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Gwen Chen
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March 20, 2019

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.

M&O

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.

Process design

  • 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.

Deliverables Dashboard

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.”

Learn More About AppSheet


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:

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