Airtable exec describes building a ‘data hub’ for the enterprise

Airtable has been lauded for reinventing that mainstay of workplace productiveness software program, the spreadsheet. However there’s much more to the corporate’s low-code app than replicating spreadsheet features within the cloud, in keeping with Ilan Frank, who not too long ago left Slack to be vice chairman of product at Airtable.

Airtable combines the performance of a relational database with an intuitive interface that lets customers plan a workforce mission, handle a gross sales pipeline, and extra. Its low-code strategy allows a variety of customers to customise workflows to fulfill their particular wants.

The app is also known as being “like a spreadsheet on steroids,” stated Frank, although that description underplays its use for companies. “I do not have a look at that in that approach in any respect.”

Ilan Frank Ilan Frank

Ilan Frank, vice chairman for product at Airtable.

What Airtable does, he stated, is tie collectively knowledge from varied apps that function methods of file for companies. This might be knowledge generated in Airtable itself or by exterior apps, equivalent to incidents logged in PagerDuty, tickets in Zendesk, or territory maps in Salesforce. “We’re constructing a knowledge hub that unlocks all that siloed knowledge.”

A technique that is accomplished is by way of Airtable’s knowledge sync integrations, which can be utilized with Jira Cloud, Field, Tableau, and GitHub, amongst others. Airtable plans to extend the variety of syncs so customers can carry knowledge into the platform and share it throughout their group. The corporate additionally plans to create an API so builders can create their very own agent to sync with exterior methods, and work is below solution to construct a knowledge “market” inside the app, Frank stated. That approach, prospects can share info extra simply internally.

In a single sense, he stated, Airtable’s “knowledge hub” strategy has a parallel with Slack’s collaboration platform, which proved a preferred conduit for interactions between co-workers. “Slack is incredible from an engagement perspective for individuals to speak with each other,” he stated. “Every part is there, it’s an optimum resolution. However I feel it is also necessary in departments which might be unfold the world over for knowledge to [be connected]. And that, I feel, is the place Airtable is available in.”

Airtable, which launched in 2013, has caught the eye of traders lately. A $735 million funding spherical in December valued the corporate at $11 billion and introduced its whole funding to $1.4 billion. The corporate claims greater than 300,000 prospects, together with Netflix, Purple Bull, and luxurious items agency LVHM, and is utilized by round 80% of the Fortune 500. It’s annual recurring revenues are reportedly above $100 million, and CEO Howie Liu is regarded as making ready for a public itemizing within the subsequent couple of years.

The hiring of Frank is a sign of Airtable’s plan to focus on bigger enterprise prospects. Throughout his six years at Slack, he spearheaded that agency’s push into the enterprise, and was concerned within the creation of Slack’s Enterprise Grid product, which aided deployments to hundreds of workers. Close to the top of his tenure at Slack, Frank labored for 9 months concurrently as a product advisor for Airtable earlier than leaping to the latter agency. He additionally advises a number of different corporations on transferring from product-led development to establishing a stronger enterprise presence.

He cited similarities between Airtable and Slack of their preliminary adoption amongst smaller groups inside a corporation earlier than spreading extra extensively. Airtable is more and more being adopted throughout buyer organizations, he stated, citing the “identical indicators of maturity…the place Slack was beginning to actually be seen as a wall-to-wall software by the C-suite.

“It’s introduced in by a workforce and spreads to different groups, then ultimately IT or some sort of central know-how group says, ‘Okay, now everybody has entry to Airtable.’ So it is a very related go to market,” stated Frank.

This viral adoption, he stated, can be one of many differentiators Airtable has compared to different low-code or no-code enterprise apps. “We’re persevering with to dwell and breathe that DNA of product-led development, of being very simple to make use of and undertake,” he stated.

“Not like some enterprise platforms, we need to be introduced in bottom-up and ensure we serve the wants of finish customers, in addition to ultimately the CIOs that can be adopting it and rolling it out wall-to-wall,” he stated. “It is fascinated by each the ‘person’ and the ‘chooser.’”

Airtable has been “massively profitable” at a workforce degree, stated Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at CCS Perception. That is been especdially true in smaller organizations the place it faucets into rising demand for low-code choices that empower “people, non-technical workers to unravel their very own issues — which are sometimes very particular to their group or their workforce.”

Gaining floor amongst bigger corporations represents one other problem.

“It checks the field for ground-up, viral adoption,” she stated. “However stepping as much as the enterprise alternative is all the time onerous, not least due to the brand new safety and compliance complexity that sometimes comes at this degree.

“Getting enterprise-wide buy-in, discovering the best stakeholders and convincing IT organizations that that is one thing apart from shadow IT may even be a problem,” Ashenden stated. “There’s typically nonetheless a necessity for centralized management and administration, which jars with the distributed creation strategy.”

Ashenden notes a variety of opponents too, from smaller gamers like Coda and Asana, to the likes of Microsoft with its Lists product.

“So it can positively take time for Airtable to achieve severe traction and credibility within the enterprise,” she stated, “however the firm’s latest injection of funding will little question play a important position in fuelling this drive.”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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