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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.

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.

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? 

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?

Using Internal Apps to Prevent Customer Churn

Low customer churn is critical to business success, and is especially urgent during a recession when new customers might be harder to come by. Research indicates that 63% of consumers will abandon a product or service after just one poor experience, underlining that strong customer retention relies on strong customer satisfaction, regardless of the state of the economy. Equipping employees with the tools to build their own custom internal apps is one way businesses are lowering their customer churn by maintaining high customer satisfaction, while also streamlining internal operations to better serve customers throughout the sales and support cycle.  For example, sales and marketing teams are often closest to the customer experience, yet are also often the least well-equipped to improve their own processes with custom app solutions. With the help of no-code development platforms, all process owners (including non-technical employees) can create internal apps that are custom-built to company-specific, team-specific, and even project-specific requirements. Businesses find that internal processes can be improved by the process owners themselves; in addition, data collection and sharing can be digitized for greater accuracy, so the customer ultimately benefits from a smooth experience. Let’s take a closer look at three ways companies are using internal apps to improve customer retention over time: Stay informed Keeping all team members on the same page is critical to reducing customer churn — and to earning the trust of new customers. Internal apps can help teams work together and to present one external voice to the customer by streamlining communications through commenting and workflow reporting. For example, multiple teams working with the same customer or client can add notes to an internal app to ensure that anyone who touches the account fully understands its history and can quickly get up-to-speed without disruption to the consumer.  To maintain a pulse on customer satisfaction, many businesses extend their custom internal apps to identify warning signals for customer dissatisfaction by allowing the app to correlate consumer behavior with information around churn. With no-code development, process owners in sales and marketing can create internal apps that alert them to changes, as triggers can be built in to notify team members when key performance indicators dip into the churn danger zone. Know your customers Customer health scores are critical to maintaining internal tools that predict churn. However, because companies rely on a litany of metrics to create these unique scores, finding an off-the-shelf solution for data collection and analysis can be quite difficult.  No-code platforms are stepping in to allow people and teams to build reliable models that keep data clean in a way that’s customized specifically for them, which results in more accurate trend data over time. Outdated data input systems like pen and paper or digital spreadsheets that introduce human error can be replaced with customized apps that allow for the automatic flow of data from apps like Salesforce or Marketo. The equation behind a customer’s ever-changing health score is honed over weeks, months, and even years, and custom apps are able to flex with these changes while keeping data secure and streamlined. Deliver on time Point-of-sale is only the beginning of the customer journey. Whether it’s goods, services, or a brand promise, businesses must follow through on prompt delivery to maintain customer trust. This is particularly relevant in industries like retail and manufacturing, where inventory management can be a complex task and customers need the ability to track their purchases even before they leave the warehouse. To help simplify and streamline delivery, businesses are turning to customized inventory control apps to track assets, capital, and output.  For example, with no-code development, floor managers can create inventory tracking apps that integrate with barcode and optical character recognition (OCR) scanners, cloud databases, and data visualization to track products in real time. With continual tracking in place, both the company and the consumer can access the exact location of inventory to better ensure an on-time delivery.  Inventory apps can also help reduce manufacturing carrying costs, eliminate waste and delays, and increase worker productivity by providing valuable information on the efficacy of processes and managers. Apps compatible with barcode scanners can record work-in-progress inventory over time, and the accumulated data can be used for anything from cost-benefit analysis to workforce optimization to reducing a product’s time-to-consumer. Preventing customer churn starts with accurate data, and relies on well-informed employees, streamlined processes, and long-term analysis to improve retention. By adopting no-code platforms, companies can greatly increase their ability to prevent customer churn by providing employees with the tools to discover, build, and maintain customer relationships that last far beyond the first sale. Do you have ideas for an app to prevent customer churn? Build your app for free on AppSheet today.

Getting Creative With DIY Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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