I am new to AppSheet and was looking for AppS...

(David Howard) #1

I am new to AppSheet and was looking for AppSheet to help with the short comings of SmartSheet. I have now come to the conclusion that SmartSheet is just too clunky and not able to satisfy my needs. So I was wondering if AppSheet integrates with Microsoft Project 365 and if so to what level and what experiences have you had with Microsoft Project?

(Praveen Seshadri (AppSheet)) #2

AppSheet does not.

We connect to a variety of cloud-based spreadsheets and databases.

(Janis Majors) #3

David, would be great to hear more. We have used Smartsheet for years, and I led the implementation. Have also experienced my share of frustrations and joys. (Actually a bit more of the latter, but very aware of some shortcomings).

I am using AppSheet now to try and build a process management system for a global network of about 100 companies, with Smartsheet as backend storage. So far it seems workable, with good integration. (But we are relatively new to AppSheet, so there could be issues we haven’t seen yet.)

Like yourself, I set out with AppSheet to remedy some of the shortcomings, but also wanting to keep the Smartsheet features that have actually served us well over the years.

I’d be happy to contribute with my knowledge about Smartsheet’s kinks, if you’re interested, and I’d be interested in hearing about your roadblocks in case I should also worry about them.

Our app/system is intended to handle all companies’ project cooperation, incl process management (moving the project from step A to step B while giving the responsible for step B all necessary input/project history/tools), document flow, approvals and outcome accountability. All of this involving 100+ collaborating companies. It’s quite complex. Can it be done with my AppSmart(Sheet^2) combo? So far, I’m thinking yes.

My idea is to have the full system logic reside in AppSheet, and not in a different proj mgmt system.

So I am not using any Smartsheet specific functionality, just as storage for “clean” data tables. I don’t even see Smartsheet as a main UI here, it will just be behind the scenes.

Why use Smartsheet then, and not just any spreadsheet solution (or even just Excel sheets in Dropbox?) I have listed some of my observations further below.

With my ~50 (and growing) data tables and hundreds of views, I’m possibly stretching AppSheet’s aim for small, light mobile apps for casual citizen developers. I might hit a ceiling regarding app performance, but think I’ll be able to break the app up into smaller “sub-apps” once everything is working. (So if each sub-app is a part of the brain, all of them working together would form the full system.)

Not even sure if anyone has tried to build a larger system with AppSheet. Haven’t found any info about it here, but I’d be happy to know. It seems doable though, and I think we have the logic worked out. It might not even be as difficult as I thought.

Using Smartsheet as backend, a few observations so far: GOOD - Management of data tables/folder structure is nicely automated between AppSheet/Smartsheet, so I don’t need to think about that. - Image management is very easy, image files are stored right in the sheet with the data table. No risk of broken links to separate image folders.

  • This also goes for other attachments/file uploads. - Smartsheet automatically sorts out different date formats etc from users in different countries. - Easy online data publishing/access control.

NOT SO GOOD - Uploaded files are published online, but don’t get an individual URL. This reduces flexibility.

  • According to AppSheet documentation, it’s a little bit quicker to fetch an image using a direct URL instead of asking another system (like Smartsheet) for it. Haven’t noticed any difference, but could be an issue. -
(Praveen Seshadri (AppSheet)) #4

Hi @Janis_Majors, that’s very interesting. Do let us know if it will help you to talk with someone in our team as you move forward.

As brief comments on what you wrote:

a) you can indeed get individual URLs for uploaded files and images.

b) images are cached anyway in our backend, so any performance implications are only for the first fetch

c) if you are using smartsheet purely as table storage, Google sheets will do better, and SQLServer/mySQL will probable do better (though the relational databases lack the UI of a spreadsheet).

d) smartsheet has a 5000 row limit per sheet. Google sheets has a 2 million cell limit (better). AppSheet provides a data partitioning mechanism to get past these limits should you run into them.

e) yes we have customers who have used 50 tables in a single app. However, I do not recommend it primarily from a usability POV (and secondarily from a performance POV). we always recommend breaking functionality into multiple sub-apps and using an app launcher (something you can do with AppSheet pretty easily).

f) my recommendation is not to handle this like a typical software project where you spec out everything and try to build everything before you launch. AppSheet allows you to take a lean approach where you start with two or three features, launch to your initial customers and iterate rapidly (every day even with a new version of the app). That dramatically increases the odds of success of the app/project and also reduces the time to initial success.

Look forward to hearing more from you as your project proceeds.

(Janis Majors) #5

@praveen , thanks for your quick answer! I am sure it would be extremely useful to talk to someone in the team. (Almost feel like I know Santiago, Tony and the gang already after watching all those seasons of Office Hours. :slight_smile: a) For AppSheet I’m sure, but as far as I know, Smartsheet doesn’t give you a direct URL for individual files attached to a sheet, only for the sheet itself. So to fetch an image I can’t just specify a URL for the file, it has to be fetched through the AppSheet/Smartsheet integration. Hence the potentially added microseconds (unless I misunderstood it, of course). b) Great! That would resolve a). c) Thanks! Big difference in performance between Smartsheet and Google sheets? Since we are already using Smartsheet for other things, it seems easier from a data integration POV and very easy for us to manage. But a performance boost could trump that, if significant. d) Good. Both limits are fine.

e) I know… Trying to make everything work together first, but maybe that’s not ideal. If there is already any experience with building larger systems like this in AppSheet, and/or documentation on best practices for multiple, connected sub-apps seamlessly sharing the same data, that’d be very interesting. (Some functionality needs to combine data from 20+ tables, so I can’t get quite to the atomic level. But molecular is fine.)

f) I know… But needed a critical mass of functionality and also to prove the viability of developing such a mission critical and strategically important system on a do-it-yourself app platform that no-one was really familiar with. (To boost buy-in I have used your Microsoft background for all it’s worth. :-D) Have started limited live testing this week though.

Good to hear that others have built large apps. Just out of curiosity, what is the highest number of tables on record for a deployed app? Not that it’s a competition, of course. But would indicate a kind of ceiling.

(Praveen Seshadri (AppSheet)) #6

Something like 30-40 tables. There are apps with more but we shake our heads when we see those apps.

Wrt enterprise credibility, we can send you a package of collateral with case studies, etc. LMK. We’re also being included now in some Gartner reports, etc. So making our way up from obscurity to the mainstream.

(David Howard) #7

@Janis_Majors Hi Janis, Sorry for the delay in my response I was in the Nevada desert away from the internet. What my shortcoming in SmartSheets is in the scheduling part of their application. Specifically the fact that in construction we build a schedule then apply resources like applying labor to a specific task and build our project off of it.

Now in SmartSheets to add a resource to the schedule you have to invite a participant to join the project through an email. They have to respond to the request before you can use them as a resource. In construction we have to allocate our resources so we know when and how many people we need to hire for the job and when we need to lay them off as they will no longer be needed. We don’t keep hundreds of workers on the payroll waiting to go to work… hire as needed. So to work around this issue I created a dumby email account for my domain and made it a catch-all account. Then when I added users to my resources I made up the email address using the domain. That forwarded the emails to the catch-all account so I could reply and get then on the resource list. Now my equipment IE: BackHoe now has an email address. This process took over a day to get some 100 workers into the resource list before I could start the process of allocating resources. Then I found out that only one resource could be allocated per process. To get around this shortcoming I had to have separate lines to allocate a worker to one task. For instance to frame the 3rd floor I needed 24 framers and so it took 24 lines for one task. That bloated the Gannt chart to ridiculous proportions and made it virtualy useless. So after talking to tech support and explaining the problem their response was that there have been customers that have asked for this change and that they will put me on a list of people that desire this to be changed. When looking at their forum it appears they have been requesting this update sence 2014.

So I need to find a better solution. AppSheets appears to be a wonderful application that can filter the information to a level that the end user can digest and make great use and value of. Don’t get me wrong, SmartSheets is a great application for the front office coordination where a task is given to one person to accomplish in an office environment. But for construction its shortcommings and to vast to use in any meaningful way. Good luck with your project. David Howard