The COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the way we work. From one day to the other we were expelled from our office desk to our kitchen table. In time, the fear of the pandemic subsided, and the government's restrictions lessened. Slowly offices started to open up again.
At VI Company we opened up the office in late April. At that time only a maximum of 10 people (i.e. colleagues, clients, and visitors) were allowed in the office at any given moment. Although our office space is spacious, it still required a complete overhaul to allow for a greater maximum of people.
However, before we could expand the office's capacity we ran into a practical problem. How to keep track of who is coming to the office so we ensure no more than 10 people are at the office at any given moment?
At first, we tried registering with Tamara, our Office Manager, but she has many other responsibilities and cannot be online 24/7. We then tried to do it via an Excel document, but that was unresponsive, and located in a protected environment which was difficult to access using mobile devices. Several other solutions were looked into, but none seemed to match our needs.
Resources shouldn't be wasted on "reinventing the wheel," which means purchasing as much pre-built technology as possible given that it can be made to fit within system and functional requirements.
Richard Turrin, Fintech innovator & author of 'Innovation Lab Excellence: Digital Transformation from Within'.
It got us thinking: should we invest resources to develop our own tool? Or should we invest in a tool that would keep development time to a minimum? After all, it was quite urgent. There had already been a few instances in which more people showed up than were allowed to be in the office.
Low-code: two weeks for version 1.0
By that time our innovation team had just finished running a series of experiments on various low-code application platforms. Afterward, they documented their experiences in detail and noted down the pros and cons of each platform. Now it was time to choose one of these platforms to create a tool that 50 people would be using on a daily basis.
For this specific project, we decided to use Microsoft Power Apps. We did so because it could be connected without hassle to our SharePoint database (also a Microsoft service). It enabled us to create, edit, and share live data in the low-code application that we were about to create.
An example of what working in Microsoft Power Apps is like.
We also identified some basic features the low-code app should have:
- Select a desk: at that time, people were not allowed to occupy deks next to one another (because of social distancing restrictions).
- Date picker: booking a desk on any given date should be intuitive.
- Limit counter: no more bookings after the max. number of people is reached
- Booking confirmation: it should be clear your booking was successful.
- Option to unbook: unbooking a desk should be easy.
As only a team consisting of one developer and one designer was available we expected development to take a while. But in less than one week they managed to create a fully functional prototype. A few days later, after 50 people had used [and tried to break] it all bugs were smoothened out, and version 1.0 of our Floorplanner went live.
The app proved highly successful. It was intuitive, simple, and embraced by all of our colleagues. Gone were the days when colleagues showed up at the office, only to realize they could not enter because the max. amount of people had already been reached.
An example of what version 1.0 of VI's Floorplanner looked like.
Low-code: Updating version 1.0
When June came around we changed the layout of our office. It allowed us to increase the maximum number of people from 10 to 25 at any given moment. Also, people were allowed to occupy desks next to one another again, so there was no longer a need to book desks anymore.
It was the perfect excuse to update our Floorplanner. Taking into account that the Floorplanner was already fully functional it was a simple matter of tweaking its interface to suit the new situation. In less than three days the developer and designer updated the Floorplanner's interface.
In the new design colleagues simply register their attendance by clicking a button. As an added bonus they can indicate whether or not they want to participate for lunch. The design-update made Floorplanner easier and faster to use for all.
Future features & apps
Currently, Floorplanner is a simple but elegant attendance register for internal use. However, its functionalities can easily be expanded on to allow other forms of use. Some examples include:
- Registering: online webinars, courses, conference meetings, etc.
- Add teams: register the attendance of a project team.
- Poll system: get people's opinions on certain topics.
- Analytics: who has attended what and when for how long.
- Specify diet: select your dietary preferences for lunch.
By making small changes, or adding compact features it's easy to upgrade Floorplanner according to our evolving needs. The same can be done with any other Microsoft Power Apps application.
Low-code platforms such as Microsoft Power Apps are revolutionizing the software development industry. Whereas before building apps took months it can now be done in a couple of weeks, with similar results. Likewise, iterations can be made on the fly, enabling rapid user-testing.
We're excited and proud of what we managed to accomplish in such a short amount of time with our Floorplanner. The future is looking bright for low-code applications, and we're happy to be part of it.
Interested what low-code solutions can do for you?
Our business developer Yvonne van Zummeren is happy to tell you all about it. You can contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org.