Human-centric automation with AppSheet
A few months after AppSheet was acquired by Google Cloud we announced that we were extending our no-code capabilities to include a new way to empower citizen developers- AppSheet Automation.
While the team is hard at work iterating on this offering, I was recently able to have a conversation with one of the Product Managers leading this effort - Prithpal Bhogill. In the conversation below we discuss what AppSheet Automation is, how it’s used, and when you can start using it.
JC: Let’s get started with the big question - what is AppSheet's automation?
PB: Simply put, automation is the use of technology to eliminate manual steps in typical business processes (eg: Employee On-boarding, Expense Approvals etc) and make your business run more efficiently. Automation is the key enabler of digital transformation.
With AppSheet, automation is an extension of the no-code capabilities that so many organizations have begun to implement as part of their digital transformation. It’s intent-aware, modular and allows creators the ability to activate powerful automations - in addition to their no-code applications - all on the same unified platform. This part of the no-code evolution enables you to automate common business processes and document based workflows that are often time consuming by quickly configuring bots that listen to events and execute processes.
JC: You used the terms “intent aware”, “unified” and “modular”, can you explain what that means for our citizen developers who aren’t as familiar with this space?
PB: Let’s break it down into the three parts starting with Intent-aware. AppSheet as a platform uses the power of Google AI and Natural Language Processing to understand your data model (eg: employee), what you are trying to automate (eg: employee onboarding) and will surface relevant suggestions for bots, events and processes - minimizing the clicks and configuration required to create your automation.
For eg: When you type in “Employee Onboarding” during the automation bot creation, the platform detects that the employee data model has a column “Email” and offers up suggestions (completely configured bots) that are relevant. It can automatically populate complex expressions thereby reducing the amount of time the application creator has to spend setting up the automation.
Next up is “unified” The no-code nature of the platform allows anyone to create both applications and automations within the same product rather than from separate products as is the case with some other solutions in this space. The application creator can use the same application editor that they use to design application experiences, to configure bots, events and processes. This allows them to create powerful automations that include rich approvals and intelligent document processing (more on that later).
Finally, “modular” Modularity is a key design principle of AppSheet, and this is not to be confused with the drag and drop elements that you see in low-code platforms. Events, Processes, and Tasks (steps inside of processes) are all reusable components - saving valuable development time. That means you can reuse events and processes in various bots and tasks in various processes.
JC: We're in the early stages of this release, any particular business need that you’ve seen really benefit from this thus for?
PB: Anything related to approvals has been quite popular, especially because of what we call document AI, or document processing. Think order approvals, invoice requests, employee management, etc.
JC: Ok, I know we have some really incredible work happening behind the scenes. Is there anything you’re particularly proud of that you want to highlight for our audience?
PB: Document AI, or intelligent document processing, is a really powerful part of the intelligence behind automation. The best way to think of it is the extraction of content from an unstructured document. To take it a step further, the intelligence capabilities of AppSheet will automatically extract useful content from document files that are stored as a PDF, GIF or TIFF files. Pdfs of invoices or receipts that need approvals are one of the best ways to see how automation leverages document AI.
JC: One final question for you - where can those that are interested go to get started?
There are two places, both serving separate needs. The first is our Creator Community. We’ve created a special channel where those that are interested can engage with others leveraging this capability. This channel is also a great place to provide feedback and let us know what’s working and what you’d like to see. The second is your AppSheet account. We’ll be rolling this out over time so not everyone will be able to access it right away, but once you see the Automation tab appear in your navigation bar, you can dig in.
February 04, 2021