70+% of U.S. workforce will be mobile

PeopleFirstI came across this article about an IDC forecast on the U.S. mobile workforce. It links to an older version of the article but a newer one is here (payment required). IDC suggests that by 2020, the number of U.S. mobile workers will grow to 105.4 million and will make up an astounding 72.3 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

“Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology in the United States has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work” – Bryan Bassett, Research Analyst, Mobile Enterprise: Device Solutions at IDC

Your employees expect to work on-the-go using their mobile devices – everything from responding to customers to routine day-to-day collaboration with colleagues. Yet, it’s practically impossible to find skilled native app developers and building mobile apps is absurdly expensive.

What’s a CIO to do? Turn to a platform like frevvo. Apps built using frevvo are wow-code, citizen-developer friendly, fast, effective and incredibly affordable. And, they just work automatically on all devices: desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

At frevvo, we just digitized a completely customized Purchase Order approval workflow for a University customer in 45 man-hours.

You too can effectively support those 3 in 4 workers who are rapidly transitioning to working on their mobile devices. They can fill out forms, sign documents, approve expenses, attach receipts and everything else in their daily work routine anytime, anywhere and from any device.

Check out our website for some examples and this short (4.5m) video on creating beautiful, responsive mobile web forms with frevvo.

Mobility Part 4: Low-code platforms are the future

mobile-apps-10

43% of organizations use low-code platforms to support their I.T. strategy

Demand for mobile apps is exploding but continues to exceed development capacity and available skills. Companies are looking beyond native app development to other options using citizen developers.

They’re turning to low-code platforms including frevvo. Images in this article are from the OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report (opt-in required) – a provider of low-code mobile app development tools.

Low-code platforms dramatically increase productivity since they enable citizen developers not just coders-by-trade to develop applications. Citizen developers at many frevvo customers have helped to create incredibly effective, high-quality apps quickly and at reasonable cost.

At frevvo, we recently created a fully digital Purchase Order approval for a University customer that looks great, works on mobile devices and meets business requirements in just 45 hours. It’s hard to imagine anyone coding an app that quickly.

mobile-apps-12Companies have little choice. In today’s business world, they must respond quickly to a rapid changing environment. Taking months to create a web portal or mobile app is simply not an option for most. Mobile developers are extremely expensive if you can find them.

As the various underlying technologies mature and platforms like frevvo get better and better at taking advantage of these advances, there’s huge benefit and tremendous ROI to be gained from using a low-code approach for an increasing array of projects.

With every release of frevvo, there’s a little less code to write – whether through new and upgraded wizards or the Visual Rule Builder or a new connector (SharePoint is coming soon, major upgrades to the Database Connector are in the works) or an ever-increasing variety of pre-built templates. I’m sure other platforms like OutSystems are no different.

Hundreds of customers are already benefiting. Why not give it a whirl? Sign up for a free trial and see for yourself. It takes 30 seconds and you can install a template and try it out instantly.

Mobility Part 3: Citizen Developers deliver results

In Part 1 and Part 2, we talked about how demand for mobile apps is exploding but there are many barriers to overcome. Companies are looking for new ways to tackle the mobility challenge by choosing the right technology to fit the problem and spreading development among more people.

mobile-apps-7

Alternatives to Native App Development

Everything needs to work on mobile. But it doesn’t have to be a native app. As technology has matured, companies have discovered that they no longer need to take a native-only approach to app development. Progressive web and responsive web have rapidly become mainstream as companies realize that these apps meet their business needs but they’re also much faster and cheaper to build. They also don’t require the same skill set that native app development does addressing one of the most important barriers to mobility.

Nowadays, mobility is about reaching users through all channels, especially mobile web browsers, as users often don’t bother to install an app.

As a result, I.T. professionals preference for native app development has steadily declined to where just 17% prefer it in 2017 down from almost 30% 2 years ago.

User expectations are exceedingly high and they want apps that not only deliver function, but that also look and feel amazing and alternative approaches are increasingly able to deliver.

Citizen Developers offer a viable alternative

mobile-apps-4An obvious side effect is that companies are looking for less technical, cheaper and easier-to-find skill sets like HTML5, JavaScript and UX over specialized mobile app developers. A growing number are turning to citizen developers who are not coders-by-trade.

Two-fifths (43%) are already supporting or planning to support citizen developers and it’s a trend that’s on the rise. Gartner predicts that 70% of  large enterprises will empower citizen developers in the next 3 years.

These citizen developers can genuinely help companies get things done without the need to hire people with hard-to-find and expensive skill sets.

mobile-apps-8In companies that support citizen developers, over 50% are already prototyping and building departmental applications and almost a third (30%) are building employee-facing applications. Customer-facing and enterprise applications remain the province of professional coders by and large but citizen developers are making strides there as well.

Low-Code, Great UX and Citizen Developers

At frevvo, we see these trends converging in our customers. They’re often using frevvo for employee-facing applications like Purchase Approvals or Travel Authorizations.They definitely want to digitize these on mobile devices and they need to look great otherwise employees won’t use them. But, of course, spending $500K on a native mobile app each time is a non-starter.

That’s where we come in – citizen developers with skill sets that already exist in many organizations can certainly drag & drop fields onto e-forms, setup basic workflow routing and, in some cases, even do some integration (wizards, wizards, wizards …). Of course, I.T. still needs to get involved at some stage e.g. SQL database integration and JavaScript-based business rules.

Technologies like frevvo allow app development to be spread out among more people. That in turn eases pressure on IT teams, freeing them up to meet business needs.

Automating these applications can deliver tremendous ROI with customers saving over 50% of the cost and seeing positive returns in under 3 months. And we’re working every day to further reduce the required skill sets e.g. with our upcoming Visual Business Rule Builder (more on that in a future article).We’ll write more about it in upcoming articles. In the meantime, check out our website for some examples and this short (4.5m) video on creating beautiful, responsive mobile web forms with frevvo.

Concludes in Part 4.

Graphs and many of the insights in this series of articles can be found in the OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report (opt-in required). Credit: the afore-mentioned OutSystems report for all images in this article.

Mobility Part 2: Barriers to Mobile Apps Abound

mobile-apps-5

Companies plan to build lots of mobile apps in 2017

In a previous article, I discussed how demand for mobile apps is soaring but backlogs are large. This again, from the OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report (opt-in required). Credit: this report for images in this article.

Demand is exploding – nearly half of all I.T. professionals (44%) said they plan to build more than 10 apps. Not surprisingly, large organizations plan to build even more apps. At the top of the list are reporting & analytics, process automation and customer portals. Again, this is not surprising given the rising importance of the customer user experience (UX).

Barriers are everywhere

mobile-apps-3

Time, Budget and Skills are huge barriers

I.T. organizations have discovered that creating effective mobile apps that people will actually use is very difficult.

Time is a major challenge because applications simply take too long to build: more than 3/4ths of respondents say that it takes them > 3 months to build apps and, in many cases, it takes over a year. Real business applications are complex, they need to integrate with a variety of business systems to be really useful and these systems vary in age from modern to decades old.

Budgets are an obvious problem since app development is a very expensive proposition. According to Forrester, 62% of companies report spending more than $500,000 to create just 1-3 apps with several spending over $5 million.

There’s a serious skills gap – 44% of companies cannot find people with the highly sought after skills they need and they’re very expensive to hire.

mobile-apps-7

The declining popularity of native app development

New Approaches can Yield Results

Put it all together and it’s obvious that new approaches are needed.

Organizations, including many frevvo customers are turning to alternate approaches that yield results. A growing number are migrating to Low/No-code systems because they meet business needs but are faster and cheaper. They can be effectively used by citizen developers and don’t require the same sort of hard-to-find specialized skill sets that native app development requires. Regardless of company size, industry, geography or any other factor, alternative approaches to mobility are increasingly taking hold.

We’ll discuss these approaches in more detail next time (see Part 3).

Mobility Part 1: Mobile App Requirements are Soaring

mobile-apps-2By now everyone knows mobile is eating the world. Billions of smartphones, 75% of US workers being mobile etc. In response, businesses are prioritizing mobile apps. 88% of them say that mobile functionality is either very important or an outright requirement.  OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report has this and other fascinating insights. (All images in this article are from the report.)

We particularly like the 2017 business priorities outlined in the Figure below.. Our customers already address the top priorities here using frevvo. They build forms and workflows for automating routine processes that integrate with disparate systems/data sources and work automatically on mobile. Of course, many of these digitized processes modernize and/or replace existing legacy systems.

mobile-apps-1

We like these 2017 business priorities a lot!

The problem is that creating these kinds of mobile apps is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. I.T. managers report huge backlogs of projects stacking up because they cannot meet the current demand. That’s because there’s a significant skills gap and building native mobile apps is hard and ridiculously expensive.

New low-code approaches like frevvo are yielding results. We’ll write more about it in upcoming articles. In the meantime, check out our website for some examples and this short (4.5m) video on creating beautiful, responsive mobile web forms with frevvo.

Continued in Part 2.

frevvo + SQL: Part 5. Create/Update records

DBConnectorPrevious articles in this series (Create dynamic pick lists initialized from SQLMaster-detail views from SQL and Handling multiple results from a Query) have focused on reading information from the database and dynamically initializing fields on your form.

But, many business problems require creating new records or updating existing records in the database. Today, we’ll take a look at these scenarios and see how you can create complex forms without programming using frevvo’s Database (DB) Connector. Fair Warning: this is a fairly technical article so we’ve only touched upon the highlights here. You can explore in detail by reading the DB Connector Tutorial in the documentation.

As before, you’ll need to install and configure the DB Connector one-time so it can connect to your SQL database. After that, the steps are very similar to the previous articles:

1. Define the SQL Queries

This time, there are multiple SQL queries.

<queryset name=”BIRT” …>
  <query name=”createOrder”>
    <retrieve>
      <statement>SELECT orderNumber as onum, customerNumber as cnum from Orders WHERE orderNumber=10100
      …
    </retrieve>

<create>

      <statement>INSERT into Orders (orderNumber,orderDate, requiredDate, status,customerNumber) VALUES ({onum}, Now(), Now(), ‘In Process’, {cnum})

      …

2. Generate an XML Schema

The first query is used to generate an XML schema and form controls bound to that schema. There will be two (onum and cnum). In this case, you’ll have to modify the XML a bit due to a current limitation in the DB Connector. See the documentation for detailed instructions.

3. Create the form

Generate the form using the above XML schema as a data source.

4. Link to the database

Connect it to the DB query defined above. We use Doc URI wizards with the only change being that we configure a Write URL using HTTP POST (create) instead of a Read URL.

That’s it. When the form is submitted, frevvo will generate an XML document with values for onum and cnum and send the XML to the DB Connector. The Connector will extract onum and cnum from the XML and execute the INSERT operation.

Insert Multiple Records

It’s easy to build upon this to satisfy far more complex business requirements. For example, in this case, you want to insert an Order but there will also be multiple Order Line Items. This means running an INSERT for the Order itself + multiple INSERTs for the line items with different data. Fortunately, with frevvo you can create forms with multiple Data Sources. Each one generates its own XML document and each one can have its own Doc URI.

dbconnector-post

A single frevvo form can process multiple documents and execute multiple SQL queries when the form is submitted.

Update Existing Records

You can equally easily update an existing record with the DB Connector. The process is almost identical. The only difference is that you will use an <update> query instead of a <create> query and the document is sent using HTTP PUT instead of POST.

<queryset name=”BIRT” …>
  <query name=”customerCreditLimit”>
  <update>

      <statement>UPDATE Customers SET creditLimit = {creditLimit} WHERE customerNumber={cnum}

      …

The rest is identical. Generate the form using an XML schema, connect the resulting document to this query and frevvo + the DB Connector take care of the rest.

Auto Create Rows

You can also setup the queries so that they will first try an update and if it fails, create a new record.

<query name=”customers” autocreate=”true”>

The autocreate feature is particularly useful when working with Repeat Controls or Tables. With these controls, your forms can work with dynamic collections, for instance: customers, cars, addresses, dependents and others. When the user loads the form, the form may be initialized with some items. If the user adds new items to the collection, updates a couple and submits the form, the items will be automatically added to the database and the existing ones will be updated if autocreate=true.

Auto Delete Rows

Auto-creation raises the obvious question. What if the user deletes a row from the repeating collection described above. If you want the DB Connector to delete the corresponding records from the database, you can simply set the autodelete property and provide a key.

<query name=”customers” autocreate=”true” autodelete=”true” deleteKey=”customerId”>

Behind the scenes, the connector compares the items in the database with what is submitted in the form. That comparison is based on a key that you define with the attribute deleteKey (required). The deleteKey value is normally the name of the primary key in the table that contains the repeat items.

Interested in learning more? The Database Connector Tutorial explains this in great detail. Register for an upcoming webinar and visit our website to view examples, watch videos, sign up for a free 30-day trial or contact us for more information.

frevvo + SQL: Part 4. Multiple Results

db-multiple-results

Multiple Rows from SQL

Everyday business activities (Customer Service, HR etc.) are simply more useful if they can access information from internal SQL databases when it’s needed. In Part 2 of this series we saw how to create dynamic pick lists initialized from SQL and Part 3 explored how to create master-detail views from SQL.

Today, we’ll take a look at queries that return multiple results. It’s another very common scenario in real applications e.g. look up order line items for a particular order. With frevvo’s Database Connector, complex forms like this can be created without programming.

As before, you’ll need to install and configure the DB Connector one-time so it can connect to your SQL database. After that, the steps are as follows:

1. Define the SQL Query

<queryset name=”BIRT” …>
  <query name=”orderDetailsByOrder”>
    <retrieve>
      <statement>SELECT p.productName as product, o.quantityOrdered as quantity, o.priceEach as price, p.productDescription as description, p.MSRP FROM OrderDetails o, Products p WHEREo.productCode=p.productCode and o.orderNumber={onum} ORDER by o.orderLineNumber
      …

 

This is a straightforward query that simply retrieves order details for a particular order number. It can be accessed via a URL: http://<server>/database/BIRT/orderDetailsByOrder?onum=10100. As before, the {onum} in curly braces is a variable whose value should be passed in the URL. Try it now in your browser. You’ll get back an XML document with order details.

Now, we need to connect this to the form. As before, we will use Live Forms’s built-in XML features to generate controls and populate them from the database.

2. Generate an XML Schema

The DB connector can generate an XML schema from any query’s <retrieve> operation. This schema can then be used to generate a Live Forms form. Try it now in your browser, save the resulting XML schema file to disk and upload it to Live Forms. See the documentation for detailed instructions. Note that we need to pass in a known order number so that the query can successfully execute.

dbconnector-multiple-items

Automatically populate multiple rows in a form Table from a SQL query

3. Create the form

We’ll use a copy of the form from the previous article. It already has a dynamic pick list which lists the customers in the format value=label (e.g. 242=Alpha Cognac). Edit the form and:

  1. Create a new data source from the Schema uploaded above in Step 2.
  2. Add controls to the form and rearrange them as desired.

4. Link to the database

Now, we connect to the DB query defined above. We use Doc URI wizards to do this. In a nutshell, this means configuring the form so that the data source is bound to the URL for the query that we saw in Step 1.

Try it now using our example form.

Interested in learning more? The Database Connector Tutorial explains this in great detail. Register for an upcoming webinar and visit our website to view examples, watch videos, sign up for a free 30-day trial or contact us for more information.