Editor’s Note: This is the second article in our feature series about low-code/no-code tools being offered by Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.
As the ability to process, analyze and act upon data becomes more vital to enterprises’ lines of business, the demand for hands-on applications and tools is going up. More employees want greater hands-on ability to use tools to help with very specific aspects of their jobs. Enter low-code and no-code tools.
Low-code/no-code tools allow non-programmers to develop business workflow applications via drag-and-drop interfaces. This allows users to craft tools that reflect specific data inquiries and workflow processes; they can also integrate their low-code/no-code-crafted programs into larger business processes.
For example, using a low-code or no-code tool, a marketing professional could set up an app that automatically files a qualified lead in a customer database and then triggers a series of targeted communications if certain events happen.
Several big players in tech are now offering low-code/no-code tools tied into their cloud service offerings. Here is what Google is offering.
What is Google’s approach?
In a word: Acquisition. In January 2020. Google announced that it had acquired AppSheet, a Seattle-area startup offering a no-code application development platform that Forrester had called out for superlative features in “mobile app development, data design, application scaling, and documentation generation.”
The buy helped Google Cloud Platform bulk out its no-code development, workflow automation, application integration and API management for cloud-based business processes.
Note: In contrast to Microsoft’s moniker of low-code for their Power Apps platform, Google uses the term no-code when they talk about its Google AppSheet offering.
Although Google is just really getting started with their no-code platform compared to Microsoft’s longer history around these capabilities, they do have the ability to connect and collect data wherever it resides in the cloud.
What kind of interface does Google’s no-code tool have?
The Google AppSheet service is available through a web browser-based interface. The first step in trying out and using this low-code/no-code offering is to sign-in with a cloud storage provider account; Google AppSheet’s default list includes services from Google, Microsoft, Smartsheet, Dropbox, Salesforce, and Box.
Even after the cloud storage account is connected to Google AppSheet, user data remains in the cloud storage provider. That means data migration is not a requirement for using Google’s no-code app service.
Apps are built using templates and can combine data into one single AppSheet app using data from multiple sources; users are not restricted to just one database for mobile app content. This provides significant flexibility for the business process supported by the app.
The building process of a Google AppSheet app consists of eight key steps:
- Prepare the data: This includes selecting the data to be used with the AppSheet platform. Ensuring that data is properly labelled and categorized helps AppSheet understand that data for presentation in the intended app being built.
- Connect the data source to AppSheet: Select the specific spreadsheet or database file that will be used as the data in the app. As noted above, the data remains in its original cloud storage location and is not migrated to the Google Cloud Platform.
- Refine how data is used in the app: Once the data source is connected to AppSheet, the app will be automatically generated using the column header fields in your data source. From here, properties of each data column can be edited. Slices – smaller segments of the overall data – can then be created from the main data source.
- Tweak the data presentation for the app: Custom views of data from the main source can be formatted to present as dynamic tables, charts, calendars, galleries, and other options. Each AppSheet UI can have up to five viewing options for the data it is accessing for display. The app can be further customized with company branding and formatting options for the overall display aesthetics of the app.
- Add actions, workflows, and reports: These actions make the app functional so that data can be navigated and modified. Workflows are like trigger situations to send off communications, data edits, or updates to the app’s data. Reports can be automated to send out custom reports.
- Establish app security: Requirements such as user credentials, third party authentication tools, and advanced user-based security help keep company data secure while on mobile in the app.
- Test the app: Invite key users to test the app and verify its functionality. Invitations to try the app include all the necessary instructions on how to access the app on a mobile device or in a web browser.
- Deploy the app: Once the app is tested, it can be deployed and the AppSheet interface will begin tracking its usage.
Do enterprises need to have existing cloud contracts or subscriptions to access the low-code/no-code tools?
Google offers AppSheet in a three-tiered subscription service – two tiers for individual users and a third option for businesses which requires a sales call to determine pricing. The baseline subscription is $5 per month/per user for Premium and $10 per month/per user for Pro. Google clarified this point during our research, indicating that any individual AppSheet app user could potentially use any number of apps built under the service and the fee for that one user would be $5 or $10 per month based on their subscription tier. Google also pointed out that any number of apps can be built on AppSheet on any of these three subscriptions tiers.
Use of Google’s AppSheet service is not contingent on using any Google Cloud Platform (GCP) subscription, and it doesn’t offer a price break – GCP customers still pay the standard subscription fees.
How many app integrations/connectors are available? What are they?
Google AppSheet has two categories of connectors to gain access to your data and services in an AppSheet app.
The first group are cloud databases and tables. These connections tie data from existing cloud storage services and make them accessible to AppSheet for inclusion into apps.
There are currently 17 connectors listed for Google AppSheet including:
- Google Cloud SQL
- Google Sheets
- AWS DynamoDB
- Microsoft Excel
- Amazon Redshift
- Google Calendar
- Microsoft SQL Server
- Google Sheets and Forms
Note that data from these other services remain in their original location and are updated via the app in that cloud storage location.
The second category of connectors for Google AppSheet are called Integrations. These connectors allow an app to be connected to external services for APIs, chatbots, communication workflows, barcode scanning, maps, and similar services.
These integrations include:
- Amazon Cognito
- Google Maps
- AWS S3
More information about these connectors and integrations are available from the Google AppSheet website.
What kind of apps can be made with this low-code/no-code offering?
There are nearly 100 app samples available for Google’s AppSheet that can be copied and customized to build apps on the service. These app samples cover more than 20 industries and functions.
Some of the sample apps available include:
- Client expense tracking
- Stock management using barcode scanning
- Package delivery management
- Quote and Proposal
- Sales lead tracking
- Event expense tracker
- Employee training
Of course, since data is the key element of any AppSheet app, the type of app which can be built is completely driven by the source data.
To get started, learn more in the Google AppSheet web portal and in the AppSheet Help Center.