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Nancy Powaga

Nancy Powaga
Nancy helps app creators build and learn with AppSheet.
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Jewelry store owner brings family business into digital era with Google Cloud's AppSheet

Lohith Dhaksha is a fifth-generation owner and operator of his family business, P S Jewellery. Founded in 1896 and based in Tiruttani, Tamil Nadu, India, the company sells jewelry and watches for men, women, and children. The shop has thrived for more than a century by providing quality, fashionable accessories made from gold, silver, and other precious metals. They also sell diamonds and gemstones. A qualified chartered accountant  with an interest in computer programming, Lohith was tapped to step in and run the business, taking the torch from his father. “We wanted to expand our business to all over India,” Lohith says. “But my father was initially reluctant to invest in and embrace technology.” After rounds of discussion with Lohith, his father was ready to embrace digital transformation. Now, Lohith is about to launch his e-commerce website in October, 2020, to attract customers beyond their loyal, local base. “We’ve built our family business on loyalty and trust,” he says. “We may be a little pricey, but we guarantee quality. But I realized, even though we’re a very old business, we didn’t have a way to keep track of our customers — including those families who purchased jewelry from us for generations. I figured we were losing business to other shops because we didn’t track our visitors.” To remain competitive in the 21st century, P S Jewellery needed to establish an online presence, kick e-commerce into full gear, and modernize its customer communications, data tracking, and marketing. Says Lohith, “The biggest problem I faced was logistics.” The challenge: Kickstarting a digital transformation Lohith acknowledges his family business was slow to adopt technology. “We should have done some of these changes in the early 2000s,” he laments. “Now, I am running to catch the bus.” But they didn’t survive 125 years only to be left behind. Lohith knew he had to get the business online and create mobile-friendly tools for company communications and other essential operations. It was now or never. They started gathering customer information the old-fashioned way — using a sign-up book in the shop. Employees entered the sign-up data into Google Contacts. This synced with Lohith and his father’s company Gmail account, which the business owners accessed from their mobile phones. It also provided a central means for father or son to respond to customer inquiries. “But the problem was, since mobile numbers are very sensitive [one digit off and it’s wrong], they are prone to error while typing,” Lohith recalls. Trying to decipher customers’ handwriting wasn’t working. “What I needed was an app, so employees could enter customers’ information before they leave our showroom.” Lohith began searching for apps, but soon realized “I was not in a position to invest a lot” in off-the-shelf software. “I was searching, searching, searching,” he says. “I found some other companies that offered no-code app development. But what struck me about Google Cloud’s AppSheet was it worked with Google Sheets.” Choosing AppSheet: Finding gold in no-code apps Lohith had some experience with survey creation tool Google Forms, and he and his father already shared a company Gmail account. So he was comfortable working with GSuite tools and made an easy leap to AppSheet. “I wanted to build a database in Google Sheets,” he explains. “I was struck that AppSheet could [connect with] Sheets or any other database. It even provided me with a neat interface for the staff to use.” Lohith’s first AppSheet-powered app works with SMS by Zapier Integrations and MSG91 communications API. “AppSheet captures the raw data, which goes into Google Sheets,” he explains. “I can make Google Sheets [data input] as a trigger. So whenever a new record is created or updated, it will automatically go and create a contact in Google Contacts. And at the same time, it will trigger a personalized SMS. Whenever the customer purchases something, and before leaving the showroom, they'll receive a thank-you SMS message.” He then created a second app with AppSheet for inventory management. P S Jewellery sells a wide range of bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and anklets in different styles, both elegant and casual. “With jewelry, you have very minute differences in the various designs,” Lohith says. “When we give orders to our suppliers, we have to specify all the specifications and variations in designs,” including, for example, the weight and measurement of anklets. Lohith’s father had traditionally written down these specs on a piece of paper. Like the sign-up book in the store, this left room for interpretation — and errors. “There was too much lack of clarity in communication between us and the supplier,” Lohith says. “[This results in] too much discrepancy in the design. So I created an AppSheet app to track inventory and create a supply order, which specifies anklet weight, length, design — all those things.” This ensured suppliers got the right orders, and the store got the anklets customers desired. The results:  Bringing a family business into the future The next AppSheet-powered app on Lohith’s list to develop? Customized text message marketing for customers at different stages along the sales funnel. “We want to customize our SMS messages for a new visitor, a returning customer, and a retained customer,” Lohith says. “We’re exploring ways to create an app with AppSheet to provide different content for our customers.” No-code development gave Lohith the opportunity to flex his technology skills and become a true citizen developer — while modernizing his family’s business operations and paving the way for the future. “My childhood dream was to become a software engineer, but that never landed me a job,” Lohith recalls. “I chose finance as my profession. But I always had a passion for technology. Even still, I have a dream to learn a programming language.” By building no-code apps with AppSheet, Lohith can continue to expand his technology skills while finding fast-and-easy solutions to his family’s business challenges. His father is now the best QA expert and tester Lohith could ask for. “He now understands the benefits [of no-code apps] and how efficient we can run things,” Lohith says. “He started to adapt to the changes. And he started to give me suggestions. ‘Can you try this?’ For him, he just needs a base. I learned all the complexities of the business and different situations through him. He always tells me one thing: ‘When you see through your eyes, you won't get that error. When you see that through someone [else’s] eyes, they will easily find that error.’ He’s the perfect tester.” The family will continue to explore how no-code apps and other technology tools can help keep their jewelry business sparkling for generations to come. Adds Lohith, “I am sure no-code will be the future.”

Event coordinator helps track mountain bike racers during COVID-19 with Google Cloud's AppSheet

An avid cyclist and mountain biker who studied industrial engineering, Hennie Scheepers found his dream job as Information Systems Manager at Faces Advendurance. The South African company organizes a wide range of adventure endurance sporting events including cycling, mountain biking, obstacle course racing, and trail running. The Nissan Trailseeker Series is one such event, known for its outstanding trails, scenic locations, family-friendly experience, and competitive field. Held in the outskirts of the capital city Pretoria, the race is open to both novice and professional mountain bikers and runners of all ages. For months, Hennie prepared for this highly anticipated event, which took place on September 4–6, 2020.  Since 2017, Hennie had been using Google Sheets to manage the Faces Advendurance registration process.  “An events company’s biggest asset is its database,” he explains. He says it became costly and time consuming to outsource registration to a third-party vendor. So Faces Advendurance took the function in-house.  “I built our registration system onto Google Sheets, which I liked very much, so we could do registration on our own,” he says. The solution worked, though he had to teach numerous volunteers, including many students, how to use the system on race mornings. Sometimes, mistakes were made. He knew he had to find an easier way to track race participants and update data on the fly.  Then, COVID-19 made everything even more challenging. The challenge: Rethinking race registration Hennie admits he’s not a programmer, though he enjoys keeping up with technology trends. As an info systems manager, it’s his job to find software and apps that keep his company’s services up and running smoothly. Bringing the digital and physical worlds together can be a logistical challenge, especially for events in remote locations.  When the coronavirus pandemic put new restrictions on sporting events — including how many participants could enter a race course at one time — Hennie started brainstorming easier ways to manage registration and participant activity. He needed to find something that could quickly and accurately pull in database records; track participants’ start, checkpoint, and finish times; and be easy for multiple event volunteers to update data in the field from their mobile phones.       “We started printing QR codes on timing boards in January 2019, but could never find a way to efficiently scan the codes and submit the number to a database,” he explains. “When we went into lockdown, I was searching for QR code scanner apps, and somehow, I stumbled across AppSheet's no-code development platform. At the time, I didn’t even know no-code existed. I liked that AppSheet could pull in data from Google Sheets. I’m such a nerd, I stayed up in bed at night watching AppSheet YouTube tutorials to learn what it could do. I thought, ‘I can do this. Let’s give it a try.’” Choosing AppSheet: Making course corrections “The Nissan Trailseeker is the biggest mountain bike series in the world, with six events per year attracting 3,000 riders per event,” Hennie explains. Some events, such as the Pretoria mountain bike race in September, span three days and conclude with a trial run attracting between 400 and 1,000 runners per event. That’s a lot of mountain bikers and runners, trail courses of varying distances, and time slots to manage and track.  “Now, our COVID regulation stipulates that we’re only allowed 300 people at an event,” Hennie continues, “and we must start them in batches of less than 50.” To foster social distancing and limit the number of people on the course, they broke the big race down into six smaller events, totaling 1,800 participants to register and time. Google Cloud's AppSheet enabled Hennie to build a quick-and-easy app that imports data into Google Sheets from race participants who have pre-registered online through their entry platform. He then installed his custom app onto 20 race phones and distributed them to students and other volunteers. Volunteers can use the app to register new participants as they arrive at the event, assign them race numbers, and plug them into available time slots. Faces Advendurance uses an RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) timing system, where race participants get a tag with a tracking code that is automatically scanned by RFID readers as participants cross the finish line. Participants’ results automatically update in Google Sheets and are then made available in the app in real time for race organizers. When mountain bikers and runners cross the finish line, the RFID system enters their race number and a timestamp is added to Google Sheets and Hennie’s AppSheet app. “I built the app in such a way that anyone can register at any time,” Hennie says. “I know when they start, I know which batch they start in – and compared to what we were doing before, no one can make a mistake now. So I can literally give the phone to a student and show them in one minute what to do.”  The app has also improved handling of event logistics. “In the past, everything had to be done on laptops,” Hennie says. “The challenge with that is we have to set up tables with generators and electricity and WiFi. When there are 3,000 people on the venue the [cellular] tower struggles to handle it. When I read that AppSheet-powered apps can go offline, it was a colossal plus. So I bought phones with dual SIM cards and two providers. Now, there’s no problem at all if there’s no connectivity.” Hennie’s new AppSheet race registration app was put to the test at the September 2020 event.  “It could hardly have gone better!” he says. “We received so many compliments from participants about the new registration system.” Thanks to the app, the company created a much faster registration process, a neater registration area (“no laptops, cables, or power supply units!”), improved timing accuracy, and offered greater convenience for racers in the field (no need to return to the registration table to make changes). Limited Internet access did not slow things down. Hennie also combined COVID-19 screening into the app’s registration process, cutting out an extra step.  And when the timing scanners hiccuped at the mountain biking finish line, Hennie “quickly built a backup timing solution in AppSheet, enabling our staff to scan each finisher's race number using the QR code we printed in the number board.” The app has also enabled event organizers to more quickly handle race participant queries after the event. The results: Getting out in front of the race With Hennie’s custom-built Google Cloud's AppSheet app, he and Faces Advendurance can now focus on running sporting events — often in remote areas — and on timing race participants, without worrying about connectivity issues and other technical difficulties.  “The results are fed directly from Google Sheets to WordPress,” Hennie says. “So when someone crosses the finish line, their result is posted online immediately. Our admin staff is incredibly impressed by this new functionality. It made their lives much easier. They are able to provide quicker and more accurate service to our participants.”  Hennie says the sky’s the limit with Google Cloud's AppSheet. He’s now experimenting with breaking down different types of relational databases into subsets (e.g., batches of participants, course lengths) and specific disciplines (mountain biking, trail running, and road racing), for even more precise event management and better customer service for participants. He’s even built a COVID-19 compliance app for his children’s school to allow administrators to take students’ temperatures and enter them into a Google Data Studio dashboard.  “In our world, this is a game changer,” Hennie says. “No one in South Africa is doing it this way because there are too many variations for a standard [off-the-shelf] app. Now I’m building an AppSheet-powered app for our obstacle races. Our two biggest events are a cycling event (Ride Joburg) of 20,000 cyclists and a running event (Cape Town Marathon) with 25,000 runners. And both of those have registration challenges. I think our apps are going to answer all of that.” Ready to become an app creator like Hennie? Start building for free on AppSheet today.

We Love App Creators

Millions of people use no-code development platforms like Google Cloud's AppSheet to build custom business applications that help improve processes in the workplace. To get a better understanding of no-code app creators, their goals, and their motivations, we recently partnered with TechValidate to collect more than a thousand responses from AppSheet app creators. What we discovered is a diverse set of app creators, with even more diverse goals and motivations, who have all embraced no-code app development as a way to optimize business workflows. Now, let’s take a look at the data. Let's start with technical ability. While 35% report having beginner’s knowledge of traditional coding skills like Java, Python, or C#, 39% reported having no traditional coding knowledge at all. This means that roughly 74% have little to no traditional coding skills when they start using AppSheet. This statistic helps provide insight into the results of next question. We asked app creators why they chose a no-code platform over a low-code platform. For context, no-code and low-code platforms represent different approaches aimed at different users. Low-code platforms involve coding and are intended for traditional developers to provide them with a faster development environment. No-code platforms require no coding (hence the name) and expand the definition of who can be a developer. No-code empowers anyone — even those without technical ability — to build apps. It’s no surprise then that our app creators, most of whom have little or no coding skills, chose no-code app development over low-code app development. Respondents said that no-code development is easier (57%) and more flexible (36%) than low-code development, affording problem-solving technology skills to anyone in an organization regardless of coding knowledge or ability.  And where do people use their no-code apps? The vast majority of people we surveyed use no-code app development on the job, either to build apps for their teams (47%), for other people or businesses (43%), or for their own business (38%), though a smaller number (24%) do use AppSheet as a hobby or at school (5%). Our survey found that 80% reported that they started using no-code development for “general business needs,” and a smaller percentage (14%) began to fill an educational or non-profit need. Regardless of where people use no-code application development, they’ve chosen to do so for a variety of reasons. Speed is the most common response, as 32% of respondents report the quick time to develop an app as the “best thing about no-code app development.” Other reasons people use no-code app development are flexibility (17%), the low barrier to get started (17%), ease of use (15%), low cost (7%), and the creativity afforded by the platform (8%). Saving time and money are top benefits for app creators: 82% say that no-code development saves them time, and 60% say that no-code development saves their organization money.  “The future is no-code app development,” says one app creator who works as a project manager at an independent retail business. “Creating an app from a simple spreadsheet opens up endless possibilities in making business processes seamless.”  We love app creators for their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and creativity. That's why this September and October, we'll be running spotlights of AppSheet app creators on our blog to showcase the various use cases for the no-code platform. App creators span the globe and work in various fields. However, they always have a few things in common: they want to jump-start digital transformations in their workplaces and bridge the physical and digital worlds. Read our first app creator spotlight on Hennie Scheepers, who uses AppSheet to build apps for his company, Faces Advendurance.  Ready to become an app creator yourself? Start building on Google Cloud's AppSheet today:

8 No-Code Sample Apps to Reduce Workplace Risk During COVID-19

Up until a few months ago, it was normal for workers to gather in conference rooms, around the water cooler, or on a job site, or to have impromptu chats in the hallways of an office building. This kind of real-time in-person connection helped make workplace communication and collaboration fluid and happenstance in a positive way.  Fast forward to today and the working world is pretty unrecognizable from that time. Nearly every aspect of the workforce has been transformed — in many cases, overnight. Conference rooms have been replaced with video conferencing software, businesses that relied on paper for record keeping have had to quickly transition to storing and sharing their documents online, and office chit chat now takes place over group texts. Long story short: businesses are relying on cloud services more than ever to adapt to the ever-changing landscape caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cloud computing software has not only enabled work to continue, it’s also helped front-line workers stay connected (while keeping physically distant) and reduce potential risk factors in an increasingly harsh environment. And with so much changing on a weekly (or sometimes daily) basis, businesses are increasingly turning to no-code development platforms like Google Cloud AppSheet in order to quickly build and launch apps that are not only critical to keeping businesses running, but also keeping everyone safe. No-code app development allows anyone to build custom apps, even with zero coding experience. With no-code, workers on the ground who understand the day-to-day business needs, customer needs, and problems best are empowered to build solutions themselves. So businesses have naturally been turning to platforms like Google Cloud AppSheet during this Covid-19 pandemic to quickly develop and launch apps that improve communication across remote workers and allow teams to scale their processes safely. By empowering the entire workforce to build the solutions they need to get things done, businesses are able to bypass the hurdles of waiting on engineering or IT resources and the one-size-fits-all approach to purchasing and deploying off-the-shelf apps that often don’t fully meet workers’ needs. Here are several no-code workplace apps (also built with Google Cloud AppSheet) that you can copy and customize to address specific health and safety concerns during the pandemic. Building Inspections This sample no-code app makes tracking building inspections and safety measures simple. Using data from a Google Sheet, you can track, monitor, and take action to make sure your building is up to code and that you’re keeping up with all the latest recommendations and requirements for Coronavirus safety and prevention measures. Safety Reporting When it comes to safe working conditions, every team member has a responsibility to keep a watchful eye. With this sample no-code app, people working in construction or any workplace can report and track issues and accidents.Workers enter their job site and submit a report that includes a priority level, detailed description, and relevant photos. The site lead can then review new issues and track open tickets. Finally, the safety board dashboard allows select users to create maintenance tickets with priorities and deadlines. Building Management Because of Covid-19, some businesses are having to rethink their office spaces and building use to keep workers safe. This sample no-code app helps with building management. You can plot your floor plan, organize and maintain your office furniture supplies and costs, and so much more. As you think about returning to the office or factory floor, you can use an app like this to reorganize workspaces for social distancing and prepare for safe office re-openings. Approved Disinfectants Keeping workplaces fully stocked with necessary cleaning supplies can reduce the risk of virus spread and help your team maintain a healthy work environment. Using data from a Google Sheet, this sample no-code app provides a list of all the disinfectant products that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and lets you order them directly from the app. Surface Sanitation Having the right supplies is the first step, but making sure you clean and sanitize surfaces regularly is key to guarding against Covid-19. This sample no-code app makes it simple to manage a checklist of surfaces that need to be cleaned on a regular basis. The default frequency cleaning alert is set for every 24 hours, but you can easily update that timing. Users are notified when it’s time to get scrubbing. And here's a list of sample no-code apps built with Google Cloud AppSheet that you can copy and customize to assist with personnel, workplace, and health needs during Covid-19: Community Support During times of crises, our friends, neighbors, and coworkers can become trusted networks that help us get through challenging times and increase recovery efforts. This no-code app built using Google Cloud AppSheet allows community organizers to easily track, manage, and fulfill safety requests from people in their nearby areas by pulling data from Google Sheets. The app makes it easy for members within a community to make requests and helps organizers fulfill those needs. Team Alerts Staying informed and keeping information flowing in real-time is fundamental to remote work situations. The ability to alert your team to relevant news and updates is essential. With this sample no-code app, team leads can create groups, send alerts to their groups via push notifications and emails, and easily share helpful resources. Out of Office Ensuring coverage when colleagues are out of office is critical to maintaining efficiency and preventing gaps in work streams. Whether workers are out of the office due to a family emergency or a planned vacation, this sample no-code app makes it easy for employees to share when they’ll be unavailable by logging in and entering their out-of-office days. Anyone with the app can easily see everyone’s logged days in a calendar or table view. If you’re inspired to build your own no-code apps, use the apps above as a starting point. Just copy the apps and customize them to your business needs with AppSheet, using our support guide as a reference. And always be sure to consult the official CDC guidelines for office buildings and workplace safety, to ensure your measures meet the highest health standards possible. Ready to build apps from your own data sources? Try Google Cloud AppSheet today:

IT’s New Machine Learning Strategy

At its core, technology exists to make certain tasks faster, cheaper, and easier to perform, all while delivering better results. Machine Learning (ML) is no different; the task it optimizes is identifying improvements and solving problems. From Netflix to Salesforce to Twitter, many of the world’s largest and most valuable companies are investing heavily in ML, betting on its value with their bottom lines. In fact, analysts expect corporations to commit $12.3 billion to machine learning by 2026, up nearly 5x from the $2.5 billion spent in 2017. But what about everyone else – all those companies that don’t have billions of dollars to commit to hiring ML engineers, developing proprietary AI, and building their own ML programs? How can we democratize ML so that even the smallest and most ambitious companies can get into the game and start using ML to improve how they do business? That’s where Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) comes in. Offering ready-made tools that can be easily adopted and fitted to various business needs, MLaaS removes many of the barriers that previously prevented smaller companies and their teams from tapping into the power of ML, including time, budget, and – most importantly – the ability to code. No-Code MLaaS democratizes the power of machine learning  No-code platforms like AppSheet are the backbone of MLaaS, and for good reason. With a no-code platform, anyone — regardless of their technological prowess or experience — can build robust applications that are driven by ML algorithms to solve problems, increase productivity, and deliver a healthier bottom line. These no-code development platforms extend the power of software development beyond the IT department to empower non-technical employees like business leads, employees who run on-the-ground processes, and subject matter experts to create customized business applications without writing code.  Equipped with no-code development platforms, “citizen developers” play pivotal roles in building apps that help move their teams and companies forward. Empowering non-technical workers to build their own solutions also frees up IT to focus on key strategic objectives, and helps eliminate the knowledge gap so that the workers closest to the problems are equipped to solve them directly, no matter their level of technical experience. 4 steps to unlocking your MLaaS strategy With the democratizing power of MLaaS and a no-code platform like AppSheet, you can embark on a new IT strategy that future-proofs your organization’s tech stack from the ground up and delivers continuous optimizations to every facet of your operations. Here are four key tips for unlocking IT’s new MLaaS strategy: Plan No-code MLaaS can optimize mission-critical processes across your entire organization. That’s a powerful prospect. The technology gives business leaders the insights and ability they need to revamp old tech stacks and future-proof companies from the ground up without re-starting at square one. No-code platforms make it easy for all employees to create custom applications that enable app creators and app users to tap directly into data sources. For example, data resting in a spreadsheet or database can be surfaced for strategic trends and predictive insights that can help shape that department’s strategy.  This direct connection between the data and the non-technical workforce enables citizen developers to transform the way work gets done, fully automating tasks and eliminating process gaps. But no-code doesn’t leave IT in the dark. Quite the contrary. The IT department establishes and maintains the governance guardrails for app building organization-wide. Without any coding experience, employees can create apps that not only extend the life and value of your legacy systems, but also bridge the gap between them, making it easier to connect  older systems with newer technologies so your organization can plan for the future and be prepared for whatever’s next. Invest A decision to use a no-code platform is an investment in your organization and IT department. MLaaS eliminates the pressure of developing ML systems and constantly creating and testing new business apps through the IT team’s workflow, relieving the strain on over-stretched developers. This frees up time for IT to focus on what they do best: Keeping critical processes and strategic initiatives humming at maximum efficiency. With MLaaS, the role of planning and execution moves from the IT and development teams to the people across your organization who know your company’s challenges best – from sales and marketing to HR and operations – all while supporting technical innovation and organizational growth. Evangelize The next step in any MLaaS strategy is to identify early adopters in your organization and get them on board. Who will see the most benefits from creating no-code apps? And how can you sell them on this solution? The key here is to help them understand the game-changing value of solving problems at an unprecedented scale by thinking creatively and building their own solutions. No-code MLaaS puts the control back in the hands of your employees, harnessing untapped problem-solving potential. Everyone across your company can perform better when they feel that leadership empowers them to make decisions and equips them with the tools they need to succeed. That’s exactly what we mean when we talk about the democratizing power of MLaaS. Iterate ML apps get smarter the more they’re used; that’s why it’s called Machine Learning. And the people who create these apps do, too. Perhaps the most important step in any MLaaS strategy is iteration. ML doesn’t just help your business run better; it continuously surfaces insights about your operations that you may never have even considered. As a result, app creators learn what’s possible and iterate more quickly using MLaaS. That means that your digital transformation isn’t a one-time event; it is a constant, ongoing process of improvement and optimization every single day so that your apps (and the people who create them) will perform even better tomorrow than they did yesterday.

Formulas and Expressions are Key to Powerful No-code Apps

Building custom apps can really streamline business processes, but where do you begin if you don’t have a technical background? While coding traditionally requires years of education and expertise, you can immediately start building custom apps using a no-code development platform — even with zero coding skills.    If you need to build customized apps for complex business processes, consider the flexibility and robust functionality of a declarative no-code development platform such as AppSheet, which uses formulas to tell apps what to do. In AppSheet, these are called app formulas and expressions. Using formulas and expressions may sound intimidating, but they’re actually intuitive to master. In fact, if you can use a basic spreadsheet, you can use the AppSheet no-code platform. In fact, AppSheet expressions are a lot like the formulas you use in Google Sheets or Excel. For example, if you have an app for job managers that contains data for every job your team does, you can use a formula to filter the view to display a specific result such as “jobs not completed.”  That’s just a basic example; with formulas, you can build powerful functionality within your apps. Consider that same data set of jobs and the information captured about due dates and status. With formulas, you can have your no-code app highlight overdue jobs, jobs that are incomplete, and all jobs that have a due date before today. You can even configure your app to have a custom view that marks overdue jobs in red or displays a list of only overdue jobs. Using formulas, you can also create a more user-friendly experience that displays your data dynamically and doesn’t require job managers to manually filter tables to get the type of reports they need. Taking formulas to the next level, you can create actions. For example, for each overdue job, you can have your app create a new email that’s pre-populated with a message that job managers can easily edit before sending an update to their supervisors. You can also have your app record the fact that the email was sent and save that data to the job record.  The most powerful use of formulas in no-code apps takes actions to the next level with automation. In the example above, sending out the email required the job manager to spend time customizing and clicking to send and record the email. If you want to reduce this type of manual task (especially ones that might be repetitive) further, you can automate your no-code apps. For example, each morning your app could send the job manager and their supervisor an alert with all newly overdue jobs. The AppSheet platform excels at this kind of workflow automation by managing a complex scenario that triggers an action, helping keep your work moving forward on time and on task. Automated workflows are a powerful feature of declarative no-code development platforms. With declarative no-code apps, you can filter results, display custom views, create helpful actions, and create automated workflows that reduce manual tasks and opportunity for human error.  Here are some tips and best practices to take into account as you build no-code apps: You might already be familiar with expressions if you're a spreadsheet user. Learn a few new rules and you'll hit the ground running.  Filter data using expressions in Security Filters or Slices to make sure your app users experience the best performance and only see data relevant to them. Use expressions as 'Show If' conditions on views, actions and data fields throughout the app to ensure specific app features only appear when relevant to the user. Take advantage of app user details to influence app functionality and make it relevant to the individual app user: USEREMAIL() for detecting who is using the app CONTEXT() for understanding what type of device they're opening it with HERE() to use their location to present nearby entries USERSETTINGS() to apply their custom settings to their app experience (localization) For more ideas on how to create your app using formulas, check out our App Design 101 guide, which walks you through the different types of formulas you can use to build and make the most of your no-code business app. Ready to build? Start AppSheet today for free.

Democratizing App Development with No-code

Businesses today face significant and varied challenges. From streamlining production and communication in an always-on world to satisfying diverse customers, partners, and employees, companies everywhere are grappling with new challenges and pressures. Companies need to do more with less, stretch existing resources, and immediately respond to changing conditions in a world where bad (or even tepid) reviews can spread rapidly.  In today’s environment of disruption (technical and otherwise), the urgency around digital transformation is palpable, and a failure to embrace digital transformation can quickly lead to a failure to stay in business. In response, many enterprises are turning to the cloud, machine learning, and other new tools like no-code application development to maintain velocity, gain control, and improve resilience and revenue. But digital transformations don’t always happen in a vacuum — that is to say, in the IT department. Success depends on empowering every employee with the tools, resources, and knowledge to solve problems at both a team and company level.  No-code development platforms extend the power of software development beyond IT to allow non-technical employees to create customized business applications without writing a single line of code. Equipped with no-code development platforms, “citizen developers” can play larger roles in building apps that help move their teams and companies forward. Unlike low-code development platforms that abstract away most of the complexities of software development, no-code platforms remove all of the technical complexity to allow users to focus on the task at hand – not on writing the code that powers the solution behind the scenes. In this sense, no-code platforms expand the definition of who can be a developer; Gartner predicts that by 2023, the number of “active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times the number of professional developers.” This democratized problem-solving approach can unlock a variety of possibilities for enterprise, including the ability to:  More effectively reuse existing technical assets for new purposes: Value from digital assets is variable, and the same data set can deliver different value depending on how it’s used. For example, data that sits unused, in a database has no value until, for example, an app is created to mine that data for strategic trends and actionable insights. No-code platforms make it easy for all employees to create new applications that recompose existing (and potentially unused) data in new and innovative ways. Combine legacy and modern technologies: Beyond reusing technical assets, no-code development platforms allow users to easily combine legacy and modern technologies to solve existing problems with new insights. For example, information tracked in a spreadsheet can be mined for value — without IT intervention — by using machine learning technologies to produce predictions and trends that can inform and impact strategy. With no-code platforms, anyone can use advanced technologies like machine learning without ever encountering actual code. Unleash untapped workforce talent: Embracing no-code development as an enterprise means embracing the untapped problem-solving potential present in all employees. From marketing and sales to HR and finance, no-code platforms can empower everyone to solve problems at an unprecedented scale by thinking creatively and building their own solutions. When employees can solve their own challenges with customized business applications, IT is free to focus on more complex tasks with overarching needs for the business. Build secure solutions without straining IT: No-code platforms give enterprises the ability to dramatically expand their problem-solving capabilities without putting a strain on IT. But providing employees with tools to create their own apps shouldn’t come with a trade-off that compromises security. Unlike apps that fall under “shadow IT,” no-code platforms like AppSheet ensure enterprise security protections and compliance oversight with administrator control over functionality, documentation, management, and more. When companies provide their employees with IT-sanctioned, no-code development platforms, they empower the entire organization to create secure solutions without relying on IT or putting company data at risk. When the people closest to everyday business challenges are given the tools and resources to solve them, the speed at which a company can move and the number of people working on solutions can both dramatically increase. It’s time to get moving with a no-code development platform like AppSheet.  

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Reducing Technical Debt, the No-code Way

Nearly 80% of Americans currently carry debt. Whether purchasing a home, paying for school, or simply managing the costs of day-to-day living, loans allow people to get something now in exchange for repaying the sum later, with interest. Technical debt, a software development concept coined by Ward Cunningham in 1992, plays on the concept of monetary debt to describe a common trade-off faced by software development teams across the globe: the trade-off of time. Just like one might take out a loan to enter a booming real estate market before being priced out, technical debt is sometimes used as a tool to get ahead when constraints on time outweigh the need for thorough code quality and review. “With borrowed money, you can do something sooner than you might otherwise,” explained Cunningham, “but until you pay back that money, you’ll be paying interest.” Applied to software development, technical debt is incurred to speed time to launch, and “interest payments” most often surface in the form of developer time — and sometimes their subsequent frustration. Shortcuts in development made to quicken a launch can result in insufficient definitions and lack of process, documentation, and testing, as well as delayed refactoring, poor integration, and spec changes. “I thought borrowing money was a good idea, I thought that rushing software out the door to get some experience with it was a good idea,” said Cunningham, “but, of course, you eventually… repay that loan by refactoring the program to reflect your experience as you acquired it.” Like financial debt, technical debt is difficult to fully remediate once incurred, and must be thoughtfully planned for and sustainably addressed to avoid further loss of time, budget, and team morale. Revisiting code to “pay off” technical debt can take days, weeks, or even months of developer time, and the debt can continue to grow if not properly addressed. For example, debt in the form of parallel development can result in weeks of lost hours and reams of useless code. While time and budget are often the most visible indicators of technical debt, employee morale is a more subtle, yet costly consequence, and can affect technical and non-technical employees alike. Technical debt can cause teams to struggle with aligning on business priorities, distributing knowledge across teams, and assigning ownership. If not properly managed, the frustrations caused by technical debt can lead to employee disengagement, dissatisfaction, and eventual turn-over. Furthermore, technical debt can inhibit a company’s ability to plan for the future. Due to the fluid and interconnected nature of software development, fixes meant to take hours can end up taking weeks or months, and developers engaged on forward-looking projects may need to spend their time paying off debt incurred by a previous release. When technical debt spirals in this way, companies become bogged down in the present (and the past), which prevents them from planning for the future. Instead, these companies spend time, money, and employee energy reprogramming buggy code. To reduce the steady attrition of resources incurred by technical debt, companies are turning to a number of solutions, including no-code development platforms. No-code development platforms like AppSheet help to reduce fresh technical debt and mitigate existing debts by equipping every employee with the technology they need to achieve their development goals without sacrificing future time or resources. With a no-code platform, companies: Reduce reliance on legacy code: Legacy code manages to create huge technical debt within organizations, as it must be reworked and integrated into any new app or emerging piece of software. No-code development platforms like AppSheet help to eliminate reliance on legacy code (and the integration issues that come with it) through modern, easy-to-use development tools that not only speed the process of app creation nearly ten fold, but also place the power to create in the hands of every employee – not just those with advanced coding knowledge. Remove trivial items from IT’s plate: IT teams have enough to do already. No-code development platforms empower non-technical employees to solve uncomplicated tasks on their own so that IT can focus on reviewing and eliminating debt for more complicated or legacy code that requires the finesse of expert developers. No-code platforms allow IT to remove themselves from quality assurance and testing so they can focus on reworking fundamental legacy code.  Invest in every employee: No-code development platforms allow companies to build a league of citizen developers — employees who are non-technical but still able to create business apps, given the right tools. While the average salary for software developers is quite high, no-code platforms more affordably provide the power of development to all employees regardless of technical skill to ensure that teams can do more with less as time goes on. Enable app evolution: Apps, particularly those that rely on legacy code, tend to become rigid and outdated over time. No-code development platforms are easily customizable so that apps can fluidly evolve with use. As app use grows and changes, app creators can update their apps quickly — and without technical debt. Technical debt is as common as monetary debt, and is a trade-off that many teams and companies take to quicken time to launch. But by embracing no-code development platforms, companies can reduce their reliance on legacy code and empower every employee to build future-proofed apps that evolve with use — no trade-offs (or debt) required. 

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