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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.  

Are You an App Creator? Take Our Survey.

We love no-code app creators! We're always delighted by the innovative and creative applications built on the AppSheet platform by app creators all around the world. Now, we'd love to hear more from creators about why and how they use no-code development. We invite you to take this short survey, which should take less than five minutes. Your responses will go a long way in helping inform the AppSheet team as we work to bring no-code app development to everyone.

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. 

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 right capabilities 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? 

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?

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

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