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Praveen Seshadri
By
January 23, 2018

AppSheet platform directions in 2018

AppSheet 2018 Goals.jpegHappy new year! As usual at the start of the year, we share our plans for the platform and the directions we expect to take. For some context, take a look at the plans we described a year ago—as it turns out, we did deliver on many of those themes, although perhaps our original timeframes were overly optimistic.

The goal of the AppSheet platform

AppSheet is a platform for anyone to build, distribute and manage apps. That mission statement is intentionally broad and it has not fundamentally changed in the last three years. 

We pursue this platform goal along three axes:

  • Who? We really want _anyone_ with any technical skill level to be an app creator. We fully recognize that our platform currently requires a reasonable level of technical sophistication. We expect to take major steps to lower the barriers and make the platform more accessible.
  • What? While we eventually expect to be able to create all apps, our current focus is on business apps. We define an "app" broadly, going beyond the confines of just a traditional mobile app but also incorporating a variety of merging app form factors as well as any aspect of logic + data + processing that is relevant to solving business problems.
  • How? The platform should be end-to-end, enterprise-grade, and intelligent. 

From the goal to product plans

Our product plans always include work across a variety of areas:

  • We rearchitect and rework our existing platform and model: for example, in 2017, we rebuilt much of the app editor,  replaced built-in actions with explicit Action definitions, and updated Google authentication on Android.
  • We enhance the existing features: for example, in 2017, editor changes, stable app versions, new functions, and expression performance improvements.
  • We add new features: for example, in 2017 we added XY and Video column types, Scheduled Reports, Push Notifications, Chatbot Apps, Deep Links, searchable audit logs, MySQL databases, teams, enterprise policies, and a lot more.
  • We do an occasional bold new thing/moonshot: for example, in 2017, we did Chatbot Apps.  

The actual features chosen are primarily influenced by the tremendous volume of direct feedback we get from our customer community. I personally read about 400 customer communications every week.

We also pay attention to what is happening more broadly in our industry, and what we learn from advisors and analysts. Finally, our team tries to step back from the details occasionally and ask if there are fundamental improvements that can help our broad customer base. 

From product plans to feature deployment

Our engineering process is designed to minimize overheads and balance rapid progress with system stability.  

We are a small engineering team. Every engineer has access to every part of the code base, and so one engineer can build and deploy an end-to-end feature without dependency on anyone else. In practice and over time, individual engineers become experts in certain aspects of the product. For example, one engineer, Sarah Gould, owns the set of design decisions for the mobile app UI and she is also responsible for executing the changes to that UI.

The overall product plans for the next year are allocated to different members of the engineering team. Sarah has her UI feature roadmap for the year and knows the overall rough priorities. She figures out how to balance bug fixes, incremental changes, and new feature development within her area. Each engineer typically has a concrete schedule for a month, a rough schedule for the next three months, and an unprioritized list of everything else beyond that. 

We deploy a new version of the AppSheet platform every working day. Because we deploy every day, the incremental change between versions is small. This promotes stability and it also allows us to deliver new features rapidly because features are not queued up waiting for a "release". When there are changes made to existing features, they are typically deployed using a gradual "rollout" process that allows us to ensure greater stability across our customer base. 

Platform themes for 2018

So finally after all that preamble, here are the plans for 2018. If your favorite feature request doesn't fit in one of these themes, that's okour planning is continuous and evolving, so just let us know what you think will really help you get the most out of AppSheet.

1. Basics

  • Further integrationsmore data connectors, more workflow integrations
  • System stabilitykeep up our pace of change without breaking customers, more automated tests, rewrite of app storage layer on the device
  • Better performanceoptimizations on our backend and in the app, faster background sync

2. App model enhancements

  • Richer appsricher UI (more forms options, calendars, structured search), more functions in expressions, richer deep links, more app customization and automation within the app
  • Modular designability to create, share, and re-use app “modules”
  • Securitylimiting scope during signin, more auth providers (like Facebook)
  • Device integrationexpose hardware capabilities (Bluetooth, sensors)

3. Platform enhancements

  • Intelligent feedbackunderstand the app creator’s intent, provide guidance on UI design, performance improvement, user analytics, etc
  • Enterprise-gradepolicies, domain and data sources inherited from root account, centralized billing, deeper integration with Active Directory and Google Domains, encrypted storage on device

4. Collaboration and Context

  • More and better samples and videos for app creators
  • Dynamic in-product tutorials to guide app creation
  • Team collaboration features and user feedback to app creators

5. Moonshot: Natural Language

  • For users in the app: search via natural language, chatbot apps V2
  • For app creators: high-level app descriptions in natural-language

So when do we get started?

As you can see, there's a lot that we plan to deliver. Keep an eye out for features that roll out with our daily deployments. We'd love to hear your feedback. I hope each of you finds a couple of things in there that are exciting and also useful for your apps. 

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