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AppSheet Adoption Blueprint

How to create a citizen-developer culture by standardizing on AppSheet

AppSheet helps IT departments achieve the complementary objectives of order and flexibility. By enabling everyone to develop their own digital solutions, AppSheet allows processes to be digitized rapidly at an organization-wide level, and customized to the needs of end users. Meanwhile, the platform gives IT the ability to quickly deliver high-quality solutions, gain increased insights into the processes used throughout the organization, and implement the governance policies that ensure compliance.

Read our full blueprint on how IT leaders can build and manage a vibrant citizen developer culture at their organizations. Read on or jump ahead to the following sections:

  1. The need for business-user led development
  2. Align leadership and create a project team
  3. Establish governance teams, policies, and processes
  4. Empower app creators
  5. Conclusion

The need for business-user led development

The digital revolution has arrived in full force. Technology has transformed the way work is done and digital transformation is needed not only for organizations to differentiate, but simply to survive. Amidst this digital frenzy, new-fangled, out-of-the-box solutions are emerging right and left touting amazing results and solutions to every problem. Some organizations have welcomed these solutions with open arms, and as a result have become overwhelmed with disparate and unwieldy tech stacks. Others have chosen the conservative route, clinging to their outdated central ERP and CRM systems. Finally, some have decided to develop solutions in house, which requires an army of developers to digitize all the processes they’re running. Despite the various efforts to go digital, these inflexible solutions do not allow organizations to keep up with the fast-paced, ever-changing digital landscape. Important processes are still tracked via spreadsheets, email, and even pen and paper.

AppSheet changes this.

AppSheet puts the power of development in the hands of the everyday worker. By enabling everyone to develop their own digital solutions, it allows processes to be digitized rapidly, at an organization-wide level, customized perfectly to the needs of the end users. Finally, AppSheet gives IT the ability to quickly deliver high-quality solutions, gain increased insights into the processes used throughout the organization, and implement the governance policies necessary to ensure compliance.

This blueprint will show you how your organization can adopt and standardize application development on AppSheet. Having helped others through this transformation, we’ve seen the pitfalls to avoid and the opportunities to pursue. By following this guide, you can completely transform and elevate the way your organization works.

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AppSheet Adoption Blueprint

The AppSheet Adoption Blueprint focuses on three key pillars:

  1. Leadership Oversight & Project Team
  2. Governance Teams, Policies, and Processes
  3. Empowered App Creators

Project Teams & Leadership Oversight entails setting up and managing the transition to a citizen-developer ecosystem. This pillar involves creating the appropriate committees to oversee the transition, obtaining leadership buy-in, driving cultural change from the top, setting goals and priorities, and managing the rollout.

Governance Teams, Policies, and Processes focuses on the role of the IT Governance Team. This includes setting up the team and governance structure, defining the application lifecycle processes and security, compliance, business, data policies, and setting up the appropriate reporting structure.

Empowered App Creators show you how to provide your organization with the tools and knowledge needed to develop effective applications. This pillar covers ensuring a uniform feature set, training and onboarding, community and collaboration, resource sharing and integrations, and support.

The AppSheet Adoption Blueprint will walk through each of these sections, as outlined below.

adoption blueprint

 

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Align leadership and create a project team

Standardizing on AppSheet requires proper planning and change management. It isn’t enough just to implement the technology. This transformation requires buy-in and direction from the top and a shift the cultural mindset within your organization.

Stakeholder buy-in

Obtaining leadership buy-in is vital when creating a culture of citizen-led development. This culture often requires close collaboration between IT and the business units, which makes it essential that all leadership can clearly articulate the vision and plan.

We’ve seen that stakeholder buy-in typically falls into two categories: change advocates and decision makers.

Change advocates are stakeholders who need to be aware of the change, but do not need to be involved in the decision-making process. They should be able to clearly articulate why the organization is making this transition. For these stakeholders, having buy-in and a shared vision is key. It is also important they believe in the plan and encourage others to use AppSheet.

Decision makers are stakeholders who should have a say in the implementation of AppSheet. This includes IT, digital transformation teams, and many of the business units within the organization. Depending on the organization, it may be necessary to set up a steering committee or executive advocacy team when implementing AppSheet.

Thorough stakeholder mapping is essential when implementing this software. The project team should identify all stakeholders that will be affected by the changes, which category they fall into, and what decisions they will need to make.

Project Team

The project team is responsible for rolling out AppSheet to the organization and ensuring the blueprint is followed appropriately. This team creates the roadmap to drive implementation and adoption of the software and execute against it. They should work closely with other stakeholders, especially IT.

Regular communication with leadership is necessary in order to drive decision making and ensure alignment. The project team will help set up the governance team and will work with them to align on the appropriate policies and processes. Often, members of the project team are also part of the governance team. Finally, they will need to ensure the proper channels and processes are set up to enable the app creator community within the organization.

Goals and priorities

Goals and priorities should be defined early, before implementation begins. This will improve adoption and enhance everyone’s experience. When setting your goals and priorities, you will want to consider answering some of the following questions.

  1. What will success look like?
  2. How do we see our organization using AppSheet?
  3. How will we know we have succeeded?
  4. What are our biggest priorities with this rollout?
  5. What are the most important metrics we want to track?

When setting goals, it is important to consider both macro and micro goals. Macro goals are the goals that are most important and relevant to the overall success of standardizing on AppSheet. Here are a few examples of macro goals:

Usage Goals: Usage goals indicate adoption, which helps you understand how effectively your organization is transforming. Potential goals may include the number of app creators, the number of business units within app creators, number of applications developed, and the number of employees and partners using AppSheet applications.

Application Goals: If there are certain applications that are crucial to your organization’s success, you may want to set goals to develop and deploy those apps within a certain timeframe. Identifying the most important needs and use cases early on will help you prioritize and develop them first. Be sure to decide what success will look like and how it will be measured for each of these applications.

Money and Time Savings: The AppSheet platform provides endless possibilities for ways your organization can save time and money. As a result, it can be difficult to accurately calculate those savings. However, there are still useful goals you can set around these metrics. If you’ve identified some of the major applications you would like to develop, you can calculate the time and money you plan to save by creating and implementing them. If there are out-of-the-box software solutions you plan to replace, you can calculate money saved by replacing them.

Micro Goals are smaller goals that, while are important to the overall success of AppSheet in your organization, are not the key measurements you are focusing on. For most of the components of the AppSheet Adoption blueprint, you can identify associated goals and measurements.

For instance, if you will be creating an internal AppSheet community, you may want to set a goal for engagement on the community or number of members. When you’re setting up the AppSheet governance team, you may want to set metrics around that teams’ productivity and effectiveness.

Culture Shift

As powerful as any technology may be, it will fall flat if an organization does not have a culture that embraces it. A successful cultural shift must occur from all sides and will not occur by simply providing the technology to everyone.

From the top downLeadership advocacy is critical to successfully create a digitally enabled culture. Leadership must be bought into the vision and technology early and must accept that processes will change.

From the ground up – Giving everyone access to the software must occur if we want people to adopt it. In addition, support, trainings, and resources must be supplied so users can learn it.

From the sides in – People often look to their peers to understand what is culturally acceptable. Many will be resistant to change until they see it being used successfully by their colleagues. Identifying champions (people who are huge proponents of Appsheet) and creating a community is crucial for adoption. There must be individuals who are passionate about the technology to set an example of what can be accomplished.

While several of these points will be covered in more detail in the Empowered App Creators section of this blueprint, it is important to consider the overall adoption strategy by the leadership team. When considering culture shift, leadership and the project team should decide what they want their digitally enabled culture to look like and how they’re going to achieve it.

Some helpful resources we often use when considering culture shift are as follows:

  1. Harvard Business Review, "Digital Transformation Is Not About Technology"
  2. Harvard Business Review, "Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate"
  3. Boston Consulting Group, "It’s Not a Digital Transformation Without a Digital Culture"
  4. Boston Consulting Group, "How to Drive a Digital Transformation: Culture Is Key"
  5. Esterman, Bonnet, McAffe, "Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation"

Rollout

Creating a project timeline and deciding how you will roll out the AppSheet platform will drive all the later components of the blueprint. We have typically seen two types of rollout structures.

Rollout by Business Unit

The plan here is to roll out the technology, business unit by business unit. Since digital mindset can vary greatly from unit to unit, it is best to identify those that are most open to adopting new technologies and starting there. Build momentum by rolling the platform out to the most digitally ready business units, so by the time it is rolled out to the more-resistant units there is already an organization-wide shift toward using the platform.

As an example, a large manufacturing company of 20,000+ employees decided to roll out AppSheet to their manufacturing facilities first. They started with the facilities that were most excited to use the software and ended with those less willing. The momentum built so quickly that the laggards were asking to use the software before it was even officially rolled out to them.

You may also want to take demand for internal IT resources into consideration. Giving these business units early access to the platform may help free up IT’s time sooner.

Rollout all at once

Rolling out all at once entails providing access to the platform, training, community, resources and support at once. While this plan can be faster, be aware that it is much riskier. Issues may not have been surfaced before rollout, and issues that would have been small during the unit by unit rollout may be exacerbated in the all-at-once rollout. For this reason, we recommend you set up a test group prior to the organization-wide rollout in order to work through potential issues.

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Establish governance teams, policies, and processes

Creating a citizen-developer organization does not mean giving business units free range to develop and deploy whatever they want to whomever they want. You’ll want to establish proper guardrails and processes prior to deployment to ensure all AppSheet apps are compliant, secure, and governable by a central team.

Governance refers to the amount of control and oversight IT will have over the app development process. It can vary widely from organization to organization based on culture, organizational structure, and priorities. Here, we’ll highlight the basic components of the governance structure that you will want to consider.

Position individual and team apps as a self-serve tool

To create a citizen-developer community, you’ll need to grant employees access to the AppSheet platform and give them the ability to use it as a self-serve tool. They need to feel they can freely explore the platform and build small-scale applications for their teams, without having to involve IT every step of the way. Allowing users to create applications truly empowers them to enable innovation everywhere and helps identify where large-scale apps will be most useful.

Require IT oversight for large-scale applications

For large-scale applications, you can set policies that require IT oversight. For these applications, IT can work more closely with the business units to develop applications that both meet the needs of the business and are compliant with IT policies.

Set policies to ensure compliance

Compliance with governmental regulations is an important piece of every business. Failure to comply with such regulations can be devastating. In addition, managing security and user access is of the utmost importance and can often be difficult to manage. These issues can both be managed through the AppSheet platform.

Business and data policies

In addition to security and compliance, each organization has business and data policies that need to be enforced. Examples of these may include managing data, ensuring applications can run properly offline, and preventing applications’ users from deleting data.

In the rest of this section, we will delve deeper into what that structure look like and what we’ve found to be most successful for our customers.

Application life cycle management

The application life cycle management needs to be governed effectively. As discussed previously, life cycle management processes fall into two categories: small, self-serve applications and larger, high-impact applications.

Setting up the governance team

You’ll want to begin by setting up an IT governance team. Choose an appropriate name for it (some examples we’ve seen are the IT Governance Team, Technical Review Team, and AppSheet Technical team). In addition, we recommend setting up a shared email for this team, such as appsheet@companyname.com or operations@companyname.com. This makes it easier for the team to do technical reviews and to manage AppSheet policies from a single location.

Self-serve applications

Setting deployment limits – In order to distinguish between the self-serve and IT oversight applications, the governance team will need to decide what the maximum number of users an application can have before it moves from a self-serve application to an IT-governed application. Some of the most successful use cases we have seen have set that limit to 10 users, which is large enough to allow most small teams to use their own applications, plus most applications that use more than 10 user are cross-team applications.

Requiring IT ownership – It is also important that, even for self-serve applications, the IT governance team has access to the application. This way, if the original app creator’s access is ever removed (as a result of job termination, role changes, etc.), IT will still have access to the application and can transfer ownership rights appropriately.

Large, multi-team applications

For large, multi-team applications, IT will want to have more oversight into how they are built. Large applications typically fall into two categories: applications that require review and approval and applications that require co-development efforts from the IT team.

Approval Process – When reviewing an application for approval, the governance team should look at the application’s data and its performance. Review the data and make sure the way it is exposed in the application is compliant with governmental regulations and internal policies. Certain types of data should not be exposed to certain individuals (for example, financial data typically isn’t exposed to field workers), so the review team will want to make sure the data is exposed appropriately. Reviewing performance is important because large applications need to be fast and reliable. Performance can be reviewed by going to the Manage tab within the app editor and selecting Monitor>Performance Profile.

Co-developing applications – Certain applications that may be vital to the organization, are complex, or have a high impact may require that the IT team co-develop the application with the business unit. In these occasions, it is important that the two parties work closely from start to finish so the application is effective, efficient, and compliant.

Version updates – New versions of applications can be developed by either business app developers or the IT developers. However, any update should require sign-off from the IT Governance Team.

Sunsetting applications – To sunset applications, application owners should (1) remove all owners from application, (2) make sure ownership is shared with the governance team, and (3) save the data from the application for future reference. If they would like to save a copy of the application, they may do so — otherwise they can delete it.

Compliance and Security Policies

Adhering to governmental regulations and creating a secure environment are paramount to the survival of any organization. The growing list of corporate cyber attacks tell sobering tales of data security gone wrong. Regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA require secure and compliant data and processes. For some industries—such as healthcare and government—these regulations can be a huge hindrance to digital transformation. Luckily the AppSheet platform has robust security functionality built in, and by setting a few organization-wide policies, much of this risk can be mitigated. Here are some of the key measures you can take when setting up your organization’s AppSheet ecosystem to manage security and compliance.

Require sign in policy

Within the “Policy” tab on the root account, you can set a policy that requires users sign in before accessing their application. This way, users must be given permission to use to the app before they can open it.

Requiring domain sign in policy

In addition to requiring sign in, you can also constrict access to only users who log on with a certain domain. This reduces the risk of leaked information. If your organization allows its employees to access your applications and data on their personal phone, it may be worth setting up and requiring additional authentication software on their phone.

Hiding Sensitive Data

In order to hide certain types of information, application owners can flag columns with sensitive data so that they are not recorded in the AppSheet system. In addition, they can set up security restrictions to manage who can see what pieces of data. You can learn more about personally identifiable information and security here.

Business and Data Policies

Business and data policies refer to policies that may not have direct impact on the compliance or security of an organization but are important to its internal processes and structure. These policies vary from organization to organization. Here are some of the policies you may want to consider.

Sync on start – Ensures that the application is up to date when it opens. This is useful if you are concerned with app users working off non-current data.

Enable offline mode – This is important for organizations where application users do not always have access to the internet. This policy ensures that every application can be used offline, although it does require holding more data on each individual device.

Apps must have documentation – This is extremely helpful when managing large application ecosystems. Requiring documentation requires app creators to explain what their application does, so if the IT governance team ever needs to troubleshoot or manage an application, they can quickly understand its purpose.

Prevent row delete – Prevents users from deleting rows of data on their application. This helps maintain the integrity of the data.

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Empower app creators

The biggest obstacle for change is not the technology, but the people. While AppSheet is no exception to this, we’ve found a formula that excites and empowers employees to use AppSheet. There are three key moments an employee must experience on their journey to becoming an app creator.

  1. They know how to navigate the AppSheet editor
  2. They understand how to use available resources and colleagues to troubleshoot an issue
  3. They see the impact their application can have on themselves and their team

It is important to create an environment where new AppSheet users can quickly arrive at these moments and then go on to find the help and support they need to tackle complex challenges. Each component in this section contributes immensely to these goals.

Ensuring a uniform feature set

It’s important that each app creator has access to the same features and functionality their peers have. When setting up the account, work with the AppSheet team to include the right number of users so anyone who wants to can access the platform. If there are different domains associated with your organization, be sure to include those as well.

Performance is another important consideration. Clarify your service-level agreement with the AppSheet team and choose the most appropriate performance package. Your account manager can work with you to identify the best option.

Finally, ensuring a uniform feature set extends beyond software. Whether it’s desktop computers, laptops, tablets, or phones, make sure employees have access to the appropriate hardware. As mentioned previously, have the proper security measures set in place, especially if you’re allowing employees to use apps on their personal devices.

Training and on-boarding

People are more likely to resist change that is difficult than change that is easy. Robust training and on-boarding eases people’s transition to a citizen-developer culture.

First, consider whether you want to require training for everyone, or just for a select number of people. For those who are not required to complete training courses, providing opt-in on-boarding materials is essential. You’ll want to make sure that training is included as part of your roll out plan.

Decide which training materials you’ll want to provide and whether you’ll create them in house or use publicly available resources. AppSheet has a plethora of training materials available to everyone that you are welcome to use as part of your internal training. Whatever your choice, be sure employees have a clear path that they can follow when getting started.

A quick note on off-boarding — Be sure to have a plan for managing employees’ AppSheet account when they leave. This plan should include ensuring that all their applications are co-owned by the IT governance team and that their data will still be available after they depart.

Community

While the public AppSheet community is an excellent way to collaborate with other app creators throughout the world, enabling an internal community allows employees to collaborate and share in ways they wouldn’t be able to elsewhere. It has a powerful impact on innovation by allowing everyone to collaborate and innovate together. Plus, it is a fantastic tool when creating a digitally enabled culture.

A community can include anything from a small Q&A forum to a full-blown internal collaborative site with local chapters. Consider whether there is already an internal tool in place that can be utilized as a community or whether you will need to create something new. Successful communities we’ve seen have been hosted on internal sites, Workplace, Slack, MS Teams, and even on AppSheet applications.

Communities can have many functions. Some of the functionality you may consider including are Q&A, shared resources, tips & tricks, and training and on-boarding. You may also want to hold regularly scheduled webinars to answers questions live, train users on certain functionality, and announce changes to the platform.

In addition to creating an online community, consider having local AppSheet groups as well. This allows app creators to meet and collaborate in person, which can also have a powerful positive effect on company culture.

Internal Samples and Collaboration

Collaboration is key when creating apps. While the community is a powerful tool for facilitating collaboration, there are additional efforts you should consider.

Sample apps

Providing new and veteran app creators with samples and templates can be an excellent catalyst for enabling innovation. Sample apps give people a head start, let them discover new ways to use AppSheet, and show them what has been successful in other areas of the company. Sample apps can be created and shared both on the community as well as in the platform itself. To share applications with your team, go to My Team and select Shared Apps. Be sure to scrub your data and remove any confidential information prior to adding your application to the Shared Apps page.

Sharing data and integrations

Sharing data and integrations is a key component of the Enterprise platform. This functionality allows you to share data and integrations with your entire team through the AppSheet platform. This can be done within the My Team page on the Shared Data tab. In addition, app owners can always add co-collaborators to their application, making the app creation process a team effort.

Support

Questions and challenges will inevitably arise, so you will need to create a reliable support system that your organization can utilize. When setting up the support system, you will want to manage internal support for app creators and align on the external support you will be receiving from the AppSheet team.

Internal support for app creatorsIt is important to give employees the support they need to create their applications. Crowd sourcing Q&As within a forum or online community is a great way to field questions and can free up time for IT. For questions, requests, and issues that can’t be handled by the community, providing an intuitive ticketing system is the next line of defense. If you don’t have an IT ticketing system in place, check out this IT ticketing sample app.

Support from the AppSheet teamAppSheet provides priority support to its Enterprise customers, which can be accessed here. You can also work with your account manager or customer success representative for key topics and feature requests. Please reach out to them to set SLAs and expectations regarding support and customer success management.

Conclusion

Implementing this blueprint will allow your organization to transform and elevate the way it does work. Depending on the size of your organization, this can be a large, multifaceted effort. Luckily, we are here to help! The AppSheet team has helped customers of all sizes transition to AppSheet and has achieved success first-hand.

If you’re interested in creating a citizen-developer culture and haven’t talked to us, please reach out. We’ve seen this success first-hand and would love to further discuss how AppSheet can transform your organization. Happy app creating!

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