Intuit, the former parent of Cambridge, Mass.-based QuickBase, is all about the small business.
One reason it nurtured QuickBase's low code platform was because small businesses are less likely to invest in sophisticated and complicated productivity and collaboration software. Certainly they are less likely to buy a product to fill in a gap in a non-core process or workflow. Spreadsheets and heck, even paper, can work just fine in a pinch, such companies are inclined to think, especially around budget time.
To be sure, the small business constituency is still an important one for QuickBase now that it is a stand alone company, having been acquired earlier this year by the tech-focused private equity company based in New York City, Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe.
But now that QuickBase has moved out of Intuit's house, it also has its eye on a larger prize: The enterprise. That's what QuickBase CEO Allison Mnookin — formerly General Manger of the Intuit QuickBase business — told CMSWire at the company's recent user conference, EMPOWER2016 in Nashville.
Better, More Complex Integration Tools
To that end, QuickBase wasted little time unveiling new offerings at EMPOWER aimed at the enterprise. Chief among these were its new app and data integration tools.
The company has partnered with Workato, a Cupertino, Calif.-based enterprise-class integration service to roll out a Workato connector. Workato, it should be mentioned here, supports complex business logic, conditional actions and multi-step workflows — common features of any enterprise's software stack.The two companies unveiled a connector that automates workflows within QuickBase as well as between QuickBase and 150 other cloud apps and on-premises systems, including Marketo, Salesforce, SAP, Slack and Google Sheets.
QuickBase also released an integration product it calls Webhooks. It has been designed with more technical app builders in mind.
Webhooks, which is available now in early access, streamline workflows by triggering actions, in real time, across external systems or QuickBase apps when data is changed in QuickBase. QuickBase Sync for Email—Gmail and MS Exchange was also released, as was QuickBase Sync for CSV—SFTP. The latter is an extension of the Sync for CSV capability that was announced in January. This enhancement allows users to pull CSV files from their SFTP server. For enterprises, this means they can use their existing infrastructure for these apps. This capability will be available in late 2016.
The Case for QuickBase in the Enterprise
But is QuickBase kidding itself about the enterprise?
After all, it is hardly the first company from small business origins to attempt to win over larger companies with deeper pockets and bigger integration budgets. Usually these attempts are met with defeat because the product couldn't scale or the company couldn’t offer the necessary support for a large company or the feature set was too simplistic. And fundamentally, such cross over often just doesn't make sense.
This time might well be different though. For starters, WCAS is investing in QuickBase's R&D budget to help it better scale for the enterprise as well as continue to develop the platform. But there are other reasons why QuickBase could find a place within the enterprise.
As it turns out, these larger companies are not so inclined to buy products for non-core holes in their IT stacks either. Budgets, as it happens, are tight everywhere and IT, which seems to be universally underfunded, tends to hoard its resources for core projects and security.
The problem is, these non-core IT holes can add up quickly in terms of lost productivity.
In her keynote at EMPOWER, Mnookin pointed to Joanna Schreck, a systems manager at the London-based events manager UBM. She discovered QuickBase after becoming frustrated with the 20 hours of data entry her team spent every month preparing for a new project. When that project was sold it was tracked through Salesforce, but before that point it was Schreck and her team spending a lot of quality time at the keyboard.
When QuickBase built a new synch feature for Salesforce — which debuted at last year's EMPOWER conference — Schreck was able to transfer the sales data to the project management system via a low-code app she wrote.
An Inevitable Trend
Another reason QuickBase likes its enterprise customer growth potential is that this trend is already unfolding rapidly, although it is doubtful whether large companies realize the extent to which it is.
Consider this Gartner stat: by 2020, 70 percent of all companies will have citizen developer (as the low code base platforms call their users) strategies in place.
And this one: by 2018, as much as 10 percent of the interactions a typical employee makes with or on behalf of its company will not be through an interface but through natural processing languages.
"We are in a phase of rapid acceleration and innovation," Mark Driver, Gartner's VP and research director of Application Development Technologies, one of the speakers at EMPOWER told the audience.
Driver said the traditional role of IT as the central clearing point for technology spending, implementation and maintenance is already unraveling and will continue to do so as these and other trends continue to unfold. For example, he noted that employees are more technically proficient than they were even five or ten years ago and are not afraid to try out new technologies or even low-code tools.
Not that companies will give up their, say, SAP systems or their beloved Salesforce platforms. The role, or sweet spot, Driver envisions for low code is for applications that are simple or straightforward — and are not critical for business. Mission-critical apps, he said, will remain firmly in the hands of the SAPs, Salesforce, et al.
Not Afraid to Fail Anymore
This is not to say that the apps created by low code platforms are incidental to the company's success.
See, a funny thing has happened as companies, both large and small, began allowing low code into their fire walls, Driver said. They found it easier and cheaper to be more creative, more innovative, less afraid to fail.
Sodexo, a French food services and facilities management company headquartered in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux was introduced to QuickBase more than ten years ago when a recent grad hired in the Sodexo North America division became frustrated at having to redo the same spreadsheet over and over again for each prospective customer.
The company was expanding, taking on more complex pieces of business and operating in larger facilities, according to Bruce Squibb, senior director of development. Proposals were coming out of Sodexo fast and furiously.
The recent grad, Heather Bryant, used QuickBase to automate the process by creating an app. Her colleagues and supervisors were intrigued by the possibilities it offered.
Fast forward to today: QuickBase is the backbone of Sodexo's Facilities Management Intelligence (FMiQ) platform, the division's required site management system.
It has also become the platform of choice for developing new operational apps.
Bryant is still with Sodexo; indeed she was one of the attendees at EMPOWER. Only now she is a seasoned developer, with some 100 QuickBase apps to her credit. "We've revolutionized monthly reporting," Bryant told CMSWire. "We've connected and integrated even those minimal areas where work groups overlap."
The most interesting result of Sodexo's widespread adoption of QuickBase is not just the productivity boost but the increase in innovation, Bryant says.
"QuickBase is a low barrier to entry to try new things," she said. "Experiments are not always successful so people can be reluctant to try if they know a failure will be costly."For his part, Bryant's boss, Bruce Squibb, senior director of development, is pleased with the benefits that FMIQ can deliver the company. It is eminently flexible, for starters, he said. During a sales call, the rep can take a standard work process of the prospective client and on the spot build an app to show how Sodexo will run the process, he told CMSWire at the conference. Or the rep can take a typical contract — and these run hundreds of pages including the appendices — and right there during the sales call, build a reporting template of delivery dates and other responsibilities Sodexo will have in the relationship.
"The ROI for Sodexo comes down to times savings and proficiency," Squibb said. "Managers are spending less time doing mundane tasks and more time managing the customer," he said.
"We are in facilities, we don't want our managers behind their desks."