June 2020 agileBase updates

This month’s updates cover a range of areas, including documentation, API improvements and user interface improvements. 

In the background we’re also working on some major developments to help administrators. All of these improvements aligning with our vision of supporting ambitious organisations across all the phases of their growth. A sneak peek of some of that work is at the end of the page.

New Documentation

With the help of our partners at Little House Consulting, the agileBase documentation has had a comprehensive overhaul. We’ve updated the technology behind it (we now use the Hugo framework with Algolia search), structured and greatly expanded the content to cover every aspect of setting up and developing with ‘no-code’ in agileBase.

There’s still work to do – the introductory sections are in progress and links to relevant documentation pages are being added to the administration user interface for example, but it’s now in a state where it should be useful, so please take a look by going to

https://docs.agilebase.co.uk and clicking the ‘Docs’ link in the top navigation.

Please let us know any early feedback or areas to improve on.

Product Help

As an application builder, you can also add your own custom help for users at many levels throughout an application – field, block of fields, table, tile and view for example.

That help is being displayed in more places. For example, help is displayed as a tooltip when hovering over a form tab. Tooltips also appear for tiles when on the homepage. More updates are planned, so watch this space.

Receiving files via the API

Interactions amongst the many software applications and platforms a business may have, is increasingly important in today’s world. No app is an island!

One of agileBase’s main strengths is it’s comprehensive API which can be used to transfer data in and out of agileBase. Third party integration tools like www.zapier.com help make the process really easy to set up.

Now, as well as accepting data from third parties, agileBase can accept document files. (For example, contract documents generated by a third party system can now be sent to agileBase for storage).

Until now, that has required posting data as multi-part/form data (see documentation). 

Now however, an additional option is available – simply supply the URL of a file as the value of a file field parameter when sending data and agileBase will download that file, saving it into the system.

This method is Zapier-compatible, 

Thanks to Britannia Windows for requesting this.

Please let us know if you’d like a hand trying this out and we can walk you through the setup.

Inline uploading of documents in a tab

Until now when there was a document field included in an inline editing view under a tab, you could only download documents. Now you can upload them there too. An example could be attaching evidence to a milestone in a project.

Thanks to Foodcase for suggesting this.

Personal Charts

The ability to create charts of data is a popular feature, allowing users to interrogate data and share reports.

Until now, only people with manage privileges (a “manager”) have been able to create charts, but everyone who has permission to view the underlying data has been able to see those charts.

We’re now changing it so that any user can create a chart, but it will be only visible to them. However a manager will be able to view all charts, whoever created them, and can “promote” them so that they are visible to all others. To promote a chart, they need only edit it and remove [username] from the end of the chart title.

Coming up…

If you’d like to be an early beta tester of this functionality, please let me know.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to introducing some more exciting updates in the near future.

agileBase release

Calendar searching

The highlight feature of this May 2020 release of agileBase is calendar/timeline searching. 

Typing into the new search box at the top of the calendar will reduce the entries on screen down to those that match. This has a couple of specific uses –

1 – you can now view data by two different facets. For example, imagine you have a number of calendar views set up for each type of event – one view for board meetings, another for general meetings (zoom calls), one for customer calls, another for pre-arranged demos etc. These will be displayed in different colours on screen.

You may want to see just events which you (or another specific person) are attending – typing a name into the search box will narrow down the results.

2 – when showing a grid (timeline view) with swim lanes for event classes (perhaps a set of milestones with a lane for each task, like a GANTT view). In this case the search can be used to reduce results down to which task/milestone you’re interested in.

Thanks goes to Beacon Foods for initially requesting this.

As the first ‘minimal’ release of a new feature, we’re keen for everyone to try it out and give us feedback. Later releases may introduce new capabilities.

Other user interface improvements

Another calendar update is that you can now toggle the display of Saturday and Sunday in the calendar, to allow more space for the rest of the week. To hide weekends, click on the active calendar button at the top of the screen (e.g. ‘year’, ‘month’, ‘week’) and to toggle them back on, just click again.

Searching standard views has also been tweaked – previously, double clicking in a filter box to select the current text was difficult due to scrolling issues. These have now been resolved. Thanks to the West of England Combined Authority for reporting this.

Calculations

Calculations are now no longer converted into lowercase – that means you can enter text in any case into a calculation definition and it will be retained as typed. So there’s no need to sprinkle so many ‘initicap(text)’ and ‘upper(text)’ functions throughout them.

Data security corner – extra login information

Finally, continuing the focus on improving security for users and companies, there’s a tweak to the way login information is logged this month that administrators should be aware of.

In addition to logging the IP address, internet provider and country of each login, the nearest city will also be included. This extra information may be useful to administrators e.g. when investigating any suspicious logins.

Please bear in mind that for many reasons, ‘the accuracy of IP geolocation information can vary wildly across service providers’. Particularly when organisations are increasingly using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to improve their employees’ data security, the results may not represent their real locations. However, even then the functionality can be useful to look at how many people are using recommended VPNs and proxy services.

As the format of location data is changing, the system’s new location detection may be triggered the first time someone logs in after this release, resulting in them getting a Two Factor Authentication prompt. People who don’t have 2FA enabled will get an email notifying them of a login from a new location.

May update for API developers

The main feature of this week’s platform update will help a select, but growing and important group of people; developers who build software that interfaces with agileBase via the API and who utilise a test server.

A test server (or virtual private server) is often used in this scenario, to test your API calls against as a way to reduce the chance of any bugs affecting live data. 

For example, if you have an API call which creates new contacts in your CRM system and it gets stuck in a loop, creating thousands of duplicate contacts, you’d want that bug to be found when running on a test system rather than on the live one.

Up until now there was one issue that was slowing adoption of this service down, random object IDs. 

When you use an API, you reference the agileBase object (e.g. a table, field or view) by its internal name. When an object is created, it is assigned an internal ID made up of random characters. The problem is that if you add an object to the test system, run some tests, then add it to the live system, the live one will have a different internal ID. Hence any API calls referencing it need to be updated, introducing possibilities for errors that can’t be checked without actually going live.

But not any more – internal IDs are now completely deterministic. An object created in one instance will have exactly the same ID as one of the same type with the same name in another.

Thanks to One Team Logic for bringing this feature idea to our attention.

If you’re interested in accessing your own test instance, please let us know, we’ll be happy to discuss your requirements.

Data security updates

For a long time we’ve been championing Two Factor Authentication (2FA) as a breakthrough improvement to account security and we regularly like to release updates that encourage adoption and enhance security – most recently requiring 2FA to be enabled before someone can export any data to spreadsheet.

Thanks to all users who’ve jumped onto the 2FA train – some accounts now have over 90% adoption rates.

This release continues that work. Any user who doesn’t yet have 2FA enabled will get a reminder email once a month, informing them of the benefits of doing so.

Please keep the ideas coming, we look forward to hearing from you.

A low-code / no-code introduction

Next week (on Tuesday 14th April at 11am) we’re pleased to be hosting a free online training event to help people learn how to develop apps in our low-code / no-code platform agileBase.

If interested, you can sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/agilebase-intro-training-registration-101725178748

But what exactly is low-code / no-code? It’s becoming a common phrase in application development circles, so let’s step back and give a quick roundup of the main talking points and resources relevant to business decision makers.

Traditionally, software is created by developers – that means programmers, also called coders. For larger systems other roles also play a part such as the ‘system architect’ as well as specialists in say databases or user interfaces. Other parts of a team such as domain expert and project manager may also be present, but here we’re only considering the technical roles.

A no-code platform is software that allows people without these skills to create working software by abstracting away and automating the heavy lifting (low-code still requires some technical skills – see below).

It’s worth saying that although platforms are becoming very advanced (certainly ours is!) so no coding skills are necessary, there are still some skills or traits that do help – particularly creativity along with a willingness to think through the detail. We find accountants are often a good fit! It can also be a great career progression for people who do like to think through things in detail but haven’t had any formal programmer training.

We’ll now go through some of the main benefits and potential pitfalls, explain some common terms you may come across then explain where we fit in the ecosystem as a vendor.

If you’d like more detail, we’ll go through some real customer examples and see the technology in action during the session.

Benefits

For the details, a good starting point is always Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-code_development_platform

Some key quotes are

‘A common benefit is that a wider range of people can contribute to the application’s development—not only those with formal programming skills. LCDPs can also lower the initial cost of setup, training, deployment and maintenance.’

‘Low-code development’s market growth can be attributed to its flexibility and ease.’

Other resources say

‘In a survey of Quick Base users, 68% said the main reason they create no-code apps is because they fit their organization’s needs better than other solutions, and 61% said it was so they can make changes more quickly to apps as their workloads and requirements change.’

That certainly rings true.

In our personal experience here at agileBase, we’ve found there is an emotional as well as a practical result. Customers who develop apps themselves feel more ownership of their systems, so find the ‘development’ experience enjoyable. Applications are friendly and easy to use and staff find that their input quickly results in improvements resulting in greater trust in the process.

That’s as opposed to the traditional outsourced model of bespoke software development, which can have a reputation for being slow, frustrating and in quite a large number of cases, just unsuccessful full stop.

Risks

There are criticisms of this model. Again Wikipedia lists the most common: 

‘Some IT professionals question whether low-code development platforms are suitable for large-scale and mission-critical enterprise applications. Others have questioned whether these platforms actually make development cheaper or easier. Additionally, some CIOs have expressed concern that adopting low-code development platforms internally could lead to an increase in unsupported applications built by shadow IT.’

Of course we try to tackle all of these objections. It’s not the subject of this article, but our Platform Vision for 2020 addresses many.

Some common terms

When reading about low-code / no-code, you may come across some terms commonly used.

  • Low-code / no-code’. Firstly, this term itself. What’s the difference between no code and low code? Some applications describe themselves as low code environments, others as no code.
    It is just what it sounds like – low code environments still require or allow a small amount of programming whereas with no-code platforms, everything is done with the graphical drag-and-drop interface.
    No code is becoming more common and if you’ve decided to buy a tool, it’s worth researching the pros and cons of each but at the conceptual level, we don’t think it’s a particularly important distinction.
  • Citizen developer’. This term refers to an employee or member of the public who is not a coder, but who through the use of a low-code / no-code platform, is empowered to develop applications.
  • Shadow IT’. The idea of a shadow government is a conspiracy theory that actual power lies not with elected representatives but with another group acting behind the scenes, sacrificing democracy.
    Shadow IT is not a conspiracy! But it does represent the belief that if the central IT department doesn’t control software development, consistency, security and governability are sacrificed.

The shadow IT concern is legitimate and this is an area of much discussion. However it’s not necessarily a win-lose situation for either side. Hopefully all stakeholders can come to a shared understanding of how to manage low-code / no-code development in a way that benefits all, raising IT’s role to governance, strategy and process management.

The software itself should address these concerns head on. For example, roles and privileges can determine exactly who can do what. Reporting and automated alerts can highlight which people are using the system how and when.

agileBase as a low-code / no-code platform


There are an increasing number of tools and platforms in the market, a web search will bring up handfuls. 

What sets us apart as a vendor?

Our strength is in building web based ‘back offices’ for businesses. Other tools focus on consumer-facing or native mobile applications.

Our USP is, simply put, we can scale with the growth of an organisation. We sometimes say “from startup to scale-up without screwing up”. 

Many tools are aimed at one size of company or another. There are those for startups and one-man bands to quickly build tools to suit their specific needs. Then at the other end of the scale, those for large businesses which are often more complex to comprehend.

agileBase is fast, friendly and flexible when getting started at a small scale, but as our platform is based on a powerful enterprise-class database and other open source software, we can scale to support high-throughput scenarios and many users.

Built in security features such as mandated 2FA and fine-grained control over data exports support large scale use.

The powerful API allows close connections with third party software such as finance or ERP systems, with agileBase acting as the engine to power all the data.

Other elements of our business such as our pricing policy also support this.
We’d love to welcome you to the event or just hear from you.

Updates

In these unprecedented times, work continues here at agileBase (from our homes). 

Whilst it’s not on the top of most people’s agenda, we do have a new release going out so I thought we should let you know the details so they aren’t a surprise. In brief…

Emailing documents

There’s a new feature to allow easy emailing of documents uploaded to agileBase to co-workers or outside people (e.g. customers) who don’t have a login.

Next to a document, click the email button. You can then click ‘add recipient’ to choose a recipient, or manually enter an address. The system will let you choose from contacts it finds in your database.

Logging changes to locked fields 

When unlocking a field to change the value, the system prompts you to enter a comment. It now automatically pre-populates the prompt with the value you’re changing from, to make it easier to see what the change was. You can add your own comment too.

Intelligent colours for charts

Do you notice anything strange about this graph? Experience any cognitive dissonance?

From now on, agileBase will colour breakdown charts based on the categories. Words like red/amber/green, hot/cold, done/in progress/overdue will be coloured appropriately. Other words will continue to be assigned random colours. If you have any words that you’d like special colours for, please let us know.

Bugfixes

We’ve tweaked lots of other things too small to notice every day but which should make the system run more smoothly.

That’s all for now. We wish all the best to all our customers, stay safe.

Covid-19 and agileBase

A quick post to outline some actions we’ve taken so far and answer some questions.

Free additional users to enable home working

Where you can work remotely, we want to help.

That’s why for as long as the UK schools remain closed, agileBase will give you additional licenses at no extra cost. Helping your team stay safe, and your business stay productive.
For example, senior management may like to have logins in order to be able to step in to help other staff.

We are waiving any fees for additional users for as long as the schools stay shut, for a reasonable number of users at our discretion.

We’ll notify you when things change and give the option of retaining these licences at the prevailing rate or cancelling without cost.

Your system administrator can add users. Automated price increase notifications may still be sent out but we will follow up to cancel them.

We are also delaying any upcoming price review changes – all customers please see the email to your accounts dept.

Our cloud software keeps everything secure, even from home

Two Factor Authentication (2FA) helps to keep your company’s data more secure, to stop outsiders stealing it, editing or even deleting it.

When someone logs in from a new device or location, our Two Factor Authentication (2FA) system prompts them for a code sent to or generated by their phone, to prove their identity.

Also our Content Security Policy (CSP) is a security mechanism that, when someone’s logged in, prevents unwanted code from running.

Only specific places, like our own server and a couple of whitelisted services we use, like Google to display maps, can serve code to the browser.

Vital peace of mind when people are working remotely.

Concerned about agileBase’s business continuity? Don’t worry, we’re good

We’re experts in remote working, having always split our time between our Bristol office and our desks at home. So, we’re taking easily to the current change in circumstances, and this won’t impact our ability to support you.

What’s more we’re a multi-disciplinary team. If Coronavirus means any of us is temporarily out of action, the team will fill in and the show will go on.

We need you to tell us how we can help

Like most people right now, we find ourselves looking around and asking who and how we can help.

We can only begin to understand the challenges many of you are facing. That means we need you to tell us if this crisis shows you things which you feel we should be addressing.

For example, if anyone feels the need, we will be happy to run you through our own home-working processes, tools and systems to see if any are relevant.

Finally, we just want to say thank you.

We know you’ll be as worried as we are about the health of our loved ones, and the livelihoods of all around us. And yet many of you are working round the clock to help others, like those in the public sector and food manufacturing. For that we are all thankful.

If there is anything we can do to help, just ask.

Data security – requiring 2FA for exporting

As well as the headline feature, one other notable feature has made the cut for today’s release.

In line with our continuing rollout and promotion of two factor authentication, it’s now required for all users who want to export any data to spreadsheet. As a sensitive feature in terms of data security and privacy, exporting to spreadsheet fits well with the requirement for the logged in user to have two factor authentication enabled.

Remember, setting up 2FA is a simple process.

We welcome all feedback and ideas for this release – please let us know your thoughts!

First major feature of 2020

We know that many customers are looking forward to the contents of this update. We’re now starting to make good on the promises of the 2020 roadmap and can release one of the headline features – inline editing.

As this is a major feature, it’ll be introduced with a ‘beta’ label for keen early adopters to test and provide feedback on. By default it will be turned off, but can be enabled by an administrator on a view by view basis.

Inline editing

The goal of this feature is to allow rapid and efficient editing of data when in the list view so there’s no need to drill down into a record to edit and back to the list again after each.

Some examples of where this might be useful would be when working through a list of milestones to update statuses, or when in a list of stock items to update quantities.

How does this work: In a list view, the rows can be made editable by your system administrator. (If you do want to drill down into a particular record, that’s still possible).

In inline editing mode, the list view changes from something like this:

into this editable version:

Within a view, certain fields will be editable, but others will be read-only. Fields that can be editable are all those which are from the view’s parent table, except for

  • Large text fields – we want the UI to remain compact and it’s not usually required to edit large amounts of text in inline editing scenarios
  • Tags fields – at least not in this first beta version – this may come in a future release

Of course, calculations aren’t editable either.

To edit a field click in an editable (white) field to edit the data.
Navigate to other rows with the up or down arrow keys, and across to other fields in a row with the tab key.

Clicking a non-editable field will take you to the full editing form for a record. (Alternatively, just click at the space at the beginning or end of a row).

Hovering over a text field will display the full contents. In the more condensed inline editing mode, only the start of longer content may be initially visible.

Enabling inline editing

In order to retain control, an administrator must set a view to be inline editable. There are three settings you can select

  • Disallow: the view can’t be inline edited
  • Allow but turn off by default
  • On by default

As an admin, go to the manage tab for a view and under ‘advanced options’, select one of the above.

When inline editing is allowed (either off or on by default), a switch appears at the bottom of the view with which the user can change modes.

We hope you enjoy this feature and find it useful. As a beta release, feedback is especially welcome.

Integrating with third party software using Zapier

agileBase’s API is a very powerful yet easy to use feature. Each view gets an automatically generated API, with a URL that third parties can use as a data source. Our documentation covers generic use, however one of the most common methods of pulling data into other systems is to use Zapier, which is a ‘drag and drop’ integration tool that requires no programming (just like agileBase itself). As they put it “Easy automation for busy people. Zapier moves info between your web apps automatically, so you can focus on your most important work.”

Until now there has been no specific help documentation on using Zapier with agileBase – today’s the day to remedy that!

We will use a worked example: building a system to send a ‘hello’ SMS message whenever a new contact is added to our database. In real life, you may send appointment reminders or other notifications by text. Of course Zapier isn’t limited to sending text messages, there are tons of third party systems you can use, under many different categories, but text messages are a nice simple example for example purposes.

For this example we’ll use

  • agileBase as a source of data
  • Zapier to collect the data and send it to…
  • Twilio to send the text messages

Let’s jump right in!

agileBase setup

First, some preparatory work in agileBase. Assuming we already have a contacts database, each person with a name and mobile phone number, there’s just one extra thing we need to do.

The system will need to know when a contact has been sent a text, so it can filter them out and prevent them being repeatedly texted. To allow this, we need to add a field, call it ‘intro text sent’. Make it a date and time field, accurate to the second.

We can set it to ‘show never’, as this information’s unlikely to be useful to the average user.

Next, we create a view to provide the data to send to the text messaging service. Here’s such a view. It’s very simple, containing just the info necessary, i.e. a message calculation and the mobile phone number to send it to. We’ve put it in a tile called ‘System – Integration’. It’s a good idea to put views used for system purposes somewhere like this so they’ll be hidden from everyday users, but administrators can still easily find them.

We’ve added a couple of filters, firstly to make sure we only pick up people who have a phone number entered and secondly to filter out any who’ve already been sent the message (using the Intro Text Sent field we created above). You’ll notice for initial testing only, I’ve added a third filter here so only one contact is listed – myself. When we’ve confirmed the system works as expected, this filter can be removed.

One small note to do with this specific example only – Twilio likes to receive phone numbers in international format but without the leading +, i.e. rather than “07891 123456”, use “447891123456”. In real life we’d probably create a calculation field to format them this way, for now we’ll just make sure to enter test numbers like that.

Zapier Setup – receiving data from agileBase

That’s the agileBase side of things prepared, now to Zapier.

Log into your Zapier account and press the Make a Zap! button.

Under ‘choose app’, select ‘Webhooks by Zapier’. Webhooks are the way to communicate with agileBase. At the time of writing you’ll need a paid Zapier account to use them.

Under ‘choose trigger event’ two options will be shown – Retrieve Poll and Catch Hook. In brief, if you select Retrieve Poll, Zapier will regularly poll agileBase (say every 5 minutes) to check if there’s any new data to retrieve. If you select Catch Hook, communication will instead be started by agileBase, which will ‘push’ data to Zapier only when there is something new to send.

Here, we’ll use Catch Hook, which is generally recommended. It’s more efficient and a bit easier to set up, as agileBase will automatically record the time each record is sent to Zapier. Otherwise, you’ll have to set up additional steps in Zapier to send this information back.

When you press Continue, Zapier will provide you with a custom URL and some additional options which can be left unchanged. Copy this URL and record it in agileBase: go to the view’s manage tab, press the Send button and select ‘send data to a third party system using the API’. Paste the Zapier URL into the space provided:

Secondly, select the date & time field ‘Intro Text Sent’ (created above) in the dropdown. That means whenever a record is sent to Zapier, the timestamp will be recorded in that field. All other settings can be left on their defaults.

Finally, press the Run Workflow Now button to send a test record to Zapier.

Back in Zapier, just press Test and Continue.

Finishing Zapier setup

Zapier now has our data, at least a test record. The next step is to set up actually sending the text message.

There are dozens of Zapier-compatible services that can send text messages. We use Twilio but the process is similar whatever you choose. In fact the process is similar whatever you’re doing with the data, be that sending a text, sending the data to a Google Spreadsheet or Mailchimp, to name just three examples.

When you press Continue, you’ll be asked to sign into Twilio (in this example). Do that as prompted, then you’ll be able to set the options below. The important ones are

  • From Number: just select, this will automatically show any phone numbers you’ve set up in Twilio
  • To Number: here, click the selector on the right and select the phone number field from agileBase. By this stage, Zapier, knows which fields are in agileBase
  • Message: similarly, click the selctor and choose the message field from agileBase

Press Test and Continue. If all goes well, a text message will be sent and you’ll get the option to turn the integration on permanently!

Then, you can remove the test filters from the view in agileBase and everything will be live.

Although today we used the example of sending a text message, the process is very similar whichever service you decide to connect to with Zapier – you should be able to follow along the example replacing the SMS-specific steps with your own.

Good luck and please let us know what cool things you do with your data. Also if anything can be improved in this documentation, we’d be very keen to hear about that too.

agileBase Platform vision 2020 – from startup to scale-up without screwing up*

Our ambition is to create a Low Code / No Code platform that can support truly ambitious organisations to build their back office across the three phases of their development; startup, scaleup and growth.

Since agileBase’s inception we’ve had the good fortune of working with a wide range of successful customers.

Some have have been driven by dedicated individuals that have grown their companies organically, from small local businesses, through SME territory to become enterprise with hundreds of millions of pounds turnover and growing.

A fair proportion are VC-backed, started by individuals with experience in an industry, who had an idea, convinced funders of its (and their) worth and put in a lot of hard work to make the vision a reality.

Still more are long-standing family firms, where each generation brought something new to the business.

Others have grown rapidly by acquisition.

Most are increasing revenues, customer and employee numbers as they grow their businesses to cover new industries and geographies.

In fact, every story is different, though luckily success is a common factor.

What does this mean for agileBase?

We have built a platform to enable business agility through technology. Specifically, the agile development of back office systems – those that can easily grow and adapt as a company finds new challenges, or pivots to a new area, as sometimes happens.

…and where do we go from here?

When we started, we were the only platform with the technical capabilities to create advanced systems. Indeed, the reason for creating agileBase was because all the other systems we tried to use for customers had a technical ceiling of some sort that meant they had to be abandoned after a certain point in time – they couldn’t create multi-level relationships for example, or couldn’t bring data from different sources into one screen.

What now sets us apart from others who’ve entered the low-code/no-code field is the ability to scale through the entire journey of a business, whatever size they reach and however fast they move.

This is important for companies because it means that they don’t need to experience the upheaval of swapping out core systems at the very point at which they need to be focusing on their own business concerns.

Switching from one major software system to another is resource-sapping at the best of times, as anyone who’s been through the experience will testify. You don’t want to be doing that when orders, working hours and stress levels are going through the roof!

We aim to capitalise on that ability and build further on it – to prove we’re the best option for companies who think for the long term.

Where are we starting from?

We have always focussed on three things; being fast, friendly and flexible.

  • Fast to build new systems
  • Flexible enough to allow you to re-build and adapt to new circumstances just as quickly 
  • Friendly enough to be easily adopted and enjoyed by all users

We have also been very lucky in that, from the very start, we have used a rock-solid database engine that’s inherently scalable and proven at massive data volumes. That’s not something we claim to have built ourselves, but rather comes from our choice to use PostgreSQL: the world’s most advanced open source relational database.

That was an early decision that’s paid dividends ever since.

Where can we improve?

For larger, sustainable companies, additional concerns become important, such as

  • Ecosystem integration
  • Control
  • Efficiency
  • Reliability
  • Data privacy and security

What do these mean and how are we taking them into account?

Well, here is our…

Roadmap

~ Ecosystem integration ~

Over the past year, agileBase’s API has become one of the core aspects of the platform, this ‘interface to the outside world’ is as important as the user interface itself. Customers have been using it to transfer GB of data in and out of the system per month. agileBase is in effect their ‘data engine’ powering other parts of the business, from reporting systems to public websites.

Whilst it would be nice to be able to say that we foresaw all trends, truthfully some things have surprised us and the rapid increase in API use has been one. We’ve responded by putting a lot of work in to making the API interface highly scalable and performant.

In the longer term, we will be working on not just the API itself but other enterprise integration features such as single sign-on, implemented in standards compliant ways like OAuth.

~ Control ~

In the build phase, agileBase is all about agility (duh!). In large companies, we need a way to retain the holy grail of being adaptable, whilst ensuring that developed systems retain stable and trustworthy. How do we square this circle?

We’ve thought about this for a long time and have a really exciting, even revolutionary solution.

The aim is to democratise the ability to develop apps in agileBase even further.

The first thing we’re going to do is add the ability for people to modify views directly in the tiles interface, taking advantage of modern UX practices and of our recent usability learning. That will make it even simpler and quicker for non-technical users to build systems without having to flip back between an administration interface and a separate user interface. The effect will be that changes can be seen in real time as they happen.

This allows control of departmental apps to be pushed down to the departments themselves. If someone in purchasing want to tweak the PO system to update processes and create new reports, leveraging existing databases of suppliers and contacts for example, they can do, without having to go back to central IT.

However, and this is the key point, we by default hide those changes from anyone else in the system. New views that a user creates will only be visible to them. If an administrator decides they’re really useful, they can then flip a switch and make them available to everyone (with the correct permissions). So admins can mandate a core set of views that are globally available, but then let others go for it to make the most they can of their data.

~ Efficiency ~

As you know, agileBase allows applications to be built quickly, but once those applications are in use, particularly in larger organisations, they want to be scaled up so lots of users can process lots and lots of records rapidly – efficiency becomes really important.

We have one other really revolutionary change in the offing that will affect all users’ experience of agileBase. We are going to introduce a new ‘spreadsheet’ or inline editing mode so data can be edited rapidly, in bulk, without navigating back and forth from lists of data to individual records. Of course, various protections will be built in to avoid accidentally doing damage and overwriting data by mistake.

Together with the existing workflow automation features, this and other updates in the pipeline will drastically reduce the number of person-hours specific tasks take.

~ Reliability, Privacy and Security ~

It goes without saying that these are key concerns of ours, our customers and our future customers. Our GDPR policies, procedures and security features we’ve consistently built up over a long period form a bedrock upon which the exciting capabilities above can be assembled.

We will continue to follow emerging trends and implement new data security & privacy best practices.

Summary

Our core mission of ‘business agility through technology’ remains, along with our three characteristics – to be fast, friendly and flexible. They’re part of our DNA and we will always champion them. Many of the features here will be developed in the light of those.

agileBase is now being put to work in ways we didn’t originally envisage, working as the engine for scaled up business enterprises as well as startups. There are some big and exciting changes coming, do get in touch and join us for the journey.

* with apologies to Jurgen Appelo