Alpha Software Blog

CTO Dan Bricklin's Next Digital Transformation Revolution

Alpha Software CTO Dan Bricklin wrote the killer app, VisiCalc that launched the PC revolution. Today, he’s in the forefront of a new revolution with his low-code/no-code development platform.

Successful revolutions don’t happen very often – even ones related to technology. So it’s remarkable that Alpha Software CTO Dan Bricklin has been in the forefront of two of them. The first one helped launch the PC revolution. His second allows anyone – even people with little or no coding skills – to build powerful mobile data capture applications that can transform companies and the way businesses work.

Alpha Software CTO Dan Bricklin, co-inventor of VisiCalcBack in 1979, when Bricklin was an MBA student at Harvard Business School, he created VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet. It was built not to run on the primary computers of the time, expensive high-powered mainframes or minicomputers, but instead on personal computers. It allowed anyone with a PC to do a financial or statistical analysis of virtually anything they wanted. It delivered analytic and forecasting power into the hands of anyone and proved to be the killer app that gave millions of people reason to buy personal computers. In fact, Steve Jobs is quoted as having said: VisiCalc is what propelled Apple to the success it achieved, more than any other single event." 

Today, Dan is poised to do it again. He is at the forefront of another computer revolution that democratizes a different kind of power: The power for anyone to quickly and easily create offline-capable mobile applications that replace paper-based systems for capturing, analyzing, and acting on data.

He’s developed a low-code/noo-code platform that allows ordinary businesspeople without engineering training to write their own killer apps without having to code.

With these apps, people can solve very common business problems they see every day that are slowing down business and impacting competitiveness.

Companies are Going Paperless

more companies are going paperlessTime wasted on paperwork and the costly mistakes made from manual data input is among the most pressing problems facing many businesses. Most companies right now can't collect rich data accurately and quickly and can't immediately share that info and get insights. A report from marketing research firm Wakefield Research and data analysts Elastic found that the loss of time spent trying to find data and files “negatively impacts companies and cultures as workers waste energy that would be better spent on planning, strategy and overall company growth.” The report adds, “Organizations must ensure their employees have the tools they need to accomplish work quickly and efficiently, and not get lost in organizational rabbit holes.

Going paperless offers tremendous benefits for companies, by drastically improving productivity, enhancing the richness of data that can be collected, and cutting costs of managing paper,

Bricklin has been working on digitizing paper-based systems for decades, starting when he created Visicalc. The Wall Street Journal notes that Bricklin said, “VisiCalc took 20 hours of work per week for some people and turned it out in 15 minutes.”

An Innovative Solution That Transforms Work

The low-code/no-code platform that Dan has now built does similar things in the contemporary business world.

  • It allows anyone to collect rich information
  • It works equally well with or without a connection.

no code app builderThis is the type of next-gen productivity tool companies need to combat the worker shortage and a potential recession. It gives organizations a competitive advantage, significant cost savings, and enhanced revenue generation.

Why Companies Need New App Development Solutions

Why is this kind of tool so important for today’s businesses? Many companies are under massive pressure in a post-Covid economy to finally make digital transformation happen after talking about it for so long but doing little about it. But they’re struggling to do it because the problem is inherently difficult and there is a chronic shortage of skilled and experienced developers. The net result is that these companies are way behind competitors.

One of the reasons why digital transformation is technically hard to accomplish is because mobile devices, a key element in this transformation, present unique development challenges such as the need to accommodate:

  • multiple screen sizes -- all smaller than a full-sized screen
  • the lack of a pointing device,
  • an operator who is only able to use one hand for data entry.

Another challenge involves using these devices in locations where there may not be connectivity for data collection and data access -- an absolute requirement. Applications must conquer that problem as well.

Digital transformation requires that paper forms be replaced with mobile data capture apps. But there simply aren’t enough developers available to write all those apps. Paper forms still dominate the vast majority of companies of all sizes. Making those forms digital would have a huge transformational effect.

Alpha TransForm 2022Trans2-1-1Dan Bricklin's Low-Code/No Code App Builder

Bricklin’s low-code no-code platform, the Alpha TransForm app builder, is the solution to these problems. It allows anyone, anywhere, without any development or engineering experience to write powerful mobile apps that do all that and more. Among the apps’ benefits are:

  • Tremendous productivity gains through greater throughput and eliminating the need to enter data twice (once on the form and then transcribing the form into some system/app/database.
  • Reduced errors and improved accuracy.
  • The ability to capture more information-rich data, such as images, GPS data, and audio.
  • The ability to instantly analyze the data and react when need be.
  • Full functionality when there is no signal, including offline database lookup and image upload optimization.
  • A flexible bi-directional API, so that Alpha TransForm can integrate tightly with any system or database.
  • Intuitive but powerful enterprise dashboard and reporting capabilities.

Summing up the benefits of low-code/no-code app-building tools Bricklin says, “Tools like VisiCalc revolutionized the way companies did business and ushered in an era of dramatically improved business productivity. Today, low-code/no-code tools give businesspeople the power to digitally transform entire companies – and the effects may be even more revolutionary than those created by VisiCalc."

Special Offer for Readers: Try Bricklin's no-code app builder for free.

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About Author

Amy Groden-Morrison
Amy Groden-Morrison

Amy Groden-Morrison has served more than 15 years in marketing communications leadership roles at companies such as TIBCO Software, RSA Security and Ziff-Davis. Most recently she was responsible for developing marketing programs that helped achieve 30%+ annual growth rate for analytics products at a $1Bil, NASDAQ-listed business integration Software Company. Her past accomplishments include establishing the first co-branded technology program with CNN, launching an events company on the NYSE, rebranding a NASDAQ-listed company amid a crisis, and positioning and marketing a Boston-area startup for successful acquisition. Amy currently serves as a Healthbox Accelerator Program Mentor, Marketing Committee Lead for the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge Launch Smart Clinics, and on the organizing team for Boston TechJam. She holds an MBA from Northeastern University.

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The Alpha platform is the only unified mobile and web app development and deployment environment with distinct “no-code” and “low-code” components. Using the Alpha TransForm no-code product, business users and developers can take full advantage of all the capabilities of the smartphone to turn any form into a mobile app in minutes, and power users can add advanced app functionality with Alpha TransForm's built-in programming language. IT developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop complex web or mobile business apps from scratch, integrate data with existing systems of record and workflows (including data collected via Alpha TransForm), and add additional security or authentication requirements to protect corporate data.