload images. AppSheet allows app creators to bypass the traditional challenges incurred by vendor lock-in to build custom applications and adopt a flexible platform which can meet the changing needs of an organization. To date, organizations like Solvay, Costco, and Husqvarna have chosen AppSheet to handle many of their most critical internal operations and approval processes. Pricing: Free for simple, individual use apps with plans increasing to $5-$10/mo per user for access to build, deploy, and share apps on the full application development platform. Lots of AppSheet sample apps have the signature capture feature. The following Audits App is just an example. 2. HelloSign HelloSign brings a different angle to the world of digital signatures as a leading player, particularly in the web integration space. HelloSign counts companies like Instacart, Climb Credit, Tech for Campaigns, and Lyft as customers who rely on HelloSign to accelerate contractor applications, speed loan approval time, and automate NDA signatures. With a variety of plans for every type of user, HelloSign works hard to satisfy a diverse user base. And for companies with a sizable budget and a willingness to invest resources in configuring APIs or integrating with systems like Oracle or Salesforce, the HelloSign platform can serve as a functional signature capture platform for the enterprise.  Pricing: Ranges from $13-$40/mo per user for basic plans. 3. Adobe Fill and Sign Adobe is a popular and trusted player in the digital/mobile signature space. Adobe's Fill-and-Sign application is optimized to work well with PDFs and documents that can be captured as a PDF. Users only have to take a snap of the document using their phone cameras, crop and sharpen the image, and sign it instantly. Another great thing about Adobe Fill and Sign is its ease of integration with 3rd-party tools as well as its compliance with global e-signature rules. Adobe Fill and Sign is a bit pricier than some other options, mainly serving business users. Still, rest assured knowing there’s a 14-day trial period waiting for any interested users. While Fill and Sign works great for users who are accustomed to PDF-centered workflows, users seeking to bypass or work in parallel to PDF-driven documents may be better served looking for more holistic options. Pricing: Ranges from $12-$30/mo with significant variability depending on monthly or annual pricing and other Adobe-package related bundles. 4. SignNow Formerly known as CudaSign, SignNow is another solid choice for electronic signature capturing. SignNow is an award-winning app, known for its simple, clutter-free and user-friendly UI. SignNow boasts a number of unique features. Users can pre-fill a document with text, copy existing fields to a new documents, and generate templates that can be used multiple times.  For individuals and small businesses, SignNow rarely disappoints. And starting at $8/month, SignNow undercuts many of its competitors based on value alone. Pricing: Ranges from $8-$15/mo per user.  5. DocuSign With over 200,000 downloads and a 2018 IPO, DocuSign is an industry heavyweight known for its intuitive, easy-to-use user interface and a wide array of features that make it easy to integrate with a host of third party tools. Another unique feature of DocuSign is its digital transaction management system where documents can be easily signed, sent, and managed. Perhaps DocuSign's greatest drawback is that its premium reputation comes with premium pricing. Even the cheapest plans which can only handle 5 signatures per month start off at $10/mo per user. For organizations that need every bell and whistle associated with digital signatures, DocuSign may be worth consideration, but for many, if not most organizations, other cost-effective alternatives may be worth primary consideration. Pricing: $10-$40/user per month. 6. SignEasy SignEasy offers another minimalist take on the digital signature space. With a suite of iOS, Android, and web-based tools, SignEasy makes document signage possible in a range of on-the-go and fixed environments.  This e-signature app employs drag-and-drop functionality, making it easy for users to sign documents and customize documents on their phones. SignEasy also offers options like adding checkboxes and images to a document. As with other vendors, the price points can be challenging for a small business or businesses expecting substantial user volume.  Pricing: Ranges from $10-$60/user per month. 7. OneSpan (formerly eSignLive) OneSpan Sign is a digital signature solutions provider that focuses primarily on the enterprise space. Their website presents the platform's industry solutions specifically for credit unions, financial services, government, healthcare, and insurance companies. They count larger companies such as IBM, US Bank, and Wells Fargo as customers and position themselves as leaders in the platform security space. Their integrations also favor enterprise tools such as Salesforce, Box, Dynamics CRM, and Sharepoint.  Pricing: Starts at $20/user per month.  8. PandaDoc   PandaDoc is another leading digital signature app for both iOS and Android devices. This app’s streamlined interface and overall ease-of-use make it a strong pick for many people. Beyond digital signature capture, PandaDoc's document management toolbox includes tools for automated workflows, drag-and-drop signing, and audit histories. By integrating with your existing CRM, payment, and file storage apps (e.g. HubSpot, Zoho, Salesforce, and Basecamp), PandaDoc seeks to create a unified platform to handle your document needs. As with other software providers, PandaDoc's higher-than-average pricing may be a consideration for people seeking a cost-effective solution. Pricing: Starts at $49/user/mo A Final Note As workflows continue to move from paper and pen to the cloud, businesses in every sphere will need to adapt to a world where digital signatures are not simply a luxury but an expectation for B2B and B2C companies.  To account for this, it's important for operations and IT leaders to consider not only the present requirements for digital signature capture, but also the changing needs that may arise when choosing which applications or application platforms to adopt. Rather than seeking to find a specialized digital signature for every challenge, it may be worth considering building a suite of customized, easily modifiable applications using a secure and no-code platform. 

Keeping it Moving: Using Apps for Supply Chain Management

Behind every successful manufacturing company there’s a reliable warehouse and supply chain. In fact, 79% of companies with high-performing supply chains report above-average growth. Managing a supply chain is highly resource-intensive, though, and companies today are under a lot of pressure to move products efficiently from point to point. To streamline operations, manufacturers often outsource operations to businesses like Hodge—a family-owned logistics and material handling company providing warehouse and supply chain management for customers in the midwest. Hodge, it should be noted, has a long track record of success that dates back to 1958. The company operates under this motto: “Whatever it takes to make manufacturing and supply chains work.” Today, Hodge has four sites with over 1 million-square-foot warehouse space. Around 475 employees in the warehouse division manage $100 million worth of equipment, products and materials on these sites. When it became apparent that Hodge’s logistics department needed to modernize its management system and undergo digital transformation to keep up with rising customer expectations, Hodge wasted no time getting started.  Here’s what happened. Challenge: Modernizing Legacy Processes With so much at stake, Hodge has no room for inefficiency. In supply chain coordination, mistakes can lead to delays, unhappy customers, and lost business. When Matt Hodge took over as Director of Quality Assurance in 2016, his first order of business was finding a better way to collect and manage data. Many of the company’s management and oversight processes still used paper—which is highly inefficient and prone to errors. The department was struggling to keep up. “I saw so much paper—people writing eight sheets a day, over eight hours at a time, and recording hundreds of data points,” Hodge explains. “Their hands would be cramped at end of the day. And then the paper would go into a drawer. I knew we had to digitize these operations.” Solution: AppSheet Shortly after becoming the QA Director, Hodge discovered AppSheet, the leading no-code development platform. He immediately began tinkering with the platform, looking for ways to solve everyday problems. Matt started with a single app in September 2016. By April 2019, the company had integrated 23 apps that team members now rely on every day.  Each mini app solves a specific problem or purpose at Hodge. There are apps for processes such as damage documentation, inventory, quality audits, yard management, equipment repairs, and more. One app, for instance, simplifies equipment safety inspections by integrating with Raspberry Pi devices, which are installed in kiosks around the warehouse. These inexpensive and low-maintenance devices—which are essentially small computers—provide an ideal way to enter data in a dusty warehouse setting. They offer a simple web interface, which employees can use to enter data. With this setup, team members no longer have to fill out paper forms, or risk damaging expensive computers or smartphones during safety inspections.  Results Here are some of the biggest ways that AppSheet is making a difference at Hodge: Easier data entry: The company was able to automate manual data entry using AppSheet’s barcode scanner, which Hodge calls a “genius move that transformed the way the company does business.” Now, instead of manually entering the same information over and over again when conducting inspections, employees can simply scan a barcode using their phone or tablet. In some cases, information can be pre-populated, saving a great deal of time. This also reduces errors. Improved truck sequencing: Trucks are constantly coming and going from the company’s warehouses. Sometimes, there can be as many as 60 on a single day. Before AppSheet, the company had a complicated system for sequencing pickups and deliveries. This was done manually, using laminated cards. Now, this process is managed using an app. Drivers can check in upon arrival and receive updates with instructions for loading and unloading equipment and materials. Enhanced communication: A warehouse is a busy place, making it difficult to communicate with employees. For managers, this is especially trying; most of a manager’s day is spent running around, gathering information, and putting out fires—a process that’s very distracting. Now, important information can be entered into an app and distributed to team members throughout the day using AppSheet workflows (Text SMS/Email), keeping everyone informed and updated. As you can see, after implementing AppSheet, things are running much more smoothly. Hodge’s ultimate goal is to create a culture of continuous improvement—and AppSheet is the tool that’s making it happen. “Whenever we have a process that needs to be updated, we gather our team in a room, pull up AppSheet, define the problem, and develop a process,” says Hodge. “Then, we build an app together, right there. In most cases, we can build an app for gathering data within 10 minutes. Some people can go out and start collecting data immediately. AppSheet really is something we bring to all of our projects.” According to Hodge, anyone can use AppSheet effectively, becoming a citizen developer practically overnight. To learn more about AppSheet, click the button below.  

Feature Friday - Map Point Grouping, Performance Enhancements & Okta Integration

Map Pin Grouping & Formatting Map Views in AppSheet apps help visualize all sorts of lat/long or address locations for items like buildings, customers, inspection points, logged activities etc. Some scenarios call for mapping just a few locations, other times it makes sense to map thousands. When visualizing a large volume of plotted locations, app creators can now enable 'pin grouping' which consolidates densely clustered points into a 'grouped point' with a label showing the number of points in that group. Group sizes are determined by setting the 'Minimum Cluster Size' in each Map View. Format Rules can be applied to pin groups similarly to how they're applied to map points - simply create a rule that applies to the location value being displayed in a map (in this case, the 'lat/long' column value). The specified Format Rule color will be applied to the grouped pin, and the group quantity will display instead of any specified format rule icon. Map Performance Upgrades Grouping densely clustered points inherently improves the speed and load time of map views in apps because fewer points are required to load. Depending on the quantity of points displayed in the view and the 'Minimum Cluster Size' specified in the map view settings, the overall performance of existing app map views should improve dramatically. Besides the speed improvements associated with grouping points, other significant performance upgrades have been made to load and pan across a high volume of points in a single view more efficiently, whether or not grouping is applied. Okta Integration (Beta) Okta Authentication allows for user authentication for AppSheet apps. It is similar to using an OpenID provider but allows for Okta-specific features such as group controls to be used. For example, you may want to limit access to certain apps to the Sales Team and others to the Support Team. Using Okta as an authentication source allows this type of segmentation. To setup authentication, there are three steps: setting up an Okta application, configuring AppSheet to allow Okta, and let app users know they can use Okta to login.

Digital Transformation Trends in the Construction Industry

The construction industry is no stranger to digital transformation. In the past decade, construction companies have doubled their investments in technology. With so much skin in the game, this should come as no surprise. By 2021, it’s estimated that the global construction market will exceed $24 trillion. While construction companies are in the process of modernizing their operations, they still have a long way to go. Most construction businesses still rely on the same tried-and-true techniques they’ve used for decades—like paper-based project and supply chain management systems. The result, according to McKinsey, is that construction projects are running 20% past deadline and 80% over budget, on average. The benefits of digital transformation are certainly there—ranging from reduced labor costs, increased safety, and shorter project times, to name a few. Add it all up, and it’s critical that the construction industry embraces digital transformation. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most impactful digital transformation trends in the construction industry:  Big Data is taking over Construction sites generate a massive amount of data. Companies that can quickly process data and make it actionable are reaping the benefits. For example, JE DUNN is one of the largest construction firms in the U.S. The company recently partnered with Autodesk—a leading maker of 2D and 3D CAD technology—to put their data to work and optimize the design process. When JE DUNN applied its new data modelling system to a $60 million civic center construction project, the company was able to accelerate their timeline by 12 weeks due to less back-and-forth communication during the pre-construction phase. As a result, the company saved $11 million. As this example shows, there’s a difference between stockpiling data and making it work for your organization. It’s not just about having big data—it’s about using it. Wearable devices are optimizing worksites Another way that big data is transforming the construction industry is through the use of wearable devices. As workers move about a construction site, wearable devices enable supervisors to visualize where they spend the most time.  Armed with that information, supervisors can then place tools and materials in more convenient areas, which reduces labor costs by decreasing the amount of wasted time spent hauling materials and gathering tools. Beyond that, wearable devices can also make construction worksites safer.  Robotics and automation are ramping up Construction companies are one of the least automated industries when it comes to robots performing tasks that are otherwise performed by humans. Despite that fact, construction companies are increasingly looking to expand their use of robotics where it makes sense. One study, for example, revealed that spending on construction robots will more than double by 2025.  Kewazo, a Munich-based startup, developed robotic technology that decreases scaffolding construction expenses by 33% while reducing the set up time up by 42%. The company also boasts that their robots reduce the frequency of accidents while sparing construction workers from the strenuous task of lifting heavy scaffolding material during the initial construction phase. Robots are replacing aging construction workers The construction industry is faced with an ever-aging workforce; robots might just come to the rescue. In Japan, over one-third of construction workers are at least 54-years-old. By 2025, it’s estimated that the Japanese construction industry will face a shortage of over 1.2 million workers due to its aging workforce and the fact that there aren’t any younger workers ready to replace them.  The U.S. isn’t too far behind; the average construction worker is 43-years-old. To bridge these labor gaps, more and more construction businesses are turning to robots. We anticipate this trend will grow into the future along with advancements in robotic technology and 5G wireless infrastructure. Mobile apps are fostering digital collaboration and transparency Mobile apps are perhaps the most exciting digital transformation trend in the construction industry. Thanks to no-code app development platforms, construction companies are able to quickly build custom apps that manage data capture, run field reports and safety inspections, track construction projects, and much more. Additionally, no-code platforms enable everyday construction employees (i.e., citizen developers) to build apps for their businesses, which saves companies from having to absorb massive development costs. Construction companies of all types are using no-code apps to increase their efficiency. For example, KLB Construction, a Seattle-based civil construction company, reduced mountains of paperwork using no-code apps. And over in Colorado, Front Range Excavating developed a series of apps using AppSheet’s no-code platform. Within a single month, the company’s custom apps were able to facilitate every single process within the company—without hiring a single developer. They even built an app that reduced payroll processing from one day to 30 minutes! Talk about efficiency. Choosing the best digital tools for your construction business The first step toward digital transformation is the most important one. Once you begin your journey, you’ll never look back. Whether your main priority is improving safety, reducing labor costs, or increasing worksite efficiency—or all of the above—there’s sure to be a digital solution to help your construction business get more done more in less time. To learn more about how AppSheet improves worksite safety, click here. To learn about how to enable digital transformation with custom apps, download the ebook below.

German Maintenance Specialist Builds Apps to Modernize Management

WR-maintenando provides window and sun protection maintenance services for large commercial buildings across Germany. The company’s network of technicians specializes in maintaining glass panels, window fittings, seals, and sun protection systems.  It’s a busy operation. Customers typically have anywhere from 100 to 4,000 windows that need to be inspected and documented on an individual basis. Each year, the company completes about 3,000 projects. Servicing windows, however, is the easy part. Collecting, processing, and tracking data is the hard part. It’s an issue that recently came to a head, forcing the company to change its project management strategy entirely.  Challenge: Modernizing Management Until recently, WR-maintenando managed all of its projects with paper forms—a process that required a significant amount of backend labor from its office staff. Workers had to manually transcribe handwritten field notes and enter information into spreadsheets, which wasn’t exactly the most efficient approach. “We had a breaking moment when we realized it was time to change,” says managing partner Juergen Memhoelzler. “It was getting more and more complicated to manage all of our backend tasks. It was clear that we needed to digitize our processes in order to expedite our operations and reduce mistakes.” Solution: AppSheet To modernize its processes, WR-maintenando initially tried using iAuditor, a common safety inspection checklist app. “It was easy to use, but it couldn’t link to our spreadsheets,” adds customer support coordinator Helen Schwarz. “We had to store all of our data in their app, but we needed a solution that could interface directly with our spreadsheets.” It was clear that WR-maintenando needed a no-code app platform. After all, hiring a developer wasn’t in the budget and neither Memhoelzer nor Schwarz had any coding experience. The company needed a solution that would allow them to build apps quickly and efficiently, and with minimal training. So, when Memhoelzler stumbled on AppSheet while working on a Google sheet, he was immediately interested. Memhoelzler started watching YouTube videos and browsing AppSheet’s blog and developer notes. As a result, he was able to learn how to digitize his lists and forms while creating formulas to process data. In just a few weeks, Memhoelzler was rolling along with AppSheet.The team now has individual apps for all of its concurrent projects.  The App Instead of having to carry around stacks of paper, WR-maintenando’s technicians can enter all of their inspection data into a single easy-to-use app. Each project has its own app, each building has its own form, and each window has its own row in WR-maintenando’s spreadsheets. For each window, technicians answer a series of inspection questions before proceeding to the next one. Here are some of the app’s underlying technical features: References: The app uses AppSheet’s references function to connect buildings with floors, windows and rooms, allowing technicians to click on a room in the building and see how many windows there are, what types of windows there are, and what kinds of materials are needed for maintenance purposes. Yes/No and Show: In some areas of the form, a technician will have to enter additional information. For example, if a window also requires sun protection maintenance, a technician will have to select “yes” on the app. Then, the individual will be prompted to move to another form to provide more details. Show_if and Enumlist: Similarly, if a technician indicates a window is broken, a field will show with a dropdown list of common defects for the individual to choose. The technician can also add a new defect to the list. Technicians can also search for windows based on specific problems and locations. Technicians can enter queries such as “broken glass,” allowing them to see all of the broken windows throughout a building on one digital interface.  Another handy feature is the schedule function, which technicians can use to create a to-do list (from the Room view). When workers can’t perform maintenance on a particular window, like when a meeting is taking place in a boardroom, the scheduling feature lets them bump that appointment to another time. All scheduled meetings can be found on the Time view.  Results Since using AppSheet, WR-maintenando has significantly improved its overall operations. First and foremost, the company has seen increased customer satisfaction when compared to the former paper-based management system. “Customer feedback has been great,” says Memhoelzler. “Now, customers can see what we’re doing in real time. They can see which problems we are working on and when we are working on them.” The team is also able to collect more information with their apps, as they can fit more data into a digital form than they could on a single piece of paper. “A piece of paper only has 10 columns,” says Memhoelzler. “With our app, we can enter 40 or 50 columns, including pictures. This allows us to generate reports that are much more detailed.” Plus, there are fewer data entry mistakes because information flows directly from the app into a spreadsheet. Schwarz, who works in the company’s office, has noticed another equally important benefit: She and her fellow office workers are happier now that employees are using apps to enter information. “I’m the one who was typing out handwritten lists,” Schwarz laments. “I couldn’t always read our technicians’ handwriting. Sometimes it would take me ages to type everything into a spreadsheet. So for me, personally, I love having an app. It makes the process much easier, less error-prone and more enjoyable.” AppSheet has a variety of similar sample apps that you can explore, to help you started on your app creation journey. Examples include: Safety Audit Checklist - for construction site inspections; Inspection App - for conducting equipment inspections; Maintenance request - for property managers to input maintenance requests. You can browse all of AppSheet’s sample apps by clicking the button below.  

Shared Calendars, Apps, and Workflows: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

What do employee trainings, sales tracking, and inspections have in common?  They all need a shared calendar to stay organized across teams, manage client information, and personalize project information.  Here are three ways a shared digital calendar can help meet your business needs: Improve efficiency in project management. Ensure everyone stays on the same page. Keep track of customers, sales leads, and work orders in one place. Improve project management efficiency Businesses often rely on email and instant messaging for project management. Team check-ins allow everyone to share what they're working on, and what they need help with. This could be improved with the use of a shared calendar. Calendars enable you to view timelines, due dates, and who's-doing-what in one place. Here are a few tips for managing projects and tasks on a shared calendar: Display the calendar on a digital screen at your workplace.  Assign every team member a different color/shade, so that they can see what's on their plate without digging deep to figure it out. Be sure to follow these color-blind friendly guidelines! Alternatively, assign colors/shades to different types of work orders for the same reason. Allow team members to make changes themselves. And if your calendar app of choice allows, give the option to send out notifications when these changes are made so everyone is tuned in to updates. Make it a habit for team members to check the calendar at a specific time of the work day. That way, team members stay informed and on-task, and it gives a soft deadline for calendar changes to be made before the team checks in. Bonus: Check out how to use a work order app to manage all repair/replace requests! This handy app helps manufacturing employees request work orders for parts that need to be repaired or replaced. The app has a calendar view, where you can add a new request and all the information about it: issue type, priority, status, location, image, and more! Additionally, you can organize work orders by status, priority, and location. This is a strong example of how a calendar add-in doesn't have to be a basic calendar. It can integrate multiple features in one place, helping you stay organized and on top of tasks. Keep everyone in the loop Shared calendars are functional for internal management. PTO schedules, internal team morale events, employee trainings, and more. No more blind-sighted mandatory trainings that throw off your team's workflow, or missing fun internal events because the notification got lost in your email. Think ahead and use a shared calendar to manage these. On the marketing team at AppSheet, we use a calendar to manage due dates for blog posts, and color-code them by content category. That way it's easy to see what focus we have for the day/week/month! Stay organized with a calendar-dashboard integration Another way to use a calendar is integrating it with a dashboard.  Above is an AppSheet app for inspection analytics. This view provides all the information you need on one view— inspection details, contacts involved, images about the site, and a map. No need to have multiple applications running for the same end-goal: to manage your stakeholders and keep your team cued in. Final Thoughts There is nothing more satisfying than staying on top of your game at work. This comes with taking advantage of the tools available to you, so that you can complete milestones, stay organized, and operate as efficiently as possible. Using a shared calendar has been great for our team; it keeps us on top of our blog content and makes collaboration that much easier. If you use shared calendars in your workplace, I'd love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments below how you use shared calendars, and any tips you may have for the rest of us! Read more about:  Feature Friday: Calendar View  A Project Management App with Two Calendar Views and a Dashboard View Adding Google Calendar events from Your Apps

Three Inspection Apps that Streamline and Automate House, Factory, and Equipment Inspections

Let’s face it – inspections are hard. Whether you’re checking up on a house, a yacht, a factory, or a construction site, there are several obstacles in your way. Inspections can be undermined by human error; on-paper inspections can lead to mistakes, lost or misplaced data, and a frustratingly constant feeling of inefficiency. Add deadlines to the mix, and the drawbacks of an on-paper solution become even more apparent.  AppSheet can be harnessed to address those problems. In this article, I will introduce three free sample apps that can help streamline your inspections: A house inspection app, a factory inspection app, and a monthly equipment inspection app. Each app uses a unique feature of AppSheet to meet the challenges of conducting an inspection. Let’s take a deep-dive into how they do so—maybe you’ll find something that you can apply to your own business operations. House Inspection App Workflows allow you to create automatic actions within your app, triggered by a certain event. In this app, you can go from room to room in the house and inspect each one for safety; if a room fails an inspection, a workflow email will be triggered. This workflow email will indicate that a recheck is required of that room, thus leading to a comprehensive evaluation of the whole house. Workflows can also be utilized in a variety of other ways. You can use them to send file attachments, SMS messages, and push notifications from the app. With workflows, your creativity is your ceiling! Factory Inspection App This app uses map view to display inspections upon a map of the factory floor. Each dot represents an inspection report. You can open up a report by clicking on a dot, and see photos, inspection date and time, and other important information. You can upload your own maps—check out the ‘KML Layers’ section of the Working with Maps doc for more details.  This app is also a great example of the variety of views that AppSheet offers. Check out the dashboard view (Dashboard) and the gallery view (Journal) on the primary menu. Monthly Equipment Inspections  This app uses barcode and near-field communication scanning to keep track of electronic devices within an organization. These two features speed up equipment identification within a split second—you can see when a certain item was checked out, when it is due, and which user is in possession of it. You can also mark a certain item as invalid by pressing the thumbs-down button on each item’s detailed view. Sign off on the accuracy of an inspection by using our Signature feature. The app also uses drop-down menus using data validation, called an ENUM or ENUMLIST. By clicking on Equipment ID of the item’s detailed view, you can view a list of pre-existing equipment IDs. This can help speed up the inspection process by sparing users the need to type-in all of their findings.

5 Digital Transformation Challenges Facing IT Departments

A growing number of businesses are investing in digital transformation to become more agile, cost-effective and profitable. A recent study, for example, found that B2B spending on technologies like connected devices and mobile apps will exceed $250B by 2025.  The path to digital transformation, however, is not always a smooth one. And for IT departments in particular, the process can be a big undertaking. Not only do they have to manage their regular workloads, IT departments also need to train other employees on how to use the new tools effectively and safely. But the difficulties don’t stop there. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five greatest obstacles IT departments face as they move digital transformation initiatives forward. 1. Limited budgets Digital transformation doesn’t always come cheap; IT departments often get pushback about the costs associated with rolling out new solutions. Let’s imagine a company has decided to build a custom mobile app. That’s great and all, but hiring developers comes at a high price. The average salary of a full-time software engineer is $103,000, according to Glassdoor. If your company wants to build a custom web application, it could cost between $90,000 and $241,000, with eight developers working full-time on the project, a recent study suggests. With the right approach, however, it’s possible to get started down the path of digital transformation without breaking the bank. No-code app platforms, for example, are helping thousands of companies save money by enabling everyday employees—also known as citizen developers—to create custom apps for their businesses, without any prior coding knowledge and for a fraction of the price. 2. Employee pushback If your workforce consists of millennials—also known as digital natives—you’ll probably receive less pushback. Digital solutions are often a perfectly natural fit for a younger workforce. On the other hand, if your business is in manufacturing, construction or energy—where baby boomers represent a significant percentage of the workforce—you may have a learning curve to deal with. Oftentimes, older workers who have been using paper management systems for decades do not want to use mobile technologies in the field. This shouldn’t stop your digital transformation efforts, though. It may take some effort, and a willingness to change, but sooner or later most employees will come around and see the benefits of using new technologies. One way that you can help ease the transition is to create a training program where tech-savvy employees show others how to use your new technologies. Not only will this help facilitate the learning process, it can also double a great team-building experience, strengthening employee bonds. 3. Fear  Many employees are understandably concerned that new technologies and automated systems will make their jobs obsolete. To overcome this fear, remind employees that the adoption of new technology is essential for business survival and also helps employees learn new skills. The goal of implementing digital technologies, after all, is to remove repetitive tasks from everyday work, such as manually filling out paper forms, time cards, and spreadsheets, among other things. This is a big deal, since a recent study found that 90% of employees are burdened with mundane tasks that could easily be automated to save companies an average of 19 working days per year, per employee. 4. Security While digital transformation delivers a ton of upside to organizations, it also comes with risks. For starters, it can dramatically increase the chances that your IT department experiences a data breach—something that’s already happened to 53% of small- to medium-sized businesses, according to Cisco. The cost of a data breach might also be larger than you’d expect. The Cisco study also revealed that more than 50% of cyber attacks result in financial losses of over $500,000, including lost revenue and missed customer opportunities. The good news is that you can protect your company from these risks by selecting only the most secure, and well-respected solution providers. If you have the budget, you can also consider hiring a full-time cyber security specialist (which 59% of power and utilities CEOs view as the most important new role in their organizations). You should also encourage your IT department to lead training programs that educate your employees about cyber security risks and how to identify ransomware attacks so they are always aware about potential security issues. 5. Communication Digital transformation can have a big impact on an organization. Even something as seemingly small as an app can affect security, finance, production, management, and more. To this end, communication is the cornerstone of successful digital transformation initiatives. In fact, digital transformation often fails when teams bring new solutions and processes into place without communicating with one another. To avoid complications and prevent projects from getting shut down midway through completion, it’s important for key decision makers to discuss objectives and solidify project roles and responsibilities prior to launching an initiative. Choose the path that’s right for your business While the path to digital transformation is not always smooth, with the right approach, your IT department can motivate employees to use new tools while minimizing security risks. If building apps is a part of your team’s digital to-do list, check out this page that outlines how AppSheet keeps data secure while enabling businesses to build custom apps for a fraction of the cost—and in much less time than hiring an outside firm.

Disrupting the Maritime Industry with Apps

The maritime transport industry is lagging far behind in terms of technological innovation.  So, I decided to do something about it. Two years ago, I launched a company called Vendola Solutions. Vendola is an independent IT consulting firm that helps ship owners, operators, charters, and brokers streamline technical and operational processes. Early on, I saw that my clients needed help modernizing their management strategies through digitalization—the process of using technology to solve common challenges that have been around forever. Disruption seems to be everywhere we look. But it turns out that most companies in the shipping industry today are still using paper-based management systems, and inefficient software solutions to run their day-to-day operations. This is partially due to the fact that ships tend to have limited IT resources. Ships primarily rely on satellite communications systems to transmit data to onshore personnel. Quite a few technologies are involved in this process, and they are not tightly integrated. While there are many off the shelf software solutions that can streamline commercial and technical operations, the truth is that none of the leading programs are very customizable, or capable of driving actual cost and time savings or safety improvements. Take my word for it: These companies could greatly benefit from custom apps. An app created by Tsuji. Challenge: Creating custom apps Procuring a custom app in the shipping industry is both time-consuming and expensive. Companies typically have to consult with third-party app developers, requiring a huge amount of investment. The whole process takes months to years for an app to be created. This is very frustrating for ship owners—most of whom are aware of the need for technological change but are often forced to use the same inefficient management processes they’ve been relying on for decades. I saw this as a big opportunity. I knew that if I could figure out a way to bring apps to market in a way that was less resource-intensive, I could solve a major problem for the industry. There was just one challenge: I had never developed an app from scratch on my own. Apart from having a working knowledge of languages like JavaScript and Python, I didn’t even really know how to code. My experience lies in technical and operational management and in processes like inspections, crew coordination, inventory, and logistics—not in software development. Solution: AppSheet At first, I decided to form my own technology team to develop custom apps for my clients. This approach didn’t help much. First of all, outsourcing app development was very expensive. I wasn’t actually reducing the cost of app development this way—I was just absorbing it directly. It was also very frustrating working with third-party app developers, as it required constant communication and collaboration for even the most basic processes. This resulted in countless corrections and do-overs. I had been hearing a lot about the benefits of no-code app development. Seeking a better way forward, I googled “no-code app.” I ended up testing a couple of leading solutions like PowerApps, Appily, and OutSystems but wasn’t very impressed with what I found. Shortly thereafter, I discovered AppSheet—and that’s when things took off. AppSheet was far more sophisticated and easier to control than any of the other platforms I tried. With AppSheet, you can build an app for almost any process with a little bit of practice. Without coding experience, I’ve built several apps that are changing the way the maritime industry operates. Example app: MOLSHIP Right now, one of the most exciting projects I am working on is a management app for Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), an international shipping provider based in Japan and one of the largest companies in the global maritime industry. We are working for their affiliated company, MOL Shipmanagement Co., Ltd (MOLSHIP), which is responsible for the technical management of their own fleet. MOL owns a fleet of ships, which they mostly manage themselves. There are a few internal affiliated companies and departments who are responsible for the technical management of each vessel. They organize the crew, and conduct physical inspections etc.  Superintendent of the vessel routinely visit each vessel and compile reports to ensure safety, efficiency, and regulatory compliance. Inspection is a rigorous process that involves taking many pictures and interviewing crew members. An inspection may take a full day to complete for just one ship—and that’s before counting any paperwork that needs to be completed, tracked, and managed.  I single-handedly created an inspection app to digitalize the entire inspection workflow.  The first project was successfully completed last year. The app was delivered to around 30 end users, who use it every day. Their feedback is continuously reviewed and used to improve the app.  There are two different apps, both of which can be accessed from an app launcher: A “viewer” app, which allows managers to read all inspection reports and assign tasks, and an “editor” app for reporters to use when conducting site inspections. Here is what the workflow looks like across different teams when using these apps: Pre-inspection meeting report: First, one or more inspectors will have a discussion with management about the purpose of an upcoming ship audit. The team will use the “editor” app to determine the core areas of focus. Individual tasks can be assigned and given an “open” or “closed” status. Inspection report: Next, management will send a team of inspectors out to a ship. While they are on site, the inspectors will be able to use the “editor” app to view their pre-inspection meeting report, as see any open tasks that need to be completed. From there, inspectors can write the inspection report, and update the status of each task. Ongoing feedback: It’s important for managers to provide feedback throughout an inspection. I set it up so that managers can easily add comments to an inspection report, and assign a thumbs up or thumbs down to individual practices using the “viewer” app. A single email is then automatically sent to a report conductor, who can see all responses in a single view. An app created by Tsuji. Advanced features With AppSheet, your apps can be as simple or complex as you need them to be. Just by researching AppSheet’s YouTube channel and developer community, I have been able to implement some advanced functions that others may find useful. Some of these include: Filtered view: By using filters, a user can only see his or her own report. Each report is organized by vessel name and by status—published or working. If you click on a row, the user will be taken to the report detail view, where he or she can view an improvement list, un-publish a report or go to another app. Dependent dropdown: I made it easy to see which personnel correspond with each vessel, using AppSheet’s “dependent dropdown” feature. When selecting a vessel, personnel fields can be pre-filled with corresponding technicians and engineers. References: In several places, I have created “references”—or connections—between various tables in the app. I use this to pull data from different tables when it’s needed. Actions: Actions, usually shown as buttons on a view, allow you to modify data, navigate inside and outside of an app. I wanted to make it easy for users to delete reports, so I put a “delete” button at the top of the app. However, I was aware that users may accidentally hit the button. So, I added a “lock/unlock” column to hide or show the “delete” button. Appsheet’s support desk is also quite helpful and capable of addressing efficiently any issue that we have. They are quick to respond, and always willing is The response is rapid, and they are always willing to work with us until the problem is completed. Results While the MOLSHIP project is still being tested, it’s clear that this app is going to have a big impact on the company’s overall operations. Some of the benefits for MOLSHIP include: Time savings: This app shaves several hours off of each inspection. It’s easier for inspectors to compile information as they move through a ship, as they don’t have to carry around paper sheets which can get lost or damaged. My app also eliminates the need to file and manage paper after an inspection. Enhanced communication: Each report also has an embedded distribution list. After a report is published, all parties can be notified using an SQL trigger, which I built into the app. Users can then see a list of reports that they have to read right in their app viewer. Admins will also be able to see who has read a report, and what reports have or have not been read. Clean data: One of the biggest problems that shipping companies face when manually entering data into spreadsheets is not “clean” data. This occurs when spreadsheet columns have extra symbols beyond numbers. By using an app, MOLSHIP is guaranteed clean and actionable data. I also use BI tools such as Tableau in conjunction with AppSheet, for enhanced data visualization. Reports are now clean, accurate, and easy to read. Originally, my data was hosted in Google Sheets. However, I am dealing with a large amount of data (22 tables). I migrated all of the data to SQL Server, as Google Sheets has a limit of 5 million cells. For me, personally, this is just one example of the success that I have had working with AppSheet. It’s gotten to the point where I can step in, create a sample app, and show it to customers in no time at all. My clients are always amazed when I do this and want to know how I am able to create such robust apps in just a matter of days when it takes them months. Such is the power of no-code app development. 

7 Digital Trends Transforming the Energy and Utilities Sector

Disruption in the energy and utilities sector is occurring at a rapid pace. Advances in technology—including cloud computing, mobile apps, automation, big data, and the IoT—are dramatically changing the ways that energy companies do business. How, specifically, are energy and utilities organizations changing because of technology? Let’s take a look at seven current digital trends that are transforming how the energy and utilities sector operates: 1. AI is the new electricity  Today’s leading energy companies are increasingly deploying artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to move faster, operate more efficiently, and make better decisions in less time. One of the most obvious benefits of using AI is the ability to predict equipment failure before it happens. As a result, energy companies can schedule preventative maintenance or expedite repairs as needed. The result is better fault prediction and dynamic maintenance, enhanced investment optimization, and increased energy efficiency. In the retail sector, AI is being used to predict a customer’s ability (or inability) to pay bills on time.  2. Energy monitoring systems are increasing efficiency through better data collection Energy companies are collecting massive amounts of data from sophisticated meters. These sensors—which monitor variables such as applied power and the amount of electricity being consumed—are also becoming more affordable as a result of increased adoption. 3. Energy and utilities companies are embracing a “no-collar” workforce A recent study by Deloitte revealed that a significant percentage of energy industry workers are eligible to retire in the next five years. Companies are preparing for this transition by employing digital solutions such as automated calling systems and interactive chatbots. As a result, they are freeing up tons of time for their call centers, enabling fewer agents to focus on its most important customers—and with better customer service. 4. Technology is improving safety in high-risk worksites Oil field workers have some of the most dangerous jobs in the world. To ensure worker safety, it is critical that employees are able to hear and see the dangers around them. To that end, vehicles operating within oil fields are being equipped with smart reversing alarms. These cutting-edge alarm systems automatically adjust volume emission according to the surrounding ambient noise levels. Additionally, instead of emitting the traditional “beep, beep” noise—which can be impossible to hear for employees wearing ear protection—the alarms emit a special sound frequency that’s easily detected through ear protection. 5. Cybersecurity is a top priority for energy industry CEOs Cyberattacks are increasingly impacting energy companies.  According to the Department of Homeland Security, hackers penetrated hundreds of U.S. power stations in 2018. Thankfully, there were no major consequences—but the situation could have been catastrophic. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that nearly 50% of energy company CEOs consider a cyberattack to be inevitable, and 60% of CEOs believe that cybersecurity specialists are the most important new role in their industry. 6. Power plants can digitally clone themselves to improve operational efficiency Using technology that was originally developed by NASA, power plants are able to produce “digital twins” of themselves to measure KPIs and gather insights on future business outcomes. A recent study by Gartner predicts that within three to five years, there will be billions of digital twins across all industries. 7. Apps are increasing productivity and saving money for energy companies Energy companies often have hundreds or even thousands of employees located all across the world. Delegating tasks, collecting data, and managing workflows are not easy—especially when using disparate platforms or paper-based management systems. Recent advances in no-code apps significantly reduce the amount of time and money that it costs to build custom solutions. Now, energy companies no longer have to consult with third-party developers. Apps can be easily and cost-effectively designed in house, leveraging citizen developers, i.e., ordinary employees who are empowered to create digital tools. One example of an energy provider that is using custom apps to improve its processes is M&O Partners, a multinational offshore oil and gas sales hub. The company uses AppSheet’s no-code platform to manage custom apps in areas such as project implementation, process management, and network management, among others. M&O partners has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by developing their own apps instead of hiring expensive developers—and your company can, too. To learn more about how your energy or utilities company can develop no-code apps platform, contact our sales team.

AppSheet Secures $15M Series A Funding from Shasta Ventures and NEA

We announced yesterday that AppSheet has secured a new funding round. I wanted to share this good news with all of you and to emphasize what it means for us collectively. AppSheet is first and foremost a customer-centric technology company. The purpose of our platform is to empower you (our customers) to create your own software solutions that drive productivity in your business. Compared to writing code, the AppSheet platform should give you orders of magnitude greater agility, feature richness, and cost savings. A software startup like AppSheet has to navigate a challenging path from incubation to initial survival to subsequent growth. It needs to demonstrate that there is a market with a need, that it can build a product that fits the market need, that it can deliver that product to the customers in that market, and that those customers find it compelling enough to pay for the product at a price point that produces a viable business. Over five-plus years of work and with the commitment of all of our customers, we have been able to demonstrate this “product-market fit”. That is why our new investors have decided to make this new “scale-the-business” investment in our company. For us, the goal of this investment is two-fold: Support our existing customers better. Whether it is by adding features you have asked for, or by improving the scalability, performance, stability, performance of our service, or by staffing a dedicated customer success team — all of it requires resources on our side. We can now assign the resources to address those tasks (or at least, can soon, after we grow the team). Acquire and support new customers and new customer scenarios. The more customers our platform supports and the more scenarios it supports, the better the platform becomes for everyone. This is because every feature requested by one customer also helps others, every bug fixed for one customer also is fixed for all the others, and every scenario relevant to one customer also adds to the platform intelligence for all the others. As our team grows in size this year, we intend to fiercely maintain our customer-centric culture, and the no-code technology principles of our platform. I am excited about our opportunities to do better. I hope you will gradually see the effects of this investment in a better platform and in better customer service.

Smart Lighting Contractor Builds Custom Apps for Project Management

Demand for energy efficient lighting is expanding across every vertical market, from finance to government to healthcare. The global market for energy efficient lighting is growing at a CAGR of 13.4 percent, and is on track to reach $15 billion by 2024.  To improve sustainability, cut utility costs and improve operational efficiency, more and more businesses are looking to implement “smart” light emitting diode (LED) systems and controls. Courtesy of Northwest Edison This means competition is increasing for contractors who design, specify and install lighting and electrical services. There is no shortage of providers in this market, and to stand out and win projects, commercial and industrial lighting contractors must combine superior services with stellar project management capabilities. Real-time communication, flawless data management, and strong customer support are all necessary to compete in today’s fast-paced, and competitive market.  Anything less just won’t cut it. Many contractors who have been in the game for a long time are now reassessing the way that they do business. Increasingly, they are embracing digital transformation and modernizing their processes and workflows. One such company that recently underwent digital transformation is Northwest Edison, a lighting and electrical contractor serving customers across the western United States. Northwest Edison, which has been in business since 1993, recently realized that its project management system was in need of a major overhaul. So, the team decided to take action.  Here’s what happened.  Challenge: Improving data and project management   Northwest Edison lacked a centralized “hub” for managing all of its concurrent projects. Up until recently, the company was using a combination of disparate systems including SMS, email, and paper to store and share information and track its workflows. As a result, the company struggled with poor visibility, data silos and a lack of communication. This was the situation that project engineer Jake Byland walked into when he started working in the company’s office. Byland, who had spent time in Northwest Edison’s warehouse, was attuned to how the lack of cohesion was impacting the business. “When I started in the office, one of my first jobs was manually entering data that was written down in copy binders,” Byland says, reflecting on the difficult, risky, and time-consuming process. “We knew there had to be a better option.” As Byland explains, there really was no out-of-box project management solution that could meet the company’s complex needs. Northwest Edison tried several solutions and even worked with a few third-party developers to find a fit. Nothing, Byland says, came close to what they wanted. The main feature the team sought in a platform was flexibility. The team needed a solution that could capture all of the nuances of their complex electrical projects. “No two of our projects are the same, and so finding an off-the-shelf solution that could do everything we needed just didn’t seem realistic,” Byland says. It wasn’t much easier working with third-party developers, who were often slow with turnarounds. “We were paying a ton of money [to developers], only to have changes rolled out much later than we needed them,” says Byland. Solution: AppSheet’s no-code platform Byland did some online research and discovered AppSheet’s no-code platform—a solution that would enable his team to create project management apps quickly and cost-effectively, without having to leverage third-party developers. AppSheet turned Byland into a “citizen developer,” or a worker who can design and develop apps without having any coding experience. To date, Byland has used AppSheet to design and deploy over 50 apps.  “The barrier to entry was very low,” says Byland. “It was simple to set up and we have constantly been finding ways to improve it and make our lives easier. There’s been a lot of feature updates from AppSheet that have allowed us to do more and streamline some of our processes.” Northwest Edison’s apps are used primarily for managing roadside lighting fixtures, projects at schools and universities, and projects on military bases.  “We have used AppSheet for all sorts of projects,” says Byland. “For example, we just completed a big project that included most of the major state routes in Northwestern Washington and a portion of I-5 out near Olympia. All of it was done through AppSheet.” Here are some interesting ways the company is benefiting from AppSheet. Use Case #1: Street lighting project in Oregon One project that the team is working on is for a large city in Oregon. This project involves managing about 8,000 street lights. They are a mixture of decorative, acorn-style fixtures, and standard roadside lights. “Normally, each fixture would just use photocells that are on at night and off during the day,” Byland says. “These particular lights are getting smart controls, so the city can capture significant energy savings by applying dynamic dimming schedules, such that the fixtures only have to use as much energy as is required at that moment. These also give the city visibility on their assets and notify them of outages, knockdowns, or wire theft. The city can also dim the downtown lighting fixtures during a firework show or bring an area to full brightness to assist with emergency response. These controls will also be able to integrate with new technologies in the future." For tracking and maintenance purposes, the City's Asset Management Software requires each pole, fixture, and control node to have a unique label with a barcode. This was something that the team was easily able to accomplish using AppSheet’s barcode scanner, which works with a mobile device’s camera. “Being able to use an iPad’s camera to scan each fixture has saved us a ton of time,” Byland says. “In past projects where we’ve had to do that manually, it’s led to errors and all kinds of issues. So this has been a huge benefit.” Use Case #2: Large school district in Nevada Another project that the Northwest Edison team is currently working on is a large school district in Nevada, which has many schools spread across a large geographical area. “At each location, the crew basically has to walk into rooms, swap out lights and controls and keep track of how many they have completed,” Byland says. “In some cases, there are audit errors and they are able to catch them and change them in the field. This has been a big advantage for us.” Using the app, the team can see all locations and lighting fixtures, as well as the status of each one and whether it needs maintenance. In addition to being able to view and edit line items, which contain information about individual lighting fixtures, the app also gives users three “action” buttons. They include: A gripe log: This enables crew members to pass along information to the audit and design team. In the gripe log, crew members can enter all relevant information, and attach photos. When it’s completed, an email is sent to the design team. Foot candle (FC): Some projects have strict light level requirements, measured in FCs (a non-SI unit of illuminance or light intensity). When the foot candle is illuminated red, a reading is needed for a particular location. When a crew member clicks the button, it pre-loads all relevant information, including the target figure they need to hit and the number of readings that are required. A copy function: Occasionally, an important fixture like an exit sign will get overlooked during a location inspection. Rather than creating a new line item from scratch, crew members can use the “copy” button to copy and edit an existing line item. Use Case #3: Military installation Northwest Edison is also managing exterior lighting for a military base in the Pacific Northwest. They have used AppSheet to manage several of its buildings. In this type of environment, there are many materials to track. Material tracking, Byland says, is something that the team used to struggle with. Byland made it possible for crew members to receive material on site and scan it into the app. “In the past, we had to go off site and order the final material and go back on the site, but now thanks to AppSheet, we’re able to anticipate material shortages in advance,” he says. “We can order materials sooner and stay on site throughout a project which means projects can be completed faster.”  Here’s what Northwest Edison’s inventory workflow looks like using AppSheet: When an order comes in, it’s updated by a purchasing manager who pre-loads the vendor and PO number into the app. A crew member then receives an item, and enters the item as a new delivery. This contains information such as the date of receival, the person receiving it, and any additional notes they may want to enter. For instance, a crew member can select whether an item is damaged and attach photos if necessary. Results As you’ll recall, Northwest Edison’s apps make it very easy for crew members to complete site inspections by allowing them to see individual line items, share information with team members, scan fixtures with barcodes, and more. So it comes as no surprise to learn that employee feedback about the apps has been very positive. “At first there was a little bit of pushback,” Byland says. “Everyone was comfortable using paper before. But despite a bit of resistance, we have gotten to the point where everyone sees the benefits both in the office and in the field. They are getting better information and they are able to see visual feedback. Now it’s actually possible to see a project progress, as line items and buildings turn green.” The company has also seen a big improvement in customer satisfaction, too, as they are now able to share data and project updates with clients. In the past, the crew had to take half an hour at the end of each shift to count how many fixtures they had installed and type it in an email. Now, they can use the app to pull up a daily report and share it with a client. “That’s something that’s been able to set us apart in some cases,” says Byland. “Being able to do sales presentations and show customers the type of data they receive during a project really helps set us apart. In some cases, we can even show customers energy savings to date. There are different metrics and dashboards that are very helpful.” Byland’s favorite AppSheet feature is the dashboard function. “I’m a big fan of dashboards,” says Byland. “Especially when you turn them on interactive mode, you can set filters and this is especially useful when you have a map. With a dashboard, I can look at a particular crew and see all of their buildings on a map as well as any issues related to them. There is a lot of neat functionality you can create with this.” Byland working on an app. Looking forward Right now, the team is in the process of migrating its data to a centralized server. The team hopes to further streamline project management by combining audit data with installation data. “The tools we are currently using for auditing are all stored locally on the device. Data has to be uploaded, downloaded, restructured, and put into our spreadsheet—it’s not directly connected.” Moving forward, all photos and data will be easily accessible to an installation crew. “AppSheet has already saved us a significant amount of time while providing us with better data management,” says Byland. “But once we make the jump to a centralized server and are using AppSheet for the audit as well as the installation, the benefit will be incredibly significant for us as a company.” AppSheet also recently added the ability to upload a floor plan, which is something that the team intends to take advantage of. Instead of working line by line, crew members will be looking at a map and seeing a visual representation of what’s where, with icons indicating what’s completed, remaining issues, and so on. “AppSheet, moving forward, will be an integral part of our company,” says Byland. “More and more processes will be put on the platform.”  Learn how other organizations are using AppSheet to get more done more effectively: How Front Range Excavating Streamlined Management and Saved Thousands of Dollars Using AppSheet How SmartD Created a Series of Apps to Accelerate Pesquera Exalmar’s Digital Transformation M&O Partners Moves Full Speed Ahead With More Streamlined Processes 

3 Free Inspection Templates for Mobile Apps, Excel, and Google Sheets

Inspections require countless facets: signatures, passing/failing inspections, the diversity of potential infringements, and keeping your team in the loop. This is where tools like spreadsheets (lots of people are still using paper-based forms to collect information for inspections) and mobile apps come in: they can streamline these facets and act as a one-stop digitization shop. Here at AppSheet, we understand the complexity of inspection. That's why we created three free spreadsheet templates and mobile apps for you to customize. Got an important inspection you need to prep for right away? Skip ahead and get your template now: House Inspection Checklist Inspection Site Checklist Safety Audit Checklist House Inspection Checklist Spreadsheets and mobile apps give you all the information you need in one place. In this sheet, we added color-coded quality ratings, outstanding comments, and a section to display vital information about each house: address, number of rooms, house description, and address.  You can quickly see which houses didn't pass inspections, and which parts of the house need safety improvements. No more filing through a stack of papers to figure out what needs to change! As always, all the sheets are customizable. Make a copy, add your data, and it's all yours.   Bonus: Get the mobile-friendly version and collaborate at the next level! I love this spreadsheet, but there's so much more to inspections than ratings and comments. However, there's only so much you can include in a simple spreadsheet. With AppSheet's no-code application platform, we built a mobile app version (like all AppSheet apps, it's tablet friendly and can be used on desktops!) that brings your inspection experience to new heights. Using the mobile version means less paperwork and more efficiency. More and more business are switching to apps to mobilize their inspections. Mobile solutions make data collection much easier as inspectors can upload images, text, location, and their signatures all in one place. We've incorporated several useful features for this app: Map view where you can see all your inspections sites. Signature collection for minimal paperwork. Workflow email: If the inspection fails, an email warning is triggered. Inspection Site Checklist There's a lot of information to keep track of when managing inspection sites. Contacts, status, crew size, and due dates are just a few of the data points that need to be organized. So I created this spreadsheet to help you do that! It includes all audit site contacts, status, crew size, and a short description of the work. Why not use the free tools available to you? Enter your own data and the spreadsheet is yours! Bonus: Do more with the mobile version. There's nothing more time-consuming than making small updates at a large effort. With apps, changes can be made quickly and easily no matter where you are. The mobile version has features such as: Easy data entry: Click yes/no and go. Signature collection: If your inspection form is integrated into the app, why not the signature too? Images: Adding images can help emphasize key issues of an inspection site. Centralized Data: View all historical inspections for each job from one place. Safety Audit Checklist There's a lot at stake when dealing with key safety information. No room for mistakes! This spreadsheet will help you keep track of key safety touch points such as pass/fail, depots, and personnel trained. It's easy to see whether the site passed inspections or not, and you'll be able to share this information with your team quickly and efficiently.  Bonus: Organize better and faster with the mobile version! Mobile apps allow you to quickly change and manage your data. Field managers need to be able to see which sites are failing, passing, and in progress at all stages. We made a mobile version that auto-organizes your inspections into 'passed' and 'failed'. It shows all inspections in a map view, and an option to organize training dates. Here are three reasons why we love the app version: Auto-organization allows you to quickly handle failed inspections. Sharing options make it easy to collaborate with your team. Images can highlight aspects of the inspection that you want your team to remember.   Closing Thoughts I found these apps to be incredibly all-inclusive. I was quite impressed by the easy navigation, simple data entry, and auto-organization, and I hope you find them incredibly useful. Better yet, you don't need to hire a developer or know how to code to use AppSheet! Learn more about how it works here. I'd love to hear about what successes or pain points you've found, with both spreadsheets and mobile apps for inspections! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.😀 Want to know how others use AppSheet for inspections? Read about: Smart Inspections – A Safe Bet for Manufacturing Field Inspection: Millicom’s TigoUne Sees Field of Opportunities with AppSheet Multinational Pharmaceutical Firm Roche Streamlines Site Inspections with AppSheet-Powered Apps

10 Amazing AppSheet Customer Apps

One of the most rewarding parts of being a no-code platform provider is seeing the innovative solutions created by our customers whose apps improve lives and make it easier for workers to get more done. From non-profit animal response organizations and telecom companies to boutique construction firms and global powerhouses, companies of all shapes and sizes are boosting productivity and revenue with customized no-code apps. To give you a better idea of the creative solutions your company can build, let’s take a look at 10 examples of amazing no-code apps built by our wide range of customers. 1. Husqvarna Husqvarna is a Swedish-based manufacturer of outdoor power products, including chainsaws, lawn mowers, trimmers, brush cutters, and more. The company has a North American headquarters in South Carolina. There, they had an ambitious goal: to automate the entire warehouse—with over 35,000 unique product SKUs—using custom no-code apps. In eight short months, and without hiring a single developer, the Husqvarna warehouse team created 41 custom apps to manage inventory, personnel, forklift drivers, goods reception, and quality tracking. For example, the company’s Track Lift app lets the team know who’s using cherry pickers and forklifts at any point in time. As a result, up to 40 lift drivers and team leaders have access to up-to-date information about who is on what lifts when, the condition of each machine before and after use, and more. Instead of using a radio to check on availability, the team can simply reference the Track Lift app to see what’s being used and what isn’t. Read Husqvarna's story here.   2. KLB Construction KLB Construction is a leading heavy-highway civil contractor operating out of the Pacific Northwest. The company’s team consists of over 250 employees, all of whom used to rely on mountains of paperwork to do their jobs. Three years ago, KLB found AppSheet and has created more than 20 apps to manage and enforce safety guidelines and regulations and digitalize workflow and processes. “Before the apps, everything was 100% paperwork,” explains Aiesh Ragih, KLB’s senior project manager. “We used to write daily reports using KLB forms, work orders—all manually. Apps have made all the managers more efficient." The Foreman Daily Reports app (see the mockup screenshot below) is organized by job, providing a daily digital view of what is happening at a job site. This app replaces KLB’s paper Foreman Daily Log, a triplicate log. With the app, the site foreman can stop by a job site and digitally fill out a daily report to record what work was completed, etc., with accompanying photos when needed. Back at the office, all the reports can be reviewed to get a clear picture of activities at all sites. Read KLB Construction's story here.   3. M&O Partners M&O partners is an international sales hub that connects buyers and suppliers in the offshore oil and gas industry. The company has projects, suppliers, and customers all over the world. To scale its network and streamline project management, M&O used AppSheet to create several custom apps. For example, the project implementation app assigns tasks to users around the world and enables M&O’s distributed team to coordinate projects across time zones. The company also built a network management app that tracks things like company names, staff members, membership status, project information, the services companies are receiving from M&O and more, making it easier to stay on top of each client account as the business scales.  Here’s a screenshot of the company’s Deliverables Dashboard app, which provides the management team with an overview of deliverables in all ongoing projects. Deliverables are shown on a map in different colors, which represent different levels of urgency and importance. The arrow actions allow users to quickly change the urgency/importance of a selected record as statuses change or needs shift. Read the full case study to find out more about M&O and the apps they built. 4. Access RV Access RV is a full-service RV dealership that offers the largest selection of truck campers, fifth wheels, motorhomes, and lightweight trailers in Utah. They are based out in Salt Lake City and serve Provo, Ogden, Clearfield, and other surrounding areas. The company developed custom apps to streamline operations across their three main departments: sales, rentals, and parts and service. Access RV’s owner, Spencer Jones, says that AppSheet saves him one or two hours each day by eliminating the need to manually file paperwork and update Excel spreadsheets. That’s an average of 468 hours saved annually, or 58 entire working days reclaimed, thanks to no-code. Here’s a screenshot of their master app, which contains sales, rentals and workload data:   5. I-care Group I-care Group provides machine measurement services to industrial companies around the world. The company, which is headquartered in Belgium, has offices in Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.S., and Australia. To increase productivity, I-care Group used AppSheet to develop 15 custom machine measurement services apps. According to Julien Grégoire, the company’s reliability engineer, these new apps enabled their technicians to be more efficient in the field. I-care Group’s apps also increased the accuracy of the machine data that their technicians collect. Prior to using AppSheet, this information was written on paper files and then manually uploaded to Excel which took more time and led to more unreliable data. Nearly 350 employees across I-care use the apps to quickly find all kinds of company-specific information about accounting, marketing, corporate values, human resources, company cars, and more. The apps also contain employee contact information, so colleagues can easily track each other down. “The goal is to avoid all repetitive questions and improve internal communications,” Grégoire says.  The following app, an FAQ app, explains to I-care employees the internal processes of the company.  6. TigoUne TigoUne provides telecom services to residents across Colombia. The company’s vast network of cell towers needs regular inspections. Seeking a more efficient way to store the associated data, Sebastian Arango Alzate, a field audit supervisor at TigoUne, migrated audit data from paper files to AppSheet and has never looked back.  “The best feature of our application is the quick modifications that can be made, without going through a long and tedious development process,” Alzate says. Currently, over 80 employees use their custom app. Read Alzate’s app story here. 7. PEGAfrica PEGAfrica provides affordable solar energy to residents in remote areas of Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal. To grow their business, PEGAfrica sends representatives door-to-door to sell solar panels to off-grid villagers. Prior to using AppSheet, the only practical tool available to their sales team was WhatsApp, which was becoming increasingly burdensome to use. Today, over 100 salespeople use their custom apps to communicate sales territories, view customer records, and share crucial information—like which clients owe payments. PEGAfrica also uses their app to analyze sales performance internally which enables them be more strategic about where to send salespeople and allocate resources.  8. Arrivage Consumers are increasingly interested in supporting local farmers and knowing where their food comes from. Farmers, on the other hand, are always trying to sell their products before they expire. Enter Arrivage. The company made an app that connects farmers with buyers. Chefs and grocery store owners use the app to check the real-time status of farmers’ inventory based on their individual sheets. Already, more than 200 farmers have signed up and are using the app to manage their inventories and the condition of their crops. What’s more, 75 buyers have signed up to check to see what food is for sale and who’s selling it. The app enables farmers to promote current and future inventories with expected availability dates and pricing information. Buyers are given the option to browse the food supply by different categories, including farmer’s profiles, locations, prices, types of food, whether the food is organic, and more. The Arrivage team can customize what appears on the app’s landing page, and buyers can call, text, and email by pushing buttons on the app. Here’s what the Arrivage app looks like: 9. New Incentives  New Incentives is a non-profit organization that helps ensure infants in Nigeria are immunized against deadly diseases. Oftentimes, New Incentives’ employees are delivering services in underserved, remote areas without connectivity. To help fulfill their mission, New Incentives used AppSheet to build an app that enabled offline access and helped the organization maintain high service quality in even the remotest of communities. 10. Rotary International Rotary International is a service organization that brings business and professional leaders together in support of world peace. In the fall of 2017, disaster struck the Caribbean, and Rotary jumped into action. Managing resources during crises is extraordinarily challenging, so Rotary turned to AppSheet to create apps that kept all members of their members in touch, no matter where they happened to be.  With the apps, Rotary members were able to coordinate the immediate distribution of relief supplies—like food, water, clothing, and emergency shelter—across affected communities on several islands. Here’s what Rotary’s app looks like:  When you add it all up, over 200,000 apps have been developed and deployed using AppSheet’s platform. With many more apps in the pipeline, it’s safe to say that the possibilities are limitless. Do you have an idea for a no-code app that could transform your company? Talk to the team to learn how your company can use custom apps to get more done in less time. 

Aerospace Startup Boom Technology Builds Its Own Quality Management App

Commercial supersonic transport may soon become available again, thanks to Boom Technology—a Colorado-based aerospace startup working to develop a Mach 2.2 airliner called Overture, which is scheduled to take flight in 2023.  In order for Overture to become a reality, the team must first complete a viable prototype. Right now, Boom is moving full speed ahead to develop the XB-1—a subscale model of the Overture, which shares the same technological composites and features. The XB-1 is a massive project, with around 150 employees working together to design and manufacture the craft.  More than 3,700 parts will need to be manufactured and assembled, with fabrication occurring in-house and through third-party suppliers. Challenge: performance issue documentation At this stage of the project, it’s critical to identify and resolve performance issues in a timely manner. Faulty parts need to be entered as records into a non-conformance report (NCR); each record needs to be closed before the aircraft can be completed. “We will not fly this aircraft if there are any open records,” says Ryan Bocook, Boom’s manufacturing engineer lead and app creator. “They all have to be closed before we can fly.” Right now, there are around 50 open records—a figure that may balloon into thousands by the end of the project. If the team is not careful about closing open NCRs, they will pile up thereby delaying the launch. Bocook, an industry veteran, was well aware of this pitfall at the beginning of the project. He knew that relying on a traditional paper-based inspection process would not work in this type of fast-paced environment. Instead, the team decided that building a custom app would be the best way to manage its workflow. “There are a lot of off-the-shelf manufacturing quality management solutions like TIPQA, but they are all fairly complex and time-consuming,” adds Bocook. “They are also very expensive, with some leading platforms costing tens of thousands of dollars annually. We are trying to run a nimble operation and needed to be able to change things on the fly and customize our app as we go along.” Solution: AppSheet’s no-code platform Bocook wanted something that could interface directly with his data in Google Sheets, which is what led him to AppSheet. “I liked that I could go under the hood and piece together together a relatively simple platform on my own, making it more complex as I learn how to use it,” says Bocook. “I found the user community to be very informative.”  Bocook also liked the fact that AppSheet allows his team to control user access, ensuring that only authorized individuals can enter data into specific fields. “We wanted to set it up so that anyone in our company could log in, create a record and say ‘I have a problem.’ However, we didn’t want everyone to be able to say how to handle that problem. AppSheet’s ability for us to set permissions was huge.” The App Bocook hit the ground running with AppSheet, and successfully built a functioning app in just one week’s time—as opposed to waiting several months or longer if he had decided to outsource the project to a third-party development agency. Bocook built an app that his team could use to create, manage and close NCRs. The app includes a main dashboard, with different pages for open and closed NCRs. Each NCR is assigned a unique number and an “owner” who is in charge of seeing it through to completion. The app also contains additional fields including correlating systems, NCR descriptions, process order data, engineering disposition, signature sign offs, and more. In the app, employees can attach pictures to NCRs. Plus, the app includes a “tag you’re it” feature which notifies employees when approvals are needed. When someone is tagged, he or she receives an email explaining the problem and outlining the next steps that need to be taken. “The email chain will fire out an email to the originator and tagged team members whenever a message goes out,” Bocook says. “Whoever is in the NCR Owner ‘tag you’re it box’—we call it the hot potato—is the person who owns that record for that time being.” Results So far, the project is working out as planned. The team has avoided many of the complications that come with a paper-based management system and is on track to complete the prototype on schedule. The NCR management process has been completely digitized thanks to AppSheet, resulting in a much safer and more efficient operation. “We’ve all experienced the challenges of dealing with paper management systems,” Bocook says. “Not only do you waste a lot of time running around chasing paper, but you can lose items or think an item is closed when it hasn’t been addressed. With AppSheet, you can attach a formal analysis to an NCR to officially close it with no guesswork. It’s much nicer than stapling a PDF together.” According to Bocook, the team has embraced the idea of using AppSheet and was able to get started with minimal training. “AppSheet is a one-stop shop for configuring a high-performance aircraft,” Bocook says.  

How to Manage Stock: Three Free Inventory Management Excel Templates

Inventory Management Has Never Been Easier Inventory management apps (like Inventory Management App and Store Inventory App ) have been on AppSheet’s top 10 most popular sample app list since we started tracking this in 2016. Over the last two years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the number of inventory management use cases with no end in sight. The Inventory Management App has the following powerful features: The app automatically enters dates and uses the phone/tablet camera as a Barcode reader. A daily email report reminds the user to reorder stock. You can navigate the different inventory items by Category. An independent view to see all items that need to be restocked. Current stock data is connected with sales and purchasing data. Why the trend? Businesses and organizations are automating data capture by tracking and updating inventory data in real-time through bar code scanning or image capture. What does an Excel spreadsheet have to do with this? Well, it’s actually a great starting point for creating an app that automates the inventory management process for you. My recommendation: Start with a spreadsheet and turn it into an app using an app maker platform like AppSheet’s. Of course, we’re not the only platform out there but we’re the only one that can easily take a spreadsheet and turn it into an app! If you are considering making an inventory app on your own, you will need to begin the process with a spreadsheet and there are some great Excel inventory management templates. The following sections describe some free inventory management excel templates that can help you get started. Of course, you can just use the templates and adopt them to your own business needs or you can turn them into apps—it’s up to you!  General Inventory Manufacturing Inventory Warehouse Inventory General Inventory Excel Never tracked inventory but want to start tracking it now? This easy-to-get-started template has all the key items you need to track. It’s made up of three tabs: Daily Stocktake records stock coming in and going out of a company on a daily basis. Stock Database allows you to enter more detailed information about each item. Stock Inventory links Stock In and Stock Out columns to Daily Stocktake, and after you enter Initial Stock, the spreadsheet will calculate Final Stock for you. Of course, to meet your business needs you can add or update columns. For example, to manage reordering, you can add columns for reorder levels and reorder quantities. Bonus: I modified the above excel template and convert it into an Inventory Management App. The app enables inventory managers to do the following: Use a bar-code scanner to record stock in and stock out (your phone or tablet can serve as a bar-code scanner); Automatically calculate current stock level; Display on a view what items need to be restocked; Send “Add Stock” email notifications to the purchasing department. Copy the excel template and the app, and customize your own way. If you want to learn how the app was made, read this blog.  Manufacturing Inventory Excel Template This template works for any business that purchases raw materials, manufactures in-house and then sells products to customers. For example, a bicycle producer, a furniture manufacturer or even a car company. This template is made up of three main tabs—Sales, Parts and Inventory. Orange columns allow you to enter data. Based on that, the template calculates and auto-fills data. In the Sales tab, you enter Sales_Quantity and the template calculates Sales Quantity per day and send the data to the Inventory table. In the Parts tab, there are Parts, Parts_Barcode and Low Inventory Alert. I suggest you use Parts_Barcode if you have a lot of parts. With Barcode, you can easily scan a part and update its sales and production data. Low Inventory Alert or Re-produce Point tells you market demand exceeds supply and you need to produce more. In the Inventory tab, the template auto-generates Initial Stock and Daily Inventory. Initial Stock is equal to the previous day's inventory. Daily Inventory is equal to Initial Stock plus Daily Production minus Daily Sales. Bonus: I converted this spreadsheet into a mobile app. You can use it on iOS and Android devices. The app fosters team collaboration—manufacturing team, sales team and warehouse inventory team can enter data simultaneously. It allows inventory managers to check inventory data anywhere and any time. It eliminates data entry errors and data migration errors from paper to computers. It enables sales managers, production managers and inventory mangers to pull historical data, conduct analysis and make decisions on that. The Inventory View shows each part group's Daily Inventory and previous day's Inventory. Warehouse Inventory Excel Template The template is for companies who have warehouses and put their raw materials in bins of different sizes in different bin locations. The template has three tabs—Inventory List, Inventory Pick List, and Bin Lookup. The Inventory List tab tracks the quantity of SKUs in different bins and locations and flags SKUs that need to be reordered. The Inventory Pick List tab allows users to easily locate where to pick up an item and the quantity of the item. The Bin Lookup tab acts as a bin database where information such as size, location and bin number are stored. Bonus: An App for Streamlining Inventory Updates This app can replace paper logging of product inventory, for quicker input, real time analysis of stock levels and alerts when items require a check or re-order. Features include: Barcode and NFC Tag scanning for quick inventory edits; Custom Formats to highlight popular products and the ones with low inventory level; Email Alerts on low inventory products; Charts on receiving and shipping. What’s Next? These are just some of my favorite Excel templates for inventory management. You can use them as is OR easily create your own apps. Check out our sample inventory management apps here and here—and note, they were all made from spreadsheets! If you have other favorite Excel templates, let me know by submitting a comment or tweet. I'm always looking for templates to add to this list! Related stories: Free Excel Templates for Small Business 10 Excel Templates for Simplifying Your Life How to Turn Google Sheets into a Stock Management App Ready to take your inventory tracking to the next level? Copy the following app and customize in your own way!   

Feature Friday - Adjustable Dashboards & Deck Grouping

A challenge all app creators face is balancing the right amount of information exposed to app users at any given point. Too much data & functionality in one place causes 'information overload', making it hard to focus on what's important and getting distracted by irrelevant content. On the other hand, making app users 'drill-down' through layers to find singularly relevant pieces of information can create just as much friction and result in important information being overlooked. A couple recent interface updates provide some more options for how to balance these priorities, and help ensure apps aren't just functional for users, but also more efficient.  Adjustable Dashboards Dashboards are useful for users accessing apps on devices with greater screen 'real estate', allowing the app to expose more relevant information & functionality in one place. The layouts are pre-determined by the app creator in the AppSheet Editor, but are now also adjustable by the app user within the app itself, allowing users to customize the content of dashboard views when viewing as a 'web app' in their browser. These customizations are remembered per user when they revisit the dashboard. Try customizing this dashboard. To create a dashboard view, first create a few independent view types, then create a 'Dashboard View' and select the other views to be consolidated within the dashboard. The example above consists of 7 separate views, combined into a dashboard that's opened as a browser web-app (5 pie chart views, a gallery view, and a detail view). Since the data in each view is related, enabling 'Interactive Mode' in the Dashboard view settings will allow dashboard content to change dynamically as data points are selected. Deck Grouping Similar to Table grouping, Deck views can now be grouped, making it easier to quickly organize a list (ideally one that has image thumbnails). This can be setup for each Deck view by modifying the ‘Group By’ and ‘Group Aggregate’ settings: By adding multiple group fields, it's easy to apply options for displaying group 'drill-downs' to help users focus on the type of record they need, but also making it easy to scan records similar to the one they're searching for.    

4 No-Code App Development Misconceptions

In the past, when companies needed custom software to power their operations, they’d either hire in-house developers or contract a third-party agency to build apps for them.  Both options are very expensive.  Instead of covering those prohibitive costs, organizations of all sizes are increasingly using no-code platforms to build apps that support their unique processes and workflows—all without breaking the bank. No-code platforms enable rapid application development and deployment at a fraction of the cost. No-code represents the next phase in the evolution of software development. Like all new technologies, there’s some uncertainty surrounding no-code platforms. Let’s set the record straight by debunking four common misconceptions about no-code platforms. Misconception #1: You can’t make complex enterprise-grade apps with a no-code platform There’s a perception that no-code platforms can only produce “simple” apps, and that if you’re looking for an enterprise-grade application, you’re better off looking elsewhere. Some folks also believe that no-code apps struggle to scale. Both sentiments couldn’t be further from the truth. AppSheet’s no-code apps, for example, are used by industry leaders for all sorts of mission-critical processes. Popular use cases include streamlining inspections, keeping track of inventory, project management, process digitalization, and more. As you search for a no-code solution, look for a platform that is data source-agnostic and works with various data formats. With the right no-code platform, scalability is easily attained, and you have control over how that happens. For example, you can look for a solution that scales using data partitions or security filters, depending on your app’s specific needs. Organizations can use no-code platforms to build powerful enterprise-grade apps. Husqvarna, for example, used a no-code platform to build applications that track and manage every piece of equipment (35,000 product SKUs in total) sent from its headquarters in Sweden to its warehouse in South Carolina. Misconception #2: Like low-code platforms, no-code platforms require trained software developers Low-code platforms do need software developers. But that criteria doesn’t extend to no-code platforms. Thanks to no-code platforms, we’re entering a new phase in application development where any team member can become a citizen developer, helping build apps that support their company’s unique workflows. Check out this case study to see how Janis Majors, head of special projects at M&O Partners, used AppSheet to build several custom applications without having any technical expertise. Misconception #3: No-code apps are not secure You’re probably wondering: If any average employee can build an app with a no-code platform, doesn’t that increase the chances that the apps they end up building might be full of security vulnerabilities? Not at all, as long as you are using a platform that includes built-in security features and extensive compliance certification. As you begin your search for a no-code platform, ask yourself what kinds of security requirements your organization has. For example, you might be interested in SOC 2 Type 1 compliance to ensure that your apps comply with existing internal policies and regulations or you might be looking to build a HIPAA-compliant solution to keep personally identifiable information secure. If security is a top priority, look for no-code platforms that include built-in security features. With the right solution, citizen developers can define the security model of the apps they build, require users to sign in, set authentication providers, and implement domain authentication, and more. Leading no-code platforms will also ensure that data is encrypted both at-rest and in-transit. With the right solution in place, you won’t have to worry about a third-party provider storing your data; your information will simply pass through their servers, and data will always sync from the original source. As you can see, no-code application platforms can be highly secure, and with the right solution in place, your team always has the ability to adjust security measures as needed. Misconception #4: IT will lose control over no-code apps Some IT leaders believe that they won’t have much oversight over apps created on no-code platforms. The fear is that no-code apps will lead to “shadow IT,” i.e., technology that is used without IT’s knowledge or permission. To address this concern, look for no-code platforms that give administrators tools to manage users, teams, apps, and compliance. In short, citizens developers build apps while IT manages and governs the release of those apps—IT retains the same control over no-code apps as they would have over any other apps in their software suite. Rethink What’s Possible with AppSheet AppSheet is the platform of choice for making secure, complex, enterprise-grade apps with minimal technical experience or training. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that AppSheet was named a leader in the 3Q18 Forrester Wave Report for mobile low-code platforms. More and more users are trying AppSheet, experiencing the app-building process for themselves, and enjoying great business outcomes because of it. Learn more about no-code development: Top Five Reasons Companies Are Turning to No-Code Development Platforms 7 Things to Look for in a No-Code Development Platform What is a No-Code Development Platform?  

How SmartD Created Apps to Accelerate Pesquera Exalmar’s Digital Transformation

In recent years, technology has played an increasingly important role in almost every aspect of our lives. The proliferation of technology has had a tremendous impact on the business world. Companies generate more data than ever before. In order to make sense of it all and ensure you’re accessing accurate information at the right time, that data needs to be managed in an efficient and orderly way. This is why more and more companies are starting digital transformation initiatives that enable them to ensure they always have access to the real-time data they need to drive their businesses. Several companies in Peru, for example—including Pesquera Exalmar S.A.A., the country’s third-highest producer of fishmeal—have already started the digital transformation process to increase productivity and efficiency. Courtesy of Pesquera Exalmar S.A.A. Pesquera Exalmar S.A.A. has 25 years of experience and more than 1,000 employees. The company is responsible for extracting hydrobiological resources, processing and marketing flour, fish oil, and frozen products of marine origin. It has a fleet of 23 fishing vessels, six fishmeal and fish oil plants, and two plants that produce frozen hydrobiological products. Due to the size of the company and the scope of its operations, Pesquera Exalmar generates a ton of data every day. The data comes from various sources and, as such, doesn’t serve as a single source of truth. Some data might be duplicate, obsolete, or inaccurate. Digital transformation commences At the start of 2017, Pesquera Exalmar decided to leverage technology in a way that enables them to digitally manage all of their data. Juan Vega, the company’s CIO, guided the digital transformation process. His main objective was to make the company's core processes—operations and fleet—more productive in order to reduce costs and maximize profits. To accomplish this, he focused on two key areas: Identifying workflows and user requirements; Collecting, organizing, integrating, and analyzing the associated data.  Once that was completed, Vega and his team designed the solution architecture, paying close attention to how the tools would link data stored in various repositories, including spreadsheets, field instruments, other software solutions, and the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Due to the size of the project, it was broken out into stages. Finally, Vega and his team used Microsoft Power BI to manage the data and generate indicators quickly via visualization. Once the digitalization of both the operations and fleet organizations was on track, the company decided to expand its initiative to also include its security and maintenance functions. First, the team identified the processes that could be improved, like safety inspections and the supervision of maintenance projects. To accomplish this, Pesquera Exalmar needed a tool that would help them manage tasks performed in the field more effectively. After doing their due diligence, Vega and his team concluded that mobile apps were the answer to their problems.  Pesquera Exalmar ended up contacting SmartD to create two mobile applications on AppSheet’s no-code platform. Thanks to AppSheet’s flexible design, those apps would also be integrated into the previously created system.  AppSheet, SmartD's strategic partner, is a company that has customers all over the world. AppSheet has been used to build more than 438,000 custom applications for all types of companies. SmartD is AppSheet’s representative in Peru and—with AppSheet’s no-code development platform—designs and implements applications that meet the needs of their clients in a quick and cost-effective manner. Security inspections Pesquera Exalmar operates under the OHSAS 18001:2007 certification, thus ensuring compliance with global occupational safety and health standards. This is why the company continuously generates reports on security inspections in its vessels and offices throughout the country. Prior to AppSheet, generating these reports was a time-consuming, cumbersome task. Each worker involved in the process had to register security inspections and fill out a physical report with observations about the inspection and the corrective and preventative actions that needed to be taken. They’d also have to take pictures with their phones to document the work. Once that was done, the workers would go to their computers, transcribe what was written on their physical report, download the photos from their phones, and create a final report. Altogether, this process took a lot of time that could be used on other important tasks, like planning, training activities, prevention measures, and more. Thanks to AppSheet, the whole process is much smoother. Pesquera Exalmar now uses their SSO Exalmar mobile app to record security inspections with their phones, capture pictures in real time, and add signatures of all people involved. Once a supervisor flags the information as complete, the app automatically sends a PDF report with the push of a button. Users can also access critical information from their phones, such as the number of total inspections, the number of inspections by supervisor, the number of inspections by area, the number of inspections by type, and more. The app also sends alerts and notifications when inspections have been registered and completed. Remotely supervising maintenance work In order to ensure the quality of their operations and the proper functioning of their vessels, Pesquera Exalmar’s fleet receives continuous maintenance. Although maintenance jobs are outsourced, the company still needs to supervise these tasks and monitor progress on a continuous basis. To do this, supervisors are responsible for detecting and recording the necessary maintenance work for the equipment, machines, and systems on the vessels. They also set deadlines so their team knows when projects need to be completed. In the past, all of this work was done manually. Data entry on a computer, in particular, was extremely laborious. Thanks to another new app called Supervisión Mantenimiento, managers can supervise maintenance work from their phones. The mobile app enables supervisors to assign jobs, set deadlines, take pictures, record progress, and more. After the process is complete, a PDF report can be generated with a single tap of a button. What’s more, Supervisión Mantenimiento allows users to see the most crucial data—like total supervisors, supervisions by vessel, supervisions by supervisor, supervisions by state, supervisions by motive, and more. Users also receive notifications on their phones that remind them how many days are left before each deadline Easy to use Though the company knew that mobile apps had the power to transform their operations, Pesquera Exalmar was worried that their operators would have a hard time adapting to the new workflows AppSheet enabled. That wasn’t the case. Thanks to AppSheet, Pesquera Exalmar’s mobile apps featured an intuitive design that very clearly enabled employees to do their work in less time. It’s easy for users to navigate their way around the app. And if any employee had a hard time figuring it out, SmartD was there to provide interactive and didactic training. Users could also access the manuals we created if they needed extra help. While the fear of change often causes employees to be wary of new technology, users learned to use the app quickly and had no problems with it. How the data is used Pesquera Exalmar’s staff manages their applications. They can access them from their phone, tablet, or desktop, depending on the user's preference. Generally, phones are used to record information in the field. When there’s a lot of data to edit, the company suggests that its employees use a tablet or a desktop in order to view the data in a complete and detailed way.  Access everywhere It’s not always possible to have internet access. Generally, when workers are on ships, internet connections fail. At best, service is intermittent. With AppSheet's mobile applications, users can make changes that are stored internally on a mobile device until a network connection is available and the data syncs with a cloud-based database, making the information accessible across the entire company.  This feature is very important for the company because it allows them to keep their data in a single database, making it easier to visualize their global indicators in real time and, by extension, make the right decisions. Digital transformation in progress Pesquera Exalmar continues with its digital transformation plan, looking for tools that allow them to manage all of their data in real time.  Moving forward, the company plans to continue using AppSheet’s mobile apps as they streamline data collection and reduce the time spent preparing reports. Thanks to AppSheet, Pesquera Exalmar is able to manage all of its data from one central location, ensuring that their employees are able to track data in real time—accelerating their digital transformation journey.  

5 Ways Custom Mobile Apps Increase Productivity

As businesses continually strive to lower costs and increase productivity, it comes as no surprise that more and more companies are investing in new technologies. Despite this, a recent report from McKinsey indicates that U.S. productivity growth has been steadily declining since 2004. The good news is that it’s possible to reverse that trend by using custom-built apps that are designed to support your company’s unique workflows while empowering on-the-go workers. Today’s mobile workforce needs apps that work well across all devices—phones, tablets, and laptops—while offering a seamless experience as employees move from one to the next. With the right custom mobile app in place, your team’s productivity will improve—even when your workers are out of the office. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five ways mobile apps help employees in all industries work more effectively.  1. Mobile apps increase employee engagement Employees become more engaged when they’re able to use modern tools that make their jobs easier and allow them to accomplish more. The importance of an engaged workforce can’t be overstated. According to Gallup, highly engaged teams are 21% more productive and 22% more profitable than their non-engaged counterparts. Studies also indicate that 70% of U.S. workers are unengaged at work—making them much more likely to be on the lookout for their next gig. On the flip side, 87% of engaged employees say they are unlikely to leave their employer. Since it costs more than $4,000 to replace an employee and takes an average of 42 days to fill a position, this has significant budgetary and productivity implications. A way to further increase engagement is by using a no-code development platform to empower your employees to build the custom apps they need. No-code platforms enable everyone on your team—even non-technical workers—to become citizen developers and participate in the app creation process. This approach increases engagement in two different ways: workflows become more efficient and employees learn how to use new tools. This is a big deal: A separate study from Gallup found that 87% of millennials highly value professional training and career growth in the workplace. Encouraging employees to participate in no-code mobile app creation not only satisfies these demands, it also directly benefits your company through digital transformation.  2. Mobile apps increase efficiency by eliminating mundane tasks There’s nothing an employee dreads more than having to repeat the same time-consuming tasks over and over again. According to IT Chronicles, office workers spend an average of 69 days each year on administrative tasks. Collectively, these wasted hours amount to an annual $5 trillion loss for companies around the world. How, specifically, can mobile apps increase efficiency? Building a custom mobile app enables organizations to collect, share and unify data to support different use cases. Employees no longer have to toggle between several spreadsheets to do their jobs. Instead, they can use a custom mobile app—which they might have even helped design. 3. Mobile apps reduce errors and improve production quality If your business still relies on a manual paper filing system, it’s time to consider upgrading. Swedish-based machine manufacturing giant Husqvarna recently used AppSheet to build a custom mobile app that digitalized inventory across its 150,000-square foot North American warehouse—home to over 35,000 SKUs. Prior to building with AppSheet, Husqvarna had 12 employees who were responsible for manually counting inventory and storing that data on paper.  Within eight months of using AppSheet, Husqvarna’s team created 41 unique apps. This led to productivity gains, more visibility into key metrics, fewer tracking errors, and increased employee engagement, among other benefits. 4. Mobile apps facilitate telecommuting and field technician productivity It’s no secret that employees today, and millennials in particular, expect more flexibility when it comes to working from home. In fact, experts predict that remote workers will account for 34–50% of the workforce by 2020. Research has shown that remote employees are actually more productive than their in-office counterparts. A recent Stanford study, for example, found that remote workers take less sick time, are less distracted, and are 50% less likely to leave their organizations.  However, if your business relies on employees filling out manual forms in the office—or if your employees are only able to access work-related files and documents from their work computers—they won’t be working remotely anytime soon. This also makes it harder to attract top talent, as remote working enables you to attract employees from all over the country—or even the world. Mobile apps enable employees to collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and other key business tools from any connected device. In other words, employees can get their jobs done at any time from anywhere in the world. 5. Mobile apps increase productivity by connecting data In the past, organizations relied on several different software solutions to facilitate their day-to-day operations. The typical software suite might include tools to manage HR, accounting, inventory, supply chain, customer transactions, security, payroll, and more—all made by different vendors. Custom apps enable businesses to centralize all of this data—which means employees can access each system through a single interface. Research suggests that businesses with poor data quality lose 6% in revenue each year. Simply put, the more centralized your data is, the more accurate it will be—leading to greater productivity and profitability across your organization. Take Team Productivity to the Next Level with No-Code Apps Custom mobile apps help businesses realize significant productivity increases. These tools increase employee engagement—particularly when you empower your team to build their own custom apps. And they also make your company more efficient while reducing errors and streamlining communication.  Add it all up, and custom mobile apps save your business a lot of time and money, enabling you to improve productivity and reclaim countless hours by streamlining mundane tasks. That’s the ticket to a happier, more loyal workforce and a healthier bottom line.  

M&O Partners Moves Full Speed Ahead With More Streamlined Processes

M&O Partners is a multinational sales hub that connects buyers and suppliers in the offshore oil and gas industry. The company has four main locations in Brazil, the U.S., Norway, and Singapore, with sales partners across Europe, North America, and South America. Since launching in 2009, M&O Partners has successfully executed over 100 internationalization projects, helping companies expand from their local market and successfully enter international markets. The company maintains a global network of over 50 suppliers and has clients in more than 15 countries. M&O is currently in the process of scaling its network and is building an app to coordinate projects for over 100 companies across 10 major global markets. Here’s how AppSheet’s no-code platform is making it happen. Courtesy of M&O Partners   M&O finds AppSheet M&O’s journey with AppSheet started about four years ago when Head of Special Projects Janis Majors discovered the platform while researching online tools such as Smartsheet, Microsoft Project, Zoho, and others. Majors also evaluated several no-code app platforms, but couldn't find any platform that could meet their needs until he came across AppSheet. Majors—who had no coding experience whatsoever—was intrigued by what a no-code platform could do for his organization. He believed the right solution could radically change his company’s approach to project and process management tools, by offering a platform where in-house development could substitute external developers. “AppSheet has something others don’t have—an enthusiastic user base, and responsive customer support. All in all, AppSheet looks like the best companion for the future and a perfect match for our expanding operation,” Majors says. “I kept AppSheet on my radar and returned to it when we began formulating plans for the next phase of our company.” Challenge: Custom software at an affordable price  Software development is expensive. Companies often spend beyond their means by hiring new employees to develop custom solutions or acquiring new technologies that come with hefty licensing costs. Majors and his team wanted to avoid that pitfall. They were drawn to AppSheet’s no-code platform because it allowed them to avoid hiring pricey in-house developers or having to turn to third-party agencies. Before making a decision, M&O had to make sure the platform met specific criteria. The company needed to retain control over the user experience (UX), and they also needed to ensure the platform could meet its strict requirements for security and access management, since the company deals with lots of sensitive data. Also, it was important that the apps would be able to do the heavy lifting in terms of data processing and functionality, to avoid having to develop custom backend systems. The team was in luck. When it came to UX, the AppSheet editor gives developers almost complete control over an app’s look and design. It allows a creator to determine everything from aesthetics (e.g., font, colors, and branding) to how information is displayed across the app. AppSheet also has a robust security framework built around four key pillars: authentication, auditing, application access control, and data access control. “AppSheet checked all of the boxes,” Majors says. “We determined that this platform would fit our needs and decided to proceed.” Solution: How M&O uses AppSheet Majors, like many citizen developers, approached AppSheet with a massive amount of data. “At first I had almost 50 data sets in one app,” says Majors. “My initial thinking was that it was better to try and make everything function together at first. However, the app quickly ballooned and became very cumbersome to manage and update.”  The issue wasn’t the amount of data M&O was using, but rather the way it was structured inside of the app. The AppSheet team advised Majors to split the functionality into separate apps—a tip that Majors said was crucial.  M&O hasn’t looked back since. Majors and his team are currently working on developing six different apps which will all work together within the AppSheet platform, sharing the same pool of data sets. The beta version is currently being used to manage a sample of live projects, while the finished suite will be rolled out later this year. Here is a brief overview of each app: A project implementation app runs all projects on top of specific processes, where each step is assigned to different users worldwide. The app distributes notifications to end users and provides an interface where they can execute tasks, upload documents, and pass along responsibilities to the person assigned to the next step in the project. The interface also provides users with necessary input and documents created in earlier steps, as well as the tools and templates they need to complete their current step. The app also creates pdf’s of deliverables, such as reports based on project data, that can be sent directly to the project client. A process management app manages the processes that all projects use. This is the core of the system, since the processes are what makes project automation possible. Processes will change over time as jobs get updated and new ways of doing things emerge, and this app is where M&O can add and edit processes as they go along. A network management app manages the members of the network, which is planned to reach 100+ companies within the next year or so. The app contains detailed information about the companies and their staff members, membership statuses, the services they are receiving from M&O, project information, and more. A tool management app ties in with the processes, with an interface to create the tools that users need for the various project steps. This includes a report generator, which can produce custom pdf reports from project data through a Word template. Other tools are an interface to input meeting notes, a repository of various templates, and various input forms for project data. Tools can be customized and attached to steps in a process, so that end users will find the tool at the step where it’s needed. A top-level management dashboard gives managers a detailed overview of every project. A system admin app manages backend operations. Administrators can use this app to edit the technical elements of the network, and to define common elements that all apps use such as graphics, help pages and system messages, settings, user authorities, and so on. They’ve designed the apps to have a simple and intuitive interface so that suppliers, project managers, and agents can easily understand the specific actions they need to perform during a project and when each of them needs to be executed. All of these tasks will take place within M&O’s secure apps. The app will also serve as a valuable resource for M&O, as it will provide real-time visibility into all customer projects taking place simultaneously across its global network while also serving as the main managerial interface for the M&O team. “We will be able to track, follow, and participate in hundreds of projects from a centralized location and with a lean team,” Majors says. Majors is now working to make sure that all of the apps work together smoothly. “Data coordination needs to be seamless behind the scenes,” says Majors. “This is somewhat difficult, as all six of the apps are interacting with a large shared data repository and pulling specific information to match their functionality. But we see that we are able to make it work.” Results: Powerful Applications Delivered in Less Time with Less Budget  Without AppSheet, M&O would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in developer salaries and software creation costs to develop the same functionality, and with less agility. We were curious, however, to learn what Majors’ experience was like learning to use AppSheet. Remember: Majors doesn’t have a technical background. On top of that, his project was quite complicated. “I found the learning curve to be a bit steep if you go beyond simple, stand-alone apps,” Majors admits. “But after a while, you will find that it’s a logical system to work with.” Majors elaborated on his experience using AppSheet’s expressions, which can change the behavior of an app and provide advanced functionality. “These expressions run throughout the system, tying data together. It was a bit tricky at first, but postings in the very active user forum provided help for some of my more complex needs.” Majors went on to say that while you don’t need to know how to code to use AppSheet for an operation this complex, you do need to have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish. “It’s important to have an organized and logical approach to what you want to do with your app,” Majors explains. Majors also added that he appreciates AppSheet’s user forum, which contains a trove of useful information from AppSheet’s robust user base. What’s more, AppSheet regularly updates their platform, taking user feedback into account. Majors has seen AppSheet leverage feedback to build user-requested features and enhance the UX. “AppSheet is continuously getting better,” Majors says. “There is constant development. And you can do lots of useful things on the platform that you could not do years ago. I'm happy to see that there is increasingly better documentation and help pages becoming available.” The company sees great potential with the platform and is going “all in” moving forward—despite other no-code app platform providers. “AppSheet is an excellent tool and I don’t want to scare anyone from using it,” Majors says. “As we say in Norway, it’s a ‘raisin in the sausage,’ meaning a very pleasant surprise.” Majors also offered some helpful advice for app creators. “The best tip I can give developers is to create one new slice for each and every view. It's the only way we could have several different detailed views for the same table—and to control which one to show and where.” Editor's Note: AppSheet works with a variety of customers from different vertical markets whose projects range in scope and complexity. Some companies make very simple apps, while others—like M&O—are highly advanced. Ultimately, AppSheet can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. Check out these resources to learn more: How Rotary International Is Using Apps To Help Rebuild The Hurricane-Ravaged Caribbean How a Chef, Farmer, Pig, and an App Made Farm-to-Fork a Reality How AppSheet Turned an Idea Into a Habit and Goal Tracking Business Spreadsheets and Beer: A Better Match Than You’d Think 

7 Things to Look for in a No-Code Development Platform

Your team needs custom apps to do its best work. Instead of hiring expensive in-house developers or working with a third-party agency, you’ve decided that a no-code app development platform is the way to go. But how do you decide which no-code development platform is best for your business?  To make the decision-making process easier, we’ve put together a list of seven key attributes that you should consider when looking for a no-code platform. 1. Ease of use Your no-code development platform should be easy to use. If your team can’t figure out how to use the platform intuitively, doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? Generally speaking, there are two kinds of no-code development platforms: Data-driven solutions analyze information and automatically create an iteration of an app, which is then updated by employees via intuitive tools. Drag-and-drop platforms enable employees to build apps from scratch with user-friendly modules. AppSheet falls into the data-driven category. We believe that using data to inform the initial development process helps organizations build more powerful apps in a lot less time. Users can turn their sheets into apps within a matter of minutes using our platform, without writing any code. 2. Scalability The no-code platform you choose for your organization and the apps you build with it must be able to grow with your business. Otherwise, you might find yourself having to build another app before you know it. If you want your app to scale, look for enterprise solutions that are designed to solve these problems out of the box. AppSheet’s data partitioning and security filter features, for example, allow users to easily scale to large data sets without limitations. 3. Reporting capabilities Different companies have different needs and different motivators. To make the best decisions, they need to be able to create custom reports that allow them to make the most sense of their data. Look for a no-code platform that enables your organization to create custom interactive and insightful reports so you can identify bottlenecks, see how your team is performing, and allocate budget and other resources effectively. 4. Affordability Like anything else, you pay for what you get. You can’t expect to buy the cheapest tools and get the best results. At the same time, unless you have an unlimited budget, you’ll have to consider price with any solution. As you research your options, you may come across low-code development platforms that offer similar benefits. You’ll still need developers to work with those systems, however. According to Glassdoor, the average U.S. software engineer makes $103,035 a year. Since no-code platforms enable employees with no coding skills to build powerful applications, the savings can be significant. 5. Security In 2016, Uber’s systems were breached and sensitive data was exposed. Since then, the company has forked over nearly $150 million in fines and other fees. You don’t want to suffer a similar fate. And you probably can’t afford to, either. That being the case, look for a no-code development platform that places a premium on security. That way, you can keep your customers happy and avoid fines while keeping customer data and proprietary information secure. 6. Documentation and support It’s easier to succeed with no-code development when a vendor offers robust educational materials and strong support services. Your team will be able to figure things out on their own, and experts are always just a phone call away if they’re needed. Look for platforms that offer extensive documentation designed to help your team learn the product at your own pace. You may also want to look at whether the vendor has an active forum, as engaged user communities are great sources of wisdom. 7. Reputation of vendor The right no-code development platform has the power to transform your organization. But you can’t simply choose to go the no-code route and expect everything will work out perfectly. Success starts with partnering with the right vendor. To find the best match, research sites like G2Crowd, Capterra, and Gartner Peer Insights to see what users are saying about each platform. Editor’s notes We might be a bit biased, but we believe AppSheet can help organizations like yours build budget-friendly, powerful apps that greatly improve productivity. Our data-driven platform builds strong prototypes right off the bat (try it for free!), and citizen developers can easily use our intuitive tools to update each app as needed. This efficient and effective approach makes it that much easier to meet your business goals. Check out this customer success story to learn why one of Colorado’s leading construction contractors decided to use AppSheet to build a custom app to streamline process management instead of buying a proprietary solution. Other blogs you will find useful What’s the Difference Between No-Code and Low-Code Development? Top Five Reasons Companies are Turning to No-Code Development Platforms 4 Ways to Build an App Without Code How Husqvarna Became a Thought Leader in Warehouse and Inventory Management

What’s the Difference Between No-Code and Low-Code App Development?

If your business uses custom apps or is in the market for one, you’ve probably come across the terms no-code and low-code. If by some chance you haven’t, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve published a primer on no-code development here, and this piece explores the differences between no-code and low-code.Both no-code and low-code app development platforms enable organizations to quickly and efficiently develop apps without having to manually write code. This means that new apps can be created in less time and for a fraction of the cost. It also means that iteration is easier than ever before. Low-code and no-code platforms are based on framework known as rapid application development (RAD), which, generally speaking, enables users to visually assemble an app via drag-and-drop tools. (Some leading no-code development platforms, however, can automatically create apps by analyzing business data. Those apps can then be further iterated by citizen developers.) So, what exactly are the differences between no-code and low-code development? And which approach is best for your company? Let’s take a look. What is low-code? Low-code app development was originally rolled out to streamline workflows of professional developers. Instead of having to manually write each line of code, developers could navigate pre-built app templates and user-friendly interfaces to quickly create and scale their applications. Low-code also enables more advanced developers to integrate an organization’s applications with other enterprise services. For example, a marketing team might want to create a custom app that automatically sends all social media notifications to one location, and a finance team might want to connect Quickbooks to an ERP or CRM solution. Low-code development, however, typically requires some level of technical coding expertise—more than the average citizen developer has. An easy way to remember all this: The word “low” doesn’t imply “nothing.” Low-code still involves a bit of effort on the employee’s end. Who should use low-code? A low-code platform is better suited for enterprises with in-house developers. With a low-code platform, developers can take advantage of: Packaged modules and templates that make it easy to reuse code. Design tools—most commonly drag-and-drop—that make for easier app design, especially when it comes to the UI. Lifecycle management functionality that simplifies the deployment, devops, and application management processes. Taken together, low-code platforms make developers more agile and productive. But if your employees don’t know how to code, or if you don’t have an IT or development team, low-code is probably not the best choice. What is no-code? No-code app development relies on the same RAD framework mentioned earlier. Depending on the no-code platform, apps can either be created automatically through data analysis or by using intuitive drag-and-drop techniques. In either case, the main advantage is that employees don’t have to know anything about coding to be able to build transformative applications. (That’s why it’s called no-code development, after all.) Not only does no-code save a ton of time (months and potentially even years of development), empowering all of your employees to be able to create apps may in fact boost morale. A recent Gallup study, for example, found that 87% of millennials want professional development opportunities within their organization. In other words, no-code is a win for your customers, your organization, and your employees. Who should use no-code? No-code platforms are ideal for organizations that want to build their own apps to increase efficiency and streamline business processes, yet have limited development resources. As an example, a leading Colorado-based construction contractor relies on AppSheet to automate reporting, maintenance, payroll, and repairs. The future is no-code Low-code and no-code app development platforms have revolutionized the app development industry. Projects that used to take months or years now take far less time, enabling organizations to build apps more quickly and efficiently to solve their unique problems. At the same time, everyday employees are becoming more engaged as they participate in the digital transformation of their organizations, using no-code platforms to build applications that make their teams, departments and entire companies more effective. Add it all up, and it’s safe to say the future is no-code. We expect to see organizations increasingly adopt no-code development platforms as we move into the future. Tell me more To learn more about no-code platforms and digital transformation check out: Our overview of what no-code platforms are and what they can do. The top 5 reasons companies are turning to no-code platforms for business app development. How our customers are unlocking the full potential of rapid no-code app development.

Top Five Reasons Companies are Turning to No-Code Development Platforms

In the past, companies had two options for building custom apps: They could either hire a team of internal developers and have them work on traditional or low-code app platforms or outsource the entire process to a third-party agency. Either way, the process was highly resource-intensive. Now, a growing number of companies are embracing an alternative method of software development: leveraging no-code platforms. AppSheet’s no-code platform, for instance, enables technical or non-technical workers to quickly and inexpensively create custom apps that solve everyday business challenges. No-code platforms are now being used to build apps that do everything from creating and tracking daily workflows to streamlining site and safety inspections—and everything in between. With that in mind, let’s look at five reasons today’s leading organizations are increasingly turning to no-code development platforms. 1. Reduced software development costs A recent DZone article suggests that it can take as long as nine months and cost as much as $250,000 to build a custom software application. AppSheet’s no-code development platform expedites the process considerably—translating into significant savings. For example, a home services company based out of Singapore was able to reduce software expenses by 60% with AppSheet. Instead of having to build apps from scratch, AppSheet analyzes the underlying data to determine how an app should work. The platform then builds out an initial iteration of the app that can then be updated by citizen developers via an intuitive user-friendly interface. Add it all up, and no-code platforms like AppSheet enable non-technical employees to build custom apps in days—or even hours. 2. Reclaimed time thanks to automation We all know what it’s like to do repetitive tasks at work every day. Cumulatively, these tasks take up a lot of time. When you keep doing the same thing over and over again, things are bound to get a bit monotonous, too. No-code platforms enable employees to build software solutions that streamline routine tasks like tracking inventory, compiling daily reports, and filling out time cards. As such, companies that use the innovative technology can expect their teams to reclaim a lot of time. In fact, Forrester says that low-code platforms (including no-code) can reduce development time by at least 10x. All of that extra time can then be invested in other growth areas. 3. Increased employee engagement One of the main causes of unhappiness and poor performance at work is a lack of engagement. When workers feel powerless or tethered to inefficient processes, they tend to lose motivation. An easy way to boost employee engagement is by helping your team develop digital skills. No-code platforms can help here, too, by enabling citizen developers to build powerful applications. Employees get to use new technology to learn new things—which translates into increased engagement and, by extension, more productivity. 4. Decreased security risks The last thing a business wants is for insecure apps to cascade across the enterprise, opening the door to countless vulnerabilities. Today’s leading no-code platforms offer robust features that guarantee secure and compliant apps that are in line with new regulatory protocols like Europe’s GDPR. Because it enables employees to build the perfect tool for the job, no-code development can also help reduce shadow IT. This has enormous implications, particularly since Gartner predicts that 33% of successful attacks on enterprises will result from shadow IT by 2020. Taken together, no-code platforms can help organizations strengthen security and governance while mitigating their exposure to risks. 5. Accelerated innovation(!) Since no-code platforms speed up software development, the technology also accelerates innovation. With custom apps in place, employees can get more things done in less time—which means getting products to market faster. Imagine an employee has to toggle between several different platforms to do their job. Not only can such an experience be frustrating, it can also be quite time-consuming. Now let’s say that same employee uses an app built on the AppSheet platform (or other no-code platform) to manage those actions. Efficiency increases, driving competitive advantage. No-code: The future of app development Getting the best results starts with using the right tool for the job at hand. Thanks to no-code platforms, organizations can increase efficiency and productivity while making their employees happier. To learn more about how your enterprise can benefit from a no-code platform, take a look at some of these sample apps to get an idea of what you can build. You can also read about how one of Colorado’s leading construction contractors used AppSheet to streamline management with custom apps in this case study.  

KLB Construction Intern, Vivian Nowka-Keane, Talks About Her Fearless App Building Journey

Over the years, I’ve gotten to know Richard Glass, Director of Information Services at KLB Construction, pretty well. Since KLB is Seattle-based, we’ve gotten together a few times for lunch to discuss Richard’s digital transformation progress. And it’s safe to say that Richard and KLB continue to remain at the forefront of automation in the construction industry.  If you’re curious about what they’re doing, check out this case study. Now, I’ve known that Richard tends to hire interns to work on some of his app projects during the summer and school vacations. But I’ve always assumed those interns were University of Washington students as we have a number of them working for us each year. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that Richard’s intern was a high school student! I had lunch with both of them and after chatting with Vivian Nowka-Keane, an intern who has worked with Richard for the past two years, I wanted to hear more of her story. And that’s how this podcast came into being. In it, one our UW interns, Dain “Yoshi” Yoshizumi, sits down with Vivian to talk about how she got into tech, what she learned about app development from KLB and Richard, how she used the AppSheet platform, and her future plans. And full disclosure: Vivian is now a freshman at the Rochester Institute of Technology, majoring in cybersecurity with an emphasis on—you guessed it, computer programming! This is a great, true story of how one young woman followed her passions—equal parts journalism, math, and of course, computer science—and learned to be fearless. In her words: “Never let fear get in the way of pursuing something you’re interested in—no fear of outside judgement, obstacles, or failure is more important than discovering things for yourself…” Hopefully, we’ve all had the good fortune to have mentors like Richard, ready and willing to help us on our own journeys! So when you have a few minutes, please listen to the podcast below and learn: How Vivian “found” her KLB app building gig. Vivian’s take on the digitization of the construction industry and why it’s important. Why user input is so critical for app adoption. The role that The Tao of Programming played during Vivian’s KLB internship.  

Leading construction contractor chooses to build a no-code solution over buying Procore software

Front Range Excavating streamlined management and saved thousands of dollars using AppSheet’s cutting-edge no-code app development platform. For more than 30 years, Front Range Excavating has provided construction, excavation, and environmental services to commercial property owners in Colorado’s Front Range region.   Together, the company’s 35 managers, field employees, drivers, and mechanics complete around 25 major projects every year. There is little room for error in this type of environment. Even the smallest oversight can lead to injuries, project delays, and other negative consequences. Succeeding in this space starts with having a reliable internal management system that makes it easy to store data, share notes, and update team members on new development. To keep everyone aligned, real-time communication is critical. Scott Nance, vice president of Front Range, has used several construction management platforms over the last several years. But he was disappointed with each one he tried. Platforms like Procore cost thousands of dollars per year but don’t guarantee a positive user experience. According to Nance, the team was frustrated with the lack of customization and flexibility each platform offered. Front Range required a solution that could meet their exact needs.   “Most platforms are meant for general contractors or larger operations,” Nance explains. “They offer a lot of features. But most of them don’t apply to what we do as a specialized subcontractor. We wanted something that could go deeper. ” Nance’s team needs to track things like labor and equipment, trucking, materials, and subcontractors on a regular basis. “There are certain details within those groups that aren’t easily captured with standard apps—like tonnage or yardage when a truck is hauling items and load counts,” Nance continues. “Those details can be very tricky to record with generic software. The services we tried all required workarounds and none of them were very beneficial. They were also expensive.” Since none of the existing solutions on the market met his needs, Nance decided to build an app himself. Front Range discovers AppSheet Nance stumbled across AppSheet’s no-code platform two years ago when he was building a form in Google. He was blown away at what he could create on his own with just a working knowledge of spreadsheets. Nance, after all, does not come from a technical background. His experience is in construction. Leveraging AppSheet’s renowned online community—and his wits—Nance was able to create a robust app that automates a variety of tasks like reporting, payroll, maintenance, and repairs. The app also provides email and text notifications, making it easy for team members to see important messages throughout the day. “I started building some basic forms, then let my imagination run,” Nance explains. “At first, we started using AppSheet to quickly capture data from the field. But the more we experimented with the platform, the more features we were able to discover and leverage.” Creating custom apps quickly On average, it takes at least six months to build an enterprise app. Thanks to AppSheet, it took Nance only one month to create a fully operational app that seamlessly captured every process in his company. The app can handle very large sets of data, which the company stores in a single Google file that has 30 different sheets. Each sheet has about 20 columns. Altogether, there are thousands of rows full of information.    Nance is still tinkering with the app today. In fact, he’s getting ready to release a major update. Right now, there are about 10 employees using the app for backend management and equipment maintenance. For example, the company’s shopkeepers, mechanics, technicians, and general superintendent all use the app to schedule and track repairs. Each machine can be entered and tracked for needing repairs—like low fluid levels and inadequate tire pressure. Front Range is in the process of scaling their app, though, and will soon roll the solution out to every employee in the company. For example, the company plans to release a field app for employees in non-managerial positions. This app will provide access to daily schedules, contact information, time cards, vacation and reimbursement requests, and more—basically anything that relates to an employee on a personal level. This will be a smaller version of the company’s management app, which offers the same features along with advanced reporting and governance tools. According to Nance, each department will have its own version of the app, tailored to their exact needs. “The newest rendition will save us at least two days’ worth of administrative work in the office,” Nance said. “Our payroll alone will be cut from a full-day’s worth of work down to maybe 30 minutes. We also plan to streamline many other processes—like writing hourly tickets, managing personnel, calculating load counts, and more.” The app also helps Front Range keep up with maintenance, repairs and numerous safety requirements mandated by the state and federal government. “We have safety meetings that we have to hold periodically,” Nance explained. “With AppSheet, we’re able to record those and email those to superintendents the minute they happen.” Front Range’s custom app also enables them track repairs in real time, which helps them see exactly which machines are getting serviced and what appointments are coming up. “We’re now able to do all of those tasks on a phone instead of having to do them on a computer,” Nance said. “This means no more clunky equipment laying around the shop.” What can you build with AppSheet? We asked Nance for some advice to share with other AppSheet users who are just starting out. Nance pointed back to AppSheet’s online community, which continues to inspire him. “There are people posting some absolutely amazing solutions to various problems,” Nance concluded. “Search through there and start thinking of the different things you want to include—whether that’s advanced reporting, email notification, charts or graphs. Use your imagination. If you can think of it, AppSheet can probably do it. You just have to figure out what it looks like and how to go about it.” Curious about what you can build with AppSheet? The short answer: whatever your business needs.  Take a look at these sample apps to get an idea. Interested in exploring how AppSheet supports larger enterprises? Check out KLB Construction's in-depth case study to learn how a Seattle-based company transformed their inspections, operations, and reporting systems for hundreds of employees and contractors. Or, get in touch with your specific needs.

Top 7 Tools to Digitize Your HR Processes

"HR Digital transformation." "HR Digitization." Those are human resource buzzwords these days, especially when it comes to transforming HR processes. Personally, I have been on this HR digital transformation journey for a few years. I've come to realize that we don't need to spend enormous amounts of money to transform simple processes. We are lucky that we currently live in the digital age, where open source tools are available all over the internet. All we need is some time for research and creativity in finding free tools that are readily available. Here are some free (or inexpensive) tools that I have used in the past to transform some HR processes, i.e., moving a few HR processes from being manual to being digital or automated. The best part of these tools is that they are free (or available for a small fee) for very effective results which in turn, improves work productivity by leaps and bounds. Top 7 Essential Tools for HR Management AppSheet Typeform Zapier Vysor Trello Marvel Jotform 1. AppSheet AppSheet is a no-code app platform that can convert your Google Sheets (or any applicable cloud solution) into your own customized app, where you can access and update data on your mobile device, laptop and desktop. All you need to do to get started is create a spreadsheet, doc, or form with some data. From there, the AppSheet wizard creates an app that you can fully customize to fit your needs. You don't need to know how to code nor do you need to spend time figuring how to build a mobile app. You can even have graphs and data visualizations built from the data captured.The free basic feature package is enough to create many applications. Once you have built your app and you feel you need some extra features, you can upgrade to have advanced features at $5 to $10 per active user/month. Price: Free for prototype. No time limit. How can it be used in HR: I converted Excel spreadsheets that were kept in a collaborative shared drive into Google Sheets. These cloud-based Google Sheets were then able to be accessed on everyone's mobile phone through an app user interface, which allowed users to add or update data real time and in a collaborative manner. The app allowed fewer mistakes to be made and allowed data to be entered anytime, anywhere, by multiple users.  AppSheet is the only one on this list that allows you total control to create your own app from the bottom up, with every feature unique to your and your business needs. But there are alternative applications that can also help you simplify HR processes, albeit with less customization options. 2. Typeform Typeform is a data collection or survey tool, with an added twist. It has some beautiful survey templates and allows the whole survey process to be engaging and interactive.  It moves away from the old black and white survey tools. It also has some interesting logic calculations and jump methodologies that allow you to create "if user answers this, then show this question" type of scenarios. It allows for media files like images and videos to be added to survey questions, to make the whole process more engaging. Price: Free for 100 responses/month & 10 questions survey form. How can it be used in HR: I designed internal HR surveys for company employees using Typeform. We moved away from the traditional survey forms and went with this attractive and engaging tool. The tool also allowed for survey data to be captured in the cloud and for the data to be shown in a graphical summary which was used to be presented to management. You can also download the data into Excel, if you want to perform your own analysis on the data. 3. Zapier Zapier is an easy application that is used to integrate two different apps together. For example, Typeform and Google Sheets are 2 different tools that have no connections between them. If you would like the Typeform data to be available in Google Sheets for a larger audience to view, you can use Zapier to connect the two together. Zapier moves the data from individual Typeform question responses to individual columns in Google Sheets. Zapier allows for so many different unconnected tools to be connected together by having data flowing from one tool to another, see the list shown on the right. Price: Free for 14-day trial. $20/month after the trial. How can it be used in HR: I designed an internal HR survey using Typeform which was sent to employees, but we wanted our colleagues in HR to be able to view the data submitted in real time. Not everyone in HR had a Typeform account, so we used Zapier to be the bridge between Typeform and Google Sheets. From Google Sheets, we used AppSheet to build a mobile app. So whenever a Typeform survey respondent submits a survey form response, our HR colleague can immediately view the results on the AppSheet app on their mobile phone whenever and wherever they were. 4. Vysor There were many times when we presented updates to management, we wanted to provide a demo of the HR applications that we built on the mobile phone to showcase our final deployment. Most of the time, we did not have an adapter to connect the mobile phone to the projector. So what did we do? Enter an interesting app called Vysor. This is a free Chrome extension that you can install on your computer's Chrome browser. Once installed, all you need to do is connect the USB cable from your phone to your PC, wait for the computer to detect your phone and once detected, you will be able to showcase and mirror your phone screen on the projector screen. From there you can start scrolling through the phone to demo your applications real time. The only caveat is that this only works for Android phones. Price: Free How can it be used in HR: I used this mainly to present AppSheet apps and Marvel app demos to management, toggling between PowerPoint screens and the mobile phone screens without the need to unplug and plug projector cables into different devices. This allows for smooth presentations during management updates or during class demos.  5. Trello Trello has helped me a lot in the past to visualize and plan activities that I was working on. Trello is a web-based management application. There are many other similar applications out there, but I am highlighting Trello because I have been using it for a while now. Whenever it comes to working on projects, I always wanted to tackle it in a very structured manner and to break down tasks into smaller manageable pieces. Trello helps me do that. It is incredibly easy to use and allows tracking from an overview perspective all the way down to minute details. Trello consists of boards, lists, and cards which enables you to organize and prioritize your projects in a very organized and flexible method. Price: Free How can it be used in HR: I found it useful especially when I project managed a huge HR marketing showcase project with a set start-to-end timeline where I had so many tasks, meetings and people to coordinate with. Trello allowed me to have an overview of the tasks that had been completed and what tasks still remaining that I needed to prioritize. 6. Marvel App When you think of Marvel, the first thing that comes to mind is comics. I thought the same, but the Marvel app is something totally different. The Marvel app is an all-in-one platform for designing needs. It allows users to create prototypes for designs and simulate apps that they would like to pitch or get approval for, before starting the process of actually building a real app.  It allowed me to bring an HR app idea to life through simulation, without the need to spend tons of money hiring a developer to build a prototype. With Marvel, you can build a prototype in just a matter of hours. It utilizes the process of rapid prototyping, which a lot of companies are implementing today. Nowadays, many companies want to "go to market" (GTM) with their products faster than ever. This makes it even more important to have a rapid prototyping methodology in place, to weed out failures before too much of the budget is used. This will ensure a higher success rate of products being rolled out, at a fraction of the development cost. Price: Free for 2 app prototype designs. How can it be used in HR: I was introduced to the Marvel app as part of a Design Thinking workshop where participants were supposed to build a solution prototype for a problem faced at work and pitch it to a group of judges. I built a simulated app using Marvel in a matter of hours based on our group's idea, which was very well received because it looked so real, even though it was a simulation. The simulated app also gave the pitching judges an idea of how the app would work in real life. I was so amazed at the ability of the Marvel app to build realistic looking apps that really simulates what the real app would look like. This also helped to build a rapid prototyping mindset as part of the work culture. 7. Jotform Jotform is an easy to use online form builder. It is used to build online forms like surveys but you can add a lot more functionalities into the survey because you can integrate additional widgets to make the forms very interactive and view real time results for the form respondents. There are tons of widgets that you can add into Jotform, like form calculators, sliders that update based on responses from participants, payment widgets like Paypal, Stripe etc, drop down calendars, data grids and so much more. There are hundreds of widgets that you can choose from to customize your form. You can also create customized emails and notifications with the available content responses to be sent after participants they have submitted the forms. Price: Free for 5 forms and 100 submissions. How can it be used in HR: I used Jotform to digitize learning assessments that we had on Excel. Having assessments on Excel makes it easy for individuals to perform individual assessments, but it makes it harder for the HR function to consolidate data and run some data analysis. Having digitized the assessment using Jotform, all assessment data was kept in one place and we could easily pull the data to visualize a summary report. We also crafted personalized emails based on the individual respondents so that they could keep these assessments on email as a record. It also made it easier for the user to take assessments because everything is web based that can be accessed both on the laptop and mobile. As you can see, there are so many interesting tools out there that can be used to automate and digitize even the smallest HR task at the fraction of the cost. All it takes is just time and effort to conduct some research into the tool's capability and to understand how can it be applied to whatever that we want to achieve. With so many manual processes in HR today, it really makes sense for us to start automating these areas so that we can start focusing on what matters most. Automating these processes will also allow for a more critical element that is missing from the worldwide HR field today, which is reviewing and gaining insights from the data that we have collected through digital means.  Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or queries on the above tools. About the Author Mithi Maniam is an engineer and a marketeer who has deep interest in marketing, analytics, technology and digital transformation. Currently indulging in the field of HR, he is the constant thinker. He loves to explore transformation in the digital age, implement new marketing ideas and research burning questions on analytics & big data regardless of the field. The above article are thoughts from the author himself and does not relate to any company or organization he is associated with. Check out more of his blog posts on his personal website blog.mithimaniam.com.

What is a No-Code Development Platform

Businesses use custom apps for a variety of critical needs like creating and tracking workflows, boosting productivity, and identifying key growth opportunities. Design and development, however, is often a highly resource-intensive process, putting custom apps out of reach for many organizations. To create custom apps, companies must either hire software engineers or outsource to third-party agencies—both of which are very expensive and time-consuming. A typical app can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take six months or longer to design and develop. App creation can also overwhelm technical teams, leading to software bottlenecks, delayed projects, and missed opportunities. As such, many IT decision makers are now looking for ways to streamline custom app creation and reduce their dependence on developers. In a recent study, 61 percent of C-level executives claimed that access to developer talent is a threat to the success of their business—higher than capital constraints, believe it or not. The solution to this challenge is using a no-code platform, which makes the app creation process significantly faster and more affordable. No-code: An overview Using a no-code platform, non-technical employees can quickly and easily create custom apps to solve everyday business challenges. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of no-code platforms: Visual drag-and-drop platforms that replace lines of complicated code with highly visual, intuitive tools and user-friendly modules. Data-driven platforms that analyze data to understand the intent of the app and then build out a first iteration, which can then be modified via a user-friendly interface. According to Forrester, replacing traditional programming with visual tools can make software development up to 10 times faster. In one example, Jesse Escobar, a facilities management analyst at a major university, used AppSheet’s no-code platform to streamline trash pickup at his school’s campus. “I certainly had no coding experience and there wasn’t a developer on my four-man team,” Jesse explained. “But AppSheet is simple enough that I was able to build my app in just a couple hours.” The future is no-code The need for cost-effective, custom apps is bound to accelerate as businesses continue to engage in digital transformation. For starters, more than one-third of organizations have already started implementing a digital-first approach to businesses processes, customer engagement, and operations. What’s more, 85 percent of enterprise decision makers believe they will become less competitive if they don’t make substantial progress on their digital transformation initiatives over the next two years. In the age of agile businesses, no-code development is the next step in the evolution of enterprise software. Businesses are now moving away from traditional legacy apps and hardware in favor of flexible and reliable cloud-based systems. Anyone can be a developer—even you! Cloud-based no-code development has given rise to a new generation of “citizen developers” who are driving digital innovation despite lacking technical expertise. Now, you no longer need to be a technical whiz and create software—suffice it to say this is a very powerful advancement. No-code development helps businesses of all sizes build powerful and reliable custom apps in less time—and for less money. These apps enable businesses to move faster and more efficiently, which ultimately translates into a healthier bottom line and a more engaged workforce. To learn more about AppSheet’s approach to no-code development, click here. 

Feature Friday: Nested Views & Reset on Edit

Nested Views Within Deck Views, app creators have the option to select a layer of data to display as a secondary view. This 'nested view' provides a way to visualize lists of related data created by building references between tables.  The nested views can be other tables, decks, galleries or charts - for example, a quick snapshot of the live product inventory for each company displayed in a deck view: (This Inventory Management Sample App can be viewed & copied here) To enable a nested view, app creators can simply look for the 'Nested Table Column' field within the deck view to choose a 'related' list of items. Customize the UX of that related list by finding the corresponding 'inline' ref view that was automatically created when the relationship was created. Reset on Edit 'Reset on Edit' is a column setting that automatically clears the value of a particular field, any time that record is edited by a user, reducing the need to build separate workflows designed to change values. For example, a table in an app may contain 'Last Edited By' and 'Last Edited Date' columns, designed to track who was the last person to edit and when the edit occurred. In order to force those fields to be updated each time the record is updated, simply enable 'Reset on Edit' in each column definition. As an extra layer of automation, set the initial values of each column to 'USEREMAIL()' and 'TODAY()' in order to automatically pref-ill those fields with the user login email and today's date. Requiring recent comments from the app user is another useful scenario for 'Resent on Edit' - by making the column 'required' and also enabling 'Reset on Edit', the comments field will require an update from the user explaining the reason for a change.

Build Powerful Apps for Your Business with AppSheet

Workflow drives any business and helps standardize employee actions. Even small businesses can benefit from standardization to reduce administrative labor. While smaller businesses may not hire additional employees to accomplish admin work, it's often up to the business owner to accomplish the small redundant tasks required to run a business. These tasks may be functions, such as transferring data from paper to digital form and calculating employee work hours. Creating new app-based workflows that restructure your business processes allow computers to perform simple repetitive work and reduce the people hours spent “working in the business” to focus, instead, on “working on the business”.  Get Full Control of Your Data Structure and Workflow Definitions AppSheet is one of the leading No-Code platforms for businesses. The formula AppSheet gets right is that the platform allows app creators to decide how data is captured and how the workflow functions while minimizing the need to modify the user interface (UI) or other things. Mobile UIs have evolved over the last decade to become fairly standardized today. Since creators are developing tools for business, worrying about the basic layout of the app is an unnecessary waste of time and would require an additional learning curve to publish apps for use. AppSheet takes the best practices of a good UI and creates a standard UI that is intuitive, familiar to employees, and just works. The most important feature that other no-code platforms miss is that AppSheet lets you keep and maintain your data. It can be a spreadsheet in Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, or even a table in a mySQL database that you already own and can connect it directly to your app. You retain control over your data so it's easy to use familiar tools like Microsoft Excel to analyze your data. This also has the benefit of keeping costs down since one does not have to pay for another cloud storage provider. It opens up future possibilities to connect your data to additional platforms or services. AppSheet doesn’t box in your data like other platforms do. The formula to create an app on the AppSheet platform is simple: Create the data structure, connect the data to the AppSheet platform, tie the data source to a view type, repeat the previous steps if needed, and then publish the app for employees to use. Apps can be as simple or as complicated as you want. For example, a simple time clock app for your employees can be set up in less than an hour. Add in some auditing features to this time clock app and you can publish employee labor summaries with a click of a button every two weeks. In this example, manual inputs such as a sign-in sheet or a traditional time clock create a record that would need to be reviewed at a later date. Whether monthly or bi-weekly, an individual would need to sit down, go through the logs, add up the hours worked, and generate a report to issue to their employees. This is just one example of the time that can be saved by automating business workflows. Gain Real-Time Awareness of Your Operations  Another area where app-based automation can help is by increasing the transparency into organizational processes to provide a real-time awareness of operations. For example, say you are a property manager who manages a large group of rental properties, and does not use a maintenance management system because it is cost prohibitive for the size of the portfolio you manage. To provide some structure to your organization, you have your central office admin manage the maintenance and customer call requests via a spreadsheet, or by paper, and the customer input is a phone call, user email, or an in-person visit. While it may be simple to log these events as they come in, it is the process of completing these tasks that has the largest administrative burden. Once the request is logged, the work requests are transferred for the technician to complete. It is at this point where the visibility into this task gets foggy. The tenant and central office won't be able to see the request’s status unless they expend additional labor to call for an update or they receive a call from the technician. To get a status update, individuals would need to start a chain of calls to figure out where their request is in the queue. The back and forth in this workflow is required and visibility never improves over time, becoming more labor intensive to maintain as the requests grow: The central office won’t have an up-to-date status when asked by an inquisitive tenant.  The technician may have to retrieve his work orders in person or get an email with the details. The tenant will remain in the dark until the technician either calls or arrives on site. And the owner may remain unaware of the maintenance activities until someone generates a report on a monthly or annual basis. This is how a simple request snowballs, requiring many additional inputs and outputs which consumes more and more labor until the cost of business operations increases. Instead, spending four to six hours creating a simple workflow app for the tenant, central office, technician, and owners enhances the visibility of the ongoing activities, provides a more professional market presence, and increases upfront data capture to reduce redundant data compilation for monthly reporting or other required business administration tasks. This is just scratching the surface. In the same example, it would be easy to function stack the newly automated process to capture technician work hours and pictures of issues to document recurring maintenance. When apps start to reference the same datasets, utility increases exponentially and suddenly, your business is automated with similar tools that large corporations use but at a fraction of the cost. Keep Your Apps Simple Keep in mind that just because you can create a tool for something doesn’t mean you “should” create a tool. It is easy to get carried away and start to capture too much data. In this case, you start to slow down the workflows of your organization. Keep apps as simple as possible and only capture the data you know you need. When you keep it simple for the end user, they are more likely to use and accept any tool that is developed. You can get started with AppSheet today with no risk. The team offers free plans that allow you to tinker and learn before you are ready to pay for a plan. You can get started quickly by making a copy of one of their sample apps to jump-start your project. About the author: Rich Ellis, Owner of CryptoCoach. At CryptoCoach we offer quick/agile App development for your business workflow. Transform any paper-driven, spreadsheet or email workflow into a mobile or desktop experience for your team.  We also help you tap into a fast-growing community of Cryptocurrency users and learn how to accept Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Ethereum or other Cryptocurrencies at your business. There are several Point of Sale (POS) options available ranging from direct payment of crypto to setting up payment processors that will automate conversion from Crypto to US Dollars directly to your bank account or cash in hand. CryptoCoach's mission is to help business and individuals navigate the rapid change in today's world. We live in a time of another great renaissance where automation will replace repetitive human labor, cryptocurrencies will subvert central banking and the perceived world of unlimited resources will see actual limits.

Free Budget Templates for Excel, Google Sheets, and Mobile Apps

"Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." -Joe Biden   A well-planned budget means less headaches and chaos down the road. Here at AppSheet, we are in the business of simplifying the menial tasks and giving you the tools to succeed so you can focus your budgeting efforts on the important stuff: the actual budget! That's why we created three free apps and spreadsheets to meet your budgeting needs. Ready to budget right away? Skip ahead to access the template and mobile app that's best for you! Media Budget Planner  Small Business Budget Planner Monthly Budget Planner Media Budget Planner Countless roles plan their media budget. Event marketing, Media planning, Digital Marketing, and the PR and Advertisement industry all could benefit from budget planning. I made this spreadsheet to simplify the process of planning, tracking, and managing media budgets—all at your fingertips! This excel planner keeps track of mediums, key partners, and the actual vs. planned cost. The actual vs. planned cost automatically updates using the query feature, so you don't have to worry about constantly changing your data.   Bonus: Get the mobile-friendly version! Being constantly on-the-go is a lifestyle, and having the right tools handy is a must-have. Here are three reasons why the mobile app version is right for you! Mobile Data Entry: Using a mobile app makes it far easier to see the data you need when you need to. Graphical Views: Enabling you to see the data with a quarterly or media filter. Modernize Your Data: The app version empowers you to visualize your data in a new light.   Small Business Budget Small businesses have big budgeting needs. Budgeting doesn't have to be complicated when you have access to amazing tools like excel and google sheets. All of the calculations are done for you; you only need to customize the data and input your budget. It's so easy! Bonus: Get the mobile-friendly version! Budgeting is a necessity on-the-go. Accessing and editing your budget using a spreadsheet on a mobile device can be such a hassle. Using a mobile-friendly version removes those barriers, simplifying your budgeting experience! Here are three reasons why budgeting is easier on-the-go: Time-Stamps: Every time you enter a cost, the app auto-captures the time for future reference. No more piles of paper receipts and manually organizing your expenses! The Budget View: This view pulls data from all cost inputs, put them in different buckets, adds them up, and compares every category's YTD cost against its annual budget. Universal Data Management: This app manages data in one place, so you don't have to navigate around different internal teams to get the information you need. Monthly Business Budget Planner Planning your budget month-to-month is key to a successful business. Visualizing your year can be overwhelming. Why not break it down into manageable chunks and make the process easier for everybody? This spreadsheet is accessible on both google sheets and as an excel download! This sheet has tabs for both expenses and income so you can easily compare the two.   Bonus: Get the mobile-friendly version! I love having my budgeting tools on my mobile device because oftentimes, I need them most when I don't have access to my computer. I need something that's simple, accessible, and easy to change and input new budgets. That's why I made the mobile app version of the spreadsheet above so you can utilize the tools for your business as I do for mine! Dashboard View: On the tablet, you can see all charts at once: Income, Expense, and by Group! Income/Expense Groups: Using a mobile app allows you to view data by group. This would be difficult and confusing on a spreadsheet.  Expenses by Month: Notice patterns in spending month-to-month, and accommodate for unwelcome changes.   Final Note One of my core values in business is being able to focus on the things that matter: that's where technology comes into play for me. The tool for making your business budget should be simple and easy-to-use, because the time and conscious thought that goes into your budget, as well as the implementation of your budgets and expenses, are what matter most.  I would love to hear more about how you do your budgeting. Let me know in the comments below! Related Stories Free Expense Tracker Apps and Spreadsheets for Consultants, Event Managers, and Contractors  10 Excel Templates for Simplifying Your Life  Free Apps and Excel Templates for Truck Drivers and Dispatch Managers

The Ultimate Enterprise Mobile App Checklist for CIOs [2019]

Are you planning your 2019 enterprise mobile application strategy? No-code platforms like AppSheet and Zudy and low-code platforms like PowerApps, OutSystems, and Mendix provide users with greater capacity to build, iterate, and deploy mobile applications at scale. Yet amidst the positive potential of digital transformation, IT leaders tasked with overseeing security and governance need to remain thoughtful throughout the planning, deployment, and management process as ill-conceived uses of any tool, no matter how powerful, can result in data breaches and organizational dysfunction. Rather than trying to control the entire purview of an organization's IT activities, forward-thinking IT leaders of today need to embrace the opportunity to leverage citizen developer tools while instituting practical policies and guardrails. The end result is an agile organization capable of responding to line-of-business' changing needs with both decentralized IT operations and appropriate degrees of centralized IT oversight. In this checklist, we'll cover six key phases of the IT-aligned mobile application creation process with a few sample questions in each section. Or, you can jump ahead to secure the entire 70+ question checklist in printable PDF form.  Understanding Constraints Identifying Feature Needs Defining IT Governance Needs Selecting Your Platform Building and Testing Your App(s) Deploying Your App(s)   Understand Constraints In the world of enterprise mobile application needs, no two problems are alike, and no two solutions are alike. Having a clear understanding of your specific objectives and constraints is foundational for any successful mobile app deployment project.  What are your primary business goals relevant to this project? What is the status quo system that you are seeking to replace or augment through a mobile app? Will this app be utilized internally, externally, or both? What is your IT budget, digital transformation budget, and/or mobile app strategy budget? What’s your expected development time frame? Identifying Feature Needs A strong understanding of business objectives and practical constraints will lend itself to a proposed feature list. IT leaders can limit dangerous feature creep by stackranking feature needs to determine the essentials and the bonuses.  Have you spoken with all stakeholders to get their input? What kind of data capture needs do you have (e.g. text, image, signatures, etc.)? What kinds of devices and screen resolutions do you need to support? What features are mission-critical? What features are nice-to-have features? Defining IT Governance Needs Security and governance are important considerations that should be addressed up-front rather than after-the-fact. Taking time to lay out your needs and define policy and procedure up front can help ensure organizational alignment throughout the forthcoming process of operational change. What kinds of authorization tools are needed? Does your app need to comply with existing industry security standards? What kinds of governance tools do you need (analytics, policy compliance, central licensing, etc.)? Selecting Your Platform(s) Most leading platforms contain a wide breadth of features and enterprise solutions. Finding a platform that aligns with your goals can save time and money while creating pathways for future success. Are you making the app in-house or seeking a partner to build it? Are the vendors you’re considering reputable and likely to be in business 5 years from now? What kind of support do the app platforms offer? Building and Testing Your App(s) If you've followed through on carefully defining your goals, constraints, features, IT governance needs, and selected an appropriate platform, then building and testing your apps should be a relatively straightforward process.  Have you tested your app with non-technical users? Does the app still function in unique situations such as low battery, less network coverage, airplane mode, or less storage? What other edge cases might stretch the limits of your app? Deploying Your App(s) Deploying your app is no longer a one-off process but rather an iterative process that will likely contain cycles of feedback and revision from end users. Expect to handle change requests and bug fixes in the first few weeks of operations. What kind of training, if any, will you provide to end-users? Who will be managing your app going forward? Do you have a way to collect feedback from end-users and iterate quickly? Interested in downloading the entire checklist?  

Feature Friday: Scrolling Horizontally, Generating Files & Embedding Maps

  Horizontal Scrolling Tables Depending on your device screen size and number of columns you intend to display, your app Table Views may overflow off the right end of your view. To make sure your users can quickly reference data from larger tables (or on smaller devices), you can now scroll the table horizontally with a mouse or touchscreen.  To enable Horizontal Scrolling Tables, visit UX > Options > Table View. We recommend also enabling 'Column Headers' at the same time to more easily recognize the data from each column as you scroll.    Automatically Generating & Saving Files In addition to initiating notifications and PDF delivery from Workflows & Reports, app creators can now automatically schedule, generate & save new PDF, CSV, XML or JSON files from app data. These newly created files will be saved to your primary data source. Using filtered triggers (like new or updated data) or scheduled delivery at specific days/times, custom formatted files can be created and saved in the app data source. This makes storing and accessing historical analytics, reports, or data backups much easier than searching email inboxes.  To schedule or trigger new file creation, create a new Workflow or Report, and set your Action as 'Save File'. Embedded PDF Maps When creating workflows to generate custom emails, PDFs or other documents that include location values from your app, you can choose between including the text value (address / latlong) or a static, embedded map showing the location. By default, columns/expressions of type LatLong are shown as static maps with a pin, while columns/expressions of type Address are shown as text. By specifying a Format Rule (in the UX > Format Rules section of the app editor) app creators can control the size of static maps in workflow email content. In the format rule, choose the table, one or more columns, an optional condition, and the image size (Tiny, Small, Medium, Large, or Text).     

Construction Company Spreads the Wealth with Mobile Apps

Brodsky Construction is a Canadian earth-moving construction business out of Saskatoon, a city located in Saskatchewan, Canada. It constructs dams, lagoons, and roads. It grades and excavates. It does work related to drainage works, geotextile and geosynthetic applications, and granular material placement. (And soon it may have an app creation business as well!) The company caters to cities, rural municipalities, and other government entities, developers, and landfill owners. It brings in about $3 million in annual revenue. And it has 20 employees during peak season. While Brodsky Construction has a small office, most of its operations take place out in the field. Until recently, field staff used paper for recording and reference purposes. But using paper for performance reporting, safety documentation, and other field efforts was problematic. “It was just a nightmare to keep track of all the paper for everything,” says John Brodsky, the company’s business manager. “I was chasing paper all around the countryside.” So John began searching for a better solution. At first he thought buying pre-built apps was the way to go. John explored several pre-made options for the construction industry, however, none of them provided all of the functionality he was looking for. These apps allowed the company to go paperless, but did not support the level of customization they were looking for. “They just didn’t do what we needed them to do,” John says. “So I was exploring all over the place, and I finally came across AppSheet and realized I could probably figure out how to do exactly what I wanted to do with it…. And turns out I could build us an app that did everything we needed to.” John isn’t a programmer, but he is good with spreadsheets. That experience gave him an edge in using the AppSheet platform, which supports Google Sheets. And because Brodsky Construction has a seasonal business, John had time during the winter of 2016 to experiment with the AppSheet platform. “The most important part for me was that AppSheet supports Google Sheets as a data source,” says John. “The fact that all the information was fed directly into a spreadsheet meant I could build all the reports that I wanted on the back end on my Google Sheets based on what was submitted in the app.” Today Brodsky Construction has one AppSheet-powered app. All of Brodsky Construction’s employees and supervisors use it. The app houses all the documentation workers need when they’re in the field. Workers also use the app to submit documentation. The AppSheet app also simplifies time cards and payroll efforts, helps supervisors with daily reports, and makes it easy for everybody to access safety-related materials. That has enabled Brodsky Construction to contain its administration costs. “The app has allowed us to keep equipment usage and fuel tracking up to date in a way that wouldn't be possible otherwise,” said John. Brodsky Construction even sees AppSheet as a potential new revenue source. John said if he didn’t have the AppSheet app, he’d need administrative help. “Right now I’m the only full-time office member,” he says. “I’d probably have to hire at least one more person to manage the administrative stuff right now. But AppSheet has allowed me to keep a handle on all the administrative stuff in the office by myself.” For example, AppSheet helps John manage payroll—automatically updating Google Sheets payroll spreadsheets. “It used to take me a full day to do all the manual data entry with paper time cards and send it off to our accountants to remit payroll,” he explains. “Now I just have to click three drop-down menus on a spreadsheet and hit print, and I’ve got my payroll report. So that’s been a huge savings.” Here is how it works: Users submit their time card information in the app. The app feeds data into the payroll Google Sheet. From there, John generates payroll reports. He adds that AppSheet has released a lot of helpful new features since he began using the platform two years ago. So John has released major updates of Brodsky Construction’s app every season since its launch. The app has been such a success that Brodsky Construction workers have shared their experiences with some of the company’s contractors. And several of those contractors have expressed an interest in having AppSheet apps of their own. Brodsky Construction has launched app pilot projects with two of those contractors. And it’s pitching mobile apps to others in its industry. Meanwhile, John is considering building more apps for his company’s own use. He’s looking at one to address equipment maintenance and repair documentation. Another would help company accountants manage their paperless filing system. Editor's notes: Below are two sample apps you will find useful. Look Under The Hood takes you to the App Editor, where you can see how the app was built. Copy and Customize allows you to copy the app, replace or edit the data, and customize the app. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and we will respond ASAP.  

AppSheet Features: An Infographic to Assist You with All Your App Building Projects

The AppSheet platform launched in 2014 as a simple tool to build mobile apps from spreadsheets. And when we say simple, we mean simple... Appsheet.com circa July 2014 launch date. Yes, even SaaS companies have their awkward teenage years! Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then! A rich set of features rolled out over the past four years have enabled app creators around the world to build more than one million apps on the platform, serving everyone from renewable energy leaders in Africa to Fortune 500 corporations. With so much progress, it can be difficult to remember everything the AppSheet platform is capable of doing. With that in mind, we’ve created an infographic that highlights the basic building blocks you’d find in an AppSheet app. Multi-Platform Support Data Integration Data Visualization Data Capture UI/UX Customization Automated Workflow Hybrid Cloud-Enabled   Multi-Platform Support The AppSheet platform allows anyone to build an app for iOS, Android, and the web without ever having to write a line of code. Apps function seamlessly across any standard device type. As a bonus, never worry again about updating your app for the latest iOS and Android updates. The AppSheet team makes it a point to test and debug new software updates.   Data Integration AppSheet integrates with a number of different data sources. Our platform works seamlessly whether you’re using G-Suite, Office, SQL, or other leading data providers as your primary data source. You can connect a single app to multiple sources of data to simplify your data input, management, and reporting processes. Or use data slices and private tables to control how your data appears to users. Data Visualization Integrating and safely storing data is a great starting point, but properly leveraging that data for mobile is where AppSheet shines. Choose to display your data through many different types of views including maps, charts, calendars, galleries, dashboards, tables, and more. Data Capture Capture data on-the-go with text, images, pre-filled checkboxes, QR codes, barcodes, signatures, GPS and more. The vast majority of our customers utilize some form of data capture to streamline and standardize their field data collection processes. User Interface (UI) & User Experience (UX) Customization Proper design should be not only be beautiful but functional as well. Customize colors, icons, images, fonts, and other standard tools to make your app shine. Conditional formatting rules allow you to customize the app’s layout depending on certain situations, and custom forms make on-the-go data collection a powerful, frictionless process. Automated Workflow Customize your user experience with powerful actions to easily make data changes, navigate your app, send external messages and create workflow rules to automate processes and reporting based on key app triggers or preset times. Hybrid Cloud Enablement Do you need to include secure data that does not reside on a cloud? Connect AppSheet to an on-premise database using our DreamFactory integration. Also, take advantage of offline accessibility in cellular dead zones (e.g. a manufacturing plant, oil rig, or field survey) and sync whenever you regain access. Curious to learn more? Check back next week for our “AppSheet for the Enterprise Cheat Sheet” where we’ll provide an overview of the enterprise-grade features that are powering organizations around the world. Also, let us know in the comments what features you’re planning on integrating next!

AppSheet 2018: The year in review

2018 in Review  Thanks to all of you for a great year. In the past 12 months, app creators around the world have been busy creating over 260,000 new mobile & desktop applications. That's a new app created every 2 minutes—quite amazing! We are fortunate to hear some of the ideas and see some of the thought and innovation that lies behind these apps. Here are some inspiring customer stories. Our team has also grown with some really great new additions to the AppSheet family—both full-time at our offices in Seattle and also part-time from around the world (Aleksi, Reza, Steve, Lynn). More than ever, we care about being a personal, responsive team. We added Intercom messaging to most of the pages on our site. It can be overwhelming at times dealing with thousands of "live" conversations a month, but we also learn about things we can do to improve the customer experience. We end the year with more than 12,400 members in the AppSheet User Community. With almost 600 posts and 2,600 comments a month, this is a vibrant, engaged, and supportive group of enthusiastic platform advocates. This community is a central part of our ecosystem and although Google+ is being retired in 2019, we'll find an alternative venue to keep it growing.  It is difficult to summarize all the platform changes over the year. We release a new version of the platform every day. This incremental change is a central mechanism for platform stability, but it can also be somewhat deceptive because we never have a "big new release". All the same, day by day, the platform has grown in functionality across all facets: app creation, data sources, app expressive power, UI richness, workflows, device install, management features, enterprise capabilities, and initial forays into intelligence and AI.   This year, we also started a new customer-facing app to capture feature requests—and it has been great to see the reaction. While it is not the exclusive way we prioritize work, votes from all of you play a very important role. There are now 385 unique feature requests across 6 different categories, and more than 1,000 votes for these features.  Which means, we are certainly going to be pretty busy next year! To learn more about our plans for 2019, look for a post in the first week of January. Until then, happy holidays and see you in the new year! 🎉     Apps Deployed in Over 180 Countries Apps created, tested, & deployed to users around the world   Most Popular Sample Apps Explore & copy sample apps to get your project started Inventory Management Timesheet Order Capture Equipment Inspections Sales Report Project Planner Store Inventory Field Service Log Shipment Tracker    Most Common App Use-Cases Every app is unique, but many fall into similar categories   New Platform Features Some of the favorite features added this year (make requests here)  ● Use Natural Language to Spec Your App  ● Quickly Edit Data Throughout Your Apps  ● Integrate with Zapier (Beta)  ● Integrate with Amazon Cognito  ● Pull to Sync App Data  ● Create Sliding Actions  ● Access the AppSheet API  ● Add KML Layers to App Maps  ● Add CONTEXT() to your Apps  ● Scan NFC Tags  ● Suggest Form Values Automatically  ● Build from On-Premise Databases   ● Add Events to a Calendar View  ● Integrate with Data Stores      Record Breaking AppSheet Growth AppSheet recognized as a 'Low-Code Leader'      Interested in Building Apps in 2019?    

Free Expense Tracker Apps and Spreadsheets for Consultants, Event Managers, and Contractors

No matter what field you're working in, expense tracking is something that must happen to operate a sustainable business. Despite that necessity for this process, not everyone is an excel guru, and it can be very frustrating to manage your numbers and budgets when you don't work well with the software. With the right tools, however, expense tracking doesn't have to give you a headache. As a young adult in the workforce, I understand the struggle that comes with data entry, managing expenses, and keeping track of spending. That's why I created free Excel, Google Sheet, and app templates to make this process easier and free up time for all the other tasks that come with consulting, contracting, and event planning. Want quick access to your template? Jump ahead: Expense Tracker for Consultants Expense Tracker for Contractors Expense Tracker for Events Expense tracker for consultants Working as a consultant is complex and full of details that, for the untrained eye, would be easy to miss. This spreadsheet helps to simplify the process of planning, tracking, and managing your clients, work type, and hours— all at your fingertips! This planner keeps track of clients, contacts, and time spent. The pivot table feature organizes your information so it's easy to see how much time you've spent on each work type and client!     This is also available as a mobile app! It can be a drag when you've got the data that you need to input, but you're not near your work computer. Having access to this expense tracking on the go allows your to spend your time more efficiently at work. The mobile app version includes views by date, work type, and client! It also allows you to add data on-the-go, a key requirement for consultants working in different spaces while traveling. Here are three reasons you should use the app instead: A mobile app makes it far easier to see the data when you need to, especially on-the-go. The app includes several data views so you can easily access what you need. The app version empowers you to modernize your time keeping and track it in real-time! Expense tracker for contractors Managing properties and all the expenses that come with them requires strong organizational skills best handled by technological tools. That leaves skills like creativity, hard work, and pure craftsmanship to people— right where they belong. This sheet includes estimated price, actual price, and cost overrun. Items are organized by categories, such as cabinets/hardware.   Save time and turn this spreadsheet into a mobile app. The mobile app version not only makes it easier to input data, it gives you access to this information anytime, anywhere—without the need to lug your laptop around or write down information to add in your spreadsheet later. Here are my top three reasons for using the app: The app makes data entry way simpler. The graph view clearly shows which items are more or less expensive. You can clearly see the completion status of a job! Expense Tracker for Events Good organization of strategy and expense is the backbone of a well-planned event. Event planning can take months, and often the budget is the first thing that needs to pass. I created an excel to simplify your budget planning through the event planning process. This excel form includes estimated - actual cost, a section to input each individual item and its category, and a table for a budget in each category. Bonus: Turn this sheet into a mobile app for stronger organization! The mobile app version lets you input budgets for categories and items on-the-go, making it that much easier to organize your expenses. Now you don't have to keep receipts and forget to input prices later—you can do it immediately! Each expense entry will be added to the total expense of that category. Knowing your budget and how much you've spent helps you keep within budget. Final thoughts Expense tracking is tough, but with the right tools, can be exciting. I hope you are able to use these tools to simplify your life and make your expense tracking easier. Not too long ago, the small business my mom worked at used paper expense ledgers and filing cabinets. While I see a lot of value in expense tracking with tangible tools such as spreadsheets, I feel lucky to live during a time where I can build my own apps on a no-code platform and digitally transform any manual process to a digital one. What are your thoughts on the transition from paper ledgers and filing cabinets to their digital equivalents? I want to hear what you think in the comments below! Related Stories Small Business Apps: Singapore Company Saves 60% in Software Expenses With AppSheet Taking Inventory and Warehouse Management to the Next Level with a Series of Apps How Can Mobile Apps Increase Productivity and Improve Inventory Data Accuracy

Tis the Season: AppSheet's Dinner Party App

Tis the season for all kinds of dinner parties. From late November on, my life has been full of parties but none quite stand out as much as AppSheet's annual holiday party. Why you might ask? Yes, it was fun to socialize with the team outside of the office and since everyone brought something, it was equally fun to taste all the different appetizers, salads, main dishes, and desserts that pretty much represented all parts of the globe (yes, we are a pretty diverse group!). What made this party so different from others is that (drum roll please) Praveen, our CEO, built an app on our platform to manage the entire event! Why? To keep all communications in one central location. Make sure no two items folks signed up to bring were the same. Ensure that no one gets lost on their way to the festivities.  So whether your planning a holiday party or simply inviting friends, families, or colleagues to your home for a get together, this app is for you. You can use Praveen's Dinner Party app to track who is attending, the number of total guests, and what they are bringing. The Copy Dinner Party App button below will take you to the app page. When you are on the page, click on copy the app to replace the data and customize it, or look under the hood to check out how this app was built.  Here's how the app works. There are four main views. All shows guests' photos, names and their responses—WillAttend or WillNotAttend. The + icon in the lower right hand corner opens up a form for guests to upload images, respond to the dinner invitation, and enter the number of people coming with them.   Guests can see each other's information including what dishes they will bring but they cannot make any edits. Only you can edit your information. The Me view shows the logged-in user's information and allows the user to make edits. Dishes shows pictures, names, and of course, the dish the guest is bringing. If you want to group food and drinks by type—appetizer, main, desert, and drinks, go ahead. Address shows the party time, the host's address, and phone number. Guests can open up Google Maps from here to figure out the best route to take. They can also call the host from this view. I hope you find this app useful when you throw your next dinner party. And I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and happy new year!

Feature Friday: Map Layers, PDF Archiving & Database Stores

Adding Map Layers Map views are be great for finding destinations, viewing territories, plotting locations & more. These maps rely on a data source table that contains latitude & longitude coordinates or addresses (that are geocoded with lat/long data). When building these views, there are a few ways to add extra layers to your map, including a new option of adding a 'read-only' KML layer. Additional Data Table Layer Apps with multiple tables connected with location data, enable 2 layers of plotted points in a single view by customizing the 'Data' section of your map view. XY Image Layer XY Map layers are great for apps designed to manage internal or small-scale spaces like offices buildings, construction sites, schools, or shopping malls. By replacing the base Google Map with a static image, users can view and plot points using XY coordinates associated with the embedded image, producing an interactive view. Learn More View Sample App NEW! - KML File Layer KML (Keyhole Markup Language) is a file format used to display geographic data, most commonly on platforms like Google Earth or Google Maps, that allows for embedding and displaying location points, borders and shapes with different styles. Learn More Some helpful resources for finding common, government boundary KML files include: U.S. Census Bureau DATA.GOV View Sample App PDF Archiving AppSheet Workflows allow for automatically sending customized emails, text messages, push notifications, as well as producing custom PDF attachments containing custom data fields. Previously, those PDF attachments were only available to be received via email, making it difficult to revisit those files over time.  Now, any generated PDF can be automatically saved to the app's data source (and also sent via email), allowing for easier storage and sharing options within the team.  Archive options include: Attach And Do Not Archive which attaches the PDF to the email but does not archive the PDF file. Attach And Archive which attaches the PDF to the email and archives the PDF file. Archive And Do Not Attach which archives the PDF file but does not attach the PDF file to the email. This option is useful if the PDF file is too large to include as an attachment. Instead, the email body can include the URL or Weblink to the archived PDF attachment. Learn More Data Stores Tables that use Image or File column types use cloud-based file storage to persist and retrieve this content.  By default, this file storage is co-located with the table data source (eg: with Google Drive or Office 365). In the case of database data sources, the default file storage location is the cloud file system used to create the app owner's account.  Now, AppSheet can be configured to store images or files directly to a data store, by first setting up a relational database data source and adding the database Object Store. From the Account -> Integrations -> Stores pane, choose Add and then choose "DB Content". This brings up a dialog where you can choose a database data source, a database table or view name, the label column name and the content column name. Learn More    

The Top 5 Barcode and QR Code Scanner Apps - for iPhone, iPad, and Android Devices

  Whether you're using barcodes and QR codes to decode product information or to capture and store items for inventory management, it's important to have a robust app (and data storage system) in order to stay organized.    We’ve rounded up the leading QR code scanners and barcode scanner apps made for a variety of purposes. Now, you can choose one that works for you. image: https://todaytesting.com     Top 5 Barcode and QR Scanner Apps AppSheet QR Code Reader and Scanner Sortly Scanbot Barcode Scanner Pro AppSheet Appsheet, or as we like to think of it, the perfect app maker. Looking to scan barcodes and QR codes to track inventory or manage your business? Look no further. AppSheet is used by thousands to better capture data within a business. You can easily scan, record, access, and share information through your apps. AppSheet itself isn't really an app in the traditional sense—it is actually an app development platform. You're in control from start to finish. And AppSheet is a no-code platform. All you have to do is upload your data from a spreadsheet, doc, or form to start. Appsheet has great templates that you can copy to create a barcode scanner app. Here is one. AppSheet is the only option on the list that lets you customize your app to fit the needs of your business. But if you're looking for something that's ready to go right out of the box, we found some great alternatives. QR Code Reader and Scanner Need a quick and easy scanner to find product information, prices, and reviews? This straightforward scanner app is user friendly and offers a clean interface. It scans all kinds of QR codes and barcodes, then saves those scans to your history. You can also save and share the codes right from your phone; each code is saved in your photos and can be sent by text, email, Twitter, or Facebook. Whether you're trying to make better purchases at the grocery store, look up an informational website, or quickly read through a digital instruction manual, this app can do it quickly and efficiently... no search engine required. This app also has a feature some others on the list do not: it allows you to generate your own QR code for URLs, numbers, events, and any other code generation tasks you might desire. This feature, and the fact that you can get it for free, puts QR Code Reader and Scanner near the top of our list. iTunes rating: 4.5/5 Not available for Android Price: Free Sortly Sortly calls itself the "ultimate inventory app". It lets you create a visual inventory of your items using photos, tags, notes, prices, QR labels or barcodes. Customize your lists and track details, all within the app. You can also import or export spreadsheet data from the app to PDF, Dropbox or Evernote. You can save, share, or print your data and sync it up between devices. If you're in the middle of a big move or want to keep your warehouse inventory organized, Sortly can work for both your individual and business needs. Works on both iOS and Android devices.   iTunes rating: 4.8/5 Google Play rating: 4/5 Price: Basic app is free, Sortly PLUS subscription with sync, export, web access, (including barcode and QR scanner) is $4.99/month.   Scanbot      Scanbot will scan practically anything. Documents, sketchbooks, QR codes, barcodes, receipts, whiteboards, you name it. Save your documents as a PDF or JPG, then auto-upload and instantly share to over a dozen applications, including Google Drive, Evernote, and Dropbox.   And if you want to edit your PDF, you can, right from the app. Scanbot will also fax documents for you without needing an actual fax machine. You can now send faxes from your phone to more than 50 countries.   iTunes rating: 4.8/5 Google Play rating: 4.2/5 Price: Basic app is free, Scanbot PRO with full scanner access $6.99.   Barcode Scanner Pro    This professional-grade app packs a punch. It can quickly and accurately scan, decode, create, and share QR codes or barcodes.   This app is a lot like the "QR Code Reader and Scanner" but for the Android.   You can create a QR code for your personal information, including email addresses and phone numbers. Share your QR codes on social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, WeChat, Line, E-mail, SMS) to your friends. And, the app keeps track of your scan history.   It's perfect for anyone who wants to digitize their inventory; you can now create and store codes for your products and store all the information on your phone for easy access anytime.   Google Play rating: 4.6/5 Not available for iOS Price: Free Final Thoughts Code scanners can sometimes differ significantly, and rightly so. It is important to find an app that suits your needs, whether it be tracking and management or information lookup and sourcing. Whether you prefer a wealth of information, higher security protocols, or the ability to customize depends on your business. Code scanners are not "one size fits all" and ultimately business owners must look to what best meets their specific needs.  Need more ideas for apps for your business? Checkout the AppSheet blog for useful tips, free templates, and more. 

4 Ways to Build an App Without Code

If you think developing apps is difficult, well, we're here to help you out!  While it may seem like a daunting undertaking to build your own mobile it, no-code technology has helped streamline the process exponentially. On AppSheet, there are actually four ways—none of which require any special skill set—to build an app without code: Start from Data. Start from an Add-On. Start from Sample Apps. Start from Natural Language. Use any of these “ways” to build a powerful no-code app in minutes. And, as always, on the AppSheet platform you can prototype apps with any feature for free. And if your app is for personal use, it’s always free.       1. Build an app using your own data The AppSheet platform connects with a variety of sources including Office 365, Google Drive, SQL, and many more. If you are using any of the data sources listed below, you can build an app directly from your existing data sources. After connecting to your data, the platform auto-creates an app prototype. You can then use the the app editor to add features, change the UI, etc., until your custom business app works exactly the way you want it to. As you add functionality and make modifications to your app, a live preview of the current version is always visible in a multi-device emulator (or install the prototype on your devices to test as you build). When you’re done, deploy the app and share it with your team. And remember, AppSheet automatically supports multiple form factors (web browsers, tablets, and mobile) so you should be good to go. To get started with your app customizing, here’s a quick overview of AppSheet’s App Editor.           2. Build an app from an add-on   The great thing about our add-ons is that they allow you to launch AppSheet directly from wherever your data resides—for example, in a Google Sheet or Form. Our add-ons take you from data source to app in just a few clicks and within minutes, you have a working version of your app. Google Sheets Google Sheets is one of our most popular add-ons. Just make sure each column is properly formatted with a title in row 1,there are at least 3 rows of data, and then use the add-on to generate your app. To get started, here’s a quick tutorial on how build an app with Google Sheets.       Google Forms Why move your form to an app? Well, if you need to collect different kind of inputs, like photos, signatures, barcodes, or GPS locations, appifying your Form is the way to go. AppSheet also features powerful workflow and reporting tools that allow you to turn a simple form into a fully-functioning web app, so why not move your form to an app? To get started, check out this video.       Google Docs AppSheet is the fastest way to convert paper-based (or digital) forms into an app. With automatic workflows, you can easily capture real-time data directly from the app and automatically generate standardized reports. And, just like Google Forms, you can collect photos, signatures, GPS location, and barcodes.   Office 365 If you’re an Office user, AppSheet can turn your static Excel spreadsheets into feature-rich apps. In just a few minutes, our platform auto-creates the first iteration of your app which you can then customize and deploy using AppSheet’s editor. To get started, check out this video.       Box Do you work in a Box environment? Then get the AppSheet add-on for Box and build apps directly from Excel spreadsheets in Box.   3. Build an app from sample apps   Looking for a proven model—something you can build on or use as is? Explore our collection of sample apps by industry and use case (like inspections, field services, sales & marketing, & much more) and find one that that meets your needs. Once you find that "almost" perfect app: Copy it. Integrate your data. Customize it to meet your specific needs using the AppSheet editor. Deploy your “perfect” version.   4. Build an App from Natural Language     "Spec," is a natural language interface, and a recent app building feature in our catalog. With it, you simply “dictate” what you want your app to do by text or speech. Spec then builds out the app based on your idea. After using Spec to frame your app, you can continue to customize it with the AppSheet App Editor before deploying it to your users. Here’s a video to get started.       Make your first app today! So there you have it: four ways to build an app without code. Let us know what method worked best for you in the comments!

Free Apps and Excel Templates for Truck Drivers and Dispatch Managers

Truck and delivery drivers give 'on-the-go' a whole new meaning. In any 7-day period in the U.S., some drivers are on the road for up to 77 hours. Some drivers contract out work, some work for a company, and some own their own businesses. What's the one thing they all have in common, aside from their profession? They all work hard and deserve access to the tools available to help them succeed. According to McKinsey & Company, technology helps workers manage customer demand through remote dispatch monitoring, flexible workforce management, and improved performance management.  We agree and that's why we created several free spreadsheet templates and mobile apps for all those drivers on-the-go! Short on time? Jump to the template you're most interested in: Mileage and Cost Tracker Delivery Tracking Driver Dispatch and Scheduling Mileage and Cost Tracker This mileage tracker spreadsheet keeps track of destinations (End), estimated mileage (Distance (Est, Mile)), actual mileage (Distance (Actual, Mile)), and the cost (Total Cost) of the trip. The Photo column adds a personal element to the sheet. The estimated actual mileage column is green for zero (or less) extra miles, yellow for 0-10, and red for more than 10 miles. The Distance (Est, Mile) links to Google Maps so you can see exactly what the recommended route is too! Bonus: What better way to take advantage of these tools than to turn this mileage tracker into a mobile app? With an app you get a number of "bonus" benefits:  Speed. You can enter the data wherever you are—even offline—making for faster data entry. Fewer errors. No need for paper trails of information before you have time to update your spreadsheet resulting in less data entry errors—especially important when dealing with numbers that can determine cost and payment. Convenience. You don't need to carry your laptop with you—all you need is a mobile phone or tablet. Automation. The app automatically captures the date and time for you—so less time spent entering data! Delivery Tracking Delivery management is fast-paced and time-sensitive. Managing the process is much easier when the information is stored in such a way that the whole team can access it online. Happy customers, happy employees, and a less hectic delivery day. Everybody wins! With this spreadsheet, you can track: Delivery destination and time. Contact person name and phone number. A color-coated delivery status customizable to your preference. Comments on the delivery. Bonus: I love this spreadsheet but one vital component of the delivery experience is missing: signatures. The mobile app we created from this spreadsheet includes all the key components of the spreadsheet with the added signature feature. It's ideal for delivery workers and dispatch managers to update and track progress in real time and the signature denotes that the package was received—a great way to ensure that the delivery was successful. The mobile app version also includes a map, giving delivery managers the opportunity to visualize routes without needing to open another app to figure out exact destinations. Driver Dispatch and Scheduling This spreadsheet is personalized for dispatch managers to view employee hours and manage scheduling. It has sections for each employee and includes their schedule, deliveries, and hours. It also contains a personalizable pivot table for a dynamic and organized view of your data! This template tracks: Hours by day. Weekly hours. Hours per item delivered. Driver shifts. Bonus: Work smarter, not harder. Why not use the technology at your fingertips and turn this spreadsheet into a mobile app? Here are the added features that makes driver dispatch and scheduling so much easier: Calendar view. This calendar includes daily, weekly, and monthly viewing options—making it easier to visualize schedules. Location mapping. The app maps the destinations—making is easier to plan routes. Tracking. Each job number has its own data, delivery status, and customer—making it easier to track the progress of deliveries. By now, I'm pretty sure you've noticed a theme here: the app makes the whole process much easier so why not copy it and start using it today? Personal Note My favorite part about these spreadsheets is how easy it is to turn them into mobile apps. As someone with minimal technical experience, I never thought I could do this. But with AppSheet, I am an app maker! If you have any other favorite dispatch templates or apps, leave the links in the comments below—I am always looking for new spreadsheets or templates to appify! Related Stories: Annual Load Book: An App for Truck Owner-Operators or Fleet Owners How 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Streamlines Junk Removal With a Fleet Management App How to Manage Stock in Excel: Three Free Stock Templates  

How Husqvarna Became a Thought Leader in Warehouse and Inventory Management

Part of my job is to keep a finger on what I like to call our customer pulse in order to produce customer stories and case studies. And I am constantly surprised and impressed by the innovative ways our customers use our platform to create apps that truly transform their business. Such is the case with Husqvarna. Most likely you’ve seen or used many of their products as they are a manufacturer of outdoor power products, including chain saws, garden tractors, push mowers, and trimmers. You can always tell it’s a Husqvarna product due to its brand color that is always prominently featured—I call it the Husqvarna orange. Less than a year ago, the team at Husqvarna’s largest North American warehouse facility located in South Carolina, made a bold decision: automate the entire facility with a suite of custom apps built on the AppSheet platform. Their goal: digital transformation through the automation of all their warehouse and inventory management processes. This is a pretty ambitious goal, particularly when you consider that the 125,000-square-foot warehouse manages more than 35,000 product SKUs—with more than 160 warehouse workers supporting this effort. And yet, Husqvarna was able to accomplish this within 8 months by building a series of apps—41 in all—to manage inventory, personnel, forklift drivers, goods reception, and quality tracking. Now, you may think that Husqvarna either had a team of developers or consultants who took on the massive project which probably had an equally massive price tag. Well, think again. Mark Creighton, Operations Manager, and his co-worker, Erika Braxton, were the “development” team. Neither had any development background and yet, they were able to create 41 custom apps—all without writing a single line of code—at a fraction of the cost when compared with other development platform solutions. Fast forward to today. With the apps, Husqvarna was able to increase productivity, offer better visibility into key metrics, motivate workers, and contribute to profitability. In my mind, that’s how you become a leader in a space—by setting ambitious goals designed to transform your business and then setting out on a path that helps you achieve them. Such is the case with Husqvarna and I suspect by now that you want to know more about what they did and how they did it. To read the entire case study, go here. And as always, comments and questions are greatly appreciated!   

Changes to AppSheet Plans & Pricing

Dear App Creator, Over four years of almost-daily platform updates, we have responded to feature requests and made forward investments in many new AppSheet platform capabilities. The apps built on AppSheet have grown from simple mobile forms to large-scale and mission-critical business applications. On Monday, December 10, our pricing will change to reflect these platform updates and will immediately apply to all new customers. Customers currently on a paid plan will have 6 months to transition their account. If you are an existing customer on a business subscription plan, these changes will not affect you. There will be three primary subscription plans: Premium (secure) This self-serve plan is for small-scale apps and enables most common app features. It continues to be priced at USD $5/user/month. Pro (secure) This self-serve plan is for small-scale apps and enables advanced app features and advanced security. It continues to be priced at USD $10/user/month. Business Subscriptions This plan is for larger-scale apps and apps that are critical for a business. These apps will benefit from better performance and reliability in this plan. Additional capabilities fall into various categories: Management, Integrations, AI, Analytics, Collaboration, and Governance. Business subscriptions are managed by our account reps with custom pricing.  Other Plan Options In addition to simplifying the available plans, we have made feature adjustments to them (details below). For customers interested in public apps without user sign-in, we will continue to offer the Publisher Pro plan at USD $50/app/month. Prototype apps and personal apps remain completely free with access to the entire platform and limited to 10 users. We continue to provide a 50% discount for non-profits and educational institutions. Starting Dec 10th, 2018, we are discontinuing the Standard, Publisher, and Publisher Plus plans for new customers. As an existing customer, we will notify you if changes are needed and then engage with you to make those changes before June 10th 2019. Why have we discontinued the Standard plan? The Standard plan is extremely feature-constrained and the apps built with the Standard plan are therefore of low end-user quality. For example, any change made in an app has to be synced immediately and the app will not work offline. We have realized that a good mobile end-user app experience does need greater richness of platform features. Why have we discontinued the Publisher and Publisher-Plus plans? The public plans were initially intended for public consumer-facing apps. As a platform however, we have become very focused on business apps and have been unable to provide consumer features like payments, ads, social media integrations, etc. We do recognize that there are still legitimate cases for a business app to be public (for example, an event schedule app, or a product catalog). These use cases usually require significant scale and white-labeling. The existing Publisher Pro plan is therefore a good match.   What are the changes to the Premium, Pro, and Business plans? Premium Recently added: Calendar views, quick-edit table view, custom actions, and AirTable data source. No longer available in Premium: security filters, advanced workflow actions (webhook and data updates), NFC scanning, and data caching. All of these features will be available in the Pro plan. Pro Recently added: Smart assistant, secure images, on-device encryption, user roles management. No longer available in Pro: relational database sources (SQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, etc), Salesforce data source, and app version management. These features will be available in Business Subscriptions. Business Subscriptions Recently added: enterprise data sources (Redshift, Oracle, On-Premise data support), support for REST API integrations, support for extra add-ons like enhanced security, management, advanced integrations, and more. Note that all app features can be used in a free prototype app, whatever the current plan. This allows you to see how features will work and determine if they are useful to your scenario.   Feature categories by plan: A Personal Note: No decision to change pricing is ever made lightly. That is particularly true in our case. Broad and universal access is fundamental to our mission and our belief system. This is why we have self-serve subscription plans and AppSheet is free for prototypes and for personal use. It is why we continue to add new features to existing plans, and provide customer support to as many people as possible. All the same, we are keenly aware that the changes announced here will increase costs for some customers. These changes will help us continue to support you effectively, run the AppSheet platform at scale for a growing user base, and continue adding features to give you greater value. We welcome your feedback, questions, ideas or criticism. You can reach us at sales@appsheet.com. Praveen Seshadri CEO AppSheet 

Smart Inspections – A Safe Bet for Manufacturing

Inspections are an important aspect of manufacturing. The inspection process helps manufacturers ensure the quality of their processes, products, and production line resources. Businesses can work to improve the work-related health and safety of their employees and environments through inspections. Plus inspections are an important means through which companies demonstrate compliance. Traditionally manufacturing operations have relied on paper-based processes to record and share inspection information. To a large extent they still do. The problem is that physical documents and paper-based processes are prone to data loss, human error, and information-sharing delay. That can increase the risk both of manufacturing operations and businesses in general. Collecting and disseminating inspection information via mobile apps can address these problems by: Decreasing errors. Improving productivity. Increasing data accessibility. Allowing for faster decision making and action. Attracting and retaining top talent. Improving Productivity & Decreasing Errors The adoption of mobile apps frees workers from the cumbersome processes of carrying, stacking, and sorting inspection forms and records. On the front end, that eliminates the problem of lost paperwork. On the back end, it eliminates the need for secondary data entry into a computer. Entering data on a mobile app also eliminates data recording duplication efforts. Secondary data entry personnel don’t have to guess when handwriting on inspection forms and notes is difficult to read. And there’s less lag between the time an inspector enters data and others can review it. Increasing Data Accessibility Mobile apps also make data available to the parties that need it in real time. That’s helpful for organizations of all sizes. But it’s particularly valuable for large organizations with multiple manufacturing operations spread across the world. Mobile apps make it easy for people to collect, share, and review inspection data from across the company and from wherever they are. “Unlike geographically enclosed businesses with only a few locations to monitor, multinational operations can’t employ a lone health and safety officer to safeguard working conditions,” writes Saving Advice. “Organizations with far-flung field operations must prioritize health and safety, collaborating between teams and across sites to meet company and legal regulations. “To conquer these obstacles, global enterprises have begun to disrupt the traditional ways of tracking health and safety standards by adopting mobile forms,” the media outlet adds. “Platforms like these offer flexibility and freedom of movement that give managers a bird’s-eye view regardless of the scale of operations.” Allowing for Faster Decision Making & Action Providing people with the information they need when and where they need it allows them to make better decisions faster. That’s particularly important when it comes to manufacturing inspections. Inspection data varies based on the organization and initiative. But it may include information about: Accidents or faulty processes resulting in the injury or death of employees. Events that led to non-worker injuries. Fire exits or other information related to evacuation accessibility. Occupational diseases. Site-specific conditions that may be dangerous. That said, you can see how taking action sooner rather than later on such data can mean the difference between health and harm – or even life and death. Real-time access to data via mobile apps, and related analytics and notifications, also can help manufacturing operations ensure compliance with regulations, drive continual improvement, and be more competitive. Attracting & Retaining Top Talent Of course, an important part of being competitive in today’s business environment involves hiring and retaining the right people to get the job done and move into the future. Adopting connected technology like mobile apps can serve as a tool to attract talent to an organization. The use of mobile apps shows millennial job candidates that manufacturers are forward-thinking businesses. “There is no easier way to attract the millennial workforce than by adopting and utilizing technology,” notes Manufacturing.NET. “Millennials grew up as digital natives. Not only are they adept at using technology, but they find comfort in it, and are attracted to companies that utilize it fully.” It may not seem particularly high tech to move away from paper-based processes through the use of mobile apps. But leveraging connected technology to improve productivity and business outcomes is what digital transformation is all about. And mobile apps can be an important part of driving productivity, gathering and acting on current data, driving new value, and lowering an organization’s risk. Bonus: AppSheet has a lot of inspection app templates for manufacturers, home inspections, and IT inventory managers. Primary functions included in the following Equipment Inspection App include: Location-based items with pre-filled fields. Tabbed inspection forms, with barcode, signature and photo fields. Historical inspections associated with items. Employee directory with related locations and inspection history. Charts with a quick overview of percentage values of Passed and Failed inspections.

Landscaping: Gelderman Digitizes Operations with 15 Mobile Apps to Provide Better Services to Customers

Making a beautiful outdoor area is their business, and business has never been better for Gelderman Landscape Services since they started using AppSheet! Gelderman provides commercial and residential landscape maintenance, landscape design, construction and snow removal services in Southern Ontario. Their customers and work crews are often spread across a number of different locations, and it can be hard to keep track of with old-fashioned spreadsheets. The company’s Business Process Administrator, Breanne Hulst came across AppSheet while working on a Google form. At the time, the company was sorting through mountains of paper every day to track nearly 150 employees across four different branches. The employees would log things like inspection reports, on-the-job-accidents and hazards, and then send all that information back to a central processing center. “There was just too much paper, which is really hard to manage when you have it coming from different locations,” Breanne says. That’s where AppSheet came in. Breanne has some experience with Excel but no programming background. With AppSheet’s no-code platform, Breanne was able to input her spreadsheet data and create an app that allowed crews to fill out a report detailing what work had been completed on a site that was then sent to the client. Communication is a priority, and these reports have helped bridge the gap and create better relations between Gelderman Landscape Services and its clients. In two years, Breanne has created 15 apps that help run different parts of the business, so Gelderman can focus on what it does best: performing top-quality property maintenance and construction services. Fifteen apps may seem like a lot, but Breanne says each one has an important job. Five of the apps deal with employee health and safety, and cover accidents, illnesses and on-the-job hazards. Employees who were involved in or witnessed any incidents can now immediately submit a report. Another app handles job site inspections, to make sure crews are keeping the work area safe and that they have all the tools they need to complete the job. There’s an app to organize invoices coming in from teams in the field, and one that handles vehicle and equipment inspections. One of the biggest apps has to do with customer relations. When crews are on the job, they use the app to send progress reports to the owner of the building so everyone stays on the same page. Breanne says that’s made a big difference. “We deal with property managers, and there can be one that has a few different condos they operate with. They want that communication, and I think a lot of companies promise that they’re going to tell customers what they’re doing but there’s nothing back it up.” While Breanne says the shift away from paper can be a tough one in the landscaping industry, it has some major benefits. Instead of just filing a report away never to be seen again, “We can analyze reports that have come in and actually do something with the information we’re getting.” And keeping the information all in one place helps the company track any issues and solve them quickly. “We’ve been able to analyze our health and safety reporting and say ‘if this is something we’re always seeing, we can work on that.’” Breanne’s favorite feature? How easy the app makes it to send out information quickly to the people that need it. “We’re able to play with the app so we can send out the right information, but not all the information. It really helps with our workflow.” Gelderman rolled out their newest app in August, and there are already plans for more, including one for a monthly workplace inspection and one for equipment repair. Her advice for anyone looking to make their own? Head to AppSheet’s YouTube page. “Watch the videos, they’re really helpful,” she says. “And then on AppSheet’s website there are a lot of sample apps that you can copy to get started.” Whether it’s an app to track package deliveries, keep track of inventory, or send notifications to employees, AppSheet can help you do all that and more. If you find yourself sifting through stacks of paper or scrolling lines of spreadsheets you may find, as Breanne did, that AppSheet can simplify the workday and help both large and small businesses run as smoothly as possible.  

Free Excel and App Templates for Schools and Universities

Today’s educators work over 400 hours of overtime per year, averaging more than 50 total work hours a week. On the flipside, 88% of people say a teacher has had a significant and positive impact on their life. Simply put, educators are the backbone of tomorrow's generation. With grading, managing students, and developing lesson plans, educators have a lot on their plate. Why make teaching more complex than it needs to be? Can they be more productive without having to work long hours? The answer is yes, absolutely! This is why we created three free customizable excel templates to help educators do their best work.  And, because it's so easy to do on the AppSheet development platform, we turned each spreadsheet into an app. All you need to do is copy the app, replace the data, and then customize your app to meet your users' needs. If you're an educator, this post is for you! Short on time? Just jump to the template you're most interested in: Grade Calculator Student Information Sheet Attendance Sheet Grade Calculator This simple and straightforward grade calculator has 5 assessment categories—Participation, Homework, Quiz, Exam, and Project. Each category has a suggested grade weight that’s customizable by changing the column definition. For example, Participation is weighted at 5% and Homework 20%. After you enter a student's grades for all assignments, the calculator will return the Total Grade as a percentage and convert it to a Letter Grade.  Add in your students' info and the spreadsheet is yours! Bonus: To make this process even easier, we converted the spreadsheet into an app that runs on mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. With the app, you can do the following: Get an overview of the grade distribution with histogram and bar chart views; Easily navigate grades in a certain bin, i.e, A, A-, and B etc; Check a student's grade breakdown and make quick edits on the fly. Student Information Sheet  Every educator needs access to student information. This spreadsheet template allows easy navigation to vital information such as the student's major, current classes, and emergency contacts. It even includes a photo column so students are easily identifiable. Bonus: With apps, you can do so much more than a regular spreadsheet: Perform quick edits to any columns of the spreadsheet and have that information reflected in the app; Make phone calls right from the app and include notes on the calls; Organize student information by School, Major, and Graduation Year; Show student addresses on a map. That’s why we created a customizable app— you can access it on any device and get work done on your terms. Notice this app was created from a different spreadsheet, but the functionality is the same.  Attendance Sheet Taking attendance should be simple and seamless, especially when there’s limited time in the classroom. This spreadsheet makes it easy to take attendance: simply input the letter corresponding to the student’s status: P for Present, E for absent-excused, U for absent-unexcused, and T for Tardy. The spreadsheet will do the rest!  Both monthly and weekly options are included in our template. Add your student’s names, customize the dates, and it’ll be ready to use! Disclaimer: Make sure you copy the spreadsheet, not request access! Bonus: Taking attendance is even more seamless on a mobile app. The app we created makes it easy to take attendance anywhere, especially on the go. An app is your best bet for success. You'll be able to: Automatically record the time when you open up a new form; Easily enter data with drop-down options for First Name and Status; View charts with attendance status distribution for the whole class or a student.     Closing Notes Why apps? You deserve the best tools to help your students succeed. Compared to spreadsheets and other traditional tools, apps: Are easier to use on mobile devices. Have simplified data visualization tools. Lead to less data entry errors. Curious to know how other educators found AppSheet and why they wanted to make apps to manage processes in their schools? Check out our story on Kipp: Albany Public Schools. Kipp made a suite of apps to manage school operations—including food service, calls, morning attendance, and inventory. Preston Moore, CIO of the schools, said these apps provide the district with loads of value in terms of efficiency, safety, kids not getting lost, and more. Get started learning how to build your own apps and customize your life as an educator with AppSheet!

New UX View: Calendar View

  Introducing a new app UX view: the Calendar View provides your app users an intuitive way to view any events, project deadlines, reminders, daily routines, customer meetings & more. All that's required in your data table to build the view is a start date, end date, and ideally a start time and end time (along with some event details). Switch between daily, weekly and monthly layouts, across any device or screen size. With the automatically included 'add' action, creating new events is simple - and works with all the similar conditions used in other forms and views. To view an example of the new calendar view in action, reference the 'Local Events Calendar' sample app below (that also includes the new 'Quick Edit Table view').  

RV Apps: How an RV Dealer Digitizes its Operations and Customer Service

Spencer Jones dropped out of his coding program because of AppSheet and doesn’t regret it. “I was learning to do stuff much faster with AppSheet than with coding in school,” he says. Spencer’s company, Access RV in Salt Lake City, Utah, now relies on the three apps he created. It’s become an irreplaceable part of their business.  Inefficient Operations Spencer’s father started out buying RV’s and renting them to tourists wanting to see Yellowstone. 24 years later, Access RV is now a full-service dealership, helping hundreds of customers a year explore the natural beauty of the West. Courtesy of Spencer Jones Before he discovered AppSheet, Spencer says the company was struggling with inefficient processes and operations. They started implementing a new pay system, which meant a lot of paper forms to go through. “Every night I had to collect all these papers and get my office agents to help me. We’d sit down and tally up on a spreadsheet on the computer… and we would be here an extra hour or two hours every day doing that.” Spencer was thinking about hiring more help until he saw an ad for AppSheet while going through a Google Spreadsheet. “I hopped on… it took me a while to figure it out. I realized the app just needed my raw data. And as soon as that happened my whole world opened up.” Operational Efficiency and Better Customer Service Summer is a busy time for the company, and the three apps Spencer developed have changed the game. One app covers Sales, another Parts and Service, and the third deals with Rentals. There can be around 50 to 60 employees during the peak of the season, and the apps make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Spencer says the 3 apps work together as a unit, sending information back and forth to each other through each stage of the renting, selling and servicing process. The sales app keeps track of all the new products coming in from manufacturers, as well as those sold to customers. The rentals app keeps track of customer appointments and everything they will need for their trips. It’s also the time clock for employees. When a vehicle is rented or sold, the parts and service app gets notified and can make sure each vehicle is running smoothly. Courtesy of Spencer Jones And that’s just the basics of what the apps can do. Spencer’s favorite feature is the email reminders for appointments, insurance, and trip details. He says AppSheet has transformed a process that used to take days or even weeks. Access RV employees used to personally call more than 1,500 customers during the summer months to try to set up appointments. Now, AppSheet handles it, day or night. If the customers don’t respond, the app is set up to send them email reminders until they do. Before hitting the road, Access RV and the customer both inspect the vehicle, looking for any wear and tear that other adventurers may have left behind. The app will then email the customer that report as soon as the inspection is finished. That way, the customer knows they’re not on the hook for any prior damage. “People like that communication, and they like how it’s instantaneous, it’s very professional, it’s not a carbon copy that you’re folding up and giving to them... then they go on a rafting trip and it goes in the river. Having the app just makes us look very reliable.” And once the customers are on their trip, the app keeps working to make sure they’re safe and happy. “They call and have a question we’re able to get back to them immediately. It’s totally changed our customer service dynamic.” Simplify Other Companies’ Processes Spencer says the apps have made a world of difference for him and his employees. No more overtime, no more spreadsheets… and far fewer problems. “Everyone in the company uses AppSheet… From housekeeping to the guy cleaning out the sewage tanks all the way up to the owners of the company when they do their weekly meeting to see how the company’s running.” Courtesy of Spencer Jones Spencer has used his app-making skills to help other companies see the same success. So far he’s created AppSheet apps for an HVAC company to help them keep track of service requests, a productivity tracker app for a medical supply company, and a customer invoice and inventory app for a pest control company. Spencer’s experience shows how many different types of businesses can see their efficiency and organization increase with AppSheet. As he says, “It has created a mini unlimited work force that never stops working, for way less money.” Rather than hiring more workers, AppSheet can simplify complicated processes and spreadsheets, making the workday shorter and the experience better for all involved.

Top 11 Mobile Collaboration Tools - Boost Productivity and Automate Workflows

Turn Your Spreadsheet into a Project Mangement App

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Today, over 2.1 billion people actively use a smartphone. Thanks to the smartphone, the internet has become closer to us than ever before. What does this mean for your business? You can now hold meetings, make transactions, receive training, share ideas and capture data via your mobile devices. Through productivity software and mobile apps, team progress gets monitored virtually and tasks are streamlined with greater efficiency. Does my team really need productivity software? It depends on your answers to the following questions: Is your team able to share new data instantly? Are you able to work remotely with ease? Can you reach one another in just one tap of a screen? If not, you could benefit from one of the tools listed in this post. Mobile collaboration apps allow flexibility and engage employees. They take you and your team beyond the four walls of the office. Some benefits: Work mobile. With mobile collaboration apps, there's no restriction to location; you and your team could (and should) be able to work on-the-go. Also, these apps keep your workers engaged with notifications, alerts on project milestones, and easy monitoring of progress. Improve communication. For every successful project, there must have been an excellent communication system. These collaboration apps provide you with instant messaging, emails, group/team chats, voice and video calls, screen sharing, and so on. Save $. You don't have to spend money on papers for memos, files, or renting an office space. Productivity software drastically reduces the costs of projects. Interestingly, some of the best mobile collaboration apps are free. And, there's not much more you need to spend on servers or network facilities, since most of the apps offer cloud support.  With these benefits in mind, our team at AppSheet has curated a list of the 11 best mobile collaboration tools to help you boost productivity and work smarter. Our List Our list is sorted by usability, flexibility, easy management, and other factors we find important. I'm starting with the best of the best (although we might be just a little biased). 1. AppSheet    The app maker for everyone Instead of using a collaboration tool, why not build one yourself on the AppSheet platform? With it, you can create an app for your business, keep your employees mobilized,  and easily (and instantly) input data into your phone on-the-go. The options are endless; whether your business is in the real estate, construction, retail, manufacturing, or non-profit industry, you can easily create an app to capture data and share it with your team. Instead of needing to know how to code, you only need to know how to connect to your data in the cloud. Whether your data is stored in Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Office365, Smartsheet, Salesforce, SQL Server or other databases, AppSheet supports it. The platform creates an initial version of your app based on the data and you can then customize it, choosing from a variety of view types, features, and other UI/UX options. Creating an app from data is simple. Depending on your skill level, you should have an app running successfully in a day or less. Two other ways you can make productivity apps on AppSheet's no-code app platform: AppSheet Spec and AppSheet sample apps. With Spec, you can make apps by typing or saying simple sentences (think Alexa and Siri). You can also copy a sample app, replace the data with yours, and customize it to your needs. AppSheet has more than 60 app templates. Here are just a few.   2. Wrike Wrike is a project management tool that supports all devices. It's an excellent mobile collaboration tool that simplifies planning and makes communication between team members easy. An exceptional feature is real-time reporting on the progress of projects. Wrike allows you to edit documents online and share easily among team members. There are also project management templates available to work with. You can integrate with Google, Github, Microsoft, Adobe, Creative Cloud and many more. Other features include data security and protection, a customizable interface, and email and  calendar synchronization.   3. Slack Slack is one of the best mobile collaboration tools because of its excellent communication and messaging features. It works on iOS and Android platforms. Not only that, it also has a video call and screen share feature to make project monitoring easy among team members. Slack allows for easy file sharing within the team and it also supports cloud storage. Slack also integrates with a lot of tools: Google Drive, Dropbox, Github, Salesforce, etc. Even your own customized apps can be integrated. Some other features: data security & protection and searchable history.   3. LiquidPlanner Like Wrike, LiquidPlanner is a project management tool. Though it's not as versatile as Wrike, it has a robust visual library that allows users to monitor projects and progress. LiquidPlanner facilitates easy communication and has an integrated time and budget tracking feature. LiquidPlanner integrates with Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box. You can also integrate your own customized apps with the LiquidPlanner API. Other features you might enjoy include: calendar sync, deadline alert, project duplication, and data security.   4. Asana Asana is one of the best mobile collaboration apps because it's incredibly versatile. It allows you to easily setup projects and assign tasks to team members while also monitoring their progress. You can set up a visual interface to have a pictorial overview of your project, its progress and other necessary details. You can use Asana on iOS and Android platforms. You can also start new projects from saved templates in Asana. Other features include data control and privacy.   5. Zoho Projects Zoho Projects is a free mobile collaboration tool that has excellent features for project management. It is  supported on Android and iOS and easily integrates with other Zoho products like Zoho Docs, and Zoho CRM. With Zoho Projects, you can easily plan projects, collaborate with others, track time and progress of projects, and easily share documents among other team members.   6. Flock Like Slack, Flock is a messaging system that has been gaining popularity. It works well on desktop and mobile platforms. Flock is very easy to use and can be integrated with several other apps. Flock allows you to make video and voice calls with other team members and share your screen. You can take polls, share to-dos, and reminders using Flock.   7. Trello Monitoring project updates can be done easily with Trello. It integrates with Evernote, Dropbox, Slack, Github, and several others to enhance productivity. Trello is highly visual, organizing projects, individuals, and teams. Tracking projects becomes very easy with Trello and delegating tasks while managing your team is a breeze.   8. Team on the Run If you need a strong internal communication system, Team on the Run is a good option, especially if your team is indeed "On The Run." Team on the Run has a strong monitoring system and users can monitor the location of team members using this collaboration app. Messages within the app are encrypted for better confidentiality. You can also seamlessly assign tasks and send locations to your team members .   9. ProWorkFlow ProWorkFlow is a feature-rich project management tool that is effective for collaborations. It easily integrates with Xero, Quickbooks, MYOB, Freshbooks, Zapier, Box, Google drive and several other apps. You can also customize your company's apps using ProWorkFlow's powerful API. Tracking timelines and progress is made easy with ProWorkFlow. It's easy to use and includes a built-in messaging app. You can also easily upload files, receive reports, and manage contacts.   10. Yammer Yammer is a collaboration tool owned by Microsoft, so it easily integrates with other Microsoft Office products. With Yammer, you can easily share documents and media with customers anywhere they are. Yammer is great for enterprise communications. With most messaging and business networking services, communications occur internally. With Yammer, different organizations can communicate privately and share files and important documents.   11. Podio Podio is all about smarter workflows and is an all-in-one collaboration tool. Podio is easy to use, has an excellent built-in messaging system, and allows for social collaboration. Other features  include a customizable system to fit team needs, automated workflows, data visualization, and project management. And that's our top 12 collaboration tools! If we've missed one (or two), let us know in the comments.  

Top 5 Manufacturing Apps — Manufacturing & Warehouse Management Tools for iOS & Android

The manufacturing industry is highly automated, and the right technology is essential for safety and efficiency within manufacturing businesses. Many businesses in the industry credit their success to the use of state-of-the-art manufacturing apps, which keep employees accountable, efficient, and mobile. Ranging from universal CRM software to real-time equipment monitoring, manufacturing apps are incredibly fine-tuned for key tracking and record-keeping. Like a well-oiled machine, these apps make day-to-day operations flow seamlessly, wasting less time, and more importantly, promoting safety and organization. According to a recent survey, up to 48% of all inspection tasks today are done via mobile apps. Manufacturing apps are a low-cost technology to integrate into your business—and pretty soon, you'll be boosting your ROIs. Our team at AppSheet has curated a list of our favorite manufacturing apps—ones that'll get you more productive and agile. Our List Our list is sorted by usability, flexibility, easy management, and other factors we find important. I'm starting with the best of the best (although we might be just a little biased). 1. AppSheet's Equipment Inspection App                                                          Equipment Inspection Sample App   Although we might be a little biased, thousands of professionals in the manufacturing industry use AppSheet to automate processes, record inspections, flag items, and assign tasks. AppSheet isn't an app in itself; it's an app development platform. If you don't know how to code but would love a custom app for your business, you've come to the right place. All you have to do to create your first app is to upload a spreadsheet, doc, or form (from Google Sheets, Excel, Dropbox, Salesforce, or some other data collection system) and let AppSheet do the rest. You can even choose from a sample app like an equipment inspection app or an inspection checklist app, and AppSheet will convert your data into that particular format. You can easily customize the features, data, logic, and UI of your app. It's completely free to prototype and you could get your first app up and running in minutes. Primary functions included in the Equipment Inspection app: Location-based items with pre-filled fields. Tabbed inspection forms, with barcode, signature and photo fields. Historical inspections associated with items. Employee directory with related locations and inspection history. Charts with a quick overview of percentage values of Passed and Failed inspections.   2. 5S Audit App This simple app makes it easy to conduct and report audits in particular areas. 5S Audit is the best way to benchmark your 5S programs and systems. Ideal for manufacturing areas, offices, and work sites, this app comes preloaded with a great template to begin improvement activities in your organization. Although this app is fairly simple, it's extremely easy and effective—a pretty nifty tool to document audits on-the-go.  3. MRPeasy Brought to you by Intuit Quickbooks, MRPeasy is a product planning software for manufacturers. This handy app lets you create manufacturing orders, schedule and assign tasks within a production schedule, and much more. The app's smooth interface allows comprehensive viewing of key metrics for your manufacturing processes and any information that is needed to improve your efficiency. Managerial statistics, sales statistics, cost control, critical on-hand reporting, and equipment utilization reporting are all available.  4. Manufacturing 360 Created by automation superstar Siemens, Manufacturing 360 is a comprehensive app that lets you experience digital manufacturing in an interactive factory environment. With this app, you can learn how to compete more effectively with next generation manufacturing technology, including advanced robotics and logistics simulation, closed-loop quality solutions, and the latest CAD/CAM software. This app is meant to inspire and innovate, helping users streamline their own operations and strategy. 5. ManageTeamz Delivery Tracking   ManageTeamz offers a robust delivery tracking system, especially helpful for those who are looking to track material delivery and warehouse receiving. This software is available both on desktop and as a mobile app for iOS and Android. The ManageTeamz Delivery Tracking app helps keep your team on track, and makes it easy to manage employees, orders, and timelines. AppSheet also has a delivery tracking app (see below). This app tracks packages from pickup to delivery. The package is tracked by updating the record when it is picked up, when it is delivered to the site, and when the driver returns to base. The app has a dashboard view, map views, and table views. Overview, the dashboard view, shows all vendors and construction sites on a map, active and complete packages in table and deck views. Click on a construction site icon on the map, you will see brief information about this site and all relevant packages. A Final Note Choosing a manufacturing app can be difficult. If you're having trouble determining what mobile solutions would work best for your business in the manufacturing industry, check out our Manufacturing Solutions page for some great app ideas and templates. It's important to equip your business with the right resources, and our team at AppSheet is dedicated to helping individuals and businesses achieve their goals. Need more ideas for apps for your business? Checkout the AppSheet blog for useful tips, free templates, and more.  

Multinational Pharmaceutical Firm Roche Streamlines Site Inspections with AppSheet-Powered Apps

Paper-based processes often lead to mistakes, data getting lost in spreadsheets, and general inefficiency. But the fact is that’s the way many organizations still work. However, there is a better way. And QREW Technologies can help get you there. QREW enables organizations to optimize their operations by using custom-built mobile apps instead of paper-based systems. And we use the AppSheet platform to do it. Why AppSheet I discovered AppSheet three years ago. With AppSheet I was able to build mobile apps quickly, without having to work through the glitches I found in other no-code products. The AppSheet platform allows organizations to build, test, and deploy solutions quickly, in a fraction of the time when compared with other development platforms. AppSheet is also great because it supports mobile “out-of-the-box” and is accessible offline. It integrates with barcode scanning, mobile cameras, NFC, and geotagging – must-haves for many customers and hard to achieve with competing platforms. In addition to its great platform, AppSheet has a strong team and very responsive customer service. That really blew me away. That’s why I wanted to get involved with AppSheet and joined its partner program. For nearly two years, I worked as an AppSheet development partner. Then I took it to the next level. In November of 2017, I brought in some colleagues and turned my AppSheet consulting work into a formal enterprise. QREW works with SMBs, or departments within large organizations, to solve operational problems with easy to use tools, like AppSheet. Here are a few examples of the work we do. Nonprofit LiveBeyond Digitizes Medical Information LiveBeyond does medical and humanitarian work in Haiti. QREW built – and AppSheet technology powers – its electronic medical record, school nutrition research, and maternal health apps. The EMR app helps hospital staff and volunteers accurately calculate and record the body mass index of clinic patients, catalogue medical history, track diagnoses, and prescribe medication. This data is safely stored and can be used to produce epidemiological reports and gain insights on how to improve the health of the community at large. Nutrition is also the focus of LiveBeyond’s school app. This app tracks diet, BMI, and other factors for a longitudinal study about malnutrition in Haiti. And with the maternal health app, workers can easily record the size, weight, and vital statistics of babies, fetuses, and mothers. The ultimate goal here is to reduce infant mortality. All these apps allow for more accurate and efficient data intake and record keeping, so hospital workers can see more patients, and the people of Haiti have better healthcare experiences. Multinational Roche Operationalizes Inspections Pharmaceutical firm Roche is using an AppSheet-powered app to access whether various sites are suitable for its lab equipment. Such site inspections require field engineers to run through a long checklist of factors. The app QREW built for this program enables site visitors to get through those lists accurately and efficiently. The company can also use the app to keep approved installations on schedule and streamline communications. Roche’s internal IT team could’ve built this app. But AppSheet and QREW went from design specs to fully functional app in a few weeks instead of the many months it would’ve otherwise taken. SMBs Take On the Digital Transformation Challenge QREW solutions based on AppSheet’s platform are also at work at an array of other businesses across the country: from an apple orchard and shop in Wisconsin to a law firm in Michigan to a cabinet company in Pennsylvania. Sacia Orchards uses AppSheet apps to manage the intake of apples, report data, facilitate the fulfillment of orders, and track what shipments came from where. That way, Sacia can get shipments out more efficiently. And if an apple distributor reports a problem (like a listeria outbreak), the company can quickly and easily identify where in the warehouse the apples were located. Having that information can mean the difference between testing the entire warehouse for contamination or just part of it. Seva Law Firm, meanwhile, uses an AppSheet app we created for case management. It had previously used a spreadsheet and Dropbox account for that purpose. The new solution allows the firm to create and track case workflow more easily. It also reduces by 50 to 75 percent the time the firm’s 20 lawyers spend on document generation. As for the AppSheet app we built for Your Remodeling Guys, that enables it to generate customer bids for kitchen carpentry more quickly. Workers in the field simply input the measurements, and the app instantly creates a quote. Fast & Final Thoughts These are just a few examples of how organizations are using the technology around them – like smartphones and web apps – to be more efficient and effective. And with AppSheet, organizations can get their apps running far faster and more affordably than they ever could using in-house IT resources or other no-code platforms. Stefan Quartemont is president and co-founder of QREW Technologies out of College Station, Texas.  

Feature Friday: New Tools for Simplifying App Inputs

The team has been busy building a variety of valuable new features the last few weeks to help remove friction for app users, and we're curious to hear your feedback!  Feature of the Week: Quick Edit Tables The good old tables you're familiar with in AppSheet can now be quickly edited directly from your app mobile, tablet or desktop dashboard views. Similar to Quick Edit functionality in a Detail View, Quick Edit Tables provide a low-friction way for app users to collect or update existing data with the fewest steps possible. To unlock your table and start making updates, simply click the Edit icon in the upper right hand corner of any table with Quick Edit enabled, and each column will become editable according to the input options specified in its column definition. (Enable Direct Table Edits in the UX section of any table view) More details, examples and sample apps including Quick Edit Tables will be shared in the upcoming weeks!  Enable Direct Table Editing in Your Apps Amazon Cognito Support Starting this week, app creators can create unique sign-in mechanisms via AWS Cognito. In addition to more options for defining app user credentials & password policy, app creators can also now configure the sign in process to make it completely white-labeled and branded (define exactly how your app asks users for login permission, with no mention of AppSheet). Talk to Sales About Cognito Support Enhanced CONTEXT() Function A successful business app relies heavily on ensuring every view and function is as relevant as possible for each user - sometimes this means using security filters to show only data associated with the user, or using format rules to customize or emphasize certain data with different styles. Now in AppSheet, use the CONTEXT("View") expression to return the app users' current view, and CONTEXT("ViewType") to return the UX type of that view (table, map, form, etc.). This adds another layer of variable customization based on the users' unique activity.   For example, if you have a custom format increasing the font-size of customer names throughout your app, but don't want that style applied in any forms, simply apply that CONTEXT() condition when creating the format rule to ensure it's applied in places other than form views. Learn More About Adding View Context to Your Apps Quick Edit Switches Switching between true/false values can't get much easier than this - a small update to how true/false fields can be toggled is now live, and can be observed on any Detail View true/false columns enabled as a Quick Edit Column.   Learn More About Quick Edit Fields Feature Sneak Peak: Calendar View Stay posted for exciting announcements about a new calendar view being introduced next week...   

Small Business Apps: An App that Bridges the Gap Between Potential and Performance

“Something was missing.” That’s how elan Bailey, Founder and Managing Director of Thrive Learning and Development, describes the first step of her journey with AppSheet. 18 months ago, elan was set to graduate with a master’s degree in Leadership and Organization Development and launch a consulting business. With ten years experience as a coach and facilitator, she knew first hand what got in the way of people operating at their best, and she wanted to help more people and businesses reach the pinnacle of their performance and potential in the workplace. In her words, “help people thrive… not just survive."                                                                                                                            Courtesy of elan Bailey Her vision was to create an app to bridge the gap between potential and performance. An app that clients could use to track their goals and commitments, discover emerging growth opportunities and share their learning insights with their coach. But without a coding background, hiring a developer to help would have cost thousands of dollars. That’s when she discovered AppSheet. elan created a journaling app for her clients to manage their own learning and growth using the rich experiences they face in their work everyday. They can record their stretch goals and commitments, track their experiences and results in real time, and share the updates with their coach directly from the app. She says, “it helps information in a live coaching call because the client has been sending me brief updates all throughout the week.” When she gets on a call she has much of the context she needs and can use that time to focus on the areas where the client is getting stuck or experiencing a breakthrough. She built the app by herself… with occasional technical support from the AppSheet team. “It took me two weeks from the time I found AppSheet, to take what was an idea in my head, and then on a napkin, to actually build the first prototype.” 18 months later, she’s now using the “Thrive” app to help run her business. elan notes that typically companies will roll out a personal or leadership development program only for the employees they consider to be “high potential.” The high costs and time requirements associated with hiring professional coaches can make it prohibitive to invest in the development of all employees. Often the employees who could benefit the most from having coaching support are left out of the budget. The Thrive app provides a cost-effective and sustainable way to bridge the gap between potential and performance. “This really is about everyone being able to take responsibility for their own learning and growth by actually being able to track it for themselves,” says elan. “Businesses who use the app can now challenge and support every employee to lead their own development… without breaking the bank.” elan thinks her partnership with AppSheet has made a world of difference. “I built the app entirely on my own with the help of the AppSheet community and that would not have been possible any other way. I would be sitting here 18 months later with nothing but a concept in my head.” Other small businesses are poised to see similar success with AppSheet. Being able to create an app without hiring an outside developer or keeping one on staff can be a major boost for a company just starting out… and can help more people like elan follow their passions… and thrive.  

How to Manage Sales in Excel: Three Free Sales Tracker Excel Templates

Copy the Quote and Proposal App

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On average, it takes 18 calls to connect with a buyer, and only 24% of sales emails are opened. And a lot of time, the sales cycle length can be months or even years. Needless to say, keeping track of all sales touches over a long period of time is challenging, yet instrumental in securing deals. In this article, I've included three Excel and Google Sheet templates, which cover the three most important things a sales team should do in order to close more deals within a shorter period of time: Track leads. Create insightful sales reports. Monitor sales calls. Oftentimes, sales professionals work on the fly and don't have access to their desktops. But on mobile, spreadsheets can be difficult to manipulate, particularly in offline situations where there is no available WiFi or cellular network. So I've also included two sales apps made on AppSheet's no-code development platform as apps can be used on  a mobile device even when that device is offline and disconnected from the network. You can either adapt the spreadsheet templates to meet your own business needs, or you can turn these spreadsheets into apps—it’s up to you! Sales Leads Tracking Template This lead tracking template does a very good job of recording every communication with leads and making sure all follow-ups are timely and effective. Date and Duration record the time a lead was touched in the past and help sales specialists decide when they should follow up. Lead Status and Progress provide a quick view of where a lead is in the sales funnel and how far the lead is from the close stage. Note and Next make sure leads are kept warm.   The following table gives a bird's-eye view of all leads—the type and source of leads, sales opportunity, and sales revenue forecast. This table helps sales specialists prioritize their efforts and time. As I mentioned earlier, we turned this template into an app. Other than the ease of viewing and editing data, this app enables sales professionals to do the following: 1) Add new leads and enter notes for every sales touch. 2) Check the latest progress of leads and view leads by priority. 3) See how every region is performing as well as opportunities in the upcoming months. 4) Automate email follow-ups to leads. 5) Send SMS messages to leads directly from the app. Feel free to copy the app and customize it to meet your needs.       Sales Report Template This template records sales by car make for each month and each quarter. It can be used by individual sales specialists or a sales team. To provide better visualization on sales performances across different criteria, we turned this template into a sales report mobile app that does the following: 1) Displays overall monthly and quarterly sales data and each sales specialist's contribution to that month or quarter.  2) Enables downloading data in CSV format. To do this, go to the By Make view and click on the anchor icon. 3) Links to other views, using the Deck View as a Table of Contents. 4) Sends out scheduled emails on the whole team's quarterly sales data and on a specific sales rep's performance. Feel free to copy the app and customize it to meet your needs.       Sales Call Log Template This template is for sales specialists to log sales calls and call attempts. Subject indicates call types. Sales Made labels each call with Yes or No. If it is a Yes, a lead can be removed from a sales specialist's to-call-list. If it is a No, the sales specialist may want to think about whether to reach out again and or consider dropping the lead. This template includes a Monthly Goal Tracking sheet. Unlike the the sheet above, this sheet is completely data-driven. It compares Actual Numbers with Target Numbers. All highlighted cells are the ones that didn't meet the target except for the Actual Sale Value. This column also highlights (in green) those days where the target was exceeded. Bonus: We've just published a new sales app—Quote and Proposal App. The app has the following features: Filtered data by customer, pending quote, rejected quote, cost and proposal. Automated workflows emailing the Quotes or Proposals to customers. Grouped actions updating the status of quotes. A CSV of selected materials used in a new service may be downloaded by clicking on an icon if using the app on a desktop. What’s Next? These are just some of my favorite Excel templates for sales management. You can use them as is OR easily build your own apps. If you have other favorite Excel templates, let me know by submitting a comment or tweet. I'm always looking for templates to add to this list! Related stories: How PEGAfrica Use Apps to Manage Customer Relationship and Field Sales Reps Five Apps to Coordinate a Field Sales Team Three Free Project Plan Excel Templates Free Excel Templates for Small Business 3 Free App-Friendly Human Resources Excel Templates Ready to take your sales tracking to the next level? Copy the following app and customize in your own way! 

Small Business Apps: Singapore Company Saves 60% in Software Expenses with AppSheet

Kunal Chakraborty speaks at AppSheet's Singapore User Group Event in September. Kunal Chakraborty is a busy man. He has a home in India. But he worked in Singapore for a decade. During that time he found it difficult to keep up his residence. So he decided to launch a company to help people like him who want or need to have carpentry, construction, painting, or plumbing done in their absence. That home services company is called ClickJugaad Services. And ClickJugaad Services uses AppSheet-powered apps for project management, payment management, and human resource management. Kunal says AppSheet technology has saved him time and money. That’s important considering he still has his day job, as a developer for a leading financial firm, in addition to running his startup. Located in India’s UP state, three-year-old startup ClickJugaad has 15 employees and works with 500 contractors. So he needed software to help him track cashflow and worker hours, to do invoicing and payroll, and to manage projects. “For all these different aspects I actually bought different softwares, which were meant for different business functions,” says Chakraborty. “And soon I realized, after one year, that these different SaaS software [packages] are not helping me out because data is getting duplicated across the software for different business requirements. Nothing is consolidated, and there are a lot of gaps. So I started looking for something to build on my own.” Because Kunal had a full-time job in addition to ClickJugaad Services, he wanted to build apps without coding to save time and effort. That led him to review, and ultimately adopt, AppSheet. “I tried a lot of different platforms actually,” says Kunal. “So it was trial-and-error. I tried [different solutions] for two weeks…. And I found AppSheet was the right fit for developing a cross platform App for managing all my business requirements with minimal efforts.” AppSheet was the winner, he says, because it gave him the flexibility to design apps based on his company’s specific needs. “I am a developer myself,” he adds. “So I knew what I wanted. I know what the requirements are for my startup.” Kunal started with a small human resources app for searching technicians. Then he added project management and finance-related features to that app. But the app got so big that Kunal decided to split it into three separate apps: a project management app; a payment management app; and a human resources app. Since then he’s also built a ticketing system app and a data analytics app, which acts as a dashboard that allows Board of Directors of the company to review activity and trends of the other apps. The project management app allows ClickJugaad’s 15 staff members to view a spreadsheet with the names, contact information, and areas of expertise of each of the company’s contractors. Staff members can use the app to assign jobs to the individual contractors. And the app uses an SMS to inform the contractors when jobs are available and what they entail. The payment management app helps ClickJugaad issue and track customer payments, and keep track of technician payments. Team members also use this app to request approval for money to buy materials like brushes, construction materials, or paint, and to expense travel costs. Any cash transaction enforces signature by the recipient in the App. The human resources app provides a roster of the projects that each person is working on during the day. This app also has a GPS feature that allows ClickJugaad to see the physical location of workers. Kunal says these AppSheet-powered apps have enabled his company to save 60 percent in software expenses. And he estimates the apps make his startup three times more efficient. And building the apps was easy, he adds. He just read the AppSheet documentation and did a Google search to get answers when he had a question. For others considering adopting the AppSheet platform, Kunal offers this piece of advice: “Build small, think about your requirements clearly, and use the features that AppSheet provides to fulfill the requirements. “Given the flexibility that AppSheet has, there’s going to be more than sufficient opportunities to [attend to] all the requirements that a small business or company has,” he adds. “Start small and slowly grow big. Develop small, but plan big.”  

AppSheet Smart Assistant: You Can Now Talk to Your Apps

Have you ever wanted to just talk to an app you were trying to use? Bypass the interface and tell it what you were looking for or what you wanted to do? And then, magically, have the app do what you told it to do? Me too and I am happy to report that our latest feature, Smart Assistant, does just that. There's no magic here—Smart Assistant is a natural language interface that empowers users to bypass an app's interface and directly query the underlying data. By simply checking a box in our platform, creators can activate Smart Assistant across all apps deployed for their business. Users can then simply type or use voice commands to access data immediately, whether they are in an office or in the field. Pretty cool. Even cooler: this type of functionality, although incredibly useful, is also incredibly hard to implement! Normally, an app feature like this would take months to develop, require a senior developer with a background in machine learning and natural language processing, and, at minimum, a six-figure investment. But with the AppSheet platform, an automatic conversational UI is built out for an app in minutes. Yes, in minutes. I suspect you may be asking "how is this possible?" Well, AppSheet is a no-code, intelligent platform. Unlike code-driven platforms, our platform is intent-driven—able to derive the intent of the app being built. As a result, rich AI-forward features like Smart Assistant can be automatically created for any app built with our platform. So, instead of app users having to adapt to technology, technology adapts to the users. Check it out in the video below.     Essentially, Smart Assistant is the Siri for apps. And, of course, the more users use Smart Assistant, the more it learns and the more it learns, the more personalized the experience. Like I said: That's because technology should adapt to you, not the other way around. To learn more about how to enable Smart Assistant in your apps, go here. And for all the app users out there: Yes, you can now talk to your apps. Just tell your creators to turn on the option!

Feature Friday: Pull To Sync & New Expressions

  Feature of the Week: Pull to Sync Syncing data in AppSheet apps traditionally occurs when the 'Sync' menu button is pressed, or occurs in the background after a change has been made. Now, by 'pulling' your view downward on touch-screen devices, you'll notice a new, quick syncing method for ensuring you have the latest data in your app. This new sync method helps make your app functionality more familiar to most app users with modern devices, and reduces the chance your users are interacting with outdated information. This feature is in the process of being rolled out to app creators - try it out in any of your apps soon, and let your users know! INDEX() You may be familiar with using the INDEX() expression in Excel or Google Sheets - and you may have been waiting for it to appear in AppSheet... It's officially now available as a new expression in the AppSheet Editor to help find specific items contained within any of your lists! Read more about using INDEX() in your app. SPLIT() Text Expression SPLIT() is a new text expression added to the AppSheet Editor that returns a list of fragments of text between specified separators, providing similar functionality that's found in Excel and Google Sheets. For example, SPLIT("Red:Yellow:Green", ":") returns a list containing the values Red, Yellow, and Green. Or, say you have a list of email addresses from recently added contacts - using SPLIT(), you can automatically extract just the email domain name, by splitting at the '@'. Learn more about Text Expressions & SPLIT() Have you used any of these features yet? We're interested to hear your thoughts! Add your comments below or join the App Creator Community and collaborate with other app creators.  

Timesheet Templates in Excel: Three Free Excel Templates

Turn Your Spreadsheet into a Timesheet App

Spreadsheets provide an ideal way to input, view, and manipulate data on desktop computers. In this article, we've included 3 of the best excel-based timesheet templates to help you manage your business. 

On mobile, spreadsheets can be much more difficult to utilize and manipulate. That's why we've also included a few links to AppSheet's platform which enables anyone to turn an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet into a functional timesheet app in minutes. 

You can either adapt the templates to meet your own business needs, or you can turn them into apps—it’s up to you! 

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Timesheet Management Has Never Been Easier   Short on time? Jump ahead and see how you can move beyond the desktop and turn your timesheet spreadsheets into a timesheet app! Spreadsheets provide an ideal way to input, view, and manipulate data on desktop computers. In this article, we've included 3 of the best excel-based timesheet templates to help you manage your business.  On mobile, spreadsheets can be much more difficult to utilize and manipulate. That's why we've also included a few links to AppSheet's platform which enables anyone to turn an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet into a functional timesheet app in minutes.  You can either adapt the templates to meet your own business needs, or you can turn them into apps—it’s up to you!  Timesheet Excel Template & App This simple, ready-to-go template has all the key items you need to keep track of employees. It’s made up of a few key column headers: Timestamp and Date records when employees are clocking in and out. Time In/Time Out & Total Hours allows you to automatically calculate how long each employee spent on shift. Hourly Wages & Total Wages makes it easy to keep track of hourly and total wages for employees. To meet your business needs, you can add or update columns. For example, you could add an overtime hours and overtime hourly wage column. Bonus: You can easily modify the above template and convert it into a Timesheet Management App. The app enables store managers and employees to convert desktop tasks to everyday work processes that work with you where you're at. It allows you to do the following: Track and input hours on the go. View current employees on shift as well as a scheduled log of hours. Customize to include features such as overtime and email reports as needed.     Weekly, Bi-Weekly, Monthly Excel Template from TrumpExcel This template, developed by TrumpExcel, works for any business that's looking for a simple way to keep track of hours entirely through an spreadsheet.   This template is made up of three main tabs—Weekly TImesheet, Bi-Weekly Timesheet, and Monthly Timesheet. Weekends are highlighted in pink. Certain columns will auto-populate based on the data you input.  You can change the base hours and rates at the top of the spreadsheet.  This will then affect the column tabulations and totals at the bottom of the sheet. Project-oriented Timecard by Vertex42 This template is for companies with more of a freelance/project-based orientation. Employees can easily submit their time cards which includes space for overtime, holiday, vacation, sick leave, and personal leave. At the bottom of the spreadsheet, you can find helpful summation cells as well as room for employee/supervisor sign-offs.  This template can also be easily printed for paper records if you choose to go that route. Or, you could utilize an AppSheet app for digital signatures and workflows. Bonus: All work and no play makes... for low employee morale, productivity, and retention. For that special time of the year, you'll need a spreadsheet and matching app to handle requests :) You can turn that spreadsheet into an app like the one below with just a few clicks: What’s Next? These are just a few of my favorite Excel templates for timesheet management. You can use them just as they are OR easily transform them into mobile apps. If you have other favorite Excel templates, let me know by submitting a comment or tweet. I'm always looking for templates to add to this list! Related stories: How to Manage Stock in Excel: Three Free Excel Templates 10 Excel Templates for Simplifying Your Life Free Excel Templates for Small Business How to Turn Google Sheets into a Stock Management App Ready to take your timesheet tracking to the next level? Explore the following custom app and make it work the way you work!

Education Apps: Mobile Apps Help Schools Improve Accountability, Efficiency, and Safety

                                                                                                             Courtesy of Preston Moore  Motivating students to do their best is an ongoing challenge for educators. But KIPP: Albany Public Schools has a novel approach for reinforcing desirable behavior. Its middle school teachers allocate points for completed homework and other positive outcomes. Those points appear on student “paychecks.” The kids can spend them in the on-site gift shop, for field trips or other school activities. The school used to record those points on a paper roster. That method required someone to key in that information later. Then the district tasked Preston Moore with finding a better solution. He found the right answer with AppSheet. The Discovery Process “I was looking for a way to record the data from a form or a sheet into a tablet, and AppSheet came up in one of my searches,” said Moore, CIO and district data coordinator. “And I saw it was really friendly with Google Sheets, which was easy for us to use.” The district in Albany, N.Y. was already using Google G-Suite with Google Sheets, although not for the paycheck rosters. But the fact that AppSheet worked with Google technology was attractive, Moore said, and creating the initial AppSheet app was fast and relatively simple. “I downloaded the AppSheet add-on for Google Forms. And so I set up the form that the kids would have to fill out. And from there I just ran the add-on, and that gave me the app in AppSheet.” The Paycheck App Now an “auditor” student in each of the middle school’s 11 classes records point entries, per teacher instructions, on a tablet. Teachers can add to and edit entries. Since launching the initial 11 paycheck apps (they’re all the same, but populated with different class information) a few years ago, Moore has produced six other AppSheet apps for the school district. Those apps include: A food service point-of-sale app A call logging app A morning attendance app A student’s app An alert app A tech gear inventory app The Food Service PoS App In addition to the middle school, the school district has an expanding elementary school. The middle school has about 330 students. The elementary school, which opened three years ago, has been adding a grade a year. This year it has kindergarten and first and second grade classes. Both the middle school and the elementary school use the food service point-of-sale app. (This is the only AppSheet app now in use at the elementary school. The district may introduce the alert and call log apps at the elementary school next year.) Here’s how the food service point-of-sale app works. Moore printed QR codes on plastic ID cards for each of the teachers to use at breakfast, lunch, and snack time. Teachers scan the cards using mobile devices equipped with the AppSheet app to track the food for their classes. The app then provides the food services director with the data she needs for her reports. In the past the schools gave the students IDs to track food purchases and used a paper “tick sheet” for food service record keeping. But the kids would frequently lose their IDs, and the paper-based process was less than ideal. Now it all happens digitally and immediately. The Call Logging App As for the call logging app, that ties back to the paycheck program. In addition to rewarding middle school students with paycheck points, the school used to subtract points for student infractions. When paycheck deductions of $9 or more were necessary, teachers were required to call the parents to explain the situation. The middle school administration wanted an efficient way to track these interactions. That way they would have records to show that parents were contacted. And they’d know when they were contacted. The AppSheet-powered call logging app helps teachers record those details. “This just gives them an easy way and a quick way to log their calls,” Moore noted. The Morning Attendance App Middle school teachers are also now using an AppSheet-powered app to take attendance. Moore said this app just recently went into production. And it's a big hit due to the time savings it affords. “Teachers love it,” he said. “They were doing it on paper before.”  .                                                                                                            Courtesy of Preston Moore  The Students App Moore refers to this next app as the students app, but it’s actually the teachers who use the app. But everybody benefits from this app, which has been very helpful in getting students where they need to go following dismissal at the end of the school day. The students app houses all student names, addresses, what classroom (or “college”) they’re in, the bus they’re supposed to take, their locker information, and contact information. Users of this app can initiate calls and texts from within the app. This app also can provide directions to the student’s house and present maps of other students who live near them. That way, if a student is still on campus after the buses have left, or a student doesn’t know which bus to board, the teacher can use the app rather than call the school office to get the information they need to help that child. “That’s something our leadership team and administrators find very useful,” said Moore. The Alerts App Speaking of transportation, the alerts app addresses that too. But this app focuses on use cases in which students diverge from their typical transportation plan. For example, say a student has a doctor’s appointment after school, their parents remember that after they drop off the child, and the parents then call letting the school know one of them is going to pick up the child to drive them to the doctor rather than having the kid take the bus home as usual. In the past, a parent would call with that information, and then a school staff member would walk up to the student and let them know. Now, however, front office staff can use AppSheet technology to send the teacher an alert letting them know that student is getting picked up instead of taking the bus. The teacher then shares that message with the student, and the student signs a form within the app denoting that he or she has received the message. When the teacher saves the response, the signature is saved as an image file and archived with the message. The Inventory App Moore also has created an app to keep track of technology-related equipment at the middle school. He tagged school laptops with QR codes. And people at the school can use the AppSheet app to scan those codes to figure out where equipment is and where it’s supposed to be. The Overall Benefits That’s a lot of apps. Moore said these apps have provided the school district with a lot of value in terms of efficiency, safety, kids not getting lost, and more. He couldn’t quantify the hassle, time, and worry saved, but Moore said: “I know it’s big.” “There’s no telling how many employee hours we have saved throughout the week for a lot of people at the main office, food services, administration, all the way down to teachers,” he added. “People are saving a lot of time using the apps.” User Experience & Advice For Others Moore, who built the apps, said he has had a positive experience using AppSheet too. “It was pretty easy for me” to build the apps, said Moore. “It was user friendly, I thought.” When Moore did need advice, he reached out to the AppSheet user community. He also got some help from AppSheet CEO Praveen Seshadri. “Praveen was very helpful,” said Moore. “I emailed him directly a few times, and he was quick to respond. Overall, it was a really good experience.” AppSheet’s Expressions feature was also a big help, he added. Moore explained that Expressions work like code or formulas that instruct an app on what to do. “Here’s a good example,” Moore said. “The rosters. The rosters change a lot. So with 11 deduction apps and 330 kids, if I had to go in and change the rosters manually every time a roster changed for classes, I’d pull my hair out – the little bit that I have left.” But “with an Expression you can say ‘pull the roster from this college from this sheet.’ And now all I have to do is keep one sheet with all of the colleges updated with rosters. And that updates all of the apps automatically because it’s pulling from that [master] sheet. So that makes life a whole lot easier.” Moore advises anyone who’s new to AppSheet to leverage the community and learn how to use Expressions. Expressions “helped me out a lot,” said Moore. “When I was just doing things the straight-up way I could still do things, but not exactly how I wanted them. “Once I learned how to start using the Expression in AppSheet, that opened up a whole bunch of possibilities.” Below are three app templates you will find useful. When you are on the app page, click "Look Under The Hood" to see how the app was built. If you the features and functionalities are exactly what you are looking for, click "Copy The App", replace the data with yours, and start customizing your way. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will respond ASAP.  

US Nationally Ranked University Turns Trash Into Treasure with Mobile Apps

                                                                                                                         Courtesy of Jesse Escobar Becoming a zero-waste organization by just 2020 would be a tall task for any company—let alone a university system that spans a sprawling 419 acres and sees roughly 45,000 students traveling the grounds on a daily basis. But that is exactly what the university has set out to do. Making sense of data with apps Jesse Escobar, an analyst for the school system’s Facilities Management department, was responsible for trash pickup at over 300 locations across the school’s campus on a regular basis. Where most would simply see a place to ditch a coffee cup, Jesse saw opportunities. If the trash that Jesse and his team collected could be categorized and tracked from pickup, throughout the recycling and processing portions of the garbage’s life cycle, it might be possible to use that data to make smarter and more sustainable purchases in the future. Jesse had the vision, but not the coding experience, to achieve the strategy. “I certainly had no coding experience, and there wasn’t a developer on my four-man team,” Jesse remarked. “But AppSheet is simple enough that I was able to build my app in just a couple hours.” Rather than simply asking for more resources, Jesse’s app would enable him to utilize raw data to analyze and pinpoint action items to reduce waste. How It Works From there, Jesse and other team members spread out to cover more ground. After collecting and analyzing receptacles from across the campuses, Jesse became convinced that there were ample opportunities to realize the university’s sustainability efforts everywhere, hiding in plain sight. Trash reduction: Many of the materials that are thrown away are distributed on campus or by the university itself. Were the school to cut certain items from its inventory, the campus could not only reduce spending, but accelerate its zero-waste efforts too. With the app, Jesse’s team could add new data at each pick-up bin to track the life cycle of a piece of waste to determine what is tossed to help find out what items could be eliminated. Food waste: Massive amounts of food are purchased, made and sold to keep the student body well-fed. But food waste is rampant too. By tracking food waste, the university can more intelligently source food costs and find new ways to utilize waste rather than bring it to a landfill. Back-end costs: It gets expensive quickly to dispose of and transport waste. By exploring data-driven methods for reducing waste, the school saves on all the back-end logistical considerations involved in dealing with waste. Asset allocation: Jesse also was able to track bin volumes through his app, observing over the course of a year how different behaviors can impact the dissemination of waste across campus. If certain locations are found to be of no use, Jesse and his team were enabled to shift assets to other locations and projects, freeing up bandwidth and budget. Time management: By putting barcodes on bins, Jesse’s team was able to easily scan the bins to upload data to the app immediately. This cut down on having manual tasks to complete, keeping the team active and engaged.   Jesse argues that “There has been significant research and development done to push recycling efforts, yet trash pickup has remained relatively unchanged for years,” Jesse states. “This demonstrates that there is a huge opportunity for the school to rethink the way we deal with our garbage.” In reality, there are seemingly endless ways for the school to leverage Jesse’s app. Not only can the school control costs and assets more easily, but it can hasten its efforts to reach zero-waste status within the next two years. Indeed, other universities may benefit from the example set by this university. Academia is certainly full of administrators looking to cut waste and control costs in an era of tight budget constraints.

Feature Friday: Assistant View, Microsoft Word Template Support & New App Data Source Options

Feature of the Week: Assistant View We're excited to announce the new AppSheet Assistant View (Beta), empowering users to interact with your app with conversational commands or questions, similar to Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant. Particularly valuable for mobile users interested in hands-free options, verbal commands can be used to quickly display app views, pull specific records, or initiate commands. Learn More About the Assistant View  Microsoft Word Template Support Two of the most powerful functionalities of the AppSheet platform are Workflows and Reports. We are happy to announce the ability to add Microsoft Word documents as templates for automated email or PDFs generated by your app.  Creating templates with Microsoft Word works the same way as with Google Docs. Simply create a Word document template and add it to your workflow or report. Just make sure the template file is available in the cloud drive of choice and select it when you create a new workflow rule or report.  Learn More About Word Templates Team Drive Data Source Support If your organization uses G Suite by Google, your 'Team Drive' is a centralized shared space for storing and accessing documents shared by all users. Unlike files stored in 'My Drive', no individual users maintains ownership of Docs or Sheets stored in your Team Drive, so that even as your users come and go, everybody retains access to consistent data. Storing your AppSheet app data sources in your Team Drive is particularly valuable, ensuring more reliable data access for collaborating app creators, and reduced chance that app data sources will be moved or misplaced over time. Visit 'My Apps' to start building from data stored in your Team Drive today. On-Premise Database Support We are proud to announce on-premise database support for AppSheet app data sources. If your organization has any supported database hosted on-premise and you want to create AppSheet apps connected to those sources, we are launching capabilities in our business subscription to do just that. To learn more, stay tuned for release details next week, and contact us to learn more. Oracle SQL Support Create apps from Oracle databases that are hosted in Oracle Cloud, Amazon RDS, or other cloud-hosting provider that supports Oracle. Once the database connection is added in My Account > Sources you can add tables from Oracle to your apps. To learn more about using your cloud-based or on-premise Oracle database as a data source for your app, contact us.  

AppSheet Assistant View (Beta)

The new AppSheet Assistant View (Beta) empowers users to interact with your app with conversational commands or questions, similar to Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant. The Assistant View can help users easily pull up lists or individual entries, filtered by custom criteria, giving users a completely new way to interact with their data. In situations where mobility and convenience is a priority, simple voice commands from the web-app or Android mobile device will quickly present the relevant record or app view (iOS support coming soon). “Show me my customers” (Navigates to the table called customers) “Go to my work orders” (Navigates to a table called orders) “Open Elon Musk’s profile” (Navigates to the row labeled 'Elon Musk' and displays it in a Detail View)   The Assistant View can also help with presenting filtered data that may not be readily accessible from existing app views. By adding one or multiple conditions in your command, you can quickly access filtered results or initiate specific actions. “Show me my nearby customers with open orders” (Navigate to the Nearby Customers Slice table and display rows where order Status column equals 'Open') “Go to my work orders with pending status” (View the Work Orders table and display rows with Status equal to 'Pending')   “Open Elon Musk’s profile. Send him an email”  (Displays the Detail View record with the label 'Elon Musk', then initiates an email action to the corresponding email value)   This new view is currently in Beta and is in the process of being made available to all users. Look for it in your AppSheet account as a new 'View Type' in the UX section of the editor.  

Using Microsoft Word and Google Docs to Create Templates for Your Apps

Two of the most powerful functionalities of the AppSheet platform are Workflows and Reports. We are happy to announce the ability to add Microsoft Word documents as templates for automated messages.  With Workflows and Reports, you can extend the reach of AppSheet apps and interface with other services, including sending push notifications, SMS, PDFs, and email. All of those services are in addition to the richness of our Web API. Thousands of emails and pre-formatted PDFs are sent every day through AppSheet workflows and reports; one thing that App Creators have done since day one is making their own templates using Google Docs as the tool to configure the document. At AppSheet, we use templates across multiple internal apps, including quote and invoice templates that we send to customers for any of AppSheet's Business Subscriptions. If we send you a Business Subscription proposal, it was entirely created through an AppSheet app! The only limitation with Google Doc templates is that many of our users that use Microsoft, Dropbox, and Box had to add a Google account to achieve the same result. Today we are happy to introduce the ability to add Microsoft Word documents to workflow rules and reports. Creating and Using Templates with Microsoft Word Documents Creating templates with Microsoft Word works the same way as with Google Docs. Simply create a Word document template and add it to your workflow or report. Just make sure the template file is available in the cloud drive of choice and select it when you create a new workflow rule or report.     If you want to learn more about the process and the type of templates you can create, we recommend getting started with our help site. Remember that the key is to include variable information, picked from the app, between double arrows like <<[Column Name]>>. How App Creators are Using Templates In the time it took me to write this blog post, over 4,000 emails were sent via workflow rules and reports on our platform. There are thousands of templates being used to send those emails. Here are some ideas you can apply to your apps: Summary information after capturing data. After hitting save in a form, trigger a workflow rule to send summary information from the form, including images. Receipts and ticketing. If you have field technicians performing work, an app that captures signatures can also send a formatted receipt or closed ticket back to your customer with their signatures included. Order summary. Once a collection of items has been added to an order, send an order summary including a table with all items that are part of it. Invoices. Yes. You can create an invoicing app with AppSheet! That's what we use in-house! Send documents for signature. Create rich word documents with all the legalese you need and include placeholders for the variable info. AppSheet will create a PDF that you can then send to a third party for print and/or signature. Do you use templates for emails and PDFs in your apps? What kind of information are you sharing? Let us know in the comments.

Increasing Connectivity & Automation with AppSheet + Zapier

If you're building an AppSheet app and hope to integrate it with an existing system or a third party app, life just got much easier.  We're excited to announce the direct integration with Zapier is officially live, equipping AppSheet app creators with simple and reliable automated workflow options to over 1,000 external applications. AppSheet's existing webhook functionality helps app creators connect their apps to any external REST API, but with the direct connection to Zapier, anyone can create intuitive, multi-step automation workflows in minutes.  A 'Zap' in Zapier is similar to a 'Workflow' in AppSheet, allowing users to set custom 'Triggers' in one app and corresponding 'Actions' in another app to automatically move data, generate alerts, or change fields. Currently, the AppSheet integration allows for 'Actions' (Add, Update, Delete, & Invoke Action) in your app, initiated by 'Triggers' from other apps available in the extensive Zapier app library.  Already have an AppSheet app? Start integrating with Zapier Today! Some valuable examples of app workflows enabled with Zapier include: 1. Sync Customer Details & Build CRM Add-Ons   Having access to real-time customer activities is important for almost all departments in an organization, but your CRM or subscription management platforms may only be available to specific teams.  Connect your CRM to your AppSheet Apps to help automatically do things like:  Sync contact detail updates with your AppSheet app. Send custom notifications to app users when a critical CRM activity occurs. Build an 'add-on' app that helps score leads, schedule updates, or generate PDF proposals or invoices when new deals are created. 2. Automate Expenses & Invoices Every company has unique methods, which often evolve as the organization grows, for managing employee expenses, customer invoices & vendor purchase orders. Using Zapier and AppSheet apps, those methods can be easily tied together, synced automatically, or consolidated. Some common use cases include: Automatically generate custom invoices or expense reports from your AppSheet apps when new entries have been added to your accounting platform. Create a regular digest of recent expenses and distribute to appropriate team members for approval. Sync your consultant or contractor timesheet app with your payroll system to automatically deliver paychecks once approvals have been issued. 3. Add Customer Transactions to Your Apps Automate alerts and account detail updates in your apps, so that when new transactions occur (on PayPayl, for example), they're instantly reflected across platforms. Basic transaction information (customer name, product purchase, etc.) is commonly retained just in the payment processing dashboard and/or the primary CRM, but is frequently valuable to team members who may not have direct access. By syncing those transaction information through Zapier to your AppSheet apps, the information can be easily made available to the right people in a variety of formats: Transaction data in a custom report dashboard app. A custom PDF report of transactions. Custom follow-up emails to new customers. 4. Monitor Company Social Media Mentions If your brand has presence on multiple social media networks, you may be familiar with how difficult it is to stay updated on all the different types of activities generated. By creating a dedicated social management app in AppSheet and setting up some zaps from each network, you can easily monitor activities from a centralized dashboard. After syncing each of your social profiles to your Zapier account, create at least one 'Zap' for each network that 'Adds a Record' to your app that includes the message and a link to engage with it. Categorize each record by social channel name, and be sure to include actions for visiting the recording activity to engage with it. Also, be sure to use your AppSheet Push Notifications to ensure your app users are notified whenever a new and relevant social activity occurs. 5. Use Slack Messages to Trigger Workflows If your team uses Slack for internal communication, you can easily extract messages to one of your apps, or use commands in Slack to trigger custom app actions. A couple common Triggers used to export content include 'New Starred Messages' and 'New Files Added'. Your team may use AppSheet apps to help generate regular PDF reports, invoices or proposals, using a combination of Actions and Workflows that send a PDF to certain recipient(s). Now, by connecting Slack to your apps via Zapier and 'Invoking an Action', your team can generate those reports simply by posting a message to a predetermined channel.  6. Use Incoming Emails to Trigger Workflows Do you ever receive system alert emails in your inbox letting you know when certain events have taken place? (Looking at you, Salesforce) Or maybe you receive regular summaries emailed at the end of the day with information that would be valuable to automatically incorporate into your AppSheet apps?  A simple Zap can be created using a new inbound email as a trigger. Say, for example, you have a sales reporting dashboard app that needs to tally the total number of new customers every day, but you have no way to export that number automatically into your app. By connecting your email inbox to Zapier and using results from a inbox search query as your trigger, you can automatically add records to your AppSheet app. To extract details from the content of structured emails and relay that data into your app, use Zapier's 'Email Parser' to quickly define variable fields in the email.   Then use those extracted fields when adding or modifying rows in your AppSheet app.     Ready to try integrating and automating your app with other platforms? Enable Zapier in your AppSheet account & app with a few simple steps:      

Education Apps: Choosing AppSheet Adds Up for Accountant Training Firm

  Accounting Professional Training (APT) prepares students in South Africa for careers in business. So it knows a thing or two about numbers. APT’s mission is to strive for excellence in the accountancy profession, providing professional programs that enable students to qualify as Chartered Accountants. The company is South Africa’s leading presenter of preparation courses for the SAICA (South African Institute of Chartered Accountants) Examination. It has operated successfully in the South African market for 16 years, as well as within Zimbabwe and Namibia. When APT looked at the number of students, exam factors, and grading personnel involved in its manual grading effort, it knew something had to change. So it set out to digitize and mobilize the process. That led APT to adopt the AppSheet platform. The Challenge More than 2,000 students take four APT exams annually. Each of those tests require individuals to complete eight or more tasks. When they’re done, 50 to 100 people located throughout South Africa grade the tests. In the process, APT’s grading team members provide students with detailed feedback about their responses. Traditionally, APT has used couriers to collect student tests, distribute them to graders through the country, fetch the graded documents, and then send them to students for their review across South Africa. The problem: an inefficient process with lots of opportunities for errors. The Solution “It was a logistical nightmare to get the results for students,” explained Husain Coovadia, an APT course presenter. So Husain and APT set out to find a better way to manage and test grading processes. Husain’s first move was to employ Google Sheets. That allowed APT to centralize document management so it could more easily distribute and collect the tests to and from its graders. But APT sought even greater efficiency. So Husain searched for an expanded solution that would work well with Google Drive, which he wanted to use. After some research, he discovered AppSheet. Today the AppSheet platform powers two APT apps. The Grader App The first app facilitates the grading process as well as provides live data for analysis such as grader consistency. When APT brings graders onboard, it asks them to grade a sample test. That way APT can make sure its graders have the skills they need to accurately grade student tests. If they don’t, APT provides them with further training until graders meet the required benchmarks. Graders also use this app to grade actual student exams. The fact that everything is digitized eliminates a lot of error, Husain says. He explains that grading on paper and then having to enter that information in an Excel file was cumbersome. Graders would sometimes put an entry in the wrong column or row, leading to discrepancies and a number of hours spent reconciling errors. “The students are your customers at the end of the day,” says Husain. “And we don’t want to make those errors.” Digitizing the process also makes it easier for graders to receive and return tests no matter where they might be. That’s helpful considering APT employs between 50 to 100 graders around the country in each grading session. The app also provides APT with a view of grading as it happens. It can see test averages, what questions were answered poorly by students, and more, says Husain. This real-time view is a nice feature that provides insight that would not necessarily be available in a manual process. It took 10 to 12 months to get the first app, which launched last summer, running at an optimal level. This app was somewhat challenging due to all the different formulas and tasks involved. Adding to that complexity was the fact that APT wanted to configure the app so individual graders would only see the tests they were supposed to grade. But Husain says AppSheet experts provided the necessary guidance via email communications so he could accomplish his goals with the app. The Student App APT’s other AppSheet-powered app takes all the information from the first app and passes it on to the students. This app provides each student with a grade. Students also get information about several indicators for each of their answers. For example, if a question asks the student to discuss revenue, the app signifies whether the grader marked them as not discussing revenue, discussing revenue, or discussing revenue in depth. Students can also use the app to review graders’ written feedback specific to their answers. In the past, students sometimes struggled to read graders’ handwriting. But with the AppSheet-powered app, feedback is keyed in, so reading the handwritten comments is no longer an issue. The app also presents students with a summary of their grades. That offers insight on where they excelled and where they did not. Allowing students to access their grades and grader comments via the app is also helpful because students receive timely feedback. Addressing Challenges Husain says launching this student app was no easy feat either. But he adds that AppSheet went as far as developing a new feature for its platform to meet APT’s needs. And after about four months, he was able to take the app live. The challenge here was the sheer number of students accessing the app with large data sets at the same time. Today as many as 2,400 APT students have been able to successfully use the app simultaneously. But before launch, when Husain was testing the app with 200 students, only 10 or 15 students were able to open their results. The app delivered an error message saying there was too much data to read. So Husain sent AppSheet a screenshot of the problem. And AppSheet responded by creating the Worksheet Bulk Read feature, which allowed the app to contend with all the tasks, indicators, and students in APT’s database. Together with Husain this feature was tested on numerous occasions. “Once enabled I tested it with 200 students, and it worked,” says Husain. “Then Appsheet ran a stress test for me, and it was able to read 1,000 results in a minute or something like that.”  

Feature Friday: Sliding Actions, Invalid Input Error Messages & Workday Expression

Feature of the Week: Sliding Actions  Custom actions enable app users to quickly visit links, send emails, make phone calls, change values, jump to other views (or entirely different apps), among many other things. This week, we're excited to introduce 'Sliding Actions' that allow users to initiate actions simply by sliding any row in a Deck View left or right. This sliding functionality is common in most mobile interfaces, and will help ensure your app is as intuitive and efficient as possible for new users. Some examples of scenarios for using a Slide Action include: When users are required to frequently 'Edit' or 'Delete' items. If a manager is responsible for 'Approving' or 'Rejecting' requests. When projects or orders require frequent status updates, such as 'Next Stage' or 'Prior Stage'.  The icons used in your Sliding Actions can be customized when creating the Action (just like any other Action), and the colors are determined by creating a Format Rule applied to the action. Invalid Input Error Message When collecting data, whether it be customer information, survey responses, or inventory updates, it's frequently important to qualify and control the field inputs before the form is submitted. With the introduction of 'Invalid Input Error Messages', it's now easy to alert app users of any errors when submitting a form, and provide simple instructions for how to make a correction. When customizing your forms and building 'Valid If' conditions on each field, adding an expression-based 'Error Message If Invalid' value will display a custom message if the submitted entry doesn't meet your required criteria. These messages can be static messages or customized with variable fields - for example, when forcing users to only submit future dates, an error message could be a static message, or could be customized to include the TODAY() expression as a reminder. 'WORKDAY' Expression The WORKDAY function you may already be familiar with in Excel or Google Sheets is now available as an AppSheet Expression. Use WORKDAY() to help calculate scenarios like delivery dates, project deadlines, vacation durations, etc., by automatically accounting for weekends. Thoughts about these new features? Share your ideas & questions in the Creator Community!  

10 Excel Templates for Simplifying Your Life

“Life in the early 21st century wasn’t supposed to be so hectic. In a 1930 essay, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted a 15-hour work week by 2030, when we’d all have time to enjoy ‘the hour and the day virtuously and well,’” reports Brigid Schulte in The Washington Post. Does this sound anything like your life in 2016? No? Well, it doesn’t reflect the life of anyone I know, either. While the goal of technology was to make life more efficient, somehow the opposite has happened since we seem to be working harder than ever with the convenience of the Internet and the portability of handheld devices. However, here are some free, downloadable Excel templates that will prove that technology CAN simplify your life.   Interested in moving beyond spreadsheets to mobile apps? Check out our a wide variety of sample apps and copy one for yourself! Each app can be linked to your Excel spreadsheet, so the data syncs simultaneously Apps are compatible with Google Sheets/Forms, Excel on DropBox, Box, Office 365, OneDrive, SmartSheet, Salesforce, SQL, and more. You can customize each app with your own data sets and special features like barcode scanning, image capture, GPS/maps, and more.   1. Budgeting This is obviously the most popular spreadsheet because we all need to keep track of our income and spending. While many banks, credit card companies, and credit unions provide some program which can break your spending into categories, creating your own spreadsheet with a set budget can ensure that you are living within your means.  Here's an example of a corporate media budget spreadsheet. You can easily change around the columns and numbers to fit your everyday lifestyle.  From there, you can use AppSheet's platform to turn your budget spreadsheet into a budget app in minutes!  2.  Travel It seems terribly ironic that so much stress can go into planning a restful vacation and that’s why a spreadsheet can be one of your favorite tools. From planning your budget to creating your packing list to setting a daily itinerary to see the sites, all of your information can be contained in one place (and you won’t even forget to bring your toothbrush). If you’re looking for an itinerary template, this is a great starting point because it includes information you didn’t even know you should have as you prepare for a trip. It provides columns for packing lists, trip schedule, flight schedules, and travel dates, but did you also consider listing blood types for you and your companions or emergency contact numbers? Me either! 3. Health & Fitness Diet and exercise are important for your well-being and yet keeping track of calorie intake or weight loss can seem like just another thing to do. A spreadsheet can make this unpleasant task easy, especially since it can do all of the calculations for you. Excel Templates has a great calculator so you know exactly how many calories your body requires based on your personal specifications. Want to keep track of the calories you’re burning while exercising? You can download a template here which also provides graphs to display weight progress and daily habits. There are also a variety of weight tracking charts like this one so that you can monitor your progress. 4. Chore Charts Let’s face it: if your kids did their chores, then you could stop doing them. That would definitely simplify your life. I chose this chart not because of its style or contents, but because it ties in an allowance gauge to also teach money management skills. It’s a great starting point for you to customize a spreadsheet that will work for your family dynamics. 5. Medication Log There are approximately 76 million Baby Boomers which means that if you aren’t one, than you just may be caring for one. As we tend to the aging members of our population, adhering to a complicated medication list becomes an important job. This website gives detailed instructions on how to use a medication log such as when to take the medication, what the pill looks like, what ailment it addresses, dosage, refill number, and other vital information. 6. Meal Planner Meal planning website Gathered Table found that if you plan your dinners ahead of time, you could save 3 hours and $50 or more per week (plus you’ll have less stress, make fewer trips to the grocery store, and you’ll eat much healthier!). To make planning easier, try this downloadable spreadsheet from Vertex42 to decide on your main dish, sides, and to create your grocery list for the week. 7. Project/Event Template From weddings to birthday parties to remodeling projects, we all need a tool that keeps us on track to complete an intricate job. This spreadsheet helps you to divide your big project into bite-sized pieces so that you can create mini-deadlines to guarantee that everything gets done on or ahead of schedule. For example, if you are planning your wedding you can set deadlines starting a year from your projected wedding date; 12 months out you’ll need to book a venue, at six months you’ll need to order bridesmaids’ dresses, three months before the wedding you’ll order your cake, at two months it’s time to experiment with hairstyles, etc. If you want to turn your project management spreadsheet into an app, which can be used by multiple users, here is an easy sample app to start with. 8. Calendars Life gets complicated, regardless if you have multiple kids or multiple business appointments. On WinCalendar you can download a variety of calendars with different formats from weekly to monthly versions. This is perfect for reminding yourself of anniversary dates or birthdays. Or for the professional, this is a helpful tool for scheduling meetings with details as to time, place, and materials that you need to bring. You won’t ever worry about forgetting tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment or picking up your kid from baseball practice when your schedule is at your fingertips. Bonus for Marketers: Blog Calendar Excel Template 9. To-do List/Project Management Maybe a calendar isn’t the right format for you; you may have a list of things to do without definitive dates that they need to be completed by. Furthermore, you may have a work project that involves several people and you need to monitor what stage of progress each member is at. Try this shared AppSheet template to make certain that everyone is on the same page. You can make a job list, report on the status of progress being made, address who is responsible for each task, and include any notes that need to be shared. You can even turn the spreadsheet directly into an app! Also, check out one of our most popular blogs to learn how you can build a smart to-do list in 10 minutes! 10. Gift Lists Santa’s not the only one who has to make a list and check it twice. For the past five years I’ve made an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the 30+ family members, teachers, friends, and co-workers that I need to buy presents for. This list helps me to stay on budget, keep track of gift receipts, and prevent repeat gifts from previous years. I also start shopping in September so that my bank account doesn’t get hit all at once and I can scour the sales to get the best items and deals. (Okay, I just may be a tad OCD.) This list also works great for year-round birthday present giving.    Starting a spreadsheet from scratch is arduous. These templates will set you up for success.You'll also get a head start on building a powerful mobile app from your spreadsheet data.  In the end you’ll have less stress, frustration, and of course, more time! Click here for more free excel templates! This article has TimeSheet, Customer List Excel, Project Management Excel, Blog Calendar, and Profit and Loss Excel. Check out what apps AppSheet customers in different industries and roles have created. For more handy tips on how to better manage your life and work, learn how to make your own app or visit Features, Tips & Webinars.

Nonprofit Apps: Animal Response Team Finds AppSheet Solution Quite Fetching

When Kelly Benton joined the Kansas State Animal Response Team as a unit coordinator, recording and accessing information was like herding cats. Hundreds of volunteers in several regions across Kansas were using paper to track animals in shelters, record the veterinary care they received, and collect information about their owners so they could be reunited later. The data was scattered all over Kansas. Someone would later collect those papers and enter the data into a computer. But then the data was on one person’s computer. That made it inaccessible to other volunteers throughout the state. So Kelly set out to find a more accurate and time efficient way to input and access the data. That led her to AppSheet. “I’ll be honest, I’m a geek,” said Kelly. “I believe everything should be done electronically. I’m just wired that way.” Although Kelly spent a couple decades in IT production control during the mainframe days, she was never a programmer. But that wasn’t a barrier, she said. AppSheet is “very intuitive” and doesn’t require users to do programming. Kelly got started by creating different Google Forms for the animal information, the owner information, and the veterinary treatment. Then, she loaded that information into AppSheet. And it was ready to run. The resulting app allows volunteers to use any smart device. They can work offline in a disaster situation if needed. And they can simply upload data later when an internet connection becomes available. “It’s perfect,” Kelly said. “AppSheet really fit the bill.” The Kansas State Animal Response Team has used the app Kelly created at two disaster response exercises to date. The first drill was in September, just after Kelly finished work on the app. The second was in March. The drills provide an opportunity for the Kansas State Animal Response Team and area vets to provide homeless and other poor people with pets a free animal clinic twice a year. They used these community events as an opportunity to give the app a test run as well. Using the AppSheet-powered app, volunteers at the March event gathered information on 102 pets in three hours. That would’ve taken much longer using pen and paper, said Kelly. "With pen and paper, we only scheduled 30 to 40 pets in three hours." One reason the manual method was much slower, she explained, is it required volunteers to fill out duplicate paperwork about owners with more than one animal. But with AppSheet, volunteers input information about the owner just once, and then add data about each of that owner’s pets. The AppSheet app also allows animal clinics to easily access and record information about when people and their pets visit. It also records what immunizations or other treatments are provided to those animals. The Kansas Department of Agriculture was impressed by the app, which it saw in action at the March event. That department handles large animals, so it could potentially use a similar app to address the needs of those animals in emergency situations, Kelly said. Kelly also has been working on a second app. That AppSheet-powered app could launch as early as September. It’s focused on doing inventory on Kansas State Animal Response Team equipment trailers. The organization has stationed seven or eight stocked trailers throughout the state. The trailers hold kennels, water and food bowls, a generator, and other gear. They can be used to help shelter 50 pets at a predetermined location in the event of an emergency situation such as a fire, flood, or tornado. Using AppSheet to meet the needs of the Kansas State Animal Response Team, and the animals and pet owners it serves, has been a rewarding experience, said Kelly. And she urged any organization that wants to improve their operations to consider using the AppSheet platform to do that. “It is so worth the time and effort. Just do it. Try it,” she said. “I can’t image how someone came up with this idea,” Kelly added. “But it’s great. It’s really amazing.” Is your organization helping to better our world? We want to help you do it. We offer non-profit organizations and educational institutions a 50% discount on AppSheet plans.   

Construction Apps: Space Solution Firm Hits Pay DIRTT with AppSheet

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Change. Ease of use. Flexibility. All of the above are important trends and requirements in business today. And they’re all central to how DIRTT operates, the solutions it delivers, and why the company selected AppSheet to power its business applications.  DIRTT is in the interior construction business. But it’s not the kind of construction entity the Calgary-based company’s name implies. This company is not about pouring foundations, laying bricks, and installing drywall. In fact, DIRTT’s Leigh Cooper says drywall is the enemy. “We don’t build walls,” explains Cooper. “We liberate the space between them.” And it does that in record time, with reconfigurable and eco-friendly solutions. DIRTT wanted a similarly efficient way to create business apps and improve internal operations, so it adopted the AppSheet platform to do that. Cooper found and began using AppSheet a few years ago after running into a dispatch delivery challenge at DIRTT headquarters. DIRTT has three buildings at its home base in Calgary, and trucks carry project materials among these various facilities. Initially, a DIRTT employee used email to coordinate dispatch. But one day Cooper wanted to send something to another building, and his request wasn’t carried out. Someone either didn’t receive the email, or they read it but then forgot to act on it. “It was one of those moments: ‘There’s got to be a better way to do this!’” says Cooper. He found it with Google Apps and the AppSheet add-on. “It was exactly what I was looking for,” Cooper says. He liked AppSheet’s mobile interface and the fact that Google Sheets data is always current. Plus, AppSheet and Google Sheets allow multiple people to use an app at the same time. The dispatch app (see below) provides DIRTT with a variety of benefits, including ease of use and helpful metrics. The initial email process for dispatch requests didn’t have metrics. But the app has complete metrics including busiest day of the week, how many deliveries are made, how big those deliveries are, which size of deliveries are most common, and whether additional trucks are required. Such metrics enable DIRTT to align its resources with its requirements. DIRTT’s five distribution center drivers use this application. And numerous other employees use a related app to submit requests for truck deliveries. The AppSheet-powered dispatch app has supported 20,000 deliveries since it was introduced in 2016. To learn more about DIRTT's journey and other apps DIRTT created, download the case study. In it, you’ll discover how DIRTT: Built its delivery management app, what it tracks, and how it's used. Enabled better material tracking by creating a second app to track all customer-owned material. Encouraged engagement and reuse by creating a type of Craig's list app for internal employees.

Tips and Tricks for New App Creators from a Summer Intern

    My name is Jacob. I am a rising junior majoring in Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology. I love to play soccer and read stories, which may seem a bit different from the stereotypical programmer who sits inside all day. Although, that’s not to say that I don’t do that often as well. When I first joined AppSheet as a software development intern for the summer, I thought that I’d be jumping straight into writing code. Or maybe just getting people coffee, like a stereotypical internship. I’m sure that this is quite understandable. However, the first task that I was given was to become an “expert” in AppSheet: to know the ins and outs of the product I’d eventually be working on. I even took notes on my first impressions. At this point in time, I like to think that I’ve become semi-competent in creating apps with AppSheet from any data set, although I probably have missed a few niche features and “hacks” that a more experienced member of the AppSheet team would know. So, wit