Custom mobile app development can take many forms. With Open as App, users can choose to link their data through Microsoft 365, through Google Sheets, or by uploading an Excel file.
Microsoft 365 presents several advantages that can be highly useful and important to all businesses. To begin with, Microsoft 365 is widely available and already in use throughout many companies. Part of its usefulness also lies in the fact that it combines many tools into one platform, and it also fulfills the data security requirements for big business.
So if your company is already using Microsoft 365, no new tools need to be introduced into the company IT environment to create a custom no-code app with Open as App. Moreover, creating apps out of your data does not compromise your business’s security protocols, nor is there a chance for any data to be leaked or become corrupted.
For these reasons, Open as App and Microsoft 365 are a perfect match when it comes to custom mobile app development.
Apps created in this way are easy to share both within the company as well as outside of it. They are also available throughout a variety of devices as well as channels. Our no-code apps can be used as a native app on mobile devices. They can also be accessed through a browser and even linked through a tab in Microsoft Teams.
To use an app, users must simply download the Open as App container app, which will house all the apps that are then shared with them. The container app is available through the App Store, the Google Play store, and the Microsoft Store. A company can also develop a branded client for their apps which can also be made available through these stores.
Wondering how you can use Microsoft 365 to develop custom mobile apps without writing a single line of code? Here’s how!
Table of Content
- How no-code app development works
- Benefits of using Open as App
- Developing a custom mobile app with Microsoft 365
- How to create your custom mobile app
How no-code app development works
No-code app development is a new and increasingly more popular way of app creation that does not require users to be familiar with any programming language. Developing an app in this way happens through a platform such as Open as App.
When using the platform, users simply need to provide it with data in a structured format, usually in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. The platform then analyzes the structure and logic of the spreadsheet, without copying or saving any of the data itself. After the analysis, users can pick what type of app they want to develop and can proceed with customizing it so that it fits their needs and requirements.
This means that custom mobile app development is made available to everyone and that any apps that may be needed in the course of your work can get developed.
As a side note, low-code app development is not the same as no-code app development. With low-code, some degree of coding skills and understanding is required for an app to be developed. Typically, this means that IT or technical consultants still need to be involved in the process. This can create a bottleneck for innovation, given that IT resources are usually limited and strained, creating delays and difficulties for the resolution of problems that arise on a day-to-day basis.
Benefits of using Open as App
Using Open as App, in particular together with Microsoft 365, offers many benefits and advantages to a business.
- No additional software outside of the Microsoft 365 software family is required
- Data security is maintained – no data is ever copied or stored by Open as App in the process of app creation
- No additional IT resources are required – in fact, IT resources may be freed up when teams are empowered to create their own apps
- Apps are easy to share, manage, and maintain – they can be shared publicly but can also be restricted to certain users only
- Multi-channel access on a variety of devices as well as in the form of a web app, through MS Teams and on Windows 10
- All the data is already available through Microsoft 365, but other data sources can be added, if necessary
- Bespoke app solutions can be created easily and quickly, allowing teams to increase efficiency and productivity
That said, here is an example of a mobile app that was developed in Open as App with Microsoft 365, and a step-by-step explanation of how you can build one too.
Developing a custom mobile app with Microsoft 365
One way in which we at Open as App have used Microsoft 365 to create an app is with our case study app which we use to keep each other up to date internally. It is used during calls in Microsoft Teams to report progress, monitor targets, and provide information to team members.
The app is a list of case studies that we are working on. It is based on a typical workflow that keeps track of the progress of deliverables, with detailed information about each case study, helping to keep everyone updated. This is useful for more than just team meetings because our sales team also uses it during calls with clients to check up on the status of a case study. The usefulness of the app for sales also helps drive approval for it internally. This, in turn, is also reflected in client relationships because it improves the management of projects.
We used Excel as a mini database when creating our app. To include a case study in the app, case study owners can add new entries along with links to the Excel sheet. This is instantly reflected in the app, and everyone can check on the progress of a study. We also add image links with customer logos to all of our case studies, making it much easier to browse the list.
We have also added drop-down menus to each list item, allowing users to easily fill in the information regarding the case study in the app. For example, one drop-down menu features the different stages of case study creation – from research to initial draft, and final approval. The information does not need to be added only through the spreadsheet – it can also be added through the app, which is then reflected in the sheet.
Finally, once a case study is ready and approved, sales can get a link to the story from the app and distribute it via email. In addition to our in-company app, we also have an app that we provide to clients. Using that app, they can also check on the status of a case study.
Are you curious how you can develop your own custom mobile app with Microsoft 365 and Open as App? See a breakdown of the process below!
How to create your custom mobile app
The app creation process passes through the following three stages: enabling data access, app creation, and app publishing, management, and sharing.
1. Enable data access
Before you can design your app, you need to connect your data source to the Open as App platform. To do this, you will need to sign up with Open as App. Ideally, you do so using your Microsoft login.
Once you’ve signed up and logged in to your profile, you can head to the app creation wizard. There you need to connect your OneDrive or Sharepoint to the platform and authorize access. Here, there are several different approaches that you can take.
If you use Sharepoint, you can create a public share link to your spreadsheet which will allow anyone to edit the spreadsheet. Whether your link is public depends on the company’s Sharepoint settings. You can also create a share link that limits the users of the app to the ones that have access to the sheet.
A third option is to create a link, especially for specific users. In the latter scenario, only those people you selected when creating the link will later have access to the data in the app. If at a later time, you’d like to add a team member to your app, you will need to create a new share link, and update the data source for your app by using this link.
Alternatively, company policy permitting, you can also use your OneDrive when creating an app. Here, too, you can share data publicly. When creating our case study app, we wanted to keep all of our data in one place and wanted to share the app only with our team and with authorized partners. For this reason, we used Sharepoint links during the creation.
On the other hand, if your apps are public and their content is freely available online, you can develop an app in yet another way. You can opt to upload your files to the Open as App cloud (Azure Europe) and create the app there. You can use this to create an app (such as a calculator app) that you want to distribute as a tool to your clients or to share freely.
Keep in mind that when you create an app, none of your data is saved or copied by Open as App. The platform only reads and recognizes the logic and internal dependencies in your data, and connects your data source to the app.
2. Create your app
After you enable access to your data source, Open as App runs a quick analysis of your data. During this process, the platform will recognize all elements within the spreadsheet such as formulas and calculations, as well as images.
To create an app like our case study app, you need to select a list app (simple list) when prompted by the platform. At that point, it is also possible to add a map to the app, if you have included one in your data source. A map, in this case, could be used to filter and select case studies by region.
In the next phase, you are given the option to customize your app and determine how and where columns from your spreadsheet are displayed in the app. In our case, one column contains information to be displayed upfront, a second one features information for the detailed dialog for every case study and, finally, a third column is used for data analysis purposes with charts in it.
You can also add a header to your app, as well as customize the different fields according to your liking. When creating our case study app, we opted not to add a header, to help users focus on the information in the app.
Further elements that we added at this stage include an action button to send new case studies per email to our team, and a button with a link to download a PDF version of each case study. We also added custom branding, using our template.
3. Publish, manage and share your app
Once your app is fully customized, you can go ahead and publish it. To make our case study app accessible during meetings, we added a web client link to our app as a tab in our Microsoft Teams channel.
Apps can also be used on iOS, Android, as well as on Windows 10, and as a web client in a browser.
When creating an app with Open as App, as part of a team, you will have access to a hub. This hub houses all the apps that are published and available to your team. To add users, you can send out individual and bulk invitations. Once somebody doesn’t need the app anymore, you can limit their access through the app portal.
The above, in short, is the process of creating an app in Open as App, using Microsoft 365. Apart from the list app which we have showcased here, you can also create a variety of other apps, such as calculation apps, chart and dashboard apps, and a variety of other list apps.
As a no-code platform, Open as App is extremely easy to use, and requires no additional IT skills whatsoever. Once you link or upload your data source, and the platform analyzes your data, you only need to customize your app, and you’re done!
Do you want to give it a try and create your first app? Sign up to Open as App for free and then head over to the app creation wizard to get started!