Airtable is a relatively new Software-as-a-Service (online software, more commonly known as SaaS Software) to enter the arena for business users. I first saw it when I was looking for process management tools and a search result showed it in comparison to Trello. I was intrigued because I love Trello for what it does for me personally and what it has done for our team. This post is first in a series which will focus on Airtable and how to use it in a modern Enterprise. The Modern Enterprise is an organization or team that uses the Internet and online business software to organize people, processes, information, and systems to achieve their goals. We chose to start with Airtable because it hits home for a basic and fundamental need in business which Excel, Google Spreadsheets, and others have thus far met fairly well. If you are no novice to organizing information, you know what I’m talking about. I once knew a professor who said his $500 million / year professional service business was run by his COO on Excel.
Business users have been using spreadsheets to organize information for decades. Excel is probably one of the most used business tools in the world because of its versatility by way of simple columns and rows and power by way of formulas and macros. Today, there are many alternatives to Excel that users can use online. Here are a few which I’ve used and think are good for the most part.
Google Spreadsheets – We use these extensively.
SmartSheets – I have used it in the past, and think it does some things well.
Microsoft Excel 365 – In addition to it _being_ Excel, syncing with iOS apps, it can also work with Microsoft’s Big Data product HDInsight.
These tools are all great and I don’t want to take away from them, but Airtable is another beast altogether. What drew me to Airtable was its simplicity. It looks simple. It feels simple. It _is_ simple. Having had, ahem, some, ahem, experience in databases and online software, I knew how to start using it pretty quickly. I knew I could use it, but I wanted to see if someone else could use it. I asked one of our Project Managers, Danielle, to make an Airtable to track the status of our clients, which ones were on subscription with us vs. working with us on an ad-hoc basis. Danielle is an extremely intelligent and organized team member but she’s not a technologist per se. She’s the model for what I call a technology-empowered team member. Danielle had never used Airtable before but was and is very adept at using spreadsheets to track projects and project finances. She was able to whip something up in no time.
Here are my initial thoughts which will guide my evaluation of Airtable for The Modern Enterprise in four upcoming articles (see below).
- Airtable can be used across the different responsibility areas of The Modern Enterprise (Sales & Marketing, Products & Services, Research & Development, Operations & Infrastructure, Finance & Accounting, and Leadership & Management)
- Airtable can be used by people internal and external to a company because of its ease in creating “teams” which share a certain set of tables.
- Airtable can be used for tracking Information or Data, but I think there are better uses for it, especially tracking the Information for Processes.
- Airtable is a powerful system and can be connected to other systems easily, non-technically, using Zapier or through custom development that interacts with Airtable APIs.
Here are some great links to get you started until the next few posts on Airtable.
[pocket_links count=”20″ tag=”airtable” tag_list=”yes” credit=”no” excerpt=”yes”]
This article is part of a larger series:
- Modern Enterprise: Why Airtable? The Top 20 Links Worth Your Time
- Modern Enterprise: How Airtable can work for different departments and responsibilities.
- Modern Enterprise: How to organize & collaborate with People around the world with Airtable.
- Modern Enterprise: How to manage & track Processes with Airtable
- Modern Enterprise: How to connect Airtable with anything and create magical automations.
Check Airtable out here!
Disclaimer: We aren’t affiliated with Airtable and nor are we getting anything in return for this, we just love it when there’s awesome new technology out there that solves a number of pain points elegantly.