Google's Acquisition of AppSheet Signifies Momentum of No-Code Movement

eWEEK DATA POINTS: What it means that Google is purchasing AppSheet, an 8-year-old no-code platform that specializes in enabling users to build apps without having to write any code.

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eWEEK has been researching and reporting on the no-code revolution for several years as enterprises realize they need to put power into the hands of those actually using new-gen applications.

By discarding the huge hurdle of learning a programming language, no-code platforms allow people to create specific solutions to problems that otherwise would have gone unaddressed. For example, departments such as human resources, legal and marketing can create workflow robotic process automation and improve their productivity in hours, not days.

Go here to see eWEEK's Resource Page on No- and Low-Code Development.

What exactly is no-code and low-code development? Glad you asked. No- and low-code development signifies software that's complicated under the hood yet has a user interface simple enough for line-of-business employees to modify and use. With low-code development, non-IT folks can build and customize standard business applications and make them directly relevant to the business they do every day—at their desks or on location somewhere else. Drop-down menus and wizards used in an intuitive fashion are the keys to low-code. Changes are made in real time, so that results can happen in real time.

Google Joins the No-Code Party

Earlier this month, Google joined a growing group of companies that have seen the light. The Mountain View, Calif.-based IT giant announced that it was purchasing AppSheet, an 8-year-old no-code platform that specializes in enabling users to build apps without having to write any code.

The move serves, ultimately, as further validation of the relevance of the no-code movement, which has been gaining momentum inside enterprise companies for some time now. As Google Cloud’s Vice President and Head of Platform Amit Zavery wrote in an announcement of the acquisition, “The demand for faster processes and automation in today’s competitive landscape requires more business applications to be built with greater speed and efficiency.” Platforms such as AppSheet exist to meet that demand, and interest in them by huge IT companies such as Google isn’t surprising.

The acquisition and that interest, however, also shed light on a need within enterprise companies that’s still unmet: the need for customizable solutions that complement and augment the packaged applications atop which most mission-critical internal systems and processes are designed. The fact that the applications we all use today—no-code apps included—still can’t do that has been a nagging problem.

Sagi Eliyahu, CEO of the RPA platform Tonkean, saw this no-code revolution coming back in 2015 and has been ahead of the curve since. In this eWEEK Data Points article, Eliyahu offers his industry experience to explain the nature of that problem, along with why no-code platforms often fall short, and why the next big step in the no-code movement will be the emergence of platforms that can solve it.

Data Point No. 1: The Last Mile Problem

The problem with the apps that companies utilize to drive internal processes today—CRM, ERP, ticketing systems, etc.—is they don’t natively interact with each other. This creates technology gaps and requires employees to complete lots of menial, mind-numbing workarounds to complete every process. This is an issue that is otherwise known as The Last Mile Problem in business operations—or, the inability of the systems and applications we rely on to complete processes or projects end-to-end. Ultimately, The Last Mile Problem greatly stunts the potential productivity of employees and, in turn, the companies they work for.

Data Point No. 2: No-code solutions try to solve The Last Mile Problem.

Increased awareness of—along with increased suffering from—The Last Mile Problem is much of what’s driving the demand to be able to build custom solutions in a way that’s easier and faster, while aligning closer to business needs. No-code solutions try to meet this demand by putting software-making power in the hands of business teams. But these solutions are not silver bullets.

For one thing, there are genuine concerns around whether putting app-making power in the hands of non-technical folks is such a good idea. While it’s possible to command, control and corral no-code development so that users can only “play around” with application creation within defined parameters and policy controls, there’s still an open debate as to whether no-code is always smart code. And there’s also the unavoidable fact that currently available no-code solutions don’t go far enough.

Data Point No. 3: No-code solutions like AppSheet can’t solve The Last Mile Problem.

Expanding the scope of who can build customizable software solutions is a good thing, to an extent. It’s an important step. But these platforms also really only perpetuate the problems that account for the systemic inefficiency most enterprise companies today suffer from: They result in more apps that can’t interact with each other. In turn, they only increase the amount of app fatigue and subscription overload that employees are suffering from.

Data Point No. 4: What’s really needed out of the no-code movement are solutions that not only build apps but that build automation.

In other words, we need software solutions that are capable of adapting to and molding themselves around user behavior, as opposed to the other way around. We need automation platforms that can meet users where they already work without asking them to switch to or toggle between systems they wouldn’t otherwise utilize. We need, in other words, no-code solutions that go beyond apps to truly put people first.

Data Point No. 5: This will be the next big development in the no-code movement.

The next step in the evolution of no-code will be to go from enabling users to build apps to empowering them to build automated workflows. This will emerge as perhaps the only proven way to solve The Last Mile Problem and will coincide with the emergence of ops teams as pivotal players inside organizations, along with “people-first” as a preeminent governing philosophy.

If you have a suggestion for an eWEEK Data Points article, email cpreimesberger@eweek.com.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...