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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 Leave a comment to let us know what you’re building.

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?

Digital Transformation for Utilities: The Flywheel Effect

Has your organization begun its digital transformation process? Are you just starting out or well on your way? No matter your answer, remember that digital transformation refers to an operational state and not a destination. Even organizations that are fully digitized need to continuously explore new and better operations. Digital transformation, in other words, is an ongoing effort much like research and development. The utilities industry needs to be especially ready to adapt and grow. Customer expectations, new technology, and climate change present challenges—and enormous opportunities—for utility companies. Seem daunting? Let's get motivated. Digital transformation promises a massive potential payoff. Utility companies stand to generate performance gains of 20 to 40 percent by implementing new technologies. Read on for the top benefits to digital transformation in the utilities industry. And remember, once your digital programs have started, these benefits become ongoing characteristics that you can improve and grow. Reduced waste Digital transformation helps identify and eliminate areas of waste, both in terms of finances and productivity. Digital lighthouse projects help kick-start and illuminate these benefits so that everyone in your organization gets on board. Lighthouse projects involve setting up a small team that goes through the various departments of your company and analyzes the various ways they conduct their work. This digital analysis uncovers inefficient practices or problems areas in your business that you can then implement digital solutions toward. Once a lighthouse project succeeds, digital transformation tends to work like a flywheel by gaining momentum with each new project. Improved visibility Digital transformation can also be a remarkable learning experience for utility companies. One you've identified how different departments operate, implementing new technologies can be an empowering experience for both the workers and the management team. For instance, imagine sending a task force to interview a group of engineers and see how they work. In addition to potentially identifying new technologies, it’s a great opportunity for management to check in and find out what actually happens on across the business. This can produce invaluable feedback that can help improve operations. Agility to get the job done Digital disruptors entering the industry put traditional utilities companies at risk. Embracing digital transformation is a great way to stay agile and nimble enough to pivot and capitalize on new opportunities. No-code platforms create flexible, agile, and powerful technological solutions for businesses. Workers, project managers, and IT professionals create applications that provide standardization while allowing immense customization and options. Employees get tools they need to complete jobs quicker and from anywhere. A key factor in job completion is getting the data recorded and then entered into the system. Often, that might involve workers having to transport paper documents to computers or offices. With mobile applications, workers can record and upload data directly to the server from their phone, cutting out a lot of the legwork. Improved customer experience  Utility companies that undergo digital transformation also have the opportunity to become customer experience (CX) leaders — a strong differentiator in a field that typically ranks very low in customer satisfaction reports. Successful utility companies use a combination of data, smart devices, intelligent apps, and more to provide stellar customer service that translates into stronger experiences. Customer experience is often based around response time, ease of use, and transparency. When workers have more freedom and power to complete their jobs efficiently, customers enjoy quicker and more reliable service. Everyone wins.

Improving Construction Safety

Construction sites can be dangerous. Construction work, by nature, is also physical work. And depending on the type of construction job, employees are often working under conditions where there's a potential to be harmed. According to the OSHA, one in every five worker deaths happens in construction. The top causes of private sector construction fatalities include electrocution, getting struck by an object, and getting caught between objects. These accidents cause 59.9 percent of construction-related deaths. Clearly, worker safety is a very serious matter for construction companies. Providing workers with the proper safety mechanisms can literally be a matter of life and death. To maintain safe working conditions, a growing number of companies are using mobile apps to streamline construction safety. Apps can act as critical liaisons between administrators, field managers, and workers, helping teams share important safety-related information in a way that is fast, convenient, and reliable. Recent advancements in no-code development have also made it possible for construction teams to design, develop, and deploy apps in a way that is easy and affordable. With that in mind, here are some of the top ways that apps can help improve construction safety. Communicating with teams Construction workers are often dispersed across large physical distances, whether they’re in tall buildings, massive warehouses, or enormous lots. Work is usually autonomously performed outside of the sight of a direct manager. Site managers and administrators can use apps to issue critical weather or safety-related alerts, reducing the need to track down employees manually across construction zones. Issuing reminders Injuries can happen when employees get careless about safety requirements. For example, workers may be inclined to remove helmets, gloves, or goggles from time to time. A crew may head into a work zone without enough water during a heat wave. As such, safety reminders should be sent on an ongoing basis to avoid unnecessary lapses in protocol.  Managers can use apps to transmit digital reminders on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Managers can also embed digital signature requests to notifications, requiring workers to sign off on important safety checks. These workflows protect both the workers and the company. Improving transparency Site managers are typically responsible for overseeing many workers. It’s important to have a solid understanding of where workers are and what they are doing. However, tracking can be tricky when using non-digital management systems. Apps can be used to communicate team locations and project updates, allowing managers to see exactly where all of their workers are across different sites at any point. For example, a manager could use an app to receive a notification whenever someone from the team enters into a high-risk situation, such as working in a fall zone or transporting heavy or dangerous items. Sharing emergency information No matter how much precaution you take, accidents happen. At some point, something will go wrong and a manager will need to take action.  One challenge facing construction teams is tracking down emergency contacts — especially when working at a remote site away from computers or employee files. Mobile apps can help here, too, by serving as a database where employees can enter family or medical contacts and add notes related to health issues and allergies. Having easy access to this information can be very helpful when emergency action is needed. These are just a few ways that apps can be used to improve construction safety. AppSheet, for instance, offers a sample Safety Reporting App that teams can use to report and log accidents. Check out the construction safety reporting app here: AppSheet also allows you to build custom apps using your company’s data. To experience the power of agile no-code development, try AppSheet today for free.

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