As offices reopen, businesses aren’t keeping to a single formula. Many are embracing hybrid models, with employees splitting time between home and the office. Some are staying 100% remote. Others are returning the full workforce to offices with a greater focus on digitization.
Regardless of their model, one thing is certain: technology is more central than ever to organizations’ ability to work smarter and more effectively. In particular, organizations need technology that can be tailored to specific business needs. For example, a retail store manager may need a way to ensure improved sanitation practices, or office workers may need to create an app to manage desk reservations.
Google Workspace can help by bringing together everything you need to get things done, all in one place—including the ability to build custom apps and automations with AppSheet. AppSheet, Google Cloud’s no-code development platform, lets employees–even those with no programming experience–reclaim their time and talent by building custom apps and automations.
Building solutions with AppSheet is often easier and faster than traditional coding, as AppSheet leverages Google’s machine learning expertise to help you quickly go from idea to solution, helping your business to match the pace and agility that today’s landscape requires. In this article, we’ll explore how you can use AppSheet to create custom solutions that will help your business adapt to shifting business needs. To illustrate, we’ll focus on a use case many businesses face: reservation and management of meeting rooms and other office resources, but this process can easily be adapted for a wide variety of use cases, from apps for retail pickup to incident reporting and more.
Simplify and centralize with apps
The first thing to consider is whether your solution would be best managed via a custom interface. If you’re trying to simplify a process for someone, such as inspections or inventory tracking, or centralize information, such as resource portals or events calendars, creating a custom app is the way to go.
For this example app, we created a simple Google Sheetto hold our backend data. Sheets are ideal backend data sources when we know the amount of data will not grow exponentially, especially when piloting to a first office or group of users. We can switch our data seamlessly at any time to a scalable Google Cloud SQL database or other database if needed.
The example app has several worksheets to manage the different buildings, rooms, checkpoints and people (including their roles).
We can build an app in AppSheet directly from our Sheet by selecting Tools > AppSheet > Create an App.
After creating our app, we see an overview of the data that we’ve connected, how pieces of data relate to each other, the views that are presented to the user, and a live interactive preview of the app. Refining the app is intuitive. When you input keywords, for instance, AppSheet surfaces appropriate functionality options that can be further customized. If we have address or location data, it’s automatically turned into a map view that we can further customize.
Our office management app will offer building managers and cleaners administrative features for managing equipment, disinfection schedules, and maintenance information, and it will also offer views for employees to check occupancy and safely reserve desks and equipment.
Opening an office and then a room in the app gives us an overview of both the floorplan and the occupancy and reservations for spaces and equipment in the room.
Users can then reserve spaces and equipment in the app, without having to first search for a form or page in the intranet, or even log onto their work computer. The reservation is an automation routine in AppSheet, which performs pre-configured actions when triggered.
As illustrated in the screenshot above, when the action is triggered either by pressing a button in the app, scanning a QR code, or tapping an RFC tag, the action simply sets the “Reserved by” and “Reserved at” columns to the current user and timestamp.
Streamline with automations
AppSheet Automation, which was recently made generally available, makes it possible to reduce repetitive tasks and streamline processes even further.
In this example, one challenge you may encounter is that users often forget to release a desk or resource when they’re finished, which means those reservations stay blocked until an administrator releases all blocked reservations. However, it’s also important that resources aren’t immediately released, as they first need to be cleaned and disinfected before being made available to new users.
AppSheet Automation can solve this challenge by periodically checking all resources that have been reserved for longer than four hours, then alerting the user to either re-reserve them or release them to be cleaned. If there is no answer, the automation can trigger the resources to be cleaned, then released.
We can configure this as a recurring event, and create a bot that sends the notifications and triggers actions based on the user input (or lack of input).
Optimize for multiple roles
Creating an app for one user is one thing–creating an app that fits the needs of multiple types of users is another. AppSheet has you covered for this kind of complexity because it lets you build multiple roles into a single app.
In our office management app, for example, the office manager can have a particular view and dashboard, and workers in the office can have their own views and functionalities front and center. This makes it possible to automate tasks for all types of users with a single app.
Likewise, AppSheet Automation lets you easily react to real-time changes in data, send notifications to groups of users, and initiate additional workflows using data shared between the app and the users. If a group needs to reserve a conference space for an important late-breaking meeting, for example, there might be ripple effects across a number of user groups. The ability to automate all these updates and interactions can ultimately save a lot of time and effort.
AppSheet also supports advanced features such as QR codes, NFC, and bluetooth sensor integration. This could help users check into locations or workspaces, further streamlining the task of helping people safely navigate and collaborate within the office.
Mission critical solutions, faster than ever
In the past, the type of app explored in this article would have required a central data store, distribution to specific groups of users, management and dashboard capabilities, as well as smartphone sensor integration for NFC and image capturing. This would have necessitated a mammoth implementation project and a team of professional coders.
But with no-code, you can effectively design and implement these requirements in hours and days rather than months and years. Changes can be made on the fly in any browser, including pushing out new versions to users. Though AppSheet opens up app building and digital automations to any knowledge worker, it also includes robust security and governance controls, ensuring that as you manage getting employees back into office, you don’t neglect IT security.
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