Looking back at the fifth week of Google Next OnAir event. The last week of Next OnAir was dominated by the renewal of the application landscape. A necessary action to make your company agile so that you can respond quickly to changing market conditions. Is someone calling Covid 19?
But there’s more. The entire pandemic has accelerated our migration to the digital world. And that immediately puts pressure on your existing business model. Are your products still the right products for the new world? And do you offer them multichannel? Can they also be reached for those who have already switched completely to a digital world? For those who, as it were, only live and act on the internet?
It will be quite a challenge for any company to simultaneously implement these two movements – renewing your existing application landscape but also fitting in with the new digital society.
And Google wants to help with this in various ways. By providing you with the necessary tooling to make it easier to achieve your development goals.
Today we zoom in on the new Business Application Platform, which Google introduced for the first time this summer.
The Holy Grail: Application Modernization
From day one, the new way of working was central to Google. After all, they were born in the cloud. And also faced challenges that no one had experienced before. How do I build a search system for global use that is constantly growing and can only survive if the answers are relevant and immediately available?
Development was therefore one of Google’s core activities from day one. And although – unlike Microsoft – they have deliberately kept away from typical business applications such as CRM and ERP, Google still sees a very important role for itself in the development of new applications. This applies to both the heavy development efforts and what is colloquially known as end user computing. For the latter environment, there was already some tooling available to help you with this. But what was still missing was an overarching story.
Business Application Platform: the next big thing?
With the announcement this summer of the Business Application Platform, a somewhat colorless name after Kubernetes, Istio or Anthos, that gap has been closed. Under this heading, Google brings together three products: Apigee, Appsheet and Looker.
With this platform they want to make it easier for companies to build and maintain applications, to design and automate business processes and to connect and modernize legacy applications. And that is mainly possible because Google not only bundles those three products, but also delivers a series of game-changing tools.
In the first place, this is AI, which certainly plays a crucial role in two ways in the Appsheet environment. In the background in your Appsheet environment which allows you to write intuitive programs without any code knowledge, but also in the solution itself because there you can use a series of Google AI modules to simplify the input or processing of data. Just think of Speech to Text to automatically launch actions from your App, or Document AI to pars automatic information in documents and write the data correctly.
And of course the new platform also contains the necessary tools to manage and secure your environment.
In summary. With the Business Application Platform you as a company get access to tooling so that you:
- can use services, data and functionality in a consistent manner despite the complex background with APIs;
- enables employees to quickly build data-driven applications without having to use any coding;
- simplify the integration and extension of applications and the automation of business processes;
- gives users the opportunity to gain insights from data with a self-service tool such as Looker;
The announcement of the new platform also accompanied the rollout of a series of new solutions:
- API gateway, a managed service available in beta that allows developers to build, secure, and monitor APIs for Google Cloud workloads and serverless backends. API Gateway allows developers to secure and manage their APIs built on Compute Engine, GKE, App Engine and serverless backends (Cloud Functions and Cloud Run), without having to write code for different endpoints or worry about the infrastructure configuration or scalability. And with API gateway, the Apigee platform is now also available for the SME market due to its pricing.
- Worldwide availability of Apigee data source for AppSheet, allowing AppSheet users to use Apigee APIs to build apps without writing any code. Offering this functionality dramatically expands the number of possible data sources which can help dixit Google to reduce the backlog on IT;
- The rollout of AppSheet Automation in alpha, enabling ordinary users to automate scalable business processes by leveraging different data sources. Built around an intuitive interface that provides contextual suggestions based on natural language input, AppSheet Automation combines the power of AI and no code, allowing users to build rich apps as well as powerful automations within the same unified platform;
And there is still a lot of extra functionalities to come. Over the next 12 months, efforts to support multi-cloud and hybrid deployment models and further integrate Machine Learning modules will be ramped up. There will be a focus on more support for serverless workloads and there are still actions in the pipeline regarding additional security. I am very curious about what the product and the market for the product will look like within a year.
Business Application Platform: an initial evaluation
From experience I have become quite critical for End User Computer solutions. All too often they turn out to be too complex for ordinary users in practice. And they create a landscape that is still difficult to oversee. And even less to manage and control. My memories are filled with incidents. For budgets in Excel that turned out to be completely wrong after a few months in the new year due to programming errors. To environments that when the users could no longer use them without much boo or bah and especially without any documentation were passed on to the IT department. No. I usually didn’t think the suds were worth the cabbage.
And that was no different when Google itself a few years ago with Appmaker for the pins. A development tool for end users that required several days of training? And still required some knowledge of databases? I was therefore not really surprised that it never had a breakthrough and Google announced that it will be overhauled in early 2021.
But in recent years the advance of No and Low code solutions has been unmistakable. By 2023, the number of active no-code developers at large enterprises will be at least four times that of professional developers by Dixit Gartner. And after solutions from companies such as Mendix and Outsystems, almost all SaaS and cloud players have their own solution in offer or in development. Are we on the night before the big breakthrough? Will the new solutions fulfill the promises of the past decades?
After seeing the Appsheet demo on Next OnAir, my answer is unequivocally yes. Automation of the automation seems to work perfectly here. Now, to frame the story correctly, I have to tell you that we are talking about front end development here. And about automating simple business processes for people who are limited computer users. So we are not talking about the development of ERP solutions here.
The application shown on Next OnAIr was the one for processing quality controls in the field. And it is difficult to raise a lot of discussion about returns and possibilities. After a little effort, you will have an application that is not only super easy to use, but above all has significantly improved the work for both the employee on site and in the back office. Faster, more accurate, easier to implement. Where the AI components clearly make the difference.
If you want to see the Appsheet demo, you can find the video here.
An Appsheet success story in Belgium
The above all sounds too good to be true. And the Appsheet demo is impressive, I hear you say, but aren’t demos always? But what about practice? Do you have a reference closer to home? And who can really present a complete implementation story?
And yes, there is.
Solvay has been a major Google customer for years, but has never given much publicity to it until now. However, Solvay appeared in the Google references for a few weeks with – to my surprise – a hefty Appsheet implementation.
It’s a classic story. Every company is looking for a tool to automate simple processes quickly. Via the normal route – the IT department – these assignments usually do not weigh heavily enough to be high enough on the priority list. But on the floor they can really make a world of difference.
Solvay’s first Appsheet application fully fits this story. An application to support inspection rounds on the plant. The data is registered on a tablet and, if required, additional information (such as procedures or photos) can be requested. And at the conclusion of the inspection round, the control room is automatically informed of any anomalies.
And it has all but stayed with that one story. Today, Solvay already has more than 1,000 Appsheet applications in use worldwide. These were built by an international team of 400 citizen developers (say end users) and used in the field by more than 4,000 employees. In addition, these systems are an integral part of the operation of the Solvay environment. Some of those information flows now feed the group’s ERP and MES systems.
The importance of Solvay as a reference can hardly be overestimated. Solvay is a Seveso company and is therefore subject to very strict compliance regulations. And then a product like Appsheet that allows your employees to build an application and put it into production in a few hours does not seem obvious.
Yet that is what actually happened today. That this is possible is because the application conforms to Google
standards is “secure by design” and can be perfectly adapted to their standard management model and their Cloud operations.
If you want to read the whole story, here is the Google reference file.
A recognizable story not? Every company has a series of business processes that are specific to that company. Which cannot or cannot be easily and especially not economically implemented within the existing application landscape. That are not at the top of the list of priorities for the internal development team. But those that would significantly improve the lives of everyone involved if they were automated. With Appsheet you already have an application that can make that happen. And if Google manages to further enrich this platform in the short term as they now announce, this is guaranteed to be a game changer. For Google, this will be The Next Big Thing. And one that we would like to help many companies achieve.